Injured runner: The new normal?

I’m running three to four times a week — anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

I dusted off the pretty Suunto I was gifted for Christmas (of 2016). I’m still getting used to the device and am learning all its features but the main reason I am using the GPS watch is because I need to know how far I am running.

Because I am attempting a 5K trail race at the end of the month.

I signed up for the race several weeks ago and with my PT’s “blessing,” I am encouraged to train for it.

But, what does training entail? It just means I am running three to four times a week and making sure I am at least hitting three miles.

I am slow.

I’m able to run three miles at just over 10 minute/mile pace. This is slow for me. It makes me frustrated and fine all at the same time.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be back to my “normal running self” again.

Will I comfortably be able to run sub 9s in my neighborhood for a leisurely run? Will I be able to knock out a 7-minute pace road 5K like I once did?

Will I ever be able to sub-4 hour the road marathon? Something I never accomplished before I got injured but that I attempted time and time again …

Or, is going out for 30-minute runs with some off and on soreness on my left knee going to be my forever? Will racing be “just to finish” rather than to fulfill a time goal? Will I just never be running or racing long distances again?

I don’t know.

I’m hoping all of this is not my new normal. I’m hoping it’s my new temporary.

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Ready to really run

My coworker flailed her arms in my direction, trying to get my attention. Well, she got it. We work in an open office. I thought it was something urgent related to one of our current projects, or maybe something to do with one of our meetings for the day.

“Will you sign up for Seattle Rock ‘n Roll with me?” she asked me from across the room.

She probably thought I was quick to answer “no” but for a split second I did want to say “yes” (and pay the consequences later).

But I’m not playing that game again, and again … and then again.

The game where I think “I’ll definitely be running XX months from now” and I sign up for a race. That got me into a wasted Seattle Half Marathon race entry in 2016 followed by a wasted 10K race registration this past spring. And, we all know what happened with Ragnar Rainier — at least I could still participate through mostly walking/hiking!

Not only is the money I waste on a race I end up not being able to run frustrating, it’s exhausting to get your hopes up time and time again — only to still not be able to run.

I really do want to register for the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon with her. It’s in June so that’s six months away. And, there’s a “special deal” today so race entry is only $59 or something pretty cheap (for a big name half marathon) like that!

It’s not like I would do it to PR. I would do it to finish, to just run.

But, I can’t set myself up for failure again. After all, six months will come quickly and right now I am still on “Phase 6” of my Return to Running Program.

I’m ready to really run again.

Injured runner: Going back to the doctor

Not much going on at the moment.

I’ve been doing physical therapy for close to (or just about?) two months — yeah, I stopped keeping track — and am scheduled for my “last” PT appointment tomorrow with a follow-up appointment with the doctor on Friday.

I say “last” PT appointment because I have a strong inkling that the

doctor will tell me to continue with physical therapy. I’m not sure I have any other options, but we’ll see.

For those of you who have been following along closely, I’ll be seeing my second-opinion doctor — the one who referred me to PT — and not the first doctor I had been seeing who kept telling me to get MRI after MRI (after MRI). For those of you not paying close attention, I did get the first two MRIs and then went for a second opinion when I was told to get a third MRI.

I don’t really know how I feel. I still have knee pain every now and again. I’m still not running. I’ve been hiking a lot — my way of trying to hold onto summer — with no significant knee pain from the steep climbs.

Not much going on at the moment. Maybe that will change in a few days. Maybe it’ll just be the same. We’ll see.

Being OK with being injured

When I reread some of my past entries about being injured, I think, “Wow, was I really that mad?”

Just as I’m sort of becoming used to the dull knee pain I experience every so often, so is my status as an injured runner.

It’s been nearly 13 months of not running and about 15 months of being injured.

I’ve cried three times (that I can recall) during this whole “injury period.” Once was after one of my doctor appointments. The other two times were actually at races.

Bryce and I were in the Bay Area in May for a friend’s wedding. We spent the weekend in San Francisco and Bryce was in the middle of training for his upcoming 40-mile race. It just so happened that we were in SF the same weekend as Bay to Breakers. Bryce did a recovery Sunday run in Golden Gate Park while I went for a walk. I stopped mid-way through my walk to watch and cheer on the Bay to Breakers runners. It was pretty entertaining with so many people in various costumes and get-ups.

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Then without realizing it, my eyes started welling up. I was overcome by a feeling of sadness that I could not do what all these people were so easily doing. I quickly pulled myself together though. And, focused more on the man dressed up as the Pope who was “blessing” all the runners that went by.

Then, the same thing happened at Bryce’s 40-miler! By no means was I jealous that I couldn’t run a 40-miler. The longest distance I have run is a 50K and I have no desire to do anything longer. So, it was weird that I started producing tears at the start of his race.

We arrived at the race with plenty of time for him to get ready. As most races go, the porta-potty line was long. While Bryce was using the restroom, the race director started making announcements to runners about the course. I walked a little closer to the huddled group of runners to catch anything important to relay to Bryce. As I stood there in the back of the crowd, again that deep feeling of sadness hit me again.

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Emotions can be weird.

Yet, through it all, I have tried to remain calm and positive.

Ask me again tomorrow or in a week, but, I’m OK with being injured.

It’s all part of my narrative.

Injured runner: On being hopeful

For the past month, I have been holding onto a glimmer of hope.

I scheduled a second opinion and last month, the appointment was one month away.

My second opinion is now tomorrow.

I’ve been oddly looking forward to it because I’m hoping I will get concrete answers or a concrete plan for when I can return to running.

Maybe this doctor will tell me that I can start to ease back into running. Maybe this doctor will tell me to give walk-jogging a try. Maybe this doctor will say my two MRIs were mis-read and I do not have a stress fracture. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe I’m on the mend. Maybe it’s nothing at all. 

One can hope, right?

I haven’t run in 11 months.

I’ve been injured for a little over a year.

And, I’m still hopeful that things will turn around.

I’m running on hope — even when not running.

Injured runner: Are you running yet?

I’ve gone silent again.

Maybe it’s the “extreme Seattle heat” — we hit the 80s over in the Pacific Northwest, folks! — or maybe it’s because I haven’t felt like writing that I am still injured. Maybe it’s because I’ve been busy doing other things.

I have been swimming a lot (but more on that later). And, have spent a lot of time both in and out of the pool reflecting on this whole, um, experience.

While the past year has had its low moments (due to this darn knee injury), I have to remind myself that running has provided me with so many wonderful experiences, proud moments and life-long friendships.

Last night I went to the Seattle Reign soccer match with one of my friends, Ragan, and her group of season ticket holder friends. I feel like I have been friends with Ragan longer than the four or so years I have known her.

We met because we both worked together about two-and-a-half years ago. But, it wasn’t the “fast friends” type situation. I actually walked over to Ragan’s desk one afternoon and straightforwardly asked her, “Do you want to be on my Ragnar team?” In that moment, I really didn’t know much about her. I knew she was nice and smart and was in grad school for something science-y while also working. I didn’t know she played soccer and had several half marathons under her belt. Once I explained what exactly Ragnar was to her, she was quickly on board to join my team and filled the last spot on my 12-person team.

Since then, we’ve done two team relays together and have another one on the books — the upcoming Ragnar Rainier which I will most likely not be running, but will still captain and hang out. We obviously also hang out outside of running and I’m so thankful for her friendship.

This morning I went on a walk at Discovery Park with Mo and Leah. They are both high school friends and we all ran cross-country together in our teenage years. Since then we have trained and raced many marathons together. Mo currently lives in Seattle and Leah lives on the East Cost. A few years ago their living arrangements were reversed with Leah living here and Mo on the East Coast. Throughout geographic differences, we have remained close friends. Walking around Discovery this morning — on the same trail we have run together countless times — I was reminded that I have been friends with these extraordinary women for more than a decade.

All thanks to running.

So, to answer your question …. No, I am not running.

And, yes, it is still sad and makes me mad and anxious all at the same time. But when I really think deep about running, I cannot be so mad. It has brought so many new people into my life and has strengthened so many of my relationships.

So, kudos to you, running.

One year of being injured – and counting

I had my last injury-free run the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend of last year. Granted, I didn’t find out I had a stress fracture until three months later, I still have been injured for now a year.

I had scheduled an appointment with my ortho back in January/February for June 1 as a precaution. After all, he told me that he expected me to be pain-free and starting to run again come May/June. He added that if I was still experiencing knee pain, to come see him again in June.

Well, it’s June. And, I am still experiencing off and on knee pain.

What’s the verdict?

Still, it is to wait and see — a bit more. He was surprised I haven’t healed. He checked both of my MRIs again— the first from August and the second from the beginning of the year — and told me again that the fracture is just taking longer to heal than we expected. He said mid-July would be the furthest out it would take for the injury to heal so he wants to wait until then to do another MRI.

What if I continue to have pain after July though? What if the third MRI still shows that I still have a bit more healing left to go?

I feel like I am going through the longest marathon ever where every time I reach a mile mark, the finish line gets pushed further and further away from me. I keep thinking I will see that finish line banner off in the distance with each passing month of not running, but now I just don’t know.

I don’t know what to do. I mean, the doctor says to keep exercising so we can tell if my knee is healing. (Right now I still have off and on pain during and after exercise so the hope would be in the next month-and-a-half, that will go away completely).

Do I get a second opinion? I feel like a new doctor to me would just tell me to get another MRI as well.

I feel defeated because unlike running, where I am in control of everything, I currently have no control.

I can’t control time. I can’t control how much longer my fracture will take to heal. I can’t control my weight gain or that so many of my dresses are so tight or do not even fit me. I can’t control how sad it makes me feel that I haven’t had a healthy run in one year and that I haven’t been running at all in TEN WHOLE MONTHS.

Think about that one thing that brings you joy, that keeps you sane. Think about how you would feel if you could not do that.

It’s a frustrating, lonely, confusing place to be.