Friday, February 7, 2014

Injury Part I: The Beginning

In September 2013 I decided it was time to re-evaluate priorities. 2012 and now 2013 had been disappointing years for running and racing. Between health issues and injury I never seemed to find a good groove. While I was lucky enough to get picked in the lottery for Western States 100 and have the satisfaction of crossing the finish line, in total I dropped out of more races in 2013 than I was able to run. A two week trip to Europe in the beginning of September was a forced two week running break. Upon returning from the trip the goal was to start over. I  needed another round of IV therapy to get more iron into my system, so this seemed like a natural time to return to lower mileage, faster turnover, tempo runs, hill training, strength training, etc ... Get quality sleep. Eat well. Rebuild and recover. Then allow myself to build back up to long distances. 

As they tend to do, the injury gods had other plans. While in Europe I started to have pain and numbness down my right leg. I noticed it mostly when I tried to drive. It was a challenge to keep the gas pedal pressed down as I couldn't feel the pedal very well and trying to press down was causing a good amount of pain. On the 10 1/2 hour flight on the way home I started to feel pain my low back. By the time we got to Portland I couldn't wait to exit the plane. The pain was enough of a bother that even though it was the weekend I was lucky enough to I find a chiropractor who was willing to see me on a Sunday.

Upon examination she thought it was likely I had a slightly bulging disc on my right side probably caused by prolonged sitting (the flight to Europe and then home). This was causing the pain, weakness, and numbness down my right leg along with the pain in my back. She gave me some exercises to work on to strengthen my core to alleviate my symptoms. 

Since I was in a build up phase of running the back issue wasn't too problematic. I worked on the core exercises, focused on adding hiking in to my training, and within a couple of months I felt as though the back issue was 90 percent healed. And then I headed in to hill training. I went from 45-55 mile weeks largely run on the smooth surface of the Wildwood trail, to a 22 miler that involved hill repeats. Wham! The pain came back with a vengeance. By the end of the run I felt like begging for mercy.

The next day called for 22 miles on Leif Eriksen. The first 10 miles flew by smoothly, and again things when south. I had to keep stopping to try to stretch my back as the pain and the subsequent numbness and weakness in my leg was causing me trouble.

But I continued on, refusing to alter my training to accommodate my injury. Three more weeks of training, putting in 65 - 80 miles a week. Not high by ultra runner standards, but a step-up in distance for me from the past few months. To keep me going and try to heal my back I saw a chiropractor, and athletic trainer, a physical therapist and an acupuncturist. I felt that the shotgun approach to therapy might make me heal faster.

Yet the symptoms continued to worsen, getting to the point that the numbness and weakness in my right leg and foot was bad enough that I was having to consciously pick up my foot because it wasn't happening automatically. I stumbled a bit more than usual as sometimes I was slow to send the signal to the foot to lift up and I would hit it on a rock, or a root. The stumbles caused spasms in my back. Overall, a bad combo.

I held firm to the "power through" mantra. I'm tougher than this injury. I won't quit just because I have pain. Keep on training and get to the rest week. Back to back's, a trail marathon, speed work, hill work and a through run on Wildwood. During the through run my back, right hip, and leg were complaining by mile 9. By mile 15 I considered calling for a pick-up. At 25 I started to visibly limp. I was still running but there was a definite hitch in my stride. I was thankful to get to the finish and try to stretch my hip and back. It was hard to walk because of the numbness and weakness in the foot and leg.

Then it was time for a rest week. I could take it easy for a week knowing that my legs had gotten some good training over the previous three week block. An easy recovery run on Tuesday, Jan 7 felt good. I had some residual numbness and weakness in my right leg, but overall my legs felt happy. Wednesday the 8th I headed out for another easy 6. I woke early, put on the headlamp, bundled up and headed out into the early morning darkness. 

The first few miles felt good, just your average everyday run. At mile 3.5 it felt as though I had stepped on a rock. A sharp pain towards the back of my foot - the area right in front of the heel. I limped a bit. Shake it off, it's nothing. Another 1/4 mile and I couldn't pretend it was nothing. My foot felt like it was on fire. I couldn't run. And I couldn't bear much weight on the foot. I glanced at my phone. Should I call for a pickup? It was still early and I didn't want to wake anyone so I started limping the 2+ miles home.

I walked in the door and the limp didn't go unnoticed. 

"What happened?"

"I think I just broke my foot."


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