Six months ago yesterday, I got the MRI that confirmed a grade 1 tibial stress fracture. Later that day, I met the orthopedic doctor who put me in a walking boot to go along with the crutches I had received the previous day. It had already been over a month since I had run any significant distance (significant being a relative term at the time) – 8 miles way back on May 5.
So yesterday, when I ran 6 miles of hills with my Dana-Farber teammates at our first group run of the training season, I finally felt like I was back. Don’t get me wrong, those 6 miles were hard. The first mile I struggled to breathe. I thought I had forgotten a nasal strip. Turns out there was one in my pocket, but I had sunscreen on my face so it fell off not long after I applied it during Mile 2. The first 2 miles were mostly downhill, but then came the first of the famed Newton Hills. And then the second. But after that second one, we were at Mile 3 and it was time to turn around and run back to where we started. Mile 4 was mostly flat with some downhill, but then there was that massive hill during the final mile. I would say from Mile 4 on, I finally felt loose and warmed up (though I was freezing cold), I really struggled with my breathing. I’m sure it’s a combination of my collapsing nasal valve as well as my cardiorespiratory fitness having a long way to go to get back to where I was pre-injury, but man it was a struggle. Every step.
I ran the first 3 miles with Jess and Lori – my training partners for almost all of the 2017 season. Lori was planning to run 10 miles, so she kept going when Jess and I turned around. Jess ran all summer and fall, so she’s in much better shape than me and could have left me in her dust, but she assured me this run was all about the comraderie. So she stayed with me, step-for-step throughout all 6 of those miles. I was struggling to talk and breathe during the final 2 miles, so she talked enough for the both of us and motivated me every few hundred feet, especially when I wanted to give up. I can say – with 100% certainty – that had she not been running with me, I may have walked those 2 miles back to Marathon Sports.
It was somewhere around 4.75 miles in that I looked down at my watch and realized it was a whole ¾-mile longer than I had run in 7 months. I ran 4 fantastic miles last Sunday. I was pushing REALLY hard because running doesn’t come easy for me right now, but I felt great the whole time (aside from wanting to die and all). Jess and I kind of jumped up and down mid-run when we realized this new accomplishment for me, then kept going because we still had 1.25 miles to go.
When I got home, I walked Chip while I still had energy, and then I got into a warm Epsom salt bath and soaked until the water was cold. And then I took a hot shower and got comfy on the couch, with both my electric blanket and Chip to keep me warm. I struggled to nap like I ALWAYS do after “long” runs, but I dozed a little here and there, ate half the food in my apartment, and relaxed as much as possible so that I could make it to (and then through) 7pm drinks with a friend.
It’s now Sunday and I was expecting to wake up quite sore, but surprisingly I only feel soreness in my posterior tibial tendons on both legs. This is not near my tibia injury site, and although it’s probably all related, it is so nice to wake up with NO tibial pain. I was supposed to go to a 12:30pm barre class but my legs are very tired. They feel heavy and stiff, and barre is low-impact but very lower body-centric, and I’m 90% sure we’re doing a lower body workout tomorrow morning at my strength & conditioning session with Sadlo. So I canceled my spot for the barre class and will instead foam roll, stretch, do some gentle yoga and “legs up the wall” and maybe even use my R8 roller.
To say I feel invigorated and motivated would be an understatement. It’s hard to explain just how badly I needed that run yesterday. While 6 miles is nothing compared to the mileage I’ll be covering over the next 4+ months, it is SO far from where I was just a few weeks ago – let alone where I was this summer. A few teammates were complaining about not feeling ready or “needing” to do more than 6 miles, but I forced myself to tune them out. I am exactly where I need to and want to be with my training right now. I’m focusing on increasing my mile gradually over the course of December, not at all focused on pace because once I have a solid foundation of miles under my belt, the faster paces will naturally come.