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Winter Run – February 2012

Warning: This post is a bit of a whinefest… proceed at your own risk.

So, I would consider last year (2011) as my most successful year of running. I pr’ed at several distances (50k, 50 mile, 60k) and completed my first 100 miler. I logged 2400+ miles of running. I had big plans for 2012. I started the year at Jay Smithberger’s New Year’s Fat Ass by running 42 miles and reveling in some trail running companionship. I was planning on running a 100 mile race in Georgia in March, Mohican 100 in June, and then maybe some adventure run later in the year… the possibilities were endless. And then it happened – “the” injury.

I had felt some lingering pains following the Run with Scissors – nothing dramatic, but some extra tightness in my lower back, occasional pain in my right leg, and a sharp pain in my right foot once I spent more than a couple of hours running. The second week in January though, something really changed and could not step onto my right foot – I had done a 10 mile run on the indoor track at Denison, so maybe that was the cause. The footing outside on the roads was suspect during that week as well. Regardless of what led to the injury, it made it impossible to run. Not at all. The outside edge of my right foot was incredibly tender, and the pain was sharp, so I went to the doctor. He sent me to a podiatrist who suspected a stress fracture. An x-ray came back inconclusive (they aren’t clear enough to see most stress fractures), and there it was. Three and a half weeks of no running, lots of pain, and no sure idea about the cause or prognosis… The podiatrist said I could run, so I did… and that brings me to the Winter Run 2012.

I ran a couple of miles the day before the race, and that felt ok. So I laced up my shoes and toed the line for the 15 miler… Was this my smartest running decision? Probably not. But after more than three weeks with no running, I was getting a bit stir crazy, and the pain in my foot had subsided some. I promised myself I would drop out if the pain increased with the running. Sometimes I lie to myself…

It was a fairly mild day  – cold, but not too brutal. I got to see lots of folks that I hadn’t seen recently because of the start of the spring semester. I felt relaxed and ready to see what the day would bring. I started as controlled as I could and settled into about a 7:20 min/mile pace. Everything, even the right foot, felt good. It was sunny, and I was running. That was all that I needed. I continued feeling good through the first half of the race – it consists of two 7.5 mile loops – and headed out on my second loop thinking that I had somehow recovered from the injury just by taking time off… that feeling lasted about two more miles. At about the same time, I could feel my overall energy level drop off – the running became much harder – and my right foot began to first throb and then quickly revert back to stabbing pain. In addition, pain in my left hip suddenly began to flare. I couldn’t tell if it was my foot that began hurting, so I changed my stride causing my hip to hurt, or if the change in stride was related to the hip which led to my foot getting inflamed. Regardless, the run was suddenly much less fun, and I was about as far from the start/finish area as I could be. And the rest of the course consisted of a series of unforgiving rolling hills. My pace dropped off some. I walked some of the hills. But I got back to the finish in one piece – 1:52:30, and average of 7:30 miles. Even though I fell apart during the second half of the race, it was not a complete melt-down. I ended up in 21st place out of 106 runners, and my pace would have earned me a top ten finish in the 7.5 mile race that was run at the same time. The frustrating thing was that I obviously should not have returned to running so quickly – it was obvious that I had some real issues that I needed to deal with before I started seriously expecting to enjoy running again.

Post note (March 2012): I went to a sports’ medecine doctor for a second opinion, spent an obscene amount of money on a MRI, was still left with an unclear picture of my issues. In March, I started physical therapy at Conerstone PT in Newark, OH – John immediately had concerns about my hip alignment. The process took some time, but the pain in my foot subsided noticeably with some corrections, exercises, and stretches. John encouraged me to keep running so we could track whether I was noticing improvements from the therapy. It took several weeks, but I was soon running without any pain on the right side… but of course my left hamstring and hip began to ache.

Post-post note (June 2012): After my miserable Forget the PR 50k experience (see post for April 2012), I ended up back in physical therapy for the left hip and hamstring. Another month of adjustments, exercises, and stretches (and light running), I was sent on my way. Six and half months after the initial injury (or surfacing of the injury), I am finally feeling much more like myself. Well, like a weaker and less fit version of myself. I have maintained my base fitness by running around 25 miles a week, but it is going to take some time before I feel like I am ready for any real challenges. At this point though, my focus is on making running fun again – it is just tough to have fun when all you can think about is the pain that accompanies the run. It is also interesting how much running really does work your entire body – the legs may be willing, but unless the feet and hips and back are on-board, you are going to have trouble. Hopefully, I have learned my lesson.

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