Taking Injuries One (Slow) Step at a Time

The time has finally come….Winter Vacation is here!!!and now almost over, what!?!  I have been putting off blogging until break because the few weeks leading up to this week off were insane and the insanity turned into stress and panic mode.  If I were to explain the month of December in the most dramatic way possible, it would look like me hanging to a rope and the rope was fraying with each passing day until it was a thin thread and I just needed that tiny piece to stay intact until Friday the 23rd at 11:25am when the school bell would ring for winter break!

Aside from that depressing analogy, December was full of wonderful moments that were simply overlooked by two very large collegiate projects due, many math department documents that needed to be worked on, and my job as a teacher.  It felt like there were not enough hours in the day to get everything done.  This is the part where a bystander would say, just get work done after-school and don’t go home to run and workout.😑  

Yes, that would seem like the logical answer for solving all my problems.   But I’ll take the stress to fit in time to do the one thing I love most.  Running and working out are the 1-2 hours in the day that are sacred to me.  They keep me balanced and sane.  It is in those hours that I can relax, calm down and devise a plan for handling my workload.  The adrenaline energizes me and gives me the clarity I need to go home and tackle the long checklist of tasks.

After a paragraph describing my love and need for running, I will tell you that there was a week in December where the weather got the best of me and runs were becoming dreadful and getting out the door was becoming a challenge.   During the week of the 12th, the weather was either in the single digits or there was a snow storm.  I spent Wednesday evening driving around to find a clear track or just a flat space to do 400s, Thursday I had to change to a rest day due to a night class and early morning low temps. Friday rolled around and I was eager for the weekend but was not eager to finish the school day with a 60 minute run in single digit temps.  I dreaded this run all day.  I didn’t even go home after school because I knew it would just procrastinate the process of getting out the door.  After the bell rang, I put on every layer of clothing I packed (pretty much my entire closet) and got going.  To my surprise, it wasn’t unbearable and the miles were passing quickly.  My negative attitude changed and I told myself to use this run as a future reminder that most dreaded runs are not as bad as they seem once you just get going. This positivity slowly slipped away as I was turning onto my street and was minutes away from finishing the run.  My knee suddenly had an aching pain on the inside.  I was a bit worried but was more overjoyed that the dreaded run was over.  My happiness of being done trumped the fear I had with knee.

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I woke up Saturday morning to unplowed and icy roads and realized that my speed work was going to have to be pushed to Sunday.  I thought Sunday’s 45 minute run would be manageable for Saturday in the snow.  It was slow and the snow was about 5 inches deep but I kept chugging along.  I almost called it quits at about 25-30 minutes but I plow truck came through so I figured clear roads would get me through the final stretch.  That’s when I felt my knee again.  I tried to shake it off but it wasn’t happening.  Luckily I was just doing quarter mile laps around my Crossfit gym so I wasn’t far and just walked back.  I was frustrated and felt defeated.

It was a week of trying so hard to make this running plan happen despite wanting to just skip runs and go to Crossfit.  I stayed true to my schedule and kept persevering only to be handed a lovely injury.  @Katiefitscript said it perfectly in her post about her hamstring issue – it is so frustrating when you just want to compete and train at the highest level and your body isn’t letting you do what you want.  That could not be more spot on.  I am not someone that goes out for a 4 mile run and is like, yay done for the day, what a good workout. I want the intensity, the sweat and the adrenaline.  That is what fuels my love for Crossfit.  A workout may be only 6 minutes but that 6 minutes is hell.  This love and need for adrenaline, speed and strength is what leaves me feeling fatigued and tired in other training cycles.  Part of the reason for getting a coach to train for Boston 2 Big Sur was to have structure and guidance.  I needed to learn how to find comfort in the intense/painful workouts.  But really, I needed to find comfort in just going slow and short.

Fast forward through some car cry sessions, lots of strength work and Crossfit sessions, 2 weeks after I first felt my knee…

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Yay!!! I am happy but still remaining weary and patient.  In the 3 runs that I have had knee pain, it flared up after about 35 minutes and this run was only 33 minutes so I haven’t ventured into danger zone yet.  Right now, I just need to get my confidence up and need a good running day.  I went to ART after this run and she did a phenomenal job releasing all tightness around my knee.  I do not have a doctors apt. until the 3rd but I am hoping that this is all a result of tightness surrounding the knee and some ART work and a slow buildup will help get me back on track.

It is safe to say that injuries SUCK.  They not only derail your training but they mess with the mind more than they mess with the body.  You are upset but trying to put on a strong front because deep down, you know that a little knee pain after 35 minutes of running is far from depressing relative to the issues that most people deal with.  But the selfish and pity-party side of you wants to curl up in a ball, cry and say WHY ME (even though its not just you!).  Tina Muir has said it multiple times on her podcast and from past and current experiences, I 100% agree – injuries keep us grounded and they give us additional knowledge that we need to improve our running.  I have been working with mini-bands and weighted ankle weights for the last few months to help strengthen my hips.  These short but effective drills have caused past hamstring issues to subside by improving muscle imbalances.  My knee injury taught me that I need to focus on strengthening my quads and the muscles surrounding my knee cap by incorporating wall sits into my strength.

Poor biomechanics and muscular imbalances that become clear with each injury help with future injury prevention and provide us with tools to make us stronger and more effective runners.  However, the humbleness that comes with each injury is far more powerful than the muscular insight.  That troubling week of running leading up to my knee pain was frustrating and I had moments of just wanting to throw in the towel and stick to strength and Crossfit.  I questioned my ability to tackle the demands of my training plan even though I felt the strongest I have ever felt as as runner.  The weather was beating me down and I was starting to crumble.  This injury gave me the chance to spend two weeks doing strength, Crossfit and cross training indoors and away from the cold. Yet during those moments, I would have given anything to be able to step outside, all bundled up and run.  Marathon training is mentally and physically draining and that is the exact reason why I love it.  It tests my ability to ward off negative thoughts, remain positive and stay grounded and grateful.  These qualities and lessons learned (hopefully) transpire into my personal life and make me a better and stronger person for when life’s obstacles are far bigger and taxing than running injuries.

To lighten up this blog post, I will just give everyone a friendly reminder of what Christmas in the 90’s looked like for a family of runners…yay for watches that start and stop!!!

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It is a bit sad that this generation of runners will never know what it’s like to make your parents drive around and clock the distance of your running route. Haha 😂

 Have a fabulous New Year’s Eve and stay tuned for a much more positive and fun New Year’s post reflecting on all the incredible moments in 2016. It will be a long one because this year was incredible! 😁

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