Sometimes when I first awake, I have a habit of lying very still and doing this sort of diagnostic self check on my body. Scanning muscles, bones and toes – what hurts? Anything, anywhere? If there’s no immediate pain, I slightly stretch my legs. Nothing? Only then do I breathe a slight sigh of relief. It would be nice to claim I rarely experience injuries, but that would be a fib. It’s almost always a stress fracture and almost always soon after a race. Those nagging little things sneak up on you with hardly a warning. And once you realize it’s a stress fracture, it’s too late. Nothing can be done to change your fate.
There have been a few pulled muscles bad enough to warrant rest days or an urgent visit to the massage therapist, a pulled hamstring once that hurt for over a year, and I had a severe case of IT Band syndrome in each leg. My body’s injury of choice, however, seems to be stress fractures. Two or three on the metatarsals of each foot and one on each of the lower tibia. I guess I’ll never forget the look on the doctor’s face when he discovered the fracture on my right tibia. He said, “This is the strongest bone in your leg and you have fractured it.” I understood his point. But, the very next year I had one on the left tibia.
A few days ago my left foot failed the diagnostic self check. When I opened my eyes it hit me like a ton of bricks. A small throbbing on the top of my foot. Unless you’ve dropped the vacuum cleaner on your foot, any other pain on the top of the foot is always a stress fracture. So the next move is the touch test. And, there it is. A definite pain. Ugh
Early in my career I taught management training classes where we discussed the stages a person goes through when faced with a major change in their life. It seems regardless of the type of change – divorce, death, loss of job, etc., we all have the same series of responses beginning with shock and disbelief. Usually denial quickly follows shock and I complete these two steps of the journey before I can even get myself out of bed.
Denial hangs on for awhile…..days.
Anger comes next and its at this point my husband becomes aware there is an issue. I get incredibly irritable, grumpy, mad with myself. Acceptance is last although I will almost always back it up to denial at least once before I fully resolve to accept. It is only when you finally accept that a change is irreversible that your life can move forward. So, in the initial acceptance phase, I’ll pull out my training log and assess the damage to my schedule.
I search relentlessly every year for the perfect little calendar for my training log. I’ve been immune to more advanced methods of logging my schedule in favor of something small enough to fit in my purse yet spacious enough to write every detail of a particular day’s training requirements and sturdy enough to handle the abuse I give it. This year’s calendar is red and it seems to have a fond glow to it. Eventually I’ll take the eraser to this little calendar and begin removing all evidence of what I would have been doing if not for this intrusion.
In this first false positive of acceptance, I’ll allow myself a few day’s rest, maybe even a week, convinced that I’ve caught it early. Then I’ll revise one more week to allow for a ramp-up schedule back to full throttle. This time, phase one lasted just one day before I took the eraser out again and cleared out two more weeks of training. I still haven’t determined a come-back plan. So I am solidly in the acceptance phase.
There will be someone that reads this and knows exactly what I’m doing wrong. But, so far, the answer eludes me. I take a day off for every hard mile of the race, or I’ll take an entire week off and cross train for a second week. I start my ramp up back to training very slow or sometimes hold a low mileage schedule for three weeks before adding miles. I’ve tried everything with no success. Once a year my body seems to insist I take a break. Its the only way I accept a break so, it all works out in the end.
Now that I’ve accepted my fate, I pull out the K-tape and a little bag of remedies I keep in the nightstand drawer. There’s a bag of peas in the freezer in case of swelling but, this time I really do think I’ve caught it early and the peas aren’t needed.
The camera zoomed in on the quarterback during last weekend’s game after he had been hit hard in a blitz. They stole a glimpse of a definite grimace. It was ever so slight but there it was – a reaction to pain somewhere in his body. I bet alot of us felt for him, understood exactly what was going through his mind. During a game, or a race, you set the pain off to the side to deal with it afterwards. I would have to be completely and utterly incapable of moving to drop out of a race. But after the game, we all begin this mental battle. Will I be healed before the next game, when can I start practice again.
Ahmad Brooks, 49ers linebacker, said after the superbowl loss that the funny thing was, in a few months they would be trying to get back to the same place they are at right now. It’s a constant circle – sports. You win or loose, get injured or take a break, and then begin the journey back to the same place, hoping to set a new PB, win the game or the division, be named MVP, get to the superbowl.
So, I look at what I’ve written and wonder, what is the moral to this story. I ask my husband, “What have I learned by this?” He says, maybe the only thing to learn is that you give everything you’ve got in a race. I think this is true. I purposely don’t register for a race unless i feel like I’m properly trained well enough to win the race. I’ve told myself on occasion that I would run a race just for fun, but within minutes of crossing the starting line I’m racing to win without even thinking twice.
Some day I realize I may not place in the top three of my age group and if this happens repeatedly, will I grow tired of racing? I’m always a good sport and truly admire someone that is better than me. But, can I enjoy the competition without bringing home the hardware? I think so. I can’t imagine a time that I won’t try to win.
So, just like the 49ers, I’ll be starting the journey all over again very soon now.