The road to recovery…yet again…
It was just last year around this time that I was prepping for my first race back from an injury. That injury was stress fracture in my right foot and really bad runner’s knee in my right knee. It kept me out of running for 3 months last year…and I struggled hard to come back to it. I was determined to be a better, stronger, and smarter runner after that. And…with a lot of motivation, a lot of practice, and listening to what my body was telling me…I did just that.
And my first race back happened on August 27, 2011 at the Walk Away From Colon Cancer 5K Run in Louisville, Kentucky. It was my first time running in Iroquois Park, so I had no idea what to expect. But from what I heard…it was hilly. Not what one wanted to hear when coming back from injury. But…with a lot of long-distance cheering from friends and family…and my ultimate support section (that being Cathy, my roommate…who has never missed a race yet and is always at that finish line)…I got through it and finished with my slowest 5K race to date. Yes…even slower than my first 5K ever.
But there are lessons in these stories.
As I stated in my earlier post, I’m recovering from a torn plantar fascia. This very painful injury had me on crutches for two weeks and has since had my foot taped up in order for me to comfortably move around. It was hard for my podiatrist to even okay me to run a little bit, let alone okay me to run in a half marathon on September 1, 2012…but he did okay it as I assured him that I would not push too hard and I would slow my pace. The point was to heal properly, not do further damage.
Well, that date is rapidly approaching…and my first official race back after missing out on two prior due to being on crutches and unable to run…is this Saturday. And what is it?
The Walk Away From Colon Cancer 5K Race.
But, I think I’ve done well to prepare myself for this. I rested for the first week after seeing my podiatrist. He had given me permission to run up to 2 miles, but I didn’t…figuring I could take the rest of that week off and then slowly get back to it. And…that’s what I did. When I went back to get fitted for inserts for my shoes, he said that I could work my way up to 10 miles over the next couple of weeks, gradually increasing my runs by 20%. But if I hurt…I was to stop. I agreed.
And so far, I’ve been doing fine. Sometimes something hurts, but I slow my pace and ease up…and I get that flow going again. My first weekend back on the road, I did a 10K run around my parent’s neighborhood. This past weekend…8 miles…with as many hills as I could find. I’ve kept my pace slower than I used to run and so far, my foot has treated me well. Nothing that has crippled m up again. And I intend to keep it that way.
The road to recovery is not an easy one for me. I put on my running shoes and all I want to do is take off and see how fast I can go and for how long. I’ve had to train myself to look at my runs differently. And it’s even more challenging when what used to be an easy run now feels so hard. It’s amazing how much fitness you can lose over just 2 weeks from being up on crutches and unable to even walk. I’ve been pretty good about doing my foot exercises he gave me to do, hoping to get that tendon back into perfect shape. I struggle at times to push myself because I have this fear that if I push even a little bit…I could get injured again…or do worse damage. And that’s the last thing I want to do. Those two weeks I couldn’t run were two of the worst weeks I’ve had in a long time. I was miserable.
But when I finally laced up my shoes for an easy 2 mile run…my first since the incident…I looked at my roommate and told her I was afraid. She told me not to be afraid of something I love doing so much. It’s okay to be nervous…but I shouldn’t be afraid. And so…I set out and ran…2 very easy, very slow miles. And I was glad I did.
That fear is still there every time I put on those running shoes and head out for a run. I want to get back to where I was pre-injury, but I know I need to take it easy. Ignoring the pace on my Garmin is not an easy task. I tell myself not to look…just to count the miles. And that’s what I do. But, sometimes it is just so tempting to let my eyes wander down on the watch and see what pace I’m going at.
Right now…it’s not about speed, it’s about getting through each run safely, without pain, and feeling good. The fitness will return once my body has healed completely. Until then…it’s all about pacing myself. Slow and steady means I get to race. And if that’s the case, I’ll be a tortoise. Because a stretch of time without running is torture to me. I’d rather be slow then sedentary.
On Saturday…I hit up the road at Iroquois Park once again for the same race I made my official comeback in last year. My goal is to simply finish…whether it means walking the hills like I did last year or not. At that finish line, I want to cross it without having to limp or needing assistance. I just want to run a good race and continue on my path to a full recovery.
Yes…this isn’t an easy task…but I’m making it work because in the end, I know it will make me a better runner.
The hardest lessons are most often the most important ones. I’m learning a lot about myself and what I’m capable of now more than ever.