(Buckle up, because this will be wordy with very very few photos!)
It all started when I decided to go for a late afternoon run, sometime in mid-May 2015. I was training for my (least) favorite race, The Mickelson Trail Marathon and had put off a weekend long run, thinking I could squeeze in 10 miles on a Wednesday. First of all, that is NEVER a good idea. 10 miles on a weekday? Ridiculous. Anywho, I was about .5 miles (aka 1/2 mile. ONE HALF MILE) into said 10 mile run, when I kicked a piece of deadly flagstone with my right foot and ate shit.It wasn’t a graceful fall either, far from it. The abrupt stop caused by the jutting out flagstone had me flying through the air – I landed on my left hand, knee and foot. I pulled the pebbles out of hands, let the people smoking in front of the mental health center know that I was, in fact OK, and kept going. I was 5ish miles in when I couldn’t bear the throbbing coming from the big toe on my right foot, soooo, I called an Uber. Thats right. I ran 5 miles and then called an Uber for a ride home. Classic.
I had an appointment w/ my amazing chiropractor (shout out to Dane Borman) that afternoon, so I decided to ask him to order an xray to check on my toe – because I was limping all over the place and I couldn’t put pressure on that toe at all. The X-ray came back positive, I had a fracture in the big toe on my right foot….this was a pretty sweet diagnosis three weeks out from a half marathon. So, I did the right thing- took a week off of running (because, the fracture wasn’t bad enough to warrant taking more time off than that…ahem). I decided, at that point, I wouldn’t be ready for the race w/ out having gone above 8 miles and having taken so much time off. So I became the world’s best race mom. I dropped my running kiddos off at their respective starting lines, I prepared a cooler full of beers for said runners after the race, I purchased snacks and sunblock for our finish line party and I kept the car cool for everyone to ride in comfort back to our house.
(that’s my beefy arm handing KJ a cold beer at the finish line of Mickelson Trail Marathon)
I enjoyed my support duties – but I knew i couldn’t revel in being off my feet for too long, because I had a bunch of shit coming up that needed to be trained for. Oh speaking of other things to train for, this was my 2015 summer schedule:
- June 7th -Deadwood 1/2 marathon
- July 11 – Pacing a friend in Leadville for the last 16 miles of her 50 mile race
- July 18 – Epic Relay (18 miles total, over a 24 hour period)
- August 8 -Ragnar Relay (15ish miles total, over a 24 hour period)
- Mid-September – Imogene Pass (17 miles over a damn mountain pass)
This was, by far, the most aggressive race schedule I had EVER considered. Needless to say, losing three weeks at the beginning of it, wasn’t ideal.
But I plugged away. Jed and I hit lots of trails around the Denver area, spending hours dodging mountain bikers, in preparation for the Leadville event. I had three weeks to get my shit together enough to run w/ someone from sea level for the last 16 miles of her 50 mile race.
The day before the race I felt like i did what I could and was hoping my previous experience and the three week surge in trail running, would carry me. I felt confident I was prepared.
Spoiler alert, I wasn’t.
I’m so glad we decided to bring along our friend Erin, who is, by far, a much stronger runner than I am. She provided the much needed moral support, to my friend Bobbi – while I spent 3 hours chasing after the two of them, asking other racers if they had seen MY runner. It was a disaster.
Half way through the race I started feeling a slight twinge (super specific medical term) in my left leg. It was right above the pointy ankle bone thingy (again, super specific medical term). It felt tight and throbby – I immediately thought it was some BS tendon business, so I promptly took my tiger tail to it and rolled it out as hard as I could. (In hindsight, this was not the best plan).
I had zero time to recover from the Leadville debacle before it was time to run the epic relay , the next weekend.
I’ve done the relay for five years and there was only one year where I WASN’T the first runner. (that was due to the fact that I was still recovering from a broken leg in 2013 and I needed a shorter/easier leg…are you seeing a pattern here?).Runner number 1 has the third most difficult leg in the race – It’s pretty gnarly with 7.68 uphill’ish for the first leg, 3 miles straight downhill for the second and then 7 miles straight uphill in the middle of the night, for the last one. Being runner number 1 was my favorite because I got my first run out of the way….first. Same in roller derby, I loved being the first jammer.
But I digress.
At mile 4 on leg number 1 the route began to descend – a much needed respite from the uphill. At this point my left leg was beyond achy, it straight up HURT. I was convinced, though, it just needed a good stretch. So I spent a few minutes on the top of this hill stretching.
As I came down that hill, and back up the other side, I felt better. The stretching worked and I went on my merry way.
The pain stayed at bay until my last leg. I started out slow and steady – running at 2am is tough. I could feel my leg ache as I began, but I figured that was stiffness after riding in a car for 4 hours. Fifteen minutes in, the “running” turned to hobbling and then the hobbling turned to straight up walking. Thankfully, my awesome teammate KJ saw me struggling and she joined me for the next 4ish miles. (I am not saying I’m afraid of the dark, but I’m saying I didn’t want to go at that long leg, in the pitch black, alone)
When I finished that leg I knew something was seriously wrong. I could hardly walk w/ the pain shooting up the inside of my left shin. BUT since I had another relay in two weeks, I found some ice and some KT tape and hit the trail for another run the Wednesday after the Epic.
I finally got in to see a doctor on the 5th of August. Two full weeks after the Epic and two days before Ragnar. The doc took xrays, poked around a bit and diagnosed a stress fracture. She suggested I follow up with a sports medicine doc to confirm, but that was her story and she was sticking to it.
I saw Dr. Poddar at CU Sports Medicine and he agreed, it was likely a stress fracture. The treatment? Two weeks in a walking boot.
Alright, two weeks, I can handle that.
SIX WEEKS in the boot when my doctor finally decided to do the MRI.
Three days later I received the results:
Level 3 (out of 4) stress fracture.
With that diagnosis I was told I should be on crutches for a 7-10 days.
And the end of that 10 days on crutches, I had been in the boot for six weeks.
I headed back to the doctor after 8 full weeks in the boot and he wasn’t convinced I was at a point where I could start walking again w/out the boot, soooooooooooooo another two weeks it is.
Then it was another two weeks….
And another two weeks.
Finally, on October 22nd the doc told me I could start weening myself out of the boot. (for those of you who aren’t great at math, or have started skimming the repetitive bits of this, I was in the boot for a total of THIRTEEN WEEKS)
I started with ONE boot free hour for day one, then TWO and then THREE, etc. Until November 3rd (I’ll always remember that date b/c it was my BFF’s wedding!) I was able to go 8 full hours w/out the big black boot. It was glorious to wear two “normal shoes” for a whole day.
The funny thing about stress fractures is that they don’t hurt all the time, just when you’re being stupid and over training. So throughout the time I was in the boot I was still teaching skating (I’d spend an hour out of the boot twice a week, merely standing on the ice yelling out orders). I’d show up to the rink, in the boot and change into my skates despite the speculative looks from parents and other coaches and I’d hit the rink. Of course, in hindsight, this probably wasn’t the GREATEST thing to be doing for myself, but i had kids to coach and commitments to keep. (read: spare me the lecture, I’ve given it to myself a hundred times)
Through the 13 weeks of #bootlife I found myself looking for exercises I could do seated or on my back (pause for inappropriate laughter). I discovered Daily Burn – their “live to fail” program became my go to.
Along with their amazing pilates videos – I managed to keep myself going w/ workouts, which is something I didn’t manage to do the first time I was injured.
In addition to Daily Burn, I turned to Fitness Blender for their sweet lower body mat videos. And when I started to crave cardio (who does that?!) I found these awesomely goofy and effective videos on youtube:
and this one worked, in a pinch:
When it was time to finally start physical therapy, I had a leg up (another pause for laughter). A lot of those cardio workouts helped w/ core and hip flexor strength, something that greatly suffers when you’re #bootbound.
I did 10 weeks of PT at CU Sports Medicine, where Greg helped me with their return to running program. It started off with simple stretching and mobility exercises to slowly re-introducing movement to that joint that was semi-immobile for 13 weeks. Each couple of weeks he’d add a new exercise or series of exercises that focused on core, glute and calf strength.
Before I knew it we were 8 weeks in and I was finally allowed to step on the treadmill for 1 minute of running, five times, with one minute of walking in between. Those first few minutes on the treadmill marked the first time I had run in nearly 6 months. This was the longest streak I’d gone w/out running, in my adult life (because, let’s be honest, teenage Elizabeth HATED running with a burning, fiery passion)
Fast Forward to February 18th, 2016. Jed and I hopped on a plane to Brazil for his brother’s wedding. We had 10 days planned, 3 of which would be spent in Sao Paulo and the other 7 would be spent on a cruise.
Because I didn’t want to lose my recovery momentum, I did some research and found out that place we would be staying at in SP was right near the largest park in the city. Perfect for 1 minute running intervals. In addition, the cruise ship had a fully equipped gym w/ tons of treadmills. So I was all set.
February 23rd, our second full day on the boat and our first full day at sea. Our plan was to do some fitness in the morning and then lounge on the deck – crushing books and caipirinhas. It started off as planned, we worked out in the steamy fitness center
hit the showers and then headed out to the deck to find the best lounge spot (one in the shade, but with the option to be in the sun, easily).
As we were walking down the stairs I stepped off the bottom stair and jammed my toe, rolled my ankle and fell down. Perfect. I was wearing flip flops, so there was zero protection for my foot against the stair. Immediately I my stomach sunk and the only thought in my head was “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu*#, I broke my foot”.
We headed to the boat infirmary where met with a doctor AND a nurse who spoke ZERO English. Through google translate and manic hand gestures, they told me to come back to get an Xray the next day and to ice for 7 hours. After wrapping my foot, they carefully placed it back in my flip flop – handed me some old timey crutches and a handful of pain pills and told me to scram. I kept trying to ask them if it was broken, by making the “snapping” hand movements, reminiscent of how the Macho Man snaps into a slim jim, but it didn’t translate. Shocker.
Sooooooooo, I did as told. I spent our entire first day at sea, in bed, with my leg elevated and iced:
The following day we were scheduled to take a tour of the city of Salvador . I debated as to whether or not I should stay on the boat and rest. I mean, I did just potentially break my foot – BUT I was still able to hobble on it, so I figured it couldn’t actually be broken. I made the decision to go on the tour b/c, well, VACATION.
Needless to say I didn’t go back to the doctor on the boat for an Xray. Can you imagine having a diagnostic xray by someone who doesn’t speak your language AND doesn’t take your insurance? Nao Obrigado! (no thank you ).
The trip went on, I didn’t really slow down much. Of course I didn’t continue running, which was such a bummer. OF COURSE I would re-injure myself after just being cleared to run. Literally TWO WEEKS after getting back on track to running, I fell off the stair.
We returned to the US on the 28th of February and I finally broke down and went back to see Dr. Poddar on March 14th.
You can guess what happened next – Yup, back in the boot.
Back to seated cardio workouts and pilates.
Back to square 1 in PT.
21 days in the boot did the trick. Once i received the all clear, Dr. Poddar banned me from their offices and ordered a 6 weeks of physical therapy.
I started WAY WAY WAY over w/ Greg for PT. Because this injury involved more than what the stress fracture did, we spent much more time on mobility and stretching. The ligaments on top of my foot were a disaster and there was an actual fracture – so we were a little more cautious about any hopping or plyo.
After six weeks of slow and steady progression, I was cleared to “run” a bit on the treadmill. It began with 1 week of 3×1 (one minute intervals, three times), then 4×1 and then 5×1. Then finally back to where I was before I was reinjured:
Today, 6/29/16, I am running for 4 minutes straight (wahoooo) w/ 1 minute of walking in between running, 5 times. So a total of 20 minutes running. 30 minutes total with warm up and cool down. It’s pretty exciting🙂 I’m more determined than ever to get back to pounding the pavement in a safe and healthy manner. I’m not in the business of being back in a walking boot any time soon.
The reason behind this ridiculous blog? A reminder to ME and maybe YOU to slow down and listen to your body. It truly has the answers and if you chose to tell it to F – off when you’re not feeling 100%, it will F you harder than you ever imagined.
Because I was stubborn and NOT smart about my race schedule, I missed an entire year of going on runs with my husband,trail runs with friends, snowshoe trips, ski trips, bike rides, roller skating adventures, etc. I lost 13 months of making the most of our gorgeous state. SUCH a bummer.
I am more than making up for it this summer though. I’m hitting the trails for hikes with friends (Jed even bought me hiking boots, so I’m 100% legit and protected!) every weekend and we’ve discovered stand up paddleboarding. I’m cautiously going through the steps of the above chart while building my strength in the basement gym.
I’m not about to jinx anything, so I’m going to end with this:
I’m right where I’m supposed to be. My focus stays on today’s training and nothing beyond that.
13 months since my first injury – broken toe May 2015
13 weeks in a walking boot b/c of a stress fracture from overtraining
14 weeks of PT b/c of stress fracture
3 days on a cruise before my third injury – a partial fracture and busted up ligaments
21 days back in a walking boot
4 minutes, 5 times is how long I can run at this time (6/28/16)