Injury: My First Stress Fracture

The last post I wrote was a brief recap of my first few weeks of training for the Chicago Marathon, 12 weeks out from race day. Now, the race is just over 7 weeks away and I’m on day 3 of wearing a walking boot. I had an MRI done on my foot on Monday, a stress fracture in my second metatarsal was confirmed early Tuesday morning by my doc, and I picked up the boot the same day. I have 6 weeks to let the bone heal. If all goes well, I’ll be able to go for my first test run at the end of September, just 2 weeks before the Chicago Marathon.

BarkleeAnn doesn't like the boot either.

BarkleeAnn doesn’t like the boot either.

This isn’t exactly how I pictured the rest of the year going. I was finally piecing together some good weeks of training, with solid speedwork and tempos. My mileage was steady, as it has been basically all year (between 40-50 mpw). I hadn’t even made it over 50 miles for the week yet. I was getting an extra boost of confidence by running speed workouts with others. A few weeks ago, I noticed that my left foot was slightly sore. It would come and go but the discomfort (not pain) didn’t stick around. I’m cautious about these types of things because I know it’s a bad sign when one side doesn’t mirror the other. I wore compression socks and iced it when it felt like it was tender. I honestly thought it was just a muscle or tendon issue. I even decided to do speedwork on the lakefront path instead of the track to avoid turning too much on my left side.

I didn’t think it was bone-related until I went for my long run while I was in Milwaukee. I felt fine the first 5 miles. Then, each mile after that didn’t feel great. It was a cutback run of 14-15 miles, but I called it a day at 12.5 mi. The next day, I had a feeling it was bone-related.

Tuesday was a rough day this week. Even though I was 90% sure I had a stress fracture even before hearing the results from the MRI, reading the email saying that it was confirmed was heart-breaking. I cried for a bit, pulled myself together for the work day, but all I wanted to do was sit around and wallow.

I really appreciate the comments and texts from friends and runners. The comments like “shit shit fuck fuck noooooooooo” or “whyyyyyyyy. This sucks!” are my favorite. Because that’s exactly how I feel and there’s really nothing anyone can say to make me feel better (temporarily!). I’m really sad and frustrated and angry about the whole thing but it’s been a weird mixture of all three so far. Don’t worry – it won’t last long.

I’ve had a few days to process it and get used to walking around in the boot. I’m able to cross-train by spinning (seated only) or swimming, but all weight-bearing exercises (including yoga) are out for the next 6 weeks. I’m going to give some mat-based Pilates DVDs a try and do what I can on the bike. My doc ordered a bone density scan [UPDATE: ““Bone mineral density is within normal limits.” Check!] and extra calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D supplementation, so those are immediate next steps as well. To some extent, this injury is easier to deal with than others because it’s very clear what I need to do in order to recover: sit on my butt for 6 weeks and cross-train in the ways that I can. Past injuries haven’t been so black-and-white and I was stuck in limbo between deciding to race or cutting the training cycle short to recover.

I’m glad I stopped when I did, that it’s not more serious, and that I saw a doc when I did. I think I’ve been fairly lucky when it comes to injuries since I committed to long distance running, about 4 years ago. I’ve pretty much only dealt with one overuse injury and one ridiculous injury to my knee after a clumsy fall. I’ve never even broken a bone in my body before. And now I’m dealing with my first stress fracture. I’m 9 weeks into a training cycle and the past 3 weeks have made me especially excited to tackle goals at Chicago in October. Big goals. Big scary ones. Now I’ll be lucky if I even get to the start line of half the distance in November or December. I know it’s a small, even miniscule thing in the grand scheme of things. Running long distance is such a mindfuck. You get so few chances to show how hard you’ve been working and then it all has to come together on ONE day, at a certain hour, with a certain mindset. This year hasn’t really been a stellar year for me in many ways – I was hoping it would come together this summer and fall. And it was. I was just dealt a bad hand.

Still, there’s an upside! I’m happy that I’m still able to sweat and try to mimic the effort I’d spend running on the bike. I’ll be strength training just as much, if not more, than I was before (with appropriate changes to certain exercises, of course). And that complaint that I always make about not having enough time to read? Poof. Gone. I’m going to read ALL THE BOOKS.

Also, I figure I either have 6 weeks to get a 6 pack OR 6 weeks to drink a many 6 packzzzz. I have a feeling those goals are not simultaneously compatible, but I think I’m up for the challenge, as always.

2015-08-20 12.02.47

Counting down the days

Run some miles for me and enjoy every step, my friends.

-J

  • If you’ve ever had a stress fracture, what has helped you get through it? (From sanity-savers to specific workout DVDs you’ve used)
  • What races should I set my sights on for spring 2016?
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