running injuries

The One With Doctors and Maybe Too Much Honesty

I hate hospitals. I have my issues with doctors. My last begrudging annual physical ended in a very terse refusal of a surprising array of prescription drugs. I’m already ahead of myself.

It began with the nurse asking me a few questions as part of a new mandatory depression screening.

Have you felt down or hopeless at any point in the past two weeks?

Haven’t you? I want to respond. Hasn’t everyone? Surely that’s not a significant litmus test for mental health.

Have you had any suicidal thoughts?

It’s 11 am, you told me to fast for the past 24 hours,  I haven’t had any coffee, and I have a serious case of the hangries, does homicidal count?  My lingering pause in attempts to find a good way to answer this seems concern enough.  She rushes out of the room, my caffeine headache thundering into my earlobes. She returns to take my vitals, and I cough, take deep breaths, and present my tongue for inspection.  More waiting.  Do people actually read, Reader’s Digest? My doctor appears and we spend less than 20 minutes together.  I voice my concerns.  I get sick, ALL the time, why? I have this pain in my foot, why? 

Some people just get sick a lot, probably a bad year for colds. Could be a tendon thing.

She glosses over.  She party lines me until I have to channel my assertive-alter ego and insist that I won’t be taking a “broad spectrum antibiotic” for a cough that has settled deep in my chest.  I am loosing the battle.

I’m going to put you on an inhaled steroid, for your congestion.

What?! Yes, i’m congested.  It’s generally a resting state for me.  I’m used to it.  What are the side effects? 

Some people get bloody noses, headaches, and occasional vomiting.

That all sounds 100% worse than mild congestion. I’m tired of fighting her and her wall full of I know better than you. She wants to talk to me about my responses to the depression screening.

I sit here weeks later wondering if I should have said something, phrased something, differently, or put on a more convincing “acquaintance smile” in attempts to escape her scrutiny.  Feeling out my reaction, and how much of it is response to the weightiness of our societal taboos about mental health, I’ve got more questions than answers. I want to feel happy, Doesn’t everyone? SureI want to feel more happy, more often! But this seems like a too-good-to-be-true trap.

Maybe talking to someone is the answer. Maybe running more is.  None of these seem like options.  Drugs – Paxil – is the answer, the only option.

I escape with a prescription for Flonase (this is a thing – the inhaled steroid – and I swear to you it is actually called that).  She chases me down in the hall to give me a card for a podiatrist, and another petition to consider the Paxil. It has taken everything out of me. Confrontation-phobic to a fault (and still sans-coffee), I have mustered all my resources to the cause, to get myself out. I wilt in the face of authority, perceived or otherwise, too often forgetting that I am the authority on me. Thanks, I will.  I won’t. I walk away, coaching myself not break into an all out sprint. Even here, now, in the sterile halls of the clinic, just thinking about running makes everything seem better.

Mental Note: Find a new GP.

Lesson Learned… I SWEAR

I committed one of the most mortal sins in running.  It’s why I’ve been away from my writing, and my running.

I can’t believe I did it.  I know better.  I especially, with a laundry list of running-related injuries and PT sessions in my past, should know better.

I…wait for it…doubled my mileage in one run.

If I could undo it, I would, in a heartbeat. Everything felt great the entire run. It was just too easy to do.  A  gorgeous spring day, I met up with an old friend and we were off.  And before I knew it, I had more than doubled my average run mileage. I didn’t think much of it, I felt fine.  Until the next morning, when my left foot let me know what I had done was most definitely not.ok.

This is one of the things I love about running even still- despite the drag of being grounded for recovery – it teaches  (and re-teaches) me about intention.  In everything I do.  Shocking, but normally you can’t just go run 13 miles without preparation.  The work to get there is as crucial as getting there.  It’s an important, and painful, takeaway: pay attention! Be mindful, be present (even if the present is too beautiful to pay much attention to things like your legs and feet).

So, distance runners, promise me this one thing: run with intention.  Do it. Right now. Promise me in your head. So you spare yourselves the momentum-killing, soul-sucking, start over… again.   Running modestly ALWAYS trumps not running at all.

The plan had been to redeem my running self (after a dismal half marathon performance in my last attempt) in mid-May.  So I benched myself for 2 weeks, loaded up on arnica and Advil, wrapped my foot periodically, and waited.  I kept feeling better, day by day. Maybe I hadn’t done anything major!? I waited a few more days.  By the time the 3rd run-free weekend came around, I was out of the ace bandage, walking normally and weight bearing with no pain.

You know what comes next.  I put my shoes on last night, and headed out.  To my credit, I knew I wasn’t going long, or far.  I made it about a quarter mile when I realized I had no business attempting a run, no matter how small.

I’m not sure where I go from here.  With race day is in 5 weeks, I’ve got a  pretty short window to go from nada to 13.1. More like less than nada since walking this morning is a challenge. If the pain gets any worse, I’ll be off to an actual doctor to tell me the sad truth I already know: no running for a while.

Meantime, more arnica and Advil, and desperate pleas to all runners to be smarter than  yours truly.

Now go run.  Run smart and make it count, because you can. And because there are people like me who’d give a whole lot to be in your shoes, especially when they see you tearing up the sidewalks.


Sweet Forgetting

I ran a half marathon on Sunday.  A lot like this blog, I’d been away from running for longer than I’d care to admit.  As it turns out, going from 5ish miles to 13ish miles is a big step (or many of them, I guess).  I didn’t expect it would be easy, I think I just expected it wouldn’t hurt quite so bad. The razor straight incision at the bottom of my sports bra re-opened making it so I felt every movement from about  mile 10 or so onward.   This particularly gruesome war wound from my marathon that I thought had healed was only, as it turns out, hiding.  There are fewer things more painful than sweat dripping into an open wound that is simultaneously being rubbed by tight elastic (note to self: body glide, body glide, body glide).

Post marathon, I spoke of how much I enjoyed the experience.  This is true.  I even went so far as to hint I may attempt another, maybe even an ultra? I would think in the rose colored glasses of remembrance   It’s uncanny to me how our brains block out the bad.  Bloody, my feet blistered almost beyond recognition, with physical scars that could only hint at the deeper exhaustion and trial my body had endured over 26.2 miles, I still would do it again, without question or hesitation.  Only here I was, mile 11 of 13.1 cursing the entire idea of running.  Up a mile-long hill in shoes that will here forward be retired from distance running, I could feel the familiar heat of blistering and the tear-inducing strain on knees.  “Screw it,” I thought, I was done.  fin.  I would retire from running.  Of course I would.  This was not the first bad run I’d had.

My two sisters and I had decided to race this half together.  Our mission: to run my oldest sister to her half marathon PR.  With her trusty pacers and pit crew by her side she would shatter her old time, and we ran out of the gates in formation like  TIE Fighters out to destroy the Death Star.  About the time I started to feel very resentful about the very idea of running, my other sister had started noticing foot pain.  Keen that she was the only sister not to have sustained a running-induced stress fracture, she feared it might be her turn.  My mind unwilling to go the distance, and my sister’s foot forbidding her, we slowed up the hill, and pushed my sister forward in our thoughts as we fell further behind.

I urged my sister to stop and walk, and periodically, we would.  But this is what running does to you- she would not be stopped.  Blazing pain burning through her foot, she paced me the last few miles into the finish.  I wanted nothing more than to stop and be done, but she pushed, she ran, she sprinted through the finish line with a determination I know only she is capable of.  I wanted to cry for her as we finally crossed the line, my other sister and family cheering madly on the side lines.  This is what running does- no matter the pain, no matter the physical or mental obstacle before you, it channels through you the will to put foot before foot, against the odds, and finish. (And in some cases, to get yourself to the doctor for x-rays and serious pain killers.)

We will run again,  all of us.  My sister will heal, and will relish recovery runs.  I will find a shoe store to sell me the Asics I’m used to and I will train for another marathon.  The forgetting will come, willfully or subconsciously, as we fail to recall the acuteness of the pain we have sustained.  We will be borne out onto the trails with complete, convenient amnesia and renewed hope.  I’m not sure how, or why, but we will keep running.  We will break our own records, as my sister did that day.  We will discover new reserves of strength and quiet power.  We will run towards big victories, and many, many small ones.   The run must break you sometimes, before it can rebuild you, better than before.  And I have a hunch it’s the imperfection of our memories that allows us to lace up again, to lace up and trust the run.    We will heal ourselves in the very thing that has broken us, and we will run stronger and faster than ever.

**This post gratefully dedicated to my sisters:  heal fast, run   faster,        and  may we never run alone. **

Week 4ish

The surest, quickest way to not feel like myself is not running.  It has been tougher than I recall.  In the time it took for me to recover a bit from tendonitis, I naturally contracted a plague that drained all sense of motivation from my bones and left me couch-bound (not to mention depression-riddled) for several days. These events, individually, would be surmountable, manageable.  As I anxiously adjust back into a running routine, I’m more aware than ever, and with Marathon looming, that I’ve been almost 3 weeks away from it.

The blow to my immune system and my resolve has been significant.

The dog resents me for keeping him housebound, and my thoughts seem scrambled and distant.  Focus is fleeting at best with muscles lethargic and twitchy from too much nothing.  The original training plan would have me running 13 miles this weekend, and its all but debilitating to acknowledge that it is probably out of the question.

Training may be compromised, but I am not.  I must remind myself of this.

The balance is precarious, I realize.  Among many, many other things, running has taught me this:  sometimes compromise is necessary.

Necessary in order to save your knees, your feet, your tendons.  Save them to run another day so that mind and body can remain whole.  It’s not the pain I’m worried about, but rather the prospect that that pain might ground me indefinitely.  I must come to terms with compromise, however unpleasant, if running and I are to remain life-long partners.

With focus on regaining old strength and testing the will of aggravated tendons, I’ve promised myself to wait a while before making any decisions about whether I will realistically be in a position to  run the full in 2 months.

The part of me that fractured my metatarsal wants to pursue it any cost.  The new part of me that values things like bones, acknowledges it might be time for a new plan.

Time and tendons will tell.

Week 3

Thought for the day comes courtesy of Born to Run (again):

Suffering is humbling. It pays to know how to get your butt kicked.

I hardly know where to start.  Best to go with the butt kicking part  I guess. The third week of training brought with it some very unwelcome tidings:

Lefty (affectionate moniker for my oft-injured left foot)  started giving me grief during my long run on Saturday.  I didn’t think much of it, but continued to monitor the discomfort, just in case. I finished 9 miles wondering what on earth could be the matter with it.  Just a dull ache.  Nothing cataclysmic, I hoped.  Luckily, I happened to be in my hometown for the weekend where my physical therapist sister was on hand to take a look and offer an initial prognosis.  With 2 rest days to follow, I thought for sure it would be a fleeting hiccup in the training process.

As I ventured out the next day,  I instantly knew it was more than that. The pain radiated up the back of my leg, every step delivering a cringe inducing soreness.  I didn’t make it a half mile before I had to stop myself.  This wouldn’t be so upsetting were it not for the vivid deja vu washing over me.

The context for the deja vu is this:  several years ago I broke my third meta-tarsal, mid-run.  Not knowing it at the time, and figuring I would only be able to deal with it once home, I pressed on for the 2 miles it took to get back to the house, where my then roommate was luckily on hand to take my broken self to the ER.

I’ve had to actively fight the hysteria that potentially being in a boot brings back.  Not to mention the inopportune timing of it.  If there weren’t a small non-refundable fortune registering me for a marathon I might be able to take it in more stride (Pun intended?).  Really convince myself to look forward to biking, or swimming or something.  I spent an uncomfortable few days constantly keeping at bay the waves of hyperventilation that want to overcome me at the prospect of not running again.   I was able to get in on very short notice to see the doctor.

The news is good.  Unbelievably good.  X-rays are clean, and the bullet I’ve dodged feels immense (and maybe that it grazed me just a bit).  Peroneal tendonitis means no running for at least 2 weeks a lot of physical therapy.


It will put me behind in training a few more weeks but at least the marathon is still a possibility, and those are chances I’m more than ecstatic to take.

It makes me much more nervous about the race than I have been to this point, but nervous trumps broken every time.