Friday, September 4, 2015

Coming Back Whining

I really appreciate everyone’s comments—both here and elsewhere—about how positive I was being about this injury, but I’ve got to be honest: I feel like I’ve betrayed you all in the last three weeks, as I have turned into an incredibly ungrateful brat, throwing temper tantrums because I can’t run as much as I want to, gosh darn it!!

I think at first I didn’t fully accept this injury—I’m not sure I have even now, three months later.

Maybe I was just stuck in the first stage of loss and grief—denial. I accepted that Grandma’s wouldn’t happen and that I had a summer of cross-training ahead.  But my doctors and I agreed on a plan: real marathon training would start—on schedule—in October and I’d be base building by September. Maybe I was delusional, but I wouldn’t/couldn’t let myself think this injury would mess up my Trials training. It took away Grandma’s. No more.

But then four to six weeks without running turned into ten. As the days of August ran out, I started getting worried. And irritable. And angry. And depressed. I may have had more than one complete meltdown. Oddly, my anger and depression (stages 2 and 4; we’ll get to stage 3, don’t worry) correlated with when I was actually allowed to start running again. Rather than feeling elated—I can run!!—I became more and more frustrated at just how little I was allowed to run.

On my first two-mile jaunt on real roads, I felt like a cartoon character running with an anvil on my back—all squished down, like my legs weren’t moving up and down at all. (Welcome back to 100% gravity.) But after a little while, I felt mostly normal again, and then—amazing. I was reminded why I love running so much; it seriously is better than any other form of exercise or cross training. I felt like I could have gone so much faster and for so much longer, but… no. I had to take it slow.

The next run—a week later and a whooping three miles—was an entirely different experience. It was freaking exhausting. I felt heavy and tired, so ridiculously tired from jogging what would essentially be a warm up at any other time of my life. It was frustrating—Had I not been cross training enough? How is this so damn hard? How the fudge am I going to get back to running 80-mile weeks when a three-mile week is this tiring? I felt that anvil again, only now I was dragging it, or--more accurately--dragging a slow, out-of-shape body through a short run.

Cue the temper tantrums. I need to start running for real. I need to get back in shape. I feel fine, no pain or soreness in my leg. **Bangs fists, stomps feet.** I wanna run more!!

I know I should be grateful to run, and I am. Running a couple short jogs now is better than the zero running I was doing a month ago. But like a true addict, just a taste of it has got me aching for the real thing. I want to run miles on miles on miles. I want to come home exhausted and elated from a two-hour run, not a two-mile run. I want to feel justified in eating marathon-style feasts. (Not that I’m not eating them anyway, but it’s hardly justified). I want to run with my teammates again. I want to run fast and far, tempos and track days, singles and doubles. I want to race.

So the bargaining (stage 3) began. Last week I ran two times, three miles each. Surely this week I could go three times? Pretty, pretty please? But no. I nearly cried when the PT said it’d be another week of two measly runs.

Not that I’m not scared of doing too much. Of course I am. I am painfully aware that if I do too much I risk not making it to the Trials starting line. I’m doing what I can to make that not happen. But also, there’s the overly ambitious part of me waging war with the cautious side. I’d like to make it to the finish line of the Trials, too. I’d like to do well. Six-mile weeks aren’t going to get me there.

This is the push and pull of coming back from injury. On top of everything else, there’s a psychological war going on in my head. But I’m pain free. Surely, I can increase the running a little more…

Randomly, I wasn’t able to get on the AlterG as much as I was supposed to this week, so my PT agreed to let me go on a third run. Victory! Three days a week! And next week, I’ll be on vacation—far from AlterGs and without many other cross training opportunities. (No, I will not attempt “pool running” in the ocean.) So I got permission to go four days. (Still short and slow, of course.)

So things are looking up. I’m still not where I want to be or where I imagined I’d be at this point, and this morning’s four miles were downright exhausting. I know I have lots of time, and I’m trying trying trying to be patient. It is September, and I am building a base, it’s just a much smaller base than I originally planned. I can’t guarantee I won’t have any more breakdowns, but apparently I’m quite good at denying the reality of this injury, so maybe I’ll just regress to stage 1.

Dream big,


  1. I feel you girl: SO MUCH! When I first injured my foot, I was like: ok, Chicago is out (Grandma for you), but the race that really counts is Boston (Trials for you - I know, quite different ;)) and, if I had to get injured, better now than before Boston. I will cross-train religiously for 5 weeks and come back stronger and ready to kill every workout and conquer the world!
    Well, 5 weeks have passed, but my foot still feels weird, so I decided to wait one more week before attempting my first run. But what if in one week my foot still feel the same? What if I have to wait more than one week? I seriously CANNOT take this swimming thing any longer (and I grew up as a swimmer, so imagine). I want to RUN. Period.

    And I feel you about the training part, too. My coach sent me my training plan for September: one short easy run after the other. Wait, weren't we supposed to kill one workout after the other and conquer the world right after this injury??

    Sometimes I feel this is the "price I have to pay" for the flawless season I had last winter/spring. I trained smartly, I was feeling stronger than ever, and I smashed my marathon goals. I have to accept that not every season will be like that, unfortunately, and that I have to be grateful for the last two great marathons that I ran.

    Glad you will be going on vacation soon: it will help you so much to take your mind off this.

    Sorry for the poem I wrote, but misery loves company, and I can seriously relate to every single word you wrote.

    Wishing you all the best!

    1. Haha, I love the poem you wrote! Thanks so much for this, it definitely helps to know other people are in the same boat! We'll conquer the world soon enough, I hope :)

  2. Hang in there, Teal. It's so hard to simultaneously try to bump up the miles while holding back and being smart. I freaked out last season when (in order to come back slowly from my stress reaction) I had to take more time to build than planned. Instead of coming back as I'd planned and having a nice gradual 2-month buildup before the "real" training started, I basically had to hold myself back and do walk-runs, then little 3-milers, THEN finally could start back-to-back days and finally after a few weeks of that, the workouts. I was so stressed that I wouldn't have enough time to get my base built before training started but you know what? It all worked out. My base was smaller and my training was fewer miles as a result, but I was so darn happy to be out there running that I appreciated (and had a renewed love for) every run, every hard workout that I got to do. The result? A new PR on the smallest base and training cycle that I'd run to date. It can be done. The patience you are having to exert now will pay off. I promise.

    1. Thanks, Jenn!! It's hard, obviously, but I'll try to keep your story in mind going forward :)

  3. I love your honesty in everything- coming back and being frustrated is expected. But I think you are doing really well and it will be cool to watch as the fall progresses and you get into training more for the trials. It's such a balance coming back from injury, too much vs. too little. I'm sure you have great support and guidance from your previous experience as well as those around you (Coach, PT, your team, etc.)

    Hope you are able to get away and enjoy vacation, I'm sure that will work wonders!

    Thanks for keeping it real and as always you're inspiring!

    1. Thanks, Laura! I really appreciate your encouragement! :)

  4. Injuries are so tough!! Especially when you have big goals. I'm with the other commenters: it's okay- even necessary- to sometimes process and spill how you feel. Healthy runners are always super-quick to tell you a lot of things you know are TRUE, but not necessarily REAL... ('it's just a bump in the road, you'll come back stronger', etc. etc.), but I guarantee every runner who gets injured experiences these feelings. Some might just not be as honest about it. I SO feel ya- after my 9 month layoff last summer/fall, starting from zero, and then having some subsequent injuries that kept tripping me up... well, it's taken nearly 18 months to get back to my previous level of fitness. My goal to Boston-qualify keeps getting pushed back to "next year" - and it hurts. Best of wishes to you in your comeback...your support system sounds great... I know you will come back with more drive than ever!

  5. Hi Teal, I saw this opportunity from Strava and straight away thought of you and how you openly share your struggles, triumphs and journey. May be worth checking out?

    1. Thanks!! Looks like it's just for new qualifiers but I'll share it with people who might be interested. Seems like a cool opportunity!