Stress Fracture? Part I

Two consecutive weeks of snow and ice caused a major shift in my training. The first week, I was on the treadmill a lot. The second week I was running a flatter trail course, close to home, and I was on the road for longer distances.

So. . . last Saturday rolled around and my plan said 50K. I changed my plan up a bit and ran a fast trail marathon the week before and I would run the 50K the week after this run.  I chose to run 20 on the road because the trail was still a bit icy and because,  I was pressed for time. I knew I could finish on the road faster than the trail. I headed to my new fav “guaranteed to get in a long run, short run, medium run” spot. I headed to the Meade (Belle Meade).

I finished 20 with a 9:43 pace. This is fast for me. On the trail, I probably would have had a 14:00 pace. I got in the car and noticed that my right calf was tight. I dorsal flexed my foot (pointed my toe toward my shin) and it hurt. There was no pop or pull. It just hurt, a throbbing hurt. I was planning on resting the next day, Sunday, so I was really not too concerned. I really did not even think about it.

Monday, I met two friends to run on the trail. I was planning on 9-13 miles. My calf started throbbing, radiating pain up to my hamstring and down to my heel at about mile 5. I ran 9.5 and stopped. Now, I was concerned a bit. I came home and iced it. Just touching the back of my calf right at the bottom of the gastrocnemius (upper calf muscle that kind of resembles a heart, when you flex it). It hurt the most when I flexed my toe up.

Tuesday, I woke up and I had no pain. Strange. Track was shifted to Wednesday because of the weather.  I decided to be conservative and ride the bike and do weights. It did not hurt at all at the gym. It did not hurt the rest of the day. My plan was to run.

Wednesday, 6 x 800 on the track. I completed 4 repeats without pain. Repeats 5 & 6, I started to feel a bit of pain. (Track day is typically also my 2-a-day). I was meeting a friend later that morning at my local trail to run 7. Half way into my trail run, it was throbbing. I kept going and kept the pain to myself for 3.5 more. Finished. Throbbing. Going to the doctor.

My sport’s doctor is James (Jim) Johnson with Elite Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center. If you are a competitive runner or even a runner who races more than twice a year, I suggest finding a good sport’s doctor. There are many out there.  I like Jim. I trust Jim. He is going to keep me running. I have been seeing him for 3 years now, through a few injuries. He has never steered me wrong.

I digress. . . I saw Jim on Wednesday at 1:00 pm. After examination, his thought my pain was either a soleus strain (your soleus muscle is a long strip behind your gastrocnemius that runs from just below the knee to the heel) or a stress fracture. My heart started racing. I kind of went into shock. I know what a stress fracture is because I know that it is a tricky injury to recover from. He took and X-ray and said that the image looked fine. He ordered an MRI for Thursday. I was mostly in shock for the rest of the day. I had never considered the possibility of a stress fracture. Based on the symptoms of the pain, I convinced myself that I had one. He told me NOT to run or to do any load bearing/weight bearing exercise, other than the bike.  😦

Thursday, My MRI was at 2:00. I spent the morning on the bike. I also did a light load of weight training. I had a lot to do this morning, which was good. I did not tell too many people that I was having an MRI. It was a handful of friends. It was a VERY emotional morning. I pretty much cried every moment that I was not carrying on conversations with the outside world. I had a meeting that I was really looking forward to, right before my MRI, with a woman whom I have known for a long time. She asked me for a running consult and I asked her for a life consult. The time with her was good. I cried a lot. She prayed for me and listened. It was good for my soul.

MRI. . . I thought that I was going to have to have that horrible laying down MRI with the 70s ear phones and the claustrophobic chamber. Little did I know! It was a “sitting down” one. I walked in and they asked me to choose a movie?! Ok-cool. I chose “Sweet Home Alabama”. I really like Reese Witherspoon’s hair in this one. 🙂 I sat in a chair. The technician was so calm. He put a pillow behind my head. He put a pillow under my right leg. He put a pillow under my left leg. He put a blanket over my body. I could have closed my eyes and napped.

Now. . .to wait. . . results in 24 hours.

Friday, back on the bike and light weights. This would be a day of waiting. In the waiting, I had to reflect on the possibility of stress fracture and how I would proceed. It was a good day. I was not emotional. I looked at my training and have NO REGRETS. I would NOT have changed a single thing to this point. I did not feel a frantic race to figure out what I did wrong. There was nothing I would have changed. That was a good feeling.

If I did have a stress fracture, my body was at a strong place to move into resting and healing. I also had confidence in my training to this point. If it was possible to heal in 5 weeks and run, I was going to go for it. I planned out different bike workouts. I had planned out some great exercises to maintain my fitness. I was also at a place with my self that if I had to choose a later race or no race, it was not going to destroy me. It could be 8 weeks to heal.

This place dear reader, this place is new for me. I was not at this place last year. And, it is not because of my training. It is because of my heart, my love. This is where it gets real and spiritual.


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