Running while (sort of) injured…to race or not to race?

My mom texted me this morning saying she had made some french toast with almond extract, so I followed suit after this morning’s exam period because it sounded delicious. Vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, topped with more spices, pumpkin seeds and cranberries. I used the last of my maple syrup to bake oatmeal squares, so I drizzled a little pure honey on there. Heaven.

Had to snag a bit before snagging a pic, obviously.

Had to snag a bit before snagging a pic, obviously.

I wanted to talk a bit today about my racing career, since I’m staring down the barrel of an 8k tomorrow morning.

I started running about a year and a half ago, when a good friend and former colleague  (who also happened to coach cross country and track at my old school) wrote a training plan for me. The plan ran (ha) from June to…get this…NOVEMBER, gearing me up to run my first road race ever: the Philadelphia Marathon Weekend Rothman 8k, a.k.a. 4.97 sweet, sweet miles of windblown riverside bliss, with 6 months to train up to it. I was pumped.

I really don’t know why I caught the running bug at 23 years old, but MAN WAS THAT RACE FUN. I certainly wasn’t expecting this…

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I posted five sub-8 miles…miracle, adrenaline, or coffee? I’ll probably never know.

I ran two more races last winter, winning my division in my school’s Thanksgiving 5k (to be fair, it was a small field…but hey, still have that medal), and the Philly Ugly Sweater run (a “5K” which wasn’t reeaalllyy a 5k…my Garmin died at the beginning of the race, though, so I’ll never know…at least there was beer.).

I'm the one with the Sam Adams and the grandmom snowflake vest.

I’m the one with the Sam Adams and the grandmom snowflake vest.

I took the winter off to cross-train (read: aimlessly bike for 20 minutes, bemoan the snow outside, stretch, and trudge out of Planet Fitness praying for an end to the icy madness), and in February entered the lottery for Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run. I was so pumped when I was selected to race in May– it would be my longest race at 10 miles, and I felt ready to double my longest distance ever. Cue: injuries.

Injuries. Injuries EVERYWHERE. On Christmas Eve, I had gone for an amazing 4-mile morning jog, but by mile 3.5, I had a twinge on the side of my left knee that went from uncomfortable to intolerable by mile 4. Since I wasn’t in training at the time, I stuck to the elliptical and bike (I’m not big into swimming, but I’m planning on trying soon). By the time February (and Broad Street training) rolled around, that twinge was basically gone. I did see an ortho doc about it, and he said it was probably a slight meniscus tear. I never got an MRI, and let it heal on its own.

While the knee issue didn’t hinder me from training, a persistent foot injury in February-March did. As I started upping my mileage in early March from a couple 2 or 3-milers a week to 10-12 miles a week, I noticed a strange pain on the top of my right foot. Eventually, the pain hindered me from running, and I took most of March off. I missed a couple of critical long runs (my 6.5 and 7 milers.) I never really found out what that injury was definitively, but from what I researched, I had given myself a classic bone spur. I was tying my shoes too tightly, so that the top of my foot was rubbing against my sneaker and creating a calcium deposit. I’ve since switched to running in Brooks Ghosts, and my feet feel fab.

I managed an amazing 8-mile run in the beginning of April along Philly’s Kelly Drive, had a great week of training after that, and tapered until May 2 to allow my body to prep for 10 long, hard miles from North to South Philly.

I wasn’t feeling 100% like I did for my winter races, and as I stood in my corral at the starting line, I knew my goal was just to finish the race.

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The face of apprehension.

 

I felt great for about 6 miles. I cruised through the campus of Temple University, soaked in the ridiculous crowds of supporters at City Hall, and looped around the mammoth building to continue my journey south past Lincoln Financial (GO EAGLES) to the Navy Yard. Around mile 6.5 or 7, I noticed that my right foot and left knee were starting to bother me. By mile 8, twinges which started out as “no big deal” became agonizing pain. I had been on the lookout for a friend and co-worker in South Philly, who lives down there and was waiting to supply me with water and food to help me through the end of the race. I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other at that point that I missed her completely. I would describe the pain as a ferocious burning; it felt like my joints were going to implode. I plodded along, stopping once to walk at around mile 9. I pushed through, and crossed the finish line at 1:32, about 12 minutes slower than I would have liked. In the end, I was definitely proud to have kept running through the pain.

 

Believe it or not, this was taken at mile 9. Definitely on another planet mentally.

Believe it or not, this was taken at mile 9. Rocking the Spibelt, as per usual.

40,000 people ran Broad Street last year. What that meant was NOBODY’S iPhones were working, and since my boyfriend and I had finished at different times, we couldn’t find each other. I spent an hour and a half wandering around trying to locate both him and my family. After three hours of running/walking, I located Rich and we eventually found my family. At this point, I literally couldn’t walk, and Rich and my sister carried me another mile to the car.

This is one my favorite pics of all time, actually. Rich’s nipples are bleeding in it. Horrifying then, hilarious now.

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Was it worth running when I wasn’t 100%? Honestly, I don’t know. This is a loaded question for me, and one which I am asking myself right now, on the eve of my second Rothman 8k. My foot healed fine over the summer. However, my left knee (actually, right below my knee) still nags me when I run. It took me months, two frustrating trips to the ortho, and an MRI to find out that I had injured my patellar tendon, the tendon which attaches your meniscus to your shin. Is the pain so bad right now that I can’t walk? No. So much of my self-image in the past year has been built around running, so it’s hard not to race. I trained well for this 8k until about two weeks ago, when my knee started nagging me again.

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I’ve got to make the decision tonight as to whether I pin that bib on at 6 am tomorrow. Injuries are a gray area with which every runner deals, but often not well. I haven’t come close to exhausting this topic, so stay tuned, perhaps for a race recap.

Happy Weekend!! Heading to the Philly Convention Center tonight to pick up our race packets and to scout the delicious treats and giveaways they always have…it’s like Christmas come early, y’all. Best of all: I’m on a luxurious 1.5-week-long Thanksgiving break…life is good.

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