It’s been quite a while since I took my last steps at a “more than walking” pace. In fact, my last run was Double Dipsea, which could not have been more perfect. Beautiful place, charming people, and followed by an entire night of working at the Western States Endurance Run.
For anyone with an urge to flip through their calendar, that was on June 29th, exactly four months ago today. A couple weeks after that I finally succumbed to my better (smarter) half’s insistence that I go to the doctor to get my “muscle tear” looked at. As I suspected, the mere act of entering the hospital elevated the injury to catastrophic status and I was benched for months with a femoral stress fracture. Nothing good happens in hospitals.
The frustrating thing about the recovery timeline is that while most stress fractures heal up quickly and cleanly, allowing the athlete to quickly return to their previous training, mine was in a very bad location.
Being at the interior side of the femoral neck, it was at a weak place structurally. Even when it should have had enough time to patch itself up, I still had to stay on crutches for quite a while to avoid refracturing it. I decided early on that this injury would not be an excuse to give up and let life pass by in a haze of self pity (although it was tempting at first, if I’m to be completely honest). I decided that it would serve as an opportunity to build mental strength. I learned to focus my restless energy into other pursuits and find fulfillment in areas of my life that had been somewhat neglected during all those 50-70 mile weeks.
I also changed quite a few things about the way I viewed food. Instead of a hunger to be satiated, eating became a chance to nourish the machine which was being slowly repaired. Like putting premium quality fuel into a classic car you’ve spent hours restoring, I researched what I needed to consume to accelerate bone growth and cut out everything which inhibits the absorption of those nutrients. A few key changes to my diet and I was feeling good and noticing a slow but steady improvement in how my hip felt. I found a supplement comprised of all of vitamins and minerals in the correct ratio and quantity for “therapeutic” use and took it religiously.
The gym became a much more frequent presence in my life than before the injury, mainly because weight lifting was all I could do. It was sometimes tough to muster up the will to drive there and crutch from machine to machine, but it gave me a much needed outlet and a means to get a few trickling endorphins into my system.
The week of the West Virginia Trilogy is when I stopped using crutches, partly because I wanted to and partly because I simply couldn’t use them in the muddy campground. I was worried that it was too soon as I noticed some dull aching, especially when I rested at night.
You may have noticed that I am using the past tense to describe this whole experience. Well, my friends, that is because it’s OVER!
I got a call about my MRI the other day and my ortho specialist was surprised to report that the break is, well…
“It’s… GONE! No swelling, no edema, it’s just… completely healed. I honestly didn’t expect to see this. You’ll have to slowly build back up to carrying heavy loads, but for the most part you’re good to go!”
I’m not out of the woods just yet; I still have to take my time building back up to the level of exercise I was accustomed to, but I’m cleared to do just about everything but trail running right now. The plan is to take about a year to build mileage to what I was doing before, and I intend to enjoy all the distances between with gratitude and appreciation.
Last night I hopped onto our treadmill for a quick test. 1/2 mile. It was awkward. It was clunky. It was tiring.
It was wonderful.