So after coming up just 3 minutes short of qualifying for Boston at the Chicago Marathon last October I still have a major goal to focus on this year. I really want that sub-3:05 time (heck, who am I kidding. I want that sub-3:00 time), which is what another run focused year will propel me toward. To reach that goal I'll have to make sure I follow a sub-set of goals such as stay injury free and no drinking and biking. When Chicago wrapped, I knew that my training plan had been solid and the collarbone setback and cost me a lot. I wanted to rest up, keep my mileage manageable the last couple months of the year, and get ready to train for a spring marathon come January.
Now I'm notorious for end of the season injuries. For some reason my body gets angry with me if I don't take adequate time off after my last marathon or Ironman of the year. The last few years I've dealt with hip bursitis, an achilles injury, and some nasty shin splints. I was really hoping this year would be different. I took two whole weeks off from any activity post Chicago, which is extremely hard for me to do. After that I did all easy pace runs and was only logging 20 mile weeks (as opposed to the 70+ leading up to Chicago) for a few weeks. After that I added about 4 miles a week, which seemed reasonable considering what I had been doing for the past year. By mid December I was in the mid 40s for weekly mileage and feeling good about starting serious training come the new year.
Unfortunately my foot had different plans. I had just finished up a routine easy 5 miler and noticed upon walking around later that night that my ankle hurt a little bit. I just figured I had twisted it at some point during the run. I tend to space out from time to time so it's not entirely implausible that I veered off the path and twisted it on some uneven ground or tripped on a stick or a crack in the trail or small animal darting in front of me or a dog not being watched by it's owner. I waited a couple days for it to feel better and ran again but ended up with a sharp pain under the bony point on the outside of the ankle. I rested some more which was extremely hard for me to do at this point. The ankle felt fine walking and biking and lifting and going up and down the stairs at work, why couldn't I run? The especially frustrating part was that occasionally I would have a good run or two in a row without pain and then it would show up again the next time out. It was taunting me and I wasn't a fan.
So shortly after Christmas I decided two full weeks of rest were in order. Combing through resources on the internet, my armchair diagnosis was that it was a peroneal tendon injury and unless it was badly torn (I'm pretty sure I would have noticed that) the treatment was pretty much rest along with some specific stretches and strengthening exercises. I figured two weeks off would be sufficient to recover. It wasn't. I ended up heading into the doctor to get an official diagnosis, but because my symptoms weren't acute at the time the podiatrist could only speculate the it was the peroneal tendon (Ha! I was right). He did give me the most undoctorly advice I'd ever gotten: Go run until it hurts again and then come back in. Really? Did a doctor just tell me to go hurt myself?
The "Go hurt yourself" run never came to fruition though. Not because I didn't want to go do it. I was desperate for some answers and a treatment plan that would get me back in the game. Instead I ended up getting sick. And not just my typical feeling bad for a day or two and then recovering type sicknesses. This was a full fledged multi-week sickness, the likes of which I don't think I've ever experienced. I usually pride myself on my superior immune system, but it let me down this time for sure. I was out of commission for 3 weeks, not on my deathbed type sick, but feeling bad enough that after suffering through a day of work all I wanted to was curl up on the couch and sleep.
The sickness may have been a blessing in disguise though. When it finally passed I cautiously started running again. The runs were short and slow, but more importantly pain free. I've been able to string several weeks of pain free running together and even reached a few milestones that don't seem like much, but have left me optimistic: I've been able to run on consecutive days a few times and just today I completed my first 10 miler since December (Actually a 9.75 miler, but I'm rounding up so there :P). Today felt especially badass because of the cold, wind, rain, and sleet I had to deal with. I was alone on the trail and singing and enjoying myself, but by the end I was still wet and cold. When I got home I prepared a new concoction: Recovery hot cocoa. Hot cocoa with an extra scoop of chocolate protein powder and it sure did the trick of warming me up.
Now if only the weather would warm up too. I've got races to get ready for!