Injuries and Recovery: You Can’t Do It Alone

Every time I’m running in the woods with Straxi, I think about how slack I have been with this blog. Let me update you.

This summer has, indeed, been heinous. First was my foot, which I’ve told you about in staggering (ha) detail. I went to the doctor fully expecting to be told that I wouldn’t be able to run anymore without pain. After my last visit with the doctor, he told me that my vibes were very different now – that when I first came in, my demeanor said that I was in a bad place. 

My sister had a terrible job this summer, to continue our listing of reasons for the Suck of Summer 2018. She began counting down to the end of the summer before I did (she’s a teacher too, but deals with shorter students than I do – she’s elementary school level, whereas I deal with people who can – ostensibly – wipe their own butts and get themselves to school under their own steam). As is the case every summer, I worked less than my pocketbook would have liked, and so we spent a lot of the summer thinking, “Gosh, I wish we could…” Usually that sentence ended with something about the beach. 

This summer has also sucked on the national state – I’ve never lived through a time period so surreal or so truly bizarre. I’m watching the rights to bodily integrity for all women, but especially women of color and poor women, circle the drain. I hope you’ve brushed up on your understanding of how Jane works – you’re going to need it.

It’s scary to live in a world knowing that it’s running right off the edge of a cliff and you can do nothing to stop it. We all knew what the scorpion was before we picked him up/voted for the orange dotard, but yet idiots will idiot. And here we are: the world looks at us and will always look at us as the generation who allowed this to happen, and we are indeed that. We are the worst generation, without question.

Finally, and I won’t get into this much because it’s just too awful (and it’s not my story to tell), my mother-in-law has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has been moved into a memory care facility. 

So this summer has been a kick in the ovaries many, many time over. Thank God I have running to help.

Lemme catch y’all up on how things have gone, in so much as I can recall, because I have slacked off in the writing department terribly.

After I visited the doc for the final time, and he said “go forth and run” I immediately went home (like that day, that hour) clipped the leash on Strax, and took off for the trails. It was hot. It was hard. It was sweaty. I was ecstatic. 

I also was not in pain, at all, in my foot. Everywhere else, though, hurt terribly. 

Kidding. I had been gone from running long enough that I had lost some of my fitness level, but I was reassured and very glad to learn that I wasn’t at zero – I could actually run, I could run without pain, and I didn’t die. 

That was truly my goal. Running without pain, and without death. I met both these goals admirably. So did Strax.

I decided that in order to work my way back to any sort of fitness level, I was going to have to start over – regardless of how much I felt like I could jump back in, I didn’t want to risk the likelihood of reinjuring my foot, or just flat out injuring something else. That would have been par for the course: finally get that foot ok, and the other foot goes. Or something. 

I restarted my Zombies, Run 5k app, and was surprised to see a couple of things: the last time I did it, I didn’t do all the workouts, and actually never did the final 5k workout. I wonder about that, though, because I remember doing it in Texas. I think it might have reset at some point, but I don’t know what would have triggered it. Either way, the app is unfortunately not really well suited for the newer phones – it lags terribly when you scroll through the initial screen to find your week and day in the process, which is, obviously, in chronological order, so the further you go with the program, the further through you have to scroll. 

I’d imagine that this is actually a good thing, if you’re trying to convince your body that yes, it CAN get off the sofa, and yes, it CAN move further than the fridge. I mean, as the workouts pile up, it’s nice to see how many you’ve actually stuck to. It’s better to feel the results, imo, but seeing them actually there (they are formatted as notecards before you do the workout, with just typewritten text, pinned to a bulletin board) is great. They change after you do them to a description of what happened over the course of the workout (“First workout. Rajit very insistent about reading his novel. As he’s the only person in Abel who decides who gets hot showers, might be worth it?”) and have a small drawn picture of what you got out of the run (Rajit’s novel, for instance or the old Runner 5’s backpack).

So as the summer progressed, so too did my recovery and return to running. I ran through all the Couch to 5k running events, and was surprised to realize I had hit the last entry. I was excited, but I was also sure I could do this. I think that was the greatest gift I got from my time with the Fleet Feet Running Group – I ran further than I ever had before, but only because other people thought I could do it. I certainly didn’t think I could, but there I was, suddenly, going EIGHT MILES. That might seem tiny to some folks who do things like, oh, I don’t know, ULTRAS, but 8 miles to me was enormous. So I knew that a 5k, without stopping, was going to be doable.

Since my schedule on Mondays was such that I have about 5 hours between classes, I thought I would hit the downtown YMCA and do the final 5k run. I packed my running bag, making sure I had all my favorite stuff: my best running bra, my new(ish) Hokas, my earbuds and my best music. I made sure to have a good smoothie in my thermos for a late breakfast/early lunch. I was set. 

I headed to the Y and considered what I should do about where exactly to run. Did I want to run on the treadmills, inside? (NO.) Did I want to run outside (HELL YES). Where? So I googled a few possible routes that would go for about 3 miles and get me back to the Y – an out and back, or just a route that would get me back to the Y after 3 miles. I wasn’t picky.

I couldn’t quite figure out how to set this all up on my phone – should I write out the turns on my arm? Try to memorize? Ugh. This was keeping me from starting. I was eager to get out there.

I headed out the door, with a plan to just run. A random run. What a great plan. (Narrator:  It was not a great plan.)

I started the app and was surprised to learn that there wasn’t a warm up time in which to walk and get started. This was a problem for me, because I had done exactly no warming up. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just keep it slow.

Then I continued being surprised at how long the gentle slope downwards from the Y went – it went on and on. In the back of my head, I could hear a voice saying, “Yeah, you DO know you’ll have to run back UP this hill, right?” I decided that I would just run the 3 miles and treat the hill as the cool down. 

As I continued on the run, I got hotter and hotter. I sweated like nobody’s business. It was, of course, summer. High summer. And I was downtown. Running on the road. It was HOT. 

And, to top it off, I had done all my training on a trail. In the shade. Because I usually had Straxi with me, and she’s largely a black dog, who takes not at all to the sun (she runs faster to get out of the sun and waits for me in the shade. She’s no dummy).

So as I ran, I realized a few things:  the neighborhood I was in had a lot of hills. A LOT. And all of them were UP hills. I began to make turns based on whether or not the road I might turn onto went up or down. They all went up. 

As a result of this really terrible series of decisions, I wound up walking quite a lot. And I got lost. I ran past the same group of road workers something like 4 times, and was always surprised to see them. 

I finally had to use my map feature on my phone to get back to the Y. I had long since turned off my Couch to 5K app, because I had long since begun walking. I had sweated more than usual, my mouth was dry, and I was seriously beginning to worry about heat stroke. 

This was not my finest moment.

As Siri tried to tell me to take turns, or worse yet, to turn around as I was going the wrong way, I cussed her and myself. How had I managed to screw this up so badly?

I finally got back to the Y after entirely too much walking, too many hills, and an absolute assload of cussing. When I got into the locker room, I looked at my red face in the mirror, my sweat drenched clothes, and thought, “This is no way to run a railroad or a 5k.” I began to tick off the things I had learned in the run:

1.  Don’t train exclusively in one sort of area, especially if the race you are planning for is in the polar opposite sort of area – like woodsy trails training then racing in an urban, road based race. 

2.  Don’t run a random route in an unfamiliar area. I don’t quite know what I would have done if this had happened without my phone. Wait, yes I do, because it happened to me as a kid when I was running at my mother’s house. I wound up a very long ways away from where I thought I was, and had to walk a very long ways back. Frustrating. 

3.  Don’t go out in the summer without water. I think that some of my bad decisions stemmed from the fact that when I left I was already thirsty, and as the run went on and on (and on and on) I continued sweating copiously which helped exactly none. 

4.  No run is a bad one – I learned (or relearned) quite a lot from this experience. 

5. Runs are better with dogs. 

Ultimately I returned to the cross country trail and ran my 5k there, and I’m really glad that I had both experiences – they were both very educational (I can run 5k without walking! and I better train in a more mixed sort of way).

Throughout all this, though, my feet never hurt once. Not once. Thanks, Dr. Slovak. You rock.

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