February 17, 2015

Keeping Track

Last week was probably my most solid training week since my stress fracture, and I’m feeling pretty good about where I am.  I ran 30.8 miles, biked 19.4, swam 1200 yds (that’s an estimate since I’m still struggling with lap count, but more on that later…), and I also got in two strength training sessions.  Running-wise, I had my mile-repeats on Tuesday, an easy 6 on Thursday, and a 12-mile long run Sunday.  Saturday I bricked my swim workout with another easy 6-mile run, which, happily, did actually feel easy.  I’m still working to build my swim endurance, but my efficiency is improving and I’m definitely wasting less energy on my kick now.

Central Park

Central Park, with not another person in sight…

 

For Sunday’s long run I met Long Run Buddy in Central Park, which we had nearly to ourselves, thanks to the 14 degree temperature and frigid wind gusts.  We bundled up and decided a legitimate warm-up was in order.  After a shuffley mile we picked up the pace for our park loops.  LRB had a 90-minute easy run in HR Zone 1-2 on his schedule, so we ended up pulling back a bit on the 8:30 pace I was targeting and settled in around 8:40.  At mile 10 LRB peeled off at 92nd street to wrap up his workout, and it was at that point that sucked on my water bottle in vain and discovered that the nozzle had completely frozen.  I do love winter running and generally don’t really mind the cold, but that seemed a bit much.  Consoling myself that I could always eat snow if necessary, I got ready to push up the Harlem Hills the second time.   I was nervous curious about how I’d do on the hills, especially on loop two, but I felt pretty strong throughout.  I was definitely not able to push the pace as much as I was in the fall, but I’m confident that I’ll get the uphill speed back with a some focused time and effort.  In any case, I still felt good endurance-wise, and I was able to pick up the pace for the last two miles.  I finished my 12 in the park and still had about mile back to LRB’s apartment, and in an effort to stay warm I opted to just jog it back.  All-in, I ran 13.8, which makes me feel much better about my 14-er coming up this weekend.  After a hot shower the feeling returned to my fingers and nose, and LRB and I hit up a beer hall for some post-run sustenance.

LRB's liter o'beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

LRB’s liter o’beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

Monday I was off work for the holiday and logged a 45-minute strength training session, 8 miles of HIIT interval biking, 3 loads of laundry, and some marathon cooking.  My running bras are clean and my freezer is well stocked, so that made me a happy girl.  We had our wine critic friend over for dinner last night which resulted in more imbibing than was perhaps prudent, especially given this morning’s intervals.  I hit the treadmill feeling a bit sluggish and fought my way through 10×400’s at 6:40 pace.  It was not my most stellar performance and I had to take a couple of my recovery intervals at a walk, but I gritted my teeth and made it through the full set.  In fact, I know that I made it through because I used my snazzy new counting bracelet, which I made yesterday to keep track of my pool laps.

10 beads on the left.  Count 'em.

10 beads on the left. Count ’em.

I got some great suggestions last week on how to keep count in the pool, but apparently I’m hopeless.  I think the real problem is that I’m still concentrating so much on technique that I just don’t have the mental bandwidth for anything else.  Right now, my thoughts during swimming go something like this: “1, 2, 3, breathe!  Lead with the crown of your head!  3, breathe!  Don’t push the water down! 2, 3, breathe!   1, 2, head down! Breathe!  Straight legs!  Relax! 3, breathe!  Turn!  Breathe!  Crap, is this lap 11 or 13?  Breathe!

I was racking my brains all week trying to think of a low-tech solution, and I remembered that in my knitting travels I’d seen instructions for making row-counting bracelets.  I dug around in my crafty bins and found some stainless steel beads, jump rings, and black cord and I was all set.  I think the result looks moderately adult enough that I can wear it all day, and it worked beautifully for ticking off my intervals this morning.  I’ll be trying it out in the pool tonight.

The general idea is that the cords are a bit longer than the beaded area, leaving a short gap.  The beads will slide along the cord, leaving a space between the counted beads and the ones ‘on deck,’ but there’s enough friction that they don’t slide around on their own.  I’ll put up a separate post this week with the materials I used for my bracelet, along with instructions and photos.  It’s a fast project and these would make a useful gift for your favorite runner or swimmer.  (Or knitter.)  These could range from masculine to feminine, simple and elegant to colorful and fun depending on your choice of beads and hardware.  The only real constraints are selecting beads and cord of compatible size, and making sure your materials will survive the water if you plan to swim with it.  I tend to gravitate towards minimalism, but you could easily incorporate number and letter beads for a personal touch, too—names, inspiration, a mantra, or PR’s.

February 10, 2015

The Trials of Miles

 

Norm!

So I realized this morning that I really do have a place where everybody knows my name, and that place is Starbucks.  I may need to consider taking a week off caffeine again soon.

It seems like everyone from Running Boston and Beyond to The Athletarian was writing about their mile repeats last week, and I had my first set in ages today.  It was 3×1600 @ 6:59 (and that counts as sub-7, baby!), and it was brutal.  Since my foot *seems* to be all-systems go, I switched my focus  this week from the 4-miler on the 21st to the NYC Half in March.  I’m still trying to gauge where my fitness is now, but it feels like the time off as cost me more endurance than speed.  I need to come up with a training strategy and set some realistic goals for my spring races, so this weekend’s 10-miler was a big test.  It was my first run longer than 7 miles since Thanksgiving, and I was targeting an 8:30 pace.  I ran my usual to-, from-, and two laps of Prospect route and clocked in at 8:31’s, which was a HUGE confidence boost.
Before the stress fracture in the fall I was aiming for a 1:45 spring half, and based on the 10-miler and my miscalculated tempo the other day, I decided to proceed as planned.  That’s ambitious for mid-March, as I only have four training weeks to get ready, but if the foot holds, I have my eye on the NYRR women’s half in April.  I am ready to put in a lot of hard work, but I’ll be on high alert for any indications of overtraining or that my stress fracture acting up.  Right now my plan is to continue with running only on my structured workout days and substitute biking and swimming on what would be easy days.

On the subject of Tri, I’ve christened my bike Tzippi and spent some quality trainer time with her this week, though  I still haven’t gotten her calibrated with the pseudo power meter. I’m definitely lacking in bike training experience and I’ve been worried that I’m inadvertently spending a lot of time in the training black hole, so it will be good to get some real(ish) data soon.  I am, however, loving my new Cat Eye Strada Smart.  It’s fully Bluetooth, which means there are no wires to clip to the frame, and the workouts automatically sync with my phone.  Now if only I could find a good method for counting swim laps I’d be all set.  I generally count strokes/breaths and I find it impossible to maintain an accurate lap count in my head as well.  I could try the old Garmin-in-ziploc-in-swimcap trick, which is probably what I’ll do for racing, but I’m not convinced of its accuracy over 25 yards.  Does anyone have any good tips for keeping track?  The best I’ve come up with so far is a poolside abacus, which seems less than ideal…

January 30, 2015

Ups and Downs

It was that kind of week.

It was that kind of week.

You know those Time Warner Cable PSA’s that try to get kids interested in STEM subjects by relating them to sports?  I have a great idea for one:

“Running requires speed, strength, and endurance.  But did you know that it also requires basic arithmetic skills so that you don’t end up doing your tempo run 50 seconds per mile faster than you’re supposed to?  Well, it does.”

I’m still working on the ending.  I actually appreciate a good math error now and then, though.  (Not the Tacoma Narrows sort, but the more benign running-faster-than-I-thought-I-could kind.)  It was a good boost in what’s been an up and down couple of weeks.

Last Tuesday I did my first speed work since before the Brooklyn Marathon, and was thrilled to discover that I was able to keep up with my pre-injury interval paces without much trouble.  I banged out a solid 5-mile tempo run on Thursday and was still feeling some twinges in my foot, but by the weekend it was feeling almost back to normal.  On Friday I had my monthly strength session with my trainer, Kali, Destroyer of Worlds and Abs.  With all of the extra time spent not running for the past few months I had been putting in 2-3 strength sessions a week, and I was curious to see how I would fare this time.  My trainer is not easily impressed, though, and my hopes were not high.  After an hour of brutality, I finally earned a fist bump from her.  Go me.

Saturday I did an hour on the trainer bricked with a 4-mile run.  I had intended to go easy on the run, but I felt good and ended up running an 8:50ish pace.  I’ve been a little concerned that all the strength work might cost me some speed, but my core feels rock solid and I feel like I have much more power in my legs than before, so that’s all to the good.  Sunday was a 6-mile tempo on the treadmill bricked with a 30-minute swim, both of which felt great.  Monday I was back to strength training, as I’m determined to keep up the gains I’ve made.

Tuesday was supposed to be an interval run, which I would usually do on the treadmill.  Thanks to the Storm of the Century that Wasn’t, the gym was closed.  Brooklyn actually got about 7”, and I adore running in the snow, so happily set out with my Yak Trax.  I debated running to Prospect Park, which is really beautiful in the snow, but the 7-mile round trip seemed like a bit much.  In the end, I was happy I opted for a shorter run because my arch/big toe started hurting almost immediately.  There must have been something about the slight slippage that was intensifying whatever change there has been to my gait, and I ended up only doing 3 miles.  To make up for the missed speedwork, I did a 40-minute HIIT session on the trainer to round out the day.

Wednesday was a morning swim/ evening strength day, but I noticed when I was walking to a meeting for work that afternoon that I was rocking to the outside of my left foot to avoid putting weight on my big toe.  Not good.  I hoped it would be better for Thursday’s tempo run, but it was still tender that morning.  I vacillated, vacillated some more, and ended up deciding to swap Friday’s bike ride for the run.  I knew it was the smart thing to do—getting a secondary injury while coming back from the stress fracture is exactly what I’m trying to avoid.  I was still grumpy about it, though, and proceeded to try to set up my new Cat Eye Strada Smart before the trainer session so that I could start getting a sense of my power output.  This was all transpiring at 6 AM, mind you, so I was neither at my sharpest or most reasonable. I knew I didn’t realistically have time to get the bike computer set up, but I was still sulking about the run and resenting the whole situation.  I finally had to give up the set-up process at 7:10, which gave me exactly not enough time to get the full 40 minutes in and still get to work on time.  I also totally forgot that the Caveboy had a big thing at work that day until after he left and spent most of the ride feeling like a bad girlfriend.

That brings me to today and the miscalculated tempo run.  My foot was (thankfully) feeling better, and I was eager to get the tempo run in since I had missed running intervals this week.  I was supposed to be doing 4 miles at 8:10’s, but I obviously messed up somewhere because I set the treadmill to 8.2.  If you’re following along at home, that’s a 7:19 mile, which, for some perspective, is my mile repeat pace.  After the first mile I kind of knew something was up, but decided just to ride it out if I could.  I made it–probably with my heart rate higher than it should have been–but it was a huge confidence boost.  I did manage to finish getting the Strada set up on the bike last night (with the exception of calibrating the power output) so I’m looking forward to starting some more focused cycle training next week.  Until then, Go Pats!

January 20, 2015

Reunited and it Feels so Good

Graph1

This was my first entry in my running log since November. Apparently it stretches the bar graph to fill the space available.

 

I had my first date with the treadmill this morning since before Thanksgiving, and it was glorious.  I had 6×800’s at 3:43 pace scheduled, and I really had no idea whether I’d be able to handle it, both from a cardio standpoint as well as the questionable structural integrity of my foot.  I ended up cutting it to 5 repeats instead of 6, as I decided not to exceed 4 miles including the warm up and down, but it felt great.  I can feel the injury twinge a bit while I’m running, but my foot didn’t feel at all sore afterward, so I’m assuming I’m still in the safe zone and not setting back my recovery.  I’m still a bit wary, though, as my foot strike seems a bit altered now (another reason for cutting the workout a bit short).  I’ve always pronated more on my left side, and I suspect that may have been the cause of the injury in the first place.  Now I seem to be pushing off my big toe more than the lesser ones, and I’m curious if the avoidance of pain may actually serve to correct my stride.  Any slight alteration in gait changes biomechanics and alters the stress put on joints, muscles, and soft tissue, though, and I’ve learned the hard way to be ginger as my body adapts.  More than once I’ve caused a more major injury by compensating for a minor one, and I definitely don’t need to compound this one.

But back to the intervals.  It was amazing!  The cardio felt fine the whole way through, and I definitely could have banged out the last repeat without any trouble.  It was satisfyingly tiring in the way only a good speed workout is, and I felt properly worn out and hungry for the first time in weeks.  I found myself wondering what the runners’ equivalent of smoking a cigarette after is… 

It's looking slightly better.

It’s looking slightly better.

January 19, 2015

Making Progress

Stress Fracture Update

The big news this week is that I ran… twice!  The first one was supposed to be just a mile, but turned into two, and the second was supposed to be 3.5 and ended up being 2.5 due to freezing rain, but still, I ran!  My foot felt a bit sore for about the first mile or so of each, and again towards the end of both runs, but overall there seemed to be no increased soreness or swelling afterward.  I did notice that my arch felt a bit tight a few hours after, and I think I will probably need to be a bit more diligent about stretching and using the foam roller as I ease back into running.  I’ve been keeping up with the strength, biking, and swimming this week as well, and weirdly, I think I can actually feel my body starting to adapt to the new training.  Everything stays the same for days or weeks, and then suddenly the hand weights that felt heavy last week seem to be lighter, or something will just click mid-swim.  Last week I looked in the mirror and thought that it seemed odd that my arms didn’t really look any different after a month of swimming and weight training, and then two days later I looked like I had taken up a blacksmithing hobby.  (I actually did a little in college and have some lovely candlesticks to show for it…)

Anyway, I’m trying hard to come up with a training plan for the next several weeks that will challenge me without risking reinjury.  My successful runs this weekend gave me enough confidence to sign up for a 4-mile race a month from now, and I’ve decided to try using a slightly modified FIRST plan to train.  I’ll actually be doing the cross-training this time, which should fold nicely into my tri plans, and if all goes well, a fast 4-miler will set me up for faster distance work this spring.  I still need to lay out my full race calendar for the year, but I want to hold off a few more weeks to see what kind of running volume I’m able to handle before I start committing to the spring races that I really want to do.  In related news, I got the email on Thursday for my guaranteed entry to the NYC Marathon, and $227 later I am officially in!  Long Run Buddy is as well, and I’m very excited to have a training partner for the full distance of my long runs this fall.

When do I get to call myself a Triathlete?

Even though I’m holding off on committing to any major (running) races for a few more weeks, I did sign up for two sprint-tri’s in May and June, and suddenly that whole endeavor is getting much more real.  My swim classes started last Tuesday, and I’m so, SO glad I enrolled.  The class is geared to novice (but not absolute beginner) swimmers and is focused on the basics of technique and efficiency.  I’ve always seen myself as a weak swimmer and was nervous that I should have signed up for the beginner class, but I seem to be at least at the average skill level in the group.  A few of my classmates have done the NYC Tri before, so I feel a bit more confident that I’ll be able to get through the swim in the allotted time, not to mention survive a dip in the Hudson.  There are also several veteran runners/first-time triathletes in the class who are signed up for the NYC race, and it will be great to get to know a few other newbies as well.  Last week’s session focused mainly on breathing technique, and in addition to working side lying kicking and one arm drills, our coach referred us to this video, created by sea mammal Michael Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman.  His explanation is very clear and after a very focused half hour in the pool this weekend I actually did start to feel the bow wave on my head.

This week I hope to start structured training for the 4-miler and settle into a workable training schedule that incorporates multiple swim, bike, run, and strength workouts each week.  I will be doing two-a-days several times a week, but I’m hoping that scheduling more short and varied sessions will keep me healthy while still building fitness and strength.  I’m trying to alternate days so that I minimize doing the same activity back-to-back, but I still have to work out the kinks.  I’m incorporating a lot more strength training that I did last season, and I hope that will help me prepare for a heavier training load and avoid injury.

Here’s the plan this week:

Monday

Weight training – JM No More Trouble Zones

 

Tuesday 

AM

Running – Intervals

6×800 @ 3:38*

RI 90 sec

PM

Swim class

 

Wednesday

AM

Swim – 30 min

PM

Strength – JM Ripped in 30 Week 2

 

Thursday

AM

Running – Tempo

2 mi @ 8:04*

1 mi easy

2 mi @ 8:04*

PM

Optional 30 min bike

 

Friday

AM

Strength – 1 hr with Trainer

 

Saturday

AM

3 mi easy

PM

30 min swim

 

Sunday

AM

Brick:

Cycle

10 min easy

10 min tempo

10 min easy

5 min hard

5 min easy

Long Run – 7 mi @ 8:34* (If all goes well this week)

 

*I should note that these paces are pegged to my last marathon and I have no idea if I’ll be able to handle the speed after 6 weeks off.

January 9, 2015

Recalibrating

This was a big year in running for me—I set new PR’s at every distance I raced, finally ran a marathon, and then ran another one.  The thing that I am most proud of, though, was learning how to really work hard at my training.  I’ve never been one to skip workouts, but this year I tried to bring focus and purpose to every run.  The hard days were really hard, and easy runs became opportunities to work on form and efficiency, rather than just zone-out sessions.  More than anything else, though, I learned that the voice in my head telling me I was too tired and I couldn’t do it was usually just that—my head being tired.  I’m still working on it, but I got much, much better at ignoring that voice, pulling up my big girl tights, and pushing through.

I’m now dealing with the other side of that coin, however, which was misreading the signs that I was overdoing it on the bike.  Although I felt some discomfort, the pain never felt remotely like what I recognized as an injury—I just thought I was putting in some tough workouts.  As runners, we rely on our ability to listen to our bodies and differentiate between the discomfort of a hard workout and the pain that indicates an impending injury.  My mistake was assuming that my ability to discern that line extended to a new sport in which I had little experience.  The fact that cycling (and swimming, too) is not weight-bearing means that the threshold for and severity of discomfort are entirely different, and I failed to calibrate for that.

For the past two weeks I’ve been slowly returning to something that resembles an actual training schedule, albeit without the running.  In contrast to my usual approach, I’m going mostly by feel and making it up a week at a time.  I’m realizing that switching from running to tackling the other triathlon disciplines is a bit like driving in the snow.  I know exactly how the car handles under normal conditions, and while that’s useful information, I still need to go easy on the gas pedal and leave lots of extra braking distance.  My general zeal for new athletic endeavors combined with marathon-level endurance have proved to be a dangerous combination, so I’m trying to recalibrate a bit.  To that end, I’m mixing up my workouts so that I’m not doing the same activity on consecutive days, and still incorporating lots of strength training.  For biking since the injury, my approach so far has been to stop before I feel like I’ve really had enough.   I seem to be finding my groove with the swim workouts—I actually got (temporarily) thrown out of the slow lane by the lifeguard and upgraded to the medium lane last weekend.  My classes start next week, so I’m expecting that will lend a bit more structure to my pool workouts as well.  This is how week 1 of Operation: Recovery has looked:

Tuesday

30 Minute Swim:

Warmup
4 x 25m
Drill:
4 x 25m Catchup
4 x 25m Kick
4 x 25m Fist
Cooldown
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 30 minutes

 

Wednesday

AM: Strength training – Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Zones

PM: 30 min moderate biking

 

Thursday

35 Minute Swim:

Warmup

4 x 25m

Ladder 
25m, 2 X 50m, 2 X 75m, 2 X 50m, 25m
Cooldown
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 35 minutes

 

Friday

AM: 45 min moderate biking

PM: 15 min strength training – Nike’s Strength for Runners

 

Saturday

45 min swim:

Warmup 
4 x 25m
Drill 
2 x 25m Right Arm
2 x 25m Left Arm
2 x 25m Kick
2 x 25m Scull
Endurance
2 x 50m
Cooldown 
Easy 25m resting as needed for remainder of 45 minutes.

 

Sunday

AM: Strength training – Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Spots

PM:1 hour moderate biking

December 31, 2014

Getting Stronger

I’m not really one for year-in-review appraisals or New Year’s resolutions.  In general, I associate New Year’s with two weeks of noobs crowding the gym.  (Newbies please note: if you are walking on a treadmill, the automatic cool-down period at the end is not for you.  Do not walk in slow motion for five minutes while others are waiting, only to hop off and resume a brisk pace to the locker room. Seriously.)

In light of my recent injury, though, I can’t help being a bit more reflective than usual this year.  I had easily the best training year of my life.  I learned how to set challenging goals and not to let myself off the hook for them.  I learned to train hard and successfully.  Injury aside, I think also I learned how hard I can push myself, and it’s harder than I thought.  As a friend said recently, “You have to cross the line now and then to figure out where it actually is.”  The stress fracture, too, has been instructive.  I’ve been reminded that I’m not Superwoman and no matter how good of shape I’m in, I still need to be gentle with myself.  I enjoyed running this year more fully than I ever have, and I’m now even more acutely aware how precious every step is.  I have realized these past few weeks how much running has become part of my identity, and how it’s become a measuring stick for how may day, or week, or life is going.

My foot continues to improve, albeit slower than I would like.  Interestingly, it seems to plateau for several days at a time, and then overnight will suddenly feel markedly better.  The injury first became apparent just after Thanksgiving, but I’m pretty sure that walking four miles on it at the Jingle Bell Jog and the pain that ensued after probably set things back a bit.  That would put me at somewhere around week three of the healing process, which means the bone callus should be forming now.   There is a distinct bump at the site of the injury now and the area is definitely less tender now, so that’s all to go the good.

Swimming really has been the silver lining to all of this, as I may have actually set myself up to drown in the Hudson next summer had I not been absolutely forced to focus on the swim.  I’m far worse at it than I expected, and I never would have dedicated this much time to it if running or biking were at all possible.  I don’t enjoy swimming yet, but I’ve been working hard, and after watching several YouTube videos to study up on technique I’ve definitely been able to make some headway.  Last week I realized that I was “swimming flat,” meaning that my hips were staying parallel to the bottom of the pool while my upper body rotated.  I finally got the reach-and-roll rhythm going and suddenly instead of flapping around, I felt like I was actually gliding through the water.  Make no mistake, I’m still terrible, but I can now reliably overtake some of the oldest women in the slow lane.  At any rate, my swim classes start in two weeks, and I am perhaps unreasonably optimistic that they will help tremendously.

Part of my current frustration with swimming is that I am not good enough to get a really hard, satisfying workout in.  I’ve also been strength training, though, and I am finding an appreciation for pushing through a really hard set that I’ve never had before.  I tend to rush through lifting, so I do best with a trainer or video to guide me on form and pace.  It’s been difficult to find really challenging workout videos that don’t require a lot of high impact cardio intervals, but so far I’m most impressed with Jillian Michaels’ No More Trouble Zones.  I can do most of the workout without modifications and the sets move fast enough to provide a good cardio component as well.  I really do feel like I will come through this injury stronger physically, and maybe mentally as well.

Cheers,

ModC

December 22, 2014

Taking the Stress Out of Stress Fractures

Beyond the Pounding Model

If I can take any comfort in this injury, it’s that there are concrete steps I can take to support the healing process.  Unlike a lot of the tweaky soft tissue injuries I’ve had in the past, this is a clear diagnosis with a clear progression of recovery.  I take some satisfaction in knowing what processes should be occurring when, and how I can possibly help them along.

As soon as I began to suspect that I had a stress fracture, I started researching the condition, its causes, and the healing process.  It’s actually quite interesting, and not as simple as the repeated pounding model that most of us imagine it to be.  Stress fractures are certainly correlated with repetitive stress, however, studies have shown that the mechanism is far more complex.  Repetitive loading causes a slight distortion in the bone, which in turn leads to decreased blood flow and oxygen to the area, particularly during long workouts.  Muscle fatigue can magnify these effects as the soft tissues become less able to resist the stresses applied.

The lack of oxygen seems to then trigger the bone’s rebuilding cycle to begin.  The normal cycle of tissue breakdown and rebuilding ultimately results in stronger bones, however the early stages of the process actually significantly weaken the structure.  As microscopic damage occurs, osteoclast cells are sent to the area to absorb the compromised bone.  In fact, osteoclasts actually cut tunnels within the existing bone structure along the lines of stress.  (How cool is that?)  Once the damaged tissue is cleared away, osteoblast cells come in and begin to deposit new bone within the matrix.  It takes 10-20 days for the newly placed bone to mature, however, and it is during this time that the injured area is most vulnerable.  If the cycle progresses normally, in about three weeks the bone is stronger and effectively reinforced along the direction of stress.  If too much stress is placed on the bone during the remodeling process, however, the repair process will be interrupted, and/or damage will outpace the body’s ability to repair it.   The microscopic fissures begin to merge, and a crack forms in the bone.

At this point, the injury becomes painful and activity must be reduced.  As the bone begins to heal, a soft bone callus forms around the injured area.  While the initial fracture is often not visible on x-rays, the bone callus will appear as a ghosted area.  After about a month, the callus will begin to harden and the injury is markedly less painful.  The bone is still not at full strength, however, and returning to full activity at this point can result in a recurrence of the fracture.  The callus can also put pressure on adjacent bones and tissues causing a change in gait and/or pain and numbness in the area.  After 8 weeks, if all goes well, the bone should be returning to full strength and normal activities can be slowly resumed.

Nutrition for Healing

For the stress fracture to heal, further stress on the bone must be limited.  And while the time frame needed for the new bone to mature cannot effectively be accelerated, the rebuilding process can be supported by supplying the required minerals and nutrients, along with plenty of rest.  It’s worth noting here that NSAIDs block one of the inflammatory markers that stimulate osteoblasts, and taking them will slow the healing process.  Curcumin and ginger reduce inflammation without disrupting the development of new bone, however.  Studies have also shown that supplementing with additional vitamins and minerals can aid healing and reduce complications:

Vitamin C & E  – anti-oxidant properties help counteract the release of free radicals that occurs during a fracture

Vitamin D – aids in the absorption of calcium

Magnesium – also needed for calcium absorption, and often deficient in runners as it can be lost through sweat

Calcium – bone is nearly 70% calcium phosphate, so adequate supplies are critical to fracture healing

In addition to the supplements above, I’ve also been adding a tablespoon of gelatin to my coffee every morning.  There’s a batch of bone broth going in the crock pot, and I’m keeping my protein intake a bit higher than I normally would when I’m not running as well.  (Despite runners’ tendency to not want to gain weight while they are sidelined, this is NOT the time to restrict calories.)  Getting adequate rest and sleep is, of course, critically important, and that is made slightly easier by the fact that I’m not running at 6 AM every morning.

It’s hard sitting still with my foot up, it’s hard to resist the urge to put the regular pedals back on my bike and work up a good sweat, and it’s really hard to not run.  I’m getting in some good strength training and am starting to see results in the pool as well.  There is certainly a silver lining to be appreciated, but no matter what, getting injured sucks.  I’m trying to remind myself that after a year of hard training I really do need some rest.  My foot may be the most acute issue, but I will certainly benefit from a little down time and switching up the routine.  I’m probably not losing as much fitness as I imagine, and even if I am, I’ll get it back.  I did it once already, and it’s easier to regain fitness than to build it up from scratch.  If all else fails, I’m thinking of developing a bone broth-based cocktail.

~ModC

December 18, 2014

The Brussels Sprouts of Training

Although I’m still awaiting the results of my MRI, a trip to the podiatrist on Tuesday confirmed my suspicion of a metatarsal stress fracture.  I’m now boot-bound for the immediate future, and am likely looking at 6-8 weeks before I can start running again.  The good news is that I can continue to swim and I may be cleared for cycling and pool running in a few weeks.

I’m upset, of course, and disappointed that I probably won’t be able to run the Hot Chocolate 10-Miler and the Fred Lebow Half Marathon that I am registered for in January.  It’s been ages since I’ve raced the shorter distances, and I was really looking forward to getting back to training in earnest.  I had also planned to run the Shamrock Marathon in March, but depending on when I’m cleared to resume full training that may not be feasible either.  It’s certainly not the end of the world, but as any athlete knows, injuries are incredibly frustrating and it’s easy to get a bit depressed on top of the physical trauma.  I know my own tendencies in that department, so I’m working hard to reframe the situation into something positive.

I’ve realized that one of the most difficult aspects of dealing with injury for me (and I suspect for many runners who are a bit Type-A) is the loss of the structure and routine that training provides.  When I’m working through an injury and can’t do my “real” workouts,  I usually tend to do somewhat aimless sessions just so I can feel like I got my exercise in.  This time around, I’m trying to approach time the time away from running as an opportunity to address some weaknesses that I never seem to have time for otherwise.  I’m setting specific goals and building a training plan to get there.  I want to improve my upper body and core strength with weight training twice a week, complete a 30-day chin-up challenge, and build up to swimming 500m with this training plan.  The hard part, of course, is garnering the same level enthusiasm I have for my running.  Getting better at things you’re bad at is unglamorous, eat-your-veggies kind of training–the sort that is hard and ugly and generally not much fun.  Rather than running around the park with at least a modicum of grace, I’m flapping around in the pool just trying not to inhale water.  The learning curve is steep at this end, but so are the incremental gains.  In 6-8 weeks I may just have a new set of skills.

~ModC

 

 

December 15, 2014

Still Limping

After a lot of rest and Advil last week, my foot was actually feeling a bit better by Friday.  I have an appointment tomorrow with a podiatrist who specializes in runners and triathletes, but by the weekend I was hopeful that it might be a moot point.  On Saturday I could hop without wincing, and I even wore footwear other than my running shoes to dinner.  On Sunday I had a bunch of errands to do, as well as a pile of laundry and cooking for the week.  I swam in the morning and then spent a good portion of the day on my feet.  By evening I was visibly limping again and my chiro friend asked me if I had considered the possibility of a stress fracture.  I had, of course, but mostly to convince myself that if I had one, my foot would probably hurt more than it does.  After two weeks with no improvement, though, it does seem like the most likely scenario.  I’m also pretty sure that the fact that I can actually feel my third and fourth metatarsals inside my foot is not a good sign.  I imagine that I’ll get a definitive answer tomorrow, but just in case, I stopped taking the Advil (it can impede healing of fractures) and ate an extra bowl of bone broth soup last night.  Either way, it looks like I might be spending more time training in the pool than I originally thought.