Clawing your way back

The talented Amanda Sandlin ( made this #atwildwoman portrait for me - I love it.  

The talented Amanda Sandlin ( made this #atwildwoman portrait for me - I love it.  

Clawing your way back

After athletes suffer a significant injury there’s usually a period where we mourn – for races we won’t get to run and lost entry fees, for runs with friends that are often the highlight of our weekend.  We watch our hard earned fitness slowly slip away while clothes begin feeling tighter than we would like.  But at some point along our slide into the abyss, our feet hit solid ground.  And it is time to cautiously stand and take stock:  given my injury, what can I do NOW with my current limitations, to improve my fitness?  To begin again?  

As we climb and fight our way back up the mountain there will be footholds.  The first time our injury is healed enough to pool run.  The first time we get to take off our aircast or ankle brace.  That amazingly awesome first “run” back where we get to take fledgling running steps amidst lots of walking.  We may occasionally take a wrong step, push too hard and find ourselves sliding back down the side of the mountain – or holding on to a rock for dear life.  But even with the setbacks we focus our gaze on the peak and keep pressing forward. 

There’s strength to be found in the journey.  We know that we will emerge from the process as a stronger, wiser athlete than before.  And so we begin to fan the flames of that tiny spark of athletic fire still burning inside of us, and we embrace the long, arduous process of clawing our way back to the top. 


I wrote the above about 4 months ago.  In April I was playing with my kids at a local park when I leapt off a platform to catch my youngest child who was about to fall.  I landed badly and immediately crumpled to the ground.  (Youngest child had not a scratch though!!) After driving myself to urgent care, I learned that I had fractured (completely) my 4th metatarsal.   I spent several weeks on crutches, and three months in a boot before finally graduating to a running shoe with titanium inserts to prevent my foot from flexing while walking around.   Surgery was discussed, fretted about, cried about, and ultimately dismissed in favor of a “wait and see” approach to determine if the slightly displaced fracture would heal enough on its own.  Another two months of no running and I was finally given the green light to begin the long, slow process of rebuilding my running base.  But oh - those first few steps of freedom were glorious. 

If nothing else, the long layoff showed me that running is truly embedded somewhere deep in my soul.  When you are injured it’s natural to question your place in the sport.  I’d find myself wondering: WHY do I keep doing this to myself?  Is it worth another injury and layoff?  Why not just exercise a few times a week like most people and call it good?  But when you see runners in the pouring rain and feel an intense, burning jealousy that you can’t be out there suffering with them, or when you drive past the lonely stretch of road where you do speed work and lung-searing tempos and feel a physical yearning to be out there pushing your limits – that’s the universe speaking loud and clear that YOU AREN’T DONE YET.  Don’t give up, you are meant to be back out there.

It was all I needed to hear.    


I ran my first race post-fracture this past Sunday.  The cold, blustery day couldn’t dampen my spirits as I celebrated the fact that I was standing at a starting line of a RACE.  About to run a 5K on a foot that (several months ago) had been in pieces.  The body is a miraculous thing.  Watchless (thanks to a busted Garmin), I had the simple goal of just to go out and give it a good effort.  When I crossed the line in 20:05 I couldn’t stop the smile that appeared on my face.  I’m not there yet, but I’m heading in the right direction.  I’m climbing back up the mountain – and I’ve got my eyes fixed on the top.    

Hope & Despair

When an athlete is injured, their mind often ping-pongs daily from hope to despair.  I spent most of October through December in that state as I dealt with not one, but two bizarre (non-running related!) injuries that left me unable to run.   I'd wake up hopeful:  maybe today I'd feel better!  But the despair would flood in:  It's going to be forever until I can run again - and I'll be starting from scratch.  The truth is, I often had a hard time choosing to be hopeful - even though I know that psychologists have proven that hopeful people live longer, happier and healthier lives.   I tried each day to choose hope.  To choose to be hopeful, to be grateful for everything in my life that was going right, even if the running wasn't going the way I'd wanted.   I know that statistics say that around 79% of runners will be injured in a given year, so most of us are in good company when we do suffer an injury.  Of course, that doesn't mean we like it.  Running is a source of great joy - and for me the need to run feels akin to the need for a daily shower.  It has simply become a part of my daily routine.  So how do we keep our spirits up when we are forced to be apart from the sport we love? Do Something Different: 

Something different: Convincing my extended family to take my BodyPump class!

I decided I'd take the opportunity to try some things I'd never done - like a BodyCombat class - and surprised myself at how much fun I had getting my cross-training groove on.  Yes, it definitely wasn't the same as running and I missed my running friends and routine, but thankfully I got to get to know several amazing women at my gym and their friendship gave me lots to look forward to when I was putting in miles on the elliptical instead of on the roads.  If you are injured, use the time to do something you've maybe always wanted to do but hadn't had the time or energy to pursue.  It doesn't have to be a physical activity, but trying something that you are interested in can help remind you that there are so many things in this world to be passionate about.  

Count Your Blessings: 

Study after study has shown the positive effects of practicing gratitude:  happiness, reduction of stress/anxiety, better sleep, and improved health are only a few of the many well documented benefits.  I tried hard during the weeks rehabbing my injuries to write down a few things each day that I was grateful for.  Most of them were not athletically related and that's okay - it helped me open my eyes to the fact that while running is a big part of my life, it's not the only part.  Taking a few minutes to write down three things you are grateful for each day can go a long way to improving your mood during a time of forced rest.

Keep Your ATHLETE Mentality

When I'm injured I tend to go one of two ways:  I either let everything slide (nutrition, sleep, core work, stretching) or I use the forced time off to focus on improving each of those things.  I'll let you guess which one helps more in the long run.  :)  I started off with the first option (way too many cookies!) but halfway through my time off I decided that I wanted to feel better - less down in the dumps about not being able to run.  And in order to do so, I needed to get back into an "Athlete" mentality.  That means realizing that even though you are injured, you are still an athlete.  And you can choose to use this time to get stronger and to work on establishing good habits that will improve your running when you DO make your comeback.  And speaking of that....

Believe You WILL Come Back

For most of us, though we may feel like we'll never run again, an injury just means we have to take a certain amount of time away from doing what we love.   We are fortunate that for 99% of us, these injuries do not spell a total end to our running career.  It simply puts it on pause for a bit while our body heals.  While we rest, we are still allowed to dream of big PRs, of hard tempo workouts, of long runs on crisp fall mornings.   Even if you have such a layoff that you are essentially starting from scratch, know that your mind and body will remember how to do this - the road back will not be as steep nor as long as you fear.  You must believe that you WILL come back, and that it will be worth the work to do so.  And your success will be all the sweeter for the struggle.

One of my first runs back - got to break in my NightRunner shoe lights!

As for me, I was very, very cautious when I finally got back on the roads.  I ran 2 days the first week, then slowly added in a day at a time.   I am being rewarded for my patience - I am back to running 6 days a week and even had a small workout this week!  I am just SO, SO HAPPY to be back out there.

Run happy, friends, and be grateful.


Base Building update and trying hard not to jinx myself!

So, in what I'm sure is absolutely shocking news to almost everyone, it appears time flies much faster than my feet do.  I apologize for the long hiatus from blogging but it has been one heck of a busy month!  I've also been a bit silent in this space because as some of you unfortunately know, there's no more superstitious and paranoid runner than a formerly injured runner.  I've been hesitant to blog with weekly updates because...well, it sounds silly but I'm so afraid I'll jinx myself!  I started this blog back in the summer and in just a few weeks after creating the site I was injured!   But since I'm (knock on wood, knock on wood!) back to running injury-free, I figured I owed the few folks who read this blog an update. I passed!  Whew!

So when I last posted, I had completed my BodyPump initial training and was slowly, slowly getting back to running.  I ended up taping and submitting my video assessment for BodyPump in early December and was just notified by Les Mills that I passed!  So now I'm an official instructor!  I'm very excited to have that behind me and I'm looking forward to teaching at the YMCA - I just have to wait for them to process my paperwork.  They've had it for a few weeks so I'm not sure how long the process will take but I'm trying to be patient.  Once that goes through my plan is to sub for teachers at my local YMCA and then if a time opens up in the day where they need an instructor, I could step in and teach my own class.  To be honest, running will always be my first love so I haven't been in a huge rush to sign up to teach a full-time class.   In the meantime, I've been learning the new release and getting ready to be a sub once all the paperwork goes through.

In other non-running-related news, I took both my girls with me to visit my sister in San Antonio!  We survived the two flights and 2 1/2 hour layover to get there and the girls had a BLAST seeing their cousins.  I had a wonderful time visiting my sister and we got to do lots of fun San Antonio stuff.  I had gym envy over her amazing gym (50 treadmills - at least!!! A cafe!  A spa!!  I told her I might just move in.).

We had to take this about 5 times because we couldn't stop laughing.

She talked me into taking a kickboxing class which was hilarious because I am the most uncoordinated person ever.  (Seriously - it's why I run.  One foot in front of the other?  I can handle that.  Step, kick, hop, cross-jab, hop, kick?  Ummm...I'm out.)   It was a great class and workout and it was super fun - but it took most of my mental energy for the day to just keep up with trying to match my movements to what the instructor was saying!  Gotta love our "tough gal" pose though, right?   My sister is a triathlete and one strong mama!

She was also kind enough to watch all of the four kids (two of mine, two of hers) while I ran in the mornings.  Which brings me to....a running update!!  So (again with the knocking on wood) I'm finally back up to some decent mileage.   I'll recap last week for you since it's been the most miles I've done post-stress fracture.   I am feeling good and just now adding back in a tiny bit of speed in the form of some tempo runs.  Here's what last week looked like for me:

Monday:  8 miles easy (7:46 avg pace) in the daylight!

Tuesday:  10.2 miles easy (8:36 avg) early morning.  Had company for part of this which was nice because the run was in the cold rain.  My least favorite running weather - upper 30s and raining.   Did BodyPump later in the day.

Wednesday:  8 miles w/3 at tempo.  Dark and super early.  I was nervous and had to talk myself into this one.  This felt challenging even though the pace was slower than I'd have liked.  It definitely felt tempo pace even though McMillian's calculator insists my half marathon pace should be closer to 6:30s.   Had to dodge some black ice and tackle a few inclines, but got it done.  Tempo miles were 6:45, 6:41, 6:37.

Thursday:  10.1 miles easy (8:31 avg pace) - Had company for 5 of these miles which was awesome.   Chilly, chilly run though and had to forgo my post-run smoothie in favor of hot oatmeal when I got home.  BodyPump class in the afternoon.

Friday:  6.2 miles recovery (8:47 avg)  - Ran with Dad for this one and was happy to keep it nice and easy.

Saturday:  16.2 miles long run (7:59 avg) -  Ran with my group for part, and with Dad for the rest.  By a happy coincidence, a running friend pulled into the Starbucks (our group run meeting place) to run early too - just as I was getting out of my car! We ran our extra 5 miles together. A bit faster than I'd liked and on a very hilly route, but I was so happy to have company that it didn't matter. Met up with the rest of the group at 6:55am and ran 3 with them to Golds Gym. Met up with Dad there and then ran his pace miles with him. (He's using a Pfitzinger plan as well and these pace miles help him to practice goal marathon pace for his attempt to qualify for Boston in March!)  Overall, the first half of this run was a bit tougher due to the group pushing the pace, but the latter half was great and it was great to run with Dad and help pace him.

Splits: 8:26, 7:56, 7:41, 7:48, 7:44, (met group) 8:01, 7:59, 7:20, 7:34 (0.39mi) Met Dad, 8:13, 8:16, 8:10, 8:11, 8:12, 8:14, 8:02, 7:21

Sunday:  5 miles easy (7:47 avg) - due to running later in the morning and the nicer weather, this run felt better than I was expecting.  I ended the run at the gym in time for BodyPump.

Total:  63 miles

So there you have it!  I'm back at it and doing my best to foam roll, get sleep, eat right and do my PT exercises to stay on top of things.  I had a gait analysis done last month as well and the PT exercises were given to me to help improve some areas of weakness.  I'll talk more about that in a future post.   This week is a recovery week with 45 miles and then next week I start my official 12-week buildup for the Tobacco Road Marathon on March 15th!   Keep your fingers crossed for me that I can stay healthy this season, eh?

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, celebrates with family and friends, and gets to enjoy some holiday running as well!

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