Long time no blog! This morning, both my mom and one of my friends asked, “Do you still blog?” My gut answer was, “Of course!” before I remembered that I actually haven’t blogged in four months…Sorry about that!
I just wrapped up what was definitely the most challenging semester of my life, both academically and athletically. I drove home from school this past Monday, and I have about a week and half to chill out (and work) before I leave to study abroad in Spain until the end of June! Luckily, I didn’t have any final exams, but I wrote 59 pages of final papers and had several group projects. Phew! Time for a life update (as a means of procrastinating on the final paper due for the semester). Settle in; this is going to be a long one.
To start things off on a rather sour note, I have essentially been injured this entire semester. Writing it out seems unbelievable. As you know, I was fighting some mild injuries throughout December and January but had worked back up to normal-ish mileage (albeit on the treadmill) by the time I headed back to school for the spring semester.
Once I got back to school, I immediately started going to the training room every day because the foot and ankle pain was persisting. I got an x-ray in mid-January, which didn’t show anything, so then I got an MRI, which showed posterior tibial tendonitis. I cross trained hard until February 14th (my 21st birthday!), at which point I convinced the trainers and my coach to let me start running on the Alter-G, even though I was still having foot pain.
My 21st birthday was super fun even though I had to write a paper. Since so many of my friends had birthdays in February, we had a 5-way birthday party!
I started bringing the stationary bike outside because after a month of being shut up in the Alter-G room, I was in desperate need of some vitamin D (and social interaction, haha). Most days, I would bike and/or swim 60-90 minutes, with two or three days being workout efforts with intervals, and the rest being steady maintenance cross trains. I was getting stronger in the pool, on the bike, and in the weight room! I started consistently doing chin-ups with chains and squatting heavier weights.
I slowly transitioned back to running, running on land for the first time on February 22. My mileage progression went something like this:
- Week of 2/19-2/25: 4 miles + 10 Alter-G miles
- Week of 2/26-3/4: 15 land miles + 3 Alter-G miles
- Week of spring break: no idea
- Week of 3/12-3/18: 22 miles
- Week of 3/19-3/25: 32 miles
While the post tib was getting better, the bunion issues and related foot pain from last year came back full force the second I started running again. So this whole time, running was a question mark every single day. Mentally, this is a terrible way to train. Each morning, I woke up with no idea how my foot would feel, how much I would be able to run, etc. It was extremely frustrating and demoralizing, but it made the good days that much more gratifying.
At the end of February, my mom came down to run the hilly, hard half marathon hosted by my team, and she placed in her age group!
Just after starting to run on land again, I drove down to Tybee Island, Georgia, with a random group of teammates for spring break. That week was very freeing- I didn’t worry about training or mileage, did what I could, sunbathed on the beach in 58 degree weather (#nice) during the day, explored Savannah, and enjoyed being 21 at night 😉
Finally, towards the end of March, I managed to put together “real” mileage of 32. Too bad I got overzealous and did 4 comparatively hard efforts in that one week. On March 25, I ran 9 miles cutting down to 6:30 pace, and subsequently strained my right hamstring. The trainers aggravated it by scraping, which put me out of commission for another two weeks and ruined my plan to return to racing at the Colonial Relays (beginning of April).
- Week of 3/26-4/1: 13 miles
- Week of 4/2-4/8: 25 miles
After my hamstring pain cleared up, I emailed my coach asking if I could run the 5000 on the track at the Duke Invitational (4/21). I hadn’t done any workouts, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to race! Shockingly, he responded that I could run the 5k at George Mason a week earlier (4/14). Off of zero workouts and barely 20 miles per week. I was 10% apprehensive and 90% jumping for joy!
Unfortunately, my body couldn’t hold it together. The post tib pain came back literally the day before the race, and I also had pain on top of my foot that I just ignored because it had been 3 months of injury and I didn’t want another thing to be wrong (pro tip: don’t ignore pain). I literally did my pre-meet on the bike, and my coach said I could travel and just take things one step at a time. If I could do the shakeout with no pain, I could move on to the warm-up. If I could do the warm-up with no pain, I could race.
I made it through the shakeout and warm-up and laced up in spikes for the first time since November. I was not pain-free, but I pretended that I was. The gun went off, and it was amazing to be back on the track again. This was the first time I’d worn the uniform on the track since May 2016 (my freshman year). Each lap, my teammates would scream-cheer, and I would burst into a smile. Until about lap 8 and then I realized that it’s kind of difficult to run the 5k off of no workouts, haha.
I ended up running an 18:38, not that it matters! (For reference, I split a 17:35 5k during a cross country 6k in the fall, and my goal before I got injured was to run 16:XX on the track this season.) It was incredibly fun, but I couldn’t walk the next day because I was so sore!
And then I seriously couldn’t walk by Monday. By Tuesday (April 17), the nagging foot pain on top of my foot (metatarsal area) was sharp and throbbing. I had clearance that day, so I saw our team orthopedist as well as the head athletic trainer, and both of them agreed that I should shut down my season right then and there because it wasn’t worth trying to get back into shape through another injury to maybe score points in the 5000 at the CAA championships on May 4-5.
So after over three months of trying to come back for CAAs, I did not run CAAs. I got an MRI that showed I have a stress reaction in my second metatarsal on my left foot (aka the problem foot, apparently!). I took six days completely off, went home for the weekend to have a mental break before the end of the semester, started lightly cross training two weeks ago, and have essentially been doing whatever training I’ve felt like doing since then. Some days, that’s a 40 minute swim. Some days it’s a 70 minute bike workout. Other days it’s yoga, or core, or nothing. I’m going to be in the walking boot until I go to Spain and potentially longer, and I will start a return-to-running walk-jog program in a couple weeks, as long as there’s absolutely no pain for awhile before that. As of now, I still have pain, and I really don’t want to come back to running before my foot is ready. It’s going to be a longggg road back to fitness anyway. So right now, I am doing what I can to maintain my aerobic fitness in the pool and on the bike, while not doing so much as to disrupt my love for training in general.
For someone who fully admits that the majority of her life revolves around running, this semester was incredibly confusing. I had to rediscover who I was outside of running, which I honestly don’t think I succeeded at (yet). I was a bitchy pill some days, but a great teammate/friend/sister/daughter other days. The past four months have definitely been trying, but I have learned so much about myself, others, training, sanity, and balance!
I don’t want to make it sound like my whole semester was miserable, because it truly wasn’t. It sucked to be injured (and still sucks! I’m still injured!) but I had so many great life experiences outside of running. I strengthened some friendships, took classes that were extremely difficult but helped me realize how much I actually do like my Hispanic Studies major, applied (and was accepted) to study abroad!, had fun, and made both irresponsible and responsible decisions.
I expanded my food Instagram, made crazy memories, and feel more adult than I ever have. I did gain weight (funny how that happens when you stop running 50-60 miles per week) and am trying to remember that my body is smarter than my brain and will eventually settle into the best possible state for itself. I am really excited to study abroad in Spain this summer, as I think it’s going to be one of the best (and hardest) experiences of my life!
More later– my post-swim brain is dead 🙂