My Year of Injuries

So I’ve cautiously entered the world of running again.  And when I say “cautious,” I mean I was downright petrified to take those first few steps, for fear of a major setback.  A little background:  last year — August of 2010 — I was training for the Baystate Marathon.  Training was going well enough that I actually thought I might qualify for Boston.  Then on August 29th, 2010, I did a 17 mile training run.  The run went fine.  I was sore afterward, but nothing unusual.  The next day I woke up with stabbing, burning pain in my right foot.  Not the heel, particularly, more on the inner-side of my foot where the heel and leg meet.  I thought it might get better as the day went on, but it did not.  In fact, it got worse.  I remember looking at one of my colleagues, tears springing from my eyes, saying “I fear this means Baystate is out.”  She told me to stay off it for a week and I remember thinking a week was like a lifetime.  I only had a little over a month left to train, so staying off it for a week would derail everything.  But I instinctively knew that this injury was not something minor.

I went to the doctor and he took X-rays.  No sign of a fracture.  (I would later hear from a different doctor that a fracture would not be evident on an X-ray this early after the injury.)  He diagnosed me with acute Plantar Fasciitis.  I was shocked.  I’d had some minor PF issues in my running career, but nothing that kept me away from running for more than a week or so.  This did not feel like PF to me.  Still, I took his advice:  wear supportive sneakers at all times; do calf stretches consistently throughout the day, every day; and absolutely no running for 7-10 days.

Well those 7-10 days came and went and my foot wasn’t any better.  By now I had accepted that the marathon was out.  I just wanted to run again.  I got a referral for a well-known Physical Therapist in Boston and went for an initial visit in mid-September.  After examining me, he said that I had torn the fascia in my foot.  So not just inflammation, but a full-on tear.  He was optimistic that I could rehab within a couple months and get back to running.  I worked with him from September-December, and still I wasn’t getting better.  I was at the point where I could do the elliptical.  And the pain had lessened somewhat since the beginning, but if I did something as small as walk around barefoot for an evening, or wear any shoes other than my sneakers, it would completely flare up again and take weeks to get back in control.  By December, I was at my wit’s end.  I went to yet another doctor, at a different hospital, with a well-known and highly-recommended orthopedics department.

After examining me, this doctor was convinced I had a calcaneus stress fracture.  Put me in a boot and crutches right then and there.  Scheduled an MRI for the following week.  Did I mention this was December 30th?  Happy New Year to me.

A week later, I got the MRI.  Two days after that, I called the doctor to discuss the results.  (Meanwhile, I had been wearing the boot and using crutches for over a week.)  Our conversation went something like this:

Doc:   “Everything on the MRI looks fine.”

Me:  “Fine?”  “FINE?!?”

Doc:  “Yes – it looks good. I don’t see any overt signs of a stress fracture, but I do think there’s one there.  I’d like you to keep using the boot and crutches for another 2 weeks and come back and see me again.”

Something didn’t sit right with me.  Since wearing the boot, my foot had not only NOT gotten better, it felt worse.  But I figured 2 more weeks wouldn’t hurt it and I scheduled a follow-up appointment with the doctor.

Meanwhile, I had an unrelated appointment with my chiropractor.  When I showed up wearing a boot and using crutches, he was shocked.  I’ve been working with this chiropractor for years, and being the type of person who would always rather heal things naturally if at all possible, I had worked with him to heal a hip injury a year earlier with lots of ART, assisted stretching, and spine adjustments.  When I told him everything that I had been through over the past few months, he asked if he could look at my foot.  After examining it, he said he was sure I did not have a stress fracture, that I did in fact have an extreme case of Plantar Fasciitis.  He proceeded to do Graston on my foot, which was extremely painful.  I was convinced he was doing more damage to my foot, but I really trust this guy, so I stayed with it.  I left the boot off for the rest of the day and woke up the next morning and my foot actually felt better.  I never wore the boot again.  I started going to my chiropractor every week for more Graston and ART.  Slowly but surely, my foot started to get better.

Let me take a step back here and just say that running is my passion.  Running is like my religion.  It keeps me sane, it keeps me happy, and it’s something I love in a way that I love nothing else.  So this injury did not come lightly to me.  Not running for more than week was torture – much less four months (and little did I know how much longer I had).  So in between all of these doctor visits, I obsessively scoured the web for any and all solutions for Plantar Fasciitis.  I bought anything and everything I could get my hands on (a night splint, the Strassburg sock, a massage ball, a massage stick, athletic tape, shoe inserts, the list goes on and on).  Nothing worked.  Until my Chiro started doing the Graston.

My Chiropractor told me that he can usually get runners back on the trail within a month of starting Graston.  We’ve since discovered that I would end up being his toughest case.  It took me four months before I could start easing my way back into running.  And I had setbacks.  Did too much too soon.  Wore the wrong shoes.  Didn’t keep up with my stretching.  This went on for several months until August.  A full year after the onset of this injury.  Finally, in August, just in time to run the Beach to Beacon 10K in my home state of Maine, I had reached a point where I could run a couple times week without flaring up the PF.  The PF was still there, but I could keep it at bay enough to run.

Then on Labor Day I had the brilliant idea to try water skiing for the first time in my life.  Third try up, the boat shot off and my right ski wobbled off to the left, crossing over my left leg, causing me to feel a big rip/stretch in my right leg.  I fell down in the water, completely defeated with the knowledge that I had just f*cked up something and it could be bad.

Well it’s now November and after two more months of Physical Therapy for the leg, and continued Graston treatments for the PF, I am finally running again.  At the suggestion of my PT, I started out by walking  5 minutes, running 5 minutes, walking 5 minutes, etc.  I’ve never done that before coming back from an injury, but I highly recommend it.  It gets you out there – and you don’t stress the body anywhere near as much as a full-on run.  I’ve now moved up to 5 minutes walk, 10 minutes run, 5 minutes walk, 10 minutes run, etc.  and I’m up to about 5 miles of this.  Three times a week.  Three times a week, I get to run!!!  I used to run 6 days a week and 3 days would’ve been a very slow week for me.  But right now?  It’s heaven.  But I’m still scared.  I still have not fully healed from the water ski injury (same leg as the PF) and my PF is still not fully healed, but I’m out there.  I don’t want to jinx myself.  I almost don’t want to get too excited because I fear I may have a setback, which would be heart breaking.  But for now, I’m just full of gratitude for the ability to get out there and run again.

So while this injury was one of the most frustrating and difficult things to deal with, I did learn a lot about myself as an athlete.  But that is a post for another time.  For now, I will focus on the road ahead and immerse myself again in the running community – something I wasn’t able to do for a long time because it just made me sad.

Coming soon: Plantar Fasciitis:  the Evil Beast that can Teach you or Tear you Down; Why’d I get injured in the first place?  My favorite running bloggers, My training/racing schedule

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  1. Lance Beebe

     /  December 13, 2011

    Wow, what an ordeal! That’s a lot to get over….but, you stuck with it. Awesome! I’m seriously thinking about the Bay State mary next year. Are you on twitter? We have a fun group of runners that talk back and forth.

  2. Hey there – yes, I’m on twitter (I’m already following you) 🙂 @happyeveralone. I’ve heard Bay State is a great mary to run. Right now I’m just focusing on getting my foot back to 100%, but if all continues to go well, I’ll aim for a half marathon in the fall. Then I’d love to try another marathon, but I’m taking it all one day at a time… just SO happy to be running again!

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