I am running again! It is not far or fast but it is running and I can feel my body starting to remember. It's the most amazing feeling but also so hard as I must be patient. Coming back is going to be a long road but one I can't wait to run!
It's been over 12 weeks now since my foot gave me the signal to stop running. Yup 12 weeks. Those weeks have been filled with appointments at my Physio, Chiro, Sports Med and Osteopath as well as many minutes of cross training in the pool and gym. They have also been filled with the emotional ups and downs of not running. Some days just seem harder when you can't get the endorphins flowing. That said though, in general I think I've managed the cross training pretty well and have kept the tougher emotional days in check. I have had some good cries but also some great highs along the way and I've made some great connections with other runners who are experiencing similar setbacks.
Over the last 12 weeks I've had the following diagnostic tests to determine what is going on: x-ray, bone scan, CT, MRI and diagnostic ultrasound. Yes they know me at the hospital imaging department now. So with all those appointments and tests what do I know? The X-ray was clear, however a follow up bone scan indicated a hot spot leading my injury to be treated as a stress reaction/fracture. I began using a bone stimulator (thanks Dylan Wykes for the loan) and avidly cross trained in the pool with lengthy pool run sessions and some swimming. Not my fave but I was lucky enough to have friends hop in and join me, making the pool much more tolerable mentally. I also started some bike spinning. A few weeks into cross training I didn't notice much improvement so a CT was ordered for more detail. This ruled out a stress fracture/reaction. Great news as my sports med cleared me to run. YES!!! I was so excited, that was until I took those first few steps and it hurt. It didn't seem much better than a few weeks earlier. I was supposed to do a 6min run but it hurt too much. I started to panic, called my sports med and explained my predicament. He suggested trying the run again a few days later but running 30 seconds with a 4 min 30 second walk. This felt a bit better than the continuous run but I knew that my foot wasn't ready for full running yet.
This led to the MRI, which indicated some thickening of the tendon under my second metatarsal and some mild bone edema. Again not a lot of info but helped explain why my foot was still sore. After that a diagnostic ultrasound was used to check for a neuroma. No neuroma but I do have some fluid in my second metatarsal joint as well as osteoarthritis in my big toe (likely due to a bunionyectomy many years ago). Interestingly enough after the testing which was completed over about 9 weeks my foot started to improve. I started using a toe separator, a metatarsal pad and having lots of massage, physio and ultrasound on the area. AND I was again given clearance to try running again.
In conversation with my coach we agreed we needed to take things slowly and see how much the foot could tolerate. This meant starting with sessions of a 1 min run followed by a 1 min walk. I did this using the toe separator and metatarsal pad in my shoes. I did this every other day for a few sessions, then progressed to 5x1min run/walk followed by a 3 minute continuous run followed by the walk/run again. A few weeks into this I have just started running 3 days in a row followed by a non-run day. My middle run between the walk sessions has grown to 35 minutes. It is huge progress for which I am really grateful. I am still cross training on top of these run sessions so the pool is still happening as is the bike, and I've been able to also add in the elliptical. I am also doing lots of rehab physio exercises as well as strength training in hopes of improving my running form and preventing further injuries going forward. It is amazingly time consuming rehabbing an injury but it is gratifying to be busy rather having too much time to think about the injury.
I believe that I will come back stronger as a runner as I continue to build back my milage. I know that I will be more disciplined with my core and strength exercises going forward. I also plan to be on top of my nutrition. It's the little things that can make a huge difference. I am so excited for when I can go for long continuous runs with my friends and team mates or I can push myself running intervals on the track or road. I visualize this, I know it will happen but I must practice patience now and listen to my body. It is so easy when things start to feel good again to jump back in full force but I know this will just affect me negatively in the long run.
I plan to enjoy this journey as I return to elite running form and I am so excited for what is to come.
I have to thank all my friends and family who have been very understanding and supportive of my injury. My amazing coach Richard Lee who always knows the right thing to say and the right guidance to give. Thanks to Dr. Jim Bovard, Marilou Lamy, Chris Napier, Dr. Donald Grant, JP Snip and Bobby Crudo who have been supporting me and treating my injury. What a team! Also thanks to the amazing Oiselle who embrace the sisterhood whether injured or healthy, Forerunners Vancouver who along with New Balance help to support these feet, Nuun for ensuring I drink enough and Zensah.