Saturday, November 9, 2013

Memo To Note!

I learned a whole lot from my failed engagement.  If you don't feel like clicking the link, and you don't already know my story, here's a synopsis:
1. I registered for the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.  My first full, it was to be. Why I wrote that like Yoda? I don't know.
2. I trained for about a month.
3. I managed to snag myself a thrice misdiagnosed tibial stress fracture.
4. I stopped running for 7 weeks.

I've read/heard that there isn't usually a good predictor of future stress fractures.  Basically, it's hard to know how much your body can take until it tells you, "That's it!" in no uncertain terms.  In my experience, stress fractures can be difficult to diagnose, too.  So, I'll share what I learned about and from my injury, with the hope that it might help someone else (or at least help my Mickey Mouse Clubhouse soundtrack-filled brain to retain information for longer than a day).

Runners always seem to tell each other, "Listen to your body."  You know why?  Because it is really, really important to do so.  You are the only one who knows how much pain you're in.  You are the only one who knows exactly how you feel.  It is so vital to know what is right, what is weird, what is totally off, and in most cases, nobody else can give you that information about yourself.  When my calf muscles started hurting in early July, I was bothered by the pain, but I knew it wasn't due to a serious injury.  I did pay attention to the warning signs, but stretching and rolling and rest didn't help, so I just kept running.  When the pain worsened and moved, I knew I had injured myself, but I listened to the "doctors" who said I could keep running. Bad idea.

Nobody likes a bully.  Chances are, you don't steal people's lunch money, call them mean names, or force them to do things they don't want to do.  But you might still be a bully.  Maybe I'm the only one whose self-talk can get pretty ugly, but I doubt it.  Don't let yourself talk to yourself like that!  Forcing your legs to run another mile (or 10), insisting that your brain ignore all pain signals, reminding yourself that other people can easily do what you're struggling to do are all excellent motivational tools unnecessary bullying tactics that can lead to or exacerbate injury.  Do. Your. Best.  Giving more than 100% effort is mathematically impossible.

WHAT WOULD _______ DO?
For me, that blank is filled with the words, 'my mom.'  Maybe your blank person is your dad, spouse, trusted friend, a doctor, or a nurse.  My mom has always been an awesome advocate, diligent researcher, and brave when it comes to standing up to doctors.  If I had asked myself this question during my first appointment with the "doctor" who gave me a cortisone shot for bursitis, I could have saved 2 weeks of non-running time.  See, my mom would have insisted on an MRI at that first visit.  She would have made absolutely certain that the "doctor" knew all the details of the problem, even if it meant telling him a 3rd or 4th time.  I let myself believe that he had listened and understood, even though he contradicted that belief several times.

Not my MRI image, but looks similar.  Sort-of.  I can't tell if this picture is of a R and L leg, or one leg from different angles.  Either way, my stress fracture was near where the arrows are pointing, on just the one leg.
I feel like I learned more about stress fractures through my experience than anyone at the Orthopaedic doctor's office knew.  There's the fact that the nurse, when she saw me after my diagnosis, actually (truly, I'm not making this up) asked me how to spell the word 'stress' (Seriously.  She thought it was strest.), plus the absence of the hop test, and the "doctor" telling me that it was a "highly unusual" place for a stress fracture.  In addition, more than one professional I spoke with before being seen tried to convince me that an x-ray would show a stress fracture.  It doesn't, until it has healed.  I have no medical training, but I still feel confident telling you these truths:
  • Tibial stress fractures can occur anywhere on the tibia, not just the lower shin. 
  • Stress fractures hurt, a lot, but not necessarily as bad as you might expect.  Lots of people continue to walk and run after this type of injury.  Don't.  
  • Usually, muscle pain means muscle weakness.  Muscle weakness means the bones aren't getting the support they need.  This is why running through pain can lead to further injury.  Get it?
  • A stress fracture can only be positively diagnosed with MRI.  I would probably get the science behind this fact all wrong, so just trust me.  I read a lot of articles, and talked to 2 imaging technologists who confirmed this.
  • Stay-at-home-moms almost never have their hands free to use crutches.  
  • It is not safe to carry your 18-month-old on your back while walking with crutches.
Not the stress fracture, the recovery.  A runner unable to run is like a singer without a voice.  Like a guitar without strings.  Like brewing coffee without water.  Frustrated.  Devastated.  Hurt.  Depressed.  I feel like I went through more pain, mentally than I did physically.  I won't lie and say that I'm okay now (especially as I type this, while I have the live streaming coverage of what I thought was my marathon open in another window) but I am much more okay than I thought I could be.  This race was not ever mine.  I shouldn't have been at that starting line this morning, because I would have been if that was the case.  Since my injury, I've volunteered at two races and one long group run.  I started a local chapter of the Moms RUN This Town group.  I watched a friend cross the finish line of her very first 5k, and virtually followed another long-distance friend as she completed the Couch to 5k training, which will culminate today!  At least partly due to my decision to register for the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, many people get to run with my amazing sister as their pacer.  She gets to help all of them meet their 4-hour finish time goal.  My dear friend and training partner will run her first marathon, and even though I'm not next to her, I know she's rockin' it and I couldn't be happier for her.  All of these facts have helped me to heal.  I've learned that my being a runner is about so much more than the miles I run.

About to set off for my first run in many weeks.  It hurt.  I walked for another week.

What have you learned, lately?

Jeremiah 29:11

*There is exactly one person on this planet that will immediately get the title of this post.  So, I'll try to explain.  One time, ~10 years ago, some family members and I were in line for a ride at Islands of Adventure.  A very intense-looking fellow briskly walked through the labyrinth to get to the front of the line, and as he walked, he poked his index finger into the air above his safari hat and loudly said, "Memo to note!  Always use Fast Pass!" It was hilarious to us at the time, although as I type this and grin at the mental picture, I can also see in my mind's eye the blank, confused look on YOUR face.  Probably I should move this tidbit to the end.  And put it in even smaller type.  And change the title.


  1. I have no clue what that last anecdote means and yet it still made me laugh.

    1. I told it wrong. We were at Animal Kingdom, not Islands of Adventure. Now it makes sense, right?

  2. I read this the other day & hate commenting via my tablet, but wanted you to know that your race is out there and you'll rock it when the time comes. You've come a long way on your long distance running journey & I've enjoyed following along! Good luck continuing to recover & not getting injured again! Way to be an advocate for your health!!

    1. Thank you so much! That means a lot.