A few months ago, I signed up for an ultramarathon happening in April. Training was going great—I was able to complete the majority of my training runs without an issue, and then BAM! Stress fracture. For the past six weeks, I’ve been dealing with ultra-disappointment instead of ultra-training.
I went through the five stages of grief, but it all happened pretty quickly. At first, there was denial—I kept blaming my IT band when it was obviously very localized shin pain. I think it was only a matter of time before my IT band started screaming at me too. I would still try to run, each time giving up after half a mile and crying into my post-shuffle beer.
The training plan I was on was rather insane, and I had not done my due diligence in ramping up my mileage before I started the plan. Shame on me. But a runner has nothing if they don’t have their ego and positivity. This is when the anger kicked in. Anger at myself. I knew better, but everything was going so well.
Bargaining was next—I wracked my brain and reevaluated my plan. Made some promises I knew my body couldn’t keep as I looked for possibilities of still running the ultra. There is just no way I will be able to ramp up again (and not re-injure myself) in time to run the Tillamook Burn.
Depression came but was short-lived. I wasn’t about to get too upset about the thing. I tried to find (here comes the positivity again) a silver lining. I would have more time during the Christmas holiday—I could clean the house, spend more time with the family, study more, start some house projects I haven’t had time for. I was looking forward to checking off a lot of long-neglected to-do’s.
Acceptance was easy. I sucked it up and got some other things done. There was nothing I could do to change the outcome of the stress fracture, and there is always next year. I can have it on my calendar and ramp up my mileage correctly before starting such a demanding training schedule. Plus, it was pretty cool at first to not be able to do any kind of cardio on my legs. I couldn’t even ride my stationary bike. I had a ticket to be as lazy as I possibly could.
Once I did stop running, I started sleeping 10 hours a night. And man was I grumpy. This lasted for the first two weeks and actually started worrying me. I wanted to sleep all of the time. As soon as my sleep regulated and I was back to seven or eight hours a night, I realized how burnt out I had become. It was amazing how good I felt when I emerged from my pseudo-hibernation. It made me almost thankful for the injury. If not for that, I’m sure I would have run myself into full burnout.
There were times when anxiety would creep in and take up space in my head. Anxiety relief is one of my favorite things about running. I can work all of that out while I’m on the road. Having no outlet for that got tough at times. I would drink, or lift weights, or write when the anxiety showed up, but it was never really the same.
I returned to running this week. I was nervous about how my first run would go, but I took it easy. It was recommended that I start with run/walking for only a few miles at a time for the first few weeks. I did an easy two miles of run/walk on my treadmill, and when I was done, I felt wonderful. It occurred to me that a run at 11 minutes per mile has never felt as good as that run did. My head was clear, my body was sweaty, I felt like a goddess.
Will I increase my monthly mileage by three times going forward? Probably not. Will I always adhere to the 10 percent mileage gain rule? Also, probably not. Have I already found a 30k trail run to do in July? Yeah, I sure have.