It’s a little dramatic, but I think most runners feel this way at some point—you’re training, things are going great, and all of a sudden the lights go out—you’re injured. It seems like it happens that fast, the flick of a light switch and you’re lost, your world is dark and it’s unclear what your next step should be. Okay, okay, so it’s not the end of the world, but neither is navigating your way through a dark room—it takes patience and you have to find that inner sparkle to find your way out, but you’ll make it unscathed.
Unlike most of the other women on the Sonoran Distance Project, my specialty is triathlon. However, running is by FAR my favorite of the three disciplines—it is never tough for me to get out the door for a run and I wish I could say the same about cycling and swimming! So in September my triathlon season came to an end and I decided that I would focus a little more than normal on running and see what kind of shape I could get into for the 3TV Half Marathon on November 2. Focusing on one sport is common for triathletes in the off season, usually you focus on a weakness and try to make it stronger for the next season. It was natural for me to want to focus on running with it being my favorite of the three sports and also the one I would like to improve on the most. I was careful about upping mileage and very careful about recovery (getting massages regularly and rolling like it was a second job), so where did I go wrong? Funny thing—when you study nutrition for four years and receive a degree, nutrition should be the last thing you worry about right? Wrong. I was careless with my nutrition and this killed me!! Being in graduate school, working and training, I let my nutrition fall off my list of priorities—going out to eat more than usual and neglecting to eat enough “whole foods”. Sure enough, about a week out from the half marathon I started feeling pretty extreme fatigue and unusual pain—when I should I have been feeling the benefits of taper rather than feeling worse than I had felt in a long time I knew something might be up. I was really fortunate to run a PR on race day so I can’t complain too much about that part of the whole situation! The next week I went in to get the results of my blood work and found out I had slight Vitamin B and D deficiencies. I didn’t think a whole lot about it, started taking supplements and noticed a world of difference in about two weeks—my energy levels were back to normal. During this time I was in the middle of taking time off from running. After not being able to walk normally after the race, I was convinced it was a soft tissue issue in my feet and didn’t stress too much because I had planned on taking a short break after the half marathon anyway. It wasn’t until about 3 weeks after the half marathon that I figured out it wasn’t soft tissue after all. The low Vitamin D should have clued me in to a potential bone problem, but it really didn’t strike me as a possibility. Like I mentioned, it was 3 weeks after the race and I was ready to start training again, I felt a weird nerve-like pain in my foot and thought maybe things were just a little knocked around from beginning to run again so I went to see my chiropractor, he sent me for an X-ray and next thing I knew I was being told my foot had a stress reaction, not soft tissue damage. To be honest, I did NOT see that coming and that is when I felt like the lights were switched off on me. I could handle the soft tissue idea and I rested well for 3 weeks, but to hear that I should probably take another 3 weeks off—I was devastated. Yes, I am so fortunate to be able to swim and cycle, but my BFF’s (my running shoes) were benched for an undetermined amount of time and that really hit me hard.
This story does have a happy ending and believe it or not I am not even officially cleared to run yet (I am pain free though which is almost as good)! After spending roughly 24 hours being pretty depressed, I had a chat with Lucas (my boyfriend of 8 years who knows me better than anyone in the world) and he pulled me out of my funk by pointing out that there is so much more to my life than running or triathlon. As athletes we all get a little bit “tunnel-vision” about our goals and sometimes it seems that really nothing else matters. What most of us forget is that we are people first and athletes second. What I mean is, when you get to the core of what you’re really passionate about it’s not just your sport—it’s the experience, the challenge of pushing outside of your comfort zone and reaching goals you never thought possible. Injury (at least for runners, triathletes and any other endurance sport I can think of) is part of the experience; it’s a different kind of challenge with a different set of rules, but still part of the game. I challenged myself to find ways (outside of sport) to focus my attention thinking that maybe this change of mindset would actually help me approach training with a fresh perspective when I was healthy again. I focused on school and tried to get a little crafty (thanks to Pinterest). I gave detailed attention to my creativity and guess what—it was FUN! I allowed myself to exercise a different part of my brain and it was a refreshing experience. I feel more relaxed about being injured than I ever thought was possible because I feel that my overall health, both mental and physical is about to be at an all time high— I’m fresh and ready to go in mind and body! So next time the lights go out on you, find your inner sparkle—I dare you :)