Oh, so that’s why it hurts!

In my past couple of race reports (for the Aspen Valley Marathon and the Great Cranberry Island Ultramarathon), I’ve talked about having some pretty serious pain in my left leg that had me worried about even starting either of those races. I’ve been pretty fortunate to mostly avoid injuries despite the number of marathons that I do and the number of miles that I run; the only long-term running injury I’ve had since I started running in 2009 was a stress fracture in my right femoral neck (hip). To be fair, that one was pretty serious – I couldn’t run for 8 months – but besides that and the occasional ache or pain, I’ve been very lucky compared to a lot of people I know.

As a result, if I have some type of pain after a run, I don’t usually worry about it. I just assume it will go away. The thought of going to my sports medicine doctor generally does not even occur to me . After my race in Aspen, I basically suspended all running activity before GCI in hopes that my leg would be feeling better before the race. It wasn’t. It probably doesn’t help that my new job requires me to walk around all day (usually I end up with 5-10 miles on any given day), but either way, I was hoping that just not running would be the cure. I was wrong.

My leg hurt so bad in the car on the way to Maine the day before the race that I actually just called and made an appointment with the sports med doctor for the day I would return from my trip. Because it was the last year ever for GCI, I really wanted to do that race before I went to my doctor and potentially was told I wouldn’t be able to run for awhile. When I told my mom I was going to the doctor, she said “Well, that’s nice, but are you actually going to listen to him if he tells you that you can’t run?”

Ugh, my mom always calls me out on stuff.

Good point. I found myself conflicted, because I know myself pretty well. If it was an injury like shin splints or a mild calf strain or something that I could run through while going to physical therapy or something, I would probably end up overdoing it and pushing harder than I should. I’m not very good at doing things in moderation, so if I can run a little, I’m probably going to end up running a lot. However, I also knew that if there was something seriously wrong with my leg and I was risking making it a lot worse or turning it into a permanent injury, then I would not have a problem sitting out for awhile. I actually told my friend Chuck that I kind of hoped it was something “legitimate” so that I would be forced to let myself recover. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but like I said, I know myself pretty well. See, look how mature I am, Mom!

When I went in to see my doctor, I really didn’t know what he would tell me as far as my injury was concerned. What I did know was that I trusted him and his opinion about my recovery. My doctor is a 2:15 marathoner himself and a local legend. After a pretty lengthy exam and some x-rays, I got some pretty surprising news.

I have a broken fibula, stress fracture-style.

Well, that was unexpected.

I honestly did not expect to hear that. I think I was surprised because in addition to the sharp pain I’ve been having on the outside of my leg (the fibula, apparently), I’ve also had some associated soft tissue/muscle pain in my calf, so I think I was expecting more of a soft tissue diagnosis. However, my doctor said the soft tissue issues were a result of my leg working harder to support my fibula and keep it from getting worse.

So of course, I asked my doctor what that means for my running and for the race goals I have coming up. First of all, I get to wear a pretty fashionable fracture boot. I also have to take a month off of running, maybe more depending on how it heals. He was encouraged that I had come in relatively quickly (2.5 weeks after the pain started) and that I had cut my mileage back a lot besides my races, so he said that should help the healing too. That means I’m not running the marathon I had scheduled for August, the E.T. Full Moon Midnight Marathon in Nevada. It also means that I’ll have to adjust my goals a little bit, since I will not be in shape to break 4 hours at Omaha in September. Instead, I’ll start training again after I’ve recovered and shoot to break 4 hours at the Kiawah Island Marathon in December.

My new favorite pastime is matching my boot compression sock to my outfits…sad.

I think my mom thought I was going to jump off a bridge when I found out, but I’m honestly fine with the outcome. I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor if I wasn’t prepared to hear what he had to say, and although I was surprised by the diagnosis, it is what it is. Although I’ll definitely miss running, if there is any month of the year that I wouldn’t mind skipping, it’s definitely August, so there’s that. Plus, I only have to miss one marathon, which really isn’t so bad. I’m able to bike to keep in shape as long as I don’t stand up in the saddle (puts too much pressure on the bone), so I’m rekindling my relationship with Lucille, my bike. He also said I could swim, but I’d honestly rather not work out at all, so no.

This one’s for you, swimmers.

It’s pretty easy to see how this happened, when I think about it objectively. I dramatically increased my training mileage while also increasing the intensity at the same time. I ran extra miles that my coach didn’t assign – sometimes an extra 40 in one month. I’ve never really done speedwork before, so upping the intensity and adding a ton of mileage on top of that probably wasn’t my best move. I guess I just got so excited about the progress I was making that I took it too far and ran more and ran harder than I should have. Meh, I’ll learn some day.

So, I guess that explains why the marathon and the ultra hurt so much. When I told my doctor that I had done those (plus all the walking for work) since the injury, he just laughed. He knows me pretty well and remembered when I did a half marathon with my broken hip and he said “Of course you did! You’re one of the only people I know who could finish a marathon and a 50k on a broken leg.” I don’t know if I’m one of the only people who could, just one of the only people who’s stubborn enough and would.  Some things never change.

37 thoughts on “Oh, so that’s why it hurts!

  1. I’m sorry about your diagnosis! I received word of a calcaneal stress fracture in April and was off April, May, and June. I was able to bike and swim and kept in shape, and now I’m slowly getting back into running. The time actually flew by! It’ll be done before you know it. And I’m sure you’re at least a little happy to know what the pain is. For me it was a relief to get a diagnosis and a plan after a few doctor visits.

    1. Definitely! I was actually surprised to get an answer so quickly. I figured I would need more tests and stuff and it b would take awhile. Answers are a good thing!

  2. So sorry to hear about your injury. I’m fighting some aches and pains as I head to Chicago. Got a good doctor and massage therapist on my team. Let me know if you’d like a injured runner care package. Email me your address if you’d like something to cheer you up. Hugs!

  3. Of course you are stubborn! It’s a Garling family trait FYI 🙂 So you won’t need surgery? just the boot? I have a sprained ankle and have a brace that I wear daily. If I don’t it hurts and jeanie doesn’t do pain. I have a nameless purple bike. Not sure where it is at the moment maybe dad and karen’s? How is the new job going? loving it?

  4. The boot of shame!!! 🙂 Not really sure why people call it that – it means you actually got it taken care of.

    Honestly I think it is awesome matching compression socks to outfits. Actually, badass is a better word. If anyone says anything you can tell them you handpicked the color or the boot you’re going to land in their butt! 🙂 Good luck with a speedy (but safe) recovery!

  5. I wonder if you could pool run? I hear it is very good for injured runners. Maybe too much pressure on your bone, but my cousin kept training for a marathon through an injury by pool running? Take care of yourself! It sounds like you have a great attitude going in to recovery!

    1. Pool running is supposed to be really great! But I hate pools. And it seems so boring. So I guess it’s the bike for me!

  6. Sorry about your injury and sorry to be missing you at ET. Two years ago I had a stress fracture in my tibia. I took 10 weeks off running and probably started up again too soon, but I had a race schedule to keep. To keep up my training, I did water running in the deep end of the pool with a flotation belt. Zero impact, and it kept the same muscles in shape, so it was better than cross training. The injury still “acts up” sometimes. I’ve tried acupuncture and I always wear compression socks for running, even short distances. Don’t be afraid to tackle your injury from multiple angles. Check into alternative therapies. You’ll bounce back. See you in Omaha!

    1. Thank you for the tips! I get so hot in compression socks but I might need to start running in them. Ugh, is it winter yet?

  7. Oh wow! I’ve been there!! Had a stress fx of my foot 18 mos ago. Then a partial tear of the hamstring this year. Over 30 years of running those were my worst injuries. But, I’ve discovered that I do come back stronger for the rest… Hang in there!!

  8. What a bummer! Though it sounds like you took care of this pretty quickly and a month in the boot doesn’t sound too bad. Way better than 8 months recovery, right?

    Sorry you are missing some races though but I’m sure there will be more chances for cool races !

    Sending you “heal quickly” vibes!

    1. Definitely way better than 8 months off, and there’s always more cool races. I bet there are cool races in the Netherlands…:)

  9. Oh my gosh! Sorry about the leg, but at least you went to the doctor early instead of ignoring it for longer, like a lot of people I know would have. Heal quickly!

  10. Well at least you didn’t let it linger for months before seeing the doc. 🙂 Glad you are getting it taken care of..so what are you going to find to fill up your day..fly fishing…stamp collecting….rest up and get well!

  11. Woof. I am glad you are only out for a month. I have been patiently waiting for the 3 month post op mark so I can beg my dr to let me start running (acl, boo hiss). A month isn’t the end of the world but it does suck so way to keep a positive attitude. It really does make all the difference.

  12. I’m glad you finally figured it out. Hope you recover soon. Come swim at the apartment an/or lake, bc you know you really want to. 🙂 miss youuuuuu

  13. OHHHHHHHHHH this sucks. I have been wondering what your DX would be – because a few weeks ago I had similar symptoms and ended up with a fibula stress fracture and calf tendinitis. So I was really hoping yours would be something else…..and yes the swimming DOES suck, and I don’t get aqua jogging, and biking doesn’t do it. Be careful with the boot of shame – it will throw your back out if you aren’t careful. Oh yeah – and my PT guy thinks it was speedwork that tipped me over too.

    1. Oh the boot of shame could very easily throw my back out! I have determined that I have no shoes that are the correct height to match the boot so I’m walking with a limp anyway. Seems kind of counterproductive!

      1. I found the Dansko clogs were pretty close. I was told to STAY away from those skecher thingies – that they will really jack up your back.

  14. Yikes! One of my biggest running-related fears is getting some sort of stress fracture and having to sit out a month or two. You are handling this way better than I imagine I ever could 🙂 I gotta say I’m pretty impressed you completed an ultra marathon with a broken leg! Congrats on the ultra! I was without internet for almost a week and am just catching up and this is what I come back to. Heal quickly!

  15. OH MY GOODNESS! No wonder you were in pain! I’m sending you lots of quick healing vibes and like you said, August is a pretty good month to have off from training.

    Did you hear about Eugene getting moved to July??? ACK!! Any idea of what Oregon race you will do or are you still planning on that one at the later scheduled date?

  16. Just catching up on your blog. I shut out everything about running as I have had my own injury and felt too sad that I couldn’t be running too. I’ve also had the dreaded boot for a torn ligament. Similar response from my Physio…a ‘normal’ person would have stopped in the race instead of pushing through the pain barrier – silly ex-athlete. I haven’t run since mid May:( hope you are better soon!

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