On my long run last Sunday, I felt a tiny twinge in my left calf/Achilles area. Nothing major; just one of those niggly little pains that shows up sometimes for no good reason and disappears quickly enough. Otherwise I'd had a great run so I barely thought anything of it.
On Tuesday, I had an easy 10 on the schedule. The first bit was fine, but then after two or three miles, I started to feel something in that same calf. You know how it is; I waffled & wavered about whether it was really there, and how bad it was, and whether I was being smart or paranoid by considering cutting the run short.
Mile 4: "Mmmm, yeah, that kinda hurts."
Mile 5: "Yep, still hurts, and now I am five miles from home."
Mile 6: "Yep! Pain! Ow ow ow pain!"
I had my phone so I could have called a cab but to be honest I'm pretty sure no one would have let me in their car at that point. Also, it would definitely feel worse after stopping for a traffic light, but then kind of-sort of feel a little better after a few minutes of running, and I'd find myself thinking, "Ugh, this sucks, but it's not that bad, just ____ more to go." But then every now and then I'd feel a very sharp pain in my Achilles tendon and panic a little. After a while I also noticed that my right knee was starting to hurt (and I don't generally have knee pain).
The bad news is, by the time I got home, I was actively limping. The good news, on the other hand, is that at least after an hour or two of walking around barefoot, it felt about ten times better (but still hurt pretty badly if I tried to stand on the ball of my left foot).
For all but the most charmed of runners, this (some injury that seems to appear out of nowhere) is a thing that sometimes happens. It has certainly happened to me more than once!
And here's the other good news: I have gotten waaaaaay better about how I handle it.
- Angela handling a sudden, debilitating running injury ca.2008: "INJURED WHO'S INJURED LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
- Angela handling same, ca.2011: "But, like, injury's just a state of mind, man. All that matters is whether I feel like I can run 10 miles safely."
- Angela handling same, ca.2014: "I am definitely, definitely injured and cannot even THINK of running and this SUCKS and I hate my body, running, life, the universe, and EVERYTHING. If anyone needs me I will be sobbing under the covers with a bottle of cote d'rhone."
The nice part about becoming older and wiser is that you remember going down all those paths, and also how much they sucked and also did not fix the situation. When all this happened Tuesday night I could sense how easy it would be to let myself fall into the Pit of Despair that running injuries have been for me in the past, especially since this was supposed to be my "peak" week of base training, 50 easy miles before cutting back to add speed & tempo & prep for a September 10K.
But, thankfully, I caught myself falling into that trap & instead tried to react to it the way I know I should react in a race that has taken a crappy turn: "Well, look, this is happening, and throwing a tantrum about it isn't going to make it NOT happen. So let's just accept it and start from there."
I think just getting into that state of mind let me think more rationally and come up with some objective, non-emotionally charged facts, like:
- It isn't even mid-August and my 'A' race isn't until December.
- Trying to run on it every day or every other day "just to see" is almost guaranteed to drag the healing process out even longer.
- A few days or a week or even two weeks of not running will suck a lot psychologically, but it is unlikely to have a huge effect on my race day fitness this far out.
The other thing that's helped, honestly, is having this blog, where I've recorded just about everything that's happened to me running-wise for the last five years. When this first happened, I remember thinking, "Didn't something like this happen to me two years ago in Vancouver? Also, I have a vague memory of something similar happening like five years ago too during the summer. Or was it the other leg?"
Nope; it was the same leg, both times. Not surprising, considering this is the leg my PT was always raising his eyebrows about & constantly cupping & grinding on with various tools, and also the leg where I've had the plantar fasciitis (mostly caused by tight calf muscles, it turns out).
And guess what also definitely happened the first time? The weird right knee pain, which I'd completely forgotten about until I went back and read that blog post. (I'm pretty sure it's some kind of stride/compensation thing.)
The icing on the rational, objective, non-melodramatic cake? Being able to look back at exactly how long each had taken to heal. Both times it seemed like the end of the world (or at least my 'A' race), but in June 2011, the injury apparently happened on a Tuesday & I was back to 6 easy miles the following Monday, and in 2014, the worst of it happened on a Thursday & the following Tuesday I was healthy enough to run a 10 mile track workout.
So. Self, I know you won't like it, but can you handle 4-6 days of taking it easy/cross training?
Answer: Yes. Yes, I can. (Thanks, blog!)
(Update: I wrote this a few days ago and I think it's mostly fine now.)