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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

But, why?

I'm feeling a little "Why me?" today, as my husband recovers from a half marathon he ran all by his lonesome on Sunday while I sat at home and sulked. Really, why did I end up with a stress fracture?

The fracture is in my second metatarsal, and I can pinpoint exactly where: not only did it swell and bruise right over the spot, it is incredibly painful to the touch, to the point that I'll see stars if I press on it (I don't sit around pressing on it for fun, that was just diagnostic). This is a common site of stress fractures in the feet, and are especially vulnerable in runners with bunions, which I have.

Honestly, I don't know how I could have prevented this fracture except by modifying my training plan. It's not due to bone density problems. If you've been reading forever, you may recall the really cool DEXA scan I got for free back when I had my last stress fracture. My bone density looked excellent, and I doubt that in a few years it made a sudden and unprovoked swing into osteopenia territory. Plus, I am not in a risk category for fractures due to bone mineral loss. I am not post-menopausal, I am not underweight or overweight, I eat a healthy diet, and I even take a supplement called "Bone-up"!
All this goodness, every single day.

I eat generally quite well: I like to cook, and almost everything we eat is from scratch, with very few processed foods (except I do love spicy chips and cheese crackers as a snack, but we're talking on top of healthy foods, not instead of). We have a lot of raw fruits and vegetables in our diet, plus cooked vegetables twice a day as well. We probably eat an average amount of meat. It's rarely the focal point of the meal, a holdover from my hungry and miserable vegetarian childhood, but I think I get enough to have all the main nutrients in abundant supply. I've never had blood work that revealed any sort of nutritional deficiency.

During this training cycle, I did try to do all the "little things" - stretch, strengthen, foam roll on occasion. Before each run I did my hip exercises, and after each run I either stretched or fit in one of Coach Jay Johnson's post-run routines (per our group coach, we were supposed to do these every day, but they are time-consuming). I did a weights routine once or twice a week and core once or twice a week. I definitely could have done better, especially in the post-run routine category, but I did more than I usually do. The one thing I didn't do well on was recovery, especially sleep. I've been extremely busy this fall, and I started sleeping less and less. I never get a lot of sleep - six hours is fine for me, over seven and I'd feel groggy and ill - but now I was maxing out at five. Weirdly, I wasn't tired at all, and in retrospect that might have been the cortisol talking: I could have been producing a lot of cortisol in response to stress, maybe due to overtraining. That could negatively impact bone strength, too, but all of this is just guesswork.

The point is, the only reason I fractured my foot was good old fashioned overuse. I ran too many miles, too fast, too soon for my body. I loved every minute of the process, but it was more than I could handle. I don't regret it, though. Sometimes you have to push your body to find out your limits: limits of ability, and limits of strength. I guess I found my break-down point, but in the process I ran several PRs and felt progress for the first time in years, since before I had my hip surgeries. I might feel different a few weeks from now when I'm itching to run and bored out of my mind, but for now, I don't regret a thing.


  1. I think this is really wise post and a good example that you can do the "right things" and still get hurt. I've said that for several of my recent injuries- I've always been diligent about yoga (my chosen form of cross training) and taking a day off running each week. I wasn't a slave to the Garmin and I tried to get enough sleep and eat healthy- but I eat dessert every day.

    Sometimes, shit happens. Also, I think I read this in another blog once, but I wonder about those who NEVER get injured. If you push yourself enough, it's bound to happen eventually and I wonder if they push themselves. Every time I have been hurt, I have felt like I was on the verge of a big breathrough or PR too... it's like a fine line we tread as athletes :(.

    Still wishing you a speedy recovery and so sorry your season had to end this way. I'm glad you don't have regrets, but it's still tough to be sitting on the sidelines.

  2. Ugh, I feel so bad for you and I can totally relate because I also feel like I do all the right things and yet I have a stupid autoimmune disease that has been incredibly hard to treat during pregnancy and now I have gestational diabetes. I eat way healthier than the average person so I have had a lot of 'why me' moping moments lately.

    I hope that your stress fracture heals soon and you can get back to doing what you love. It's just frustrating to look at what you've done and not see a reason for the injury you have. That's how I am feeling now that I'm testing my blood sugars. I eat exactly what I am supposed to eat and then I get a high glucose and I cry because I don't know what I did wrong. :(

  3. Why was your childhood hungry and miserable? I've been a vegetarian for decades without being hungry or miserable, so I'm guessing it was something about the implementation....

    1. Definitely the implementation! Plus vegetarianism is much more challenging for growing children than adults.

  4. I agree with everything you wrote, especially your last paragraph. If you've never been injured, you're not training hard enough. (similarly, if you've never blown up, you're not racing hard enough).

    I am selfishly bummed, since I was hoping to meet you at Houston.

  5. This is definitely a learning experience. You really don't know how much is too much unless you try. As runners, we are always trying to find that optimal balance between stressing ourselves to our limits and going beyond our limits. I, like Cris, was hoping to meet you in Houston. I assume you aren't going anymore?

  6. The veg childhood comment made me chuckle, didn't know you'd been a vegetarian growing up. I've got a bunch of veg friends (some who started around the same time as me), but only 1 raising her daughter veg -- no idea if she plans it to be permanent or what, her daughter's only about 1.5 now.