Red Line

As anyone who has ever trained as a distance runner on any level knows, injuries are almost an inevitable part of the process. When someone is trying to push themselves to that next level it is often a difficult balancing act between what you want to do in training and what your body allows you to do in training. Most of the time your body will win that battle! I have often heard the analogy of the ‘red line’ where on one side of the line is health and the other side of the line is injury. My goal as a professional runner is to train as close to that red line as possible without getting injured. That is a very tricky process because while running at ZAP, as I’m sure my teammates can attest, you want to train as much as is physically possible in order to progress in fitness.

After enduring a frustrating spring track season that saw NO track races due to some minor injuries, I had slowly worked myself back to a good level of fitness this fall. Pete and I decided the most important thing for me, and ANY runner for that matter, was to get steady consistent mileage and not worry too much about doing any specific workouts. Oddly enough, over the next 16 weeks I was able to put in mileage between 95 and 105 miles every week with a few workouts sprinkled in. Despite that good block of training, I still was unsure whether I was in any type of racing shape but decided to jump in the Applefest 4 miler in lovely Erwin, TN. I surprised myself (and Pete and Ryan for that matter) by running 18:53 on a decently hilly course. Applefest has been a constant for many ZAP athletes as they build up in the fall. Only current ZAP athlete David Jankowski had run faster on that course (18:51) so I was very pleased and excited about the remainder of my fall season.

It was decided shortly thereafter that I would run a track 10k in Bloomington, IN with Jankowski, Landon, Chris, and Cameron. Again, I still didn’t think I was fit to step onto the track but Pete and Ryan insisted that my fitness was right where it needed to be for a big PR and a potential sub 28:40 performance. It also didn’t hurt completing a classic Pete Rea 10k prep workout with ease at the greenway in Boone (Chris and I did 7x1k with 70 seconds rest, 4 on grass, 3 on pavement, grass k’s were run between 2:54 and 2:52, pavement k’s were run between 2:50 and 2:48 with our heart rates never going over 160 beats per minute).

As the race started Landon assumed his pacing duties and took Chris and I through 5k exactly as instructed (14:23ish) and it felt really smooth. The next few laps after halfway Landon ratcheted down the pace maybe half a second per lap and we were starting to get really get after it. Then IT happened. I cannot exactly remember which lap it was but as I crossed the start/finish line with roughly 9 laps to go I felt/heard a loud pop in my left foot. Initially I thought the spike plate broke on my shoe but soon after realized it was something much worse. I clearly remember cursing loudly as I soon came to the conclusion over the next half lap that I had torn my plantar fascia tendon. I ran by Ryan on the back stretch the next lap and told him what happened. It was an odd moment because I was now nearly 17 laps into a 25 lap track race and I was able to speak in full sentences about my health! I was feeling very strong yet quickly realized that making it 8 laps was nearly impossible on my foot. I limped another 400-600 meters and then called it quits with 6 laps to go. It was a very frustrating moment because Chris then finished his race alone in 28:41. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy for him but it was truly a bittersweet night. Who knows whether I would have been there with him but I also know how controlled I felt when the tear occurred.

Ten minutes after I had dropped out of the race I could barely walk and ten minutes after that I could NOT walk. The next day as we made our journey back to Blowing Rock I was chauffeured around various airports by Cameron in a wheelchair. I must say that everyone I came across that day was very accommodating to my crippled state. Over the next week I confirmed through an MRI that I had in fact torn my plantar fascia tendon and I would be out for a significant amount of time. Every person I saw told me various lengths of time for recovery but roughly 6 to 9 weeks out would be considered a fairly quick comeback. But a silver lining to this injury is that once you tear the plantar fascia tendon it heals longer and you should never have problems again.

Currently it has been almost 7 weeks from the date of the injury (45 days to be exact!) and it is getting better every week. I have been able to run outside sparingly over the past 3 weeks but I think I am still a few weeks away from truly being back. (At the end of this post I list out what my recovery has been like over the last few weeks so people can get an idea of how I’ve progressed.) The one truly difficult part of this injury has been its timing. Everyone is in Tallahassee right now and I am at ZAP all alone every day. Zika and Ryan have been in and out of the office but other than that I have been solo. ZAP is a quiet place when 10 athletes are around so imagine what it is like with no one around! It has been a rough couple of months but I am fully confident in being fit for the spring track season and making a push to the Olympic Trials in the 10k. I will attempt to ride that red line all the way to Eugene!

Week 1: on crutches, in walking boot, no rehab at all, swollen and bruised

Week 2: no crutches, in walking boot, light elliptical (1hr a day), still very sore and swollen

Week 3: no walking boot, elliptical everyday between 1hr30min and 2hrs between 2 sessions, sore

Week 4: elliptical 2hr per day, first use of Alter G, 30 min @ 50% body weight, first outside run 10min!

Week 5: elliptical 2hr every day, Alter G 30min @75% every day, 2 outside runs for 30min

Week 6: elliptical every day, Alter G 35min @70-75% everyday, 3 outside runs for 40min