This is long so... here are the takeaways:
(-don't ignore what you think may be a stress fracture, - find a good doctor/physio, -use the downtime to work on weaknesses, -don't take your eyes off your competition in a bike race!)
As many of our readers know, I injured my foot almost two months ago and was forced to miss the last 5 or so races of the year. This was a huge disappointment for me, but in a way it was a relief because I finally got a diagnosis for my foot (a sizable first metatarsal stress fracture - thanks to Dr. Aurelia Nattiv and her persistent investigation). It helped to explain why my running has been so off this year. It turns out I ran on a stress fracture for most of my races and through some very hard run workouts. I never really felt like myself and I just couldn't place it. I just continued to follow my workout plan and actually had some great track workouts (400m repeats that would put me on track for a 35-6 10k). But, then an hour easy run felt terrible. I couldn't explain it. Things started to get ugly in the Maine race and then running a a mile through the airport to catch the plane to Hy-Vee made matters worse. I got to Des Moines and hid in my hotel room icing my foot all weekend before the race. The outcome: I was nowhere near my top-10 goal and placed 19th. I ended up in the med tent with nauseating pain in my foot and a small paycheck.
I do have some thoughts about how I could have handled the situation differently, but once I realized what had to be done in order to get better I focused on that. First off, I had to wear an air cast/boot on my left foot for 6 weeks to immobilize my toe. Then I had to find someone to help me with rehab. THANK YOU to Darwin Fogt at Evolution Fitness for taking me under his wing. I approached him and told him I was looking for the west coast version of Carolyn Mazur at FUSION PT - a compassionate yet tough physiotherapist and trainer. Without hesitation (or even knowing me!), he said he would help me return to world-class form. I am so grateful for his support and he has guided me so far up to 2 runs a week on the alter-g treadmill. I highly recommend Evolution Fitness to anyone who needs a physical therapist or place to rehabilitate an injury.
With Darwin helping my running, Dr. Nattiv keeping me in the boot, and Sara from Sidi providing me with bike shoes that actually fit, I decided to focus on building a cycling and swimming base and a strong core. I rode many hours on the trainer (3.5 seasons of Pretty Little Liars I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit) and have been swimming 5k at least 4 days a week. I also started doing a core class at Evolution and spending 30 mins a day on strength exercises. It has been somewhat shocking to me to see the consistency pay off. I am swimming faster than I have since college swimming at GW in swim practice (one recent practice I swam a :57 100 freestyle from a push, today a 5:30 500 at the end of a 5k swim seemed easyish). I have also seen my power output on the bike dramatically increase. I started being able to hold watts in the 225-35 range (I'm 111 pounds) for the entire episode of PLL (no commercials on Netflix!). I am fully aware that fast times in practice IS NOT winning a race. I know more than anyone this year that it doesn't mean much if you can't execute on race day. I'm only pointing out the details to show that by reevaluating your approach it is possilbe to keep improving when you are down and out with an injury. Without the stress and worry about why I wasn't running fast I have been able to put that energy into improving my weaknesses. I may be disappointed (and have a smaller account balance) as a result of missing the end of the year races, but I am very encouraged for next season.
And, in the meantime, I entered a bike race (a timed 8 mile hill climb) and placed 2nd. I'm giving myself first place for the non-drafting race though- I didn't realize it was legal to ride up with guys. Next time. I am hoping to find another hill climb race and am planning to do a bike race in January. Who knows, maybe even a swim meet!
Thanks for reading,