New Challenge: Marathon Training While Injured

Back in April, I decided to throw off all my insecurities as a new runner and register for the Chicago Marathon.  Two of my running friends, Courtney and Amber, put a bug in my ear about going, so I jumped on the opportunity.   I was excited and anxious to really train for this marathon and see what I could do.  This would be the perfect race to gauge where I was at as a runner.   When I ran the Bellingham Bay Marathon in September of 2013, my training consisted purely of building mileage.  I did not do any speed work, tempo runs, or interval training until after the marathon.   Amber, Courtney and I worked on our training plans for the race for a solid month prior to the start of our 12 week plan.  We dialed in our plans to get us to our goals.  Our plan was set to start July 21st, the Monday after the Ragnar Relay Race.

My right foot started bugging me at the beginning of July.  I thought maybe it was time to get new shoes because the ball of my foot was irritating me.   I eventually got new shoes and began diligently icing my foot after runs.   Despite my best efforts and my honest state of denial,  it did not improve.  I took three days off of running prior to Ragnar, hoping that would do the trick.  It did not.   After the race, I knew I needed to get it checked out.  The following week I received confirmation – stress fracture in my 4th metatarsal.    The good news is I got an early jump on it.  The bad news is,  I am training for a marathon and I am unable to run.

Internal freak out – commence.

After feeling sorry for myself for a weekend, comforting myself with a little wine and a few tears, I accepted the situation and decided to make the best of this new reality.  It’s been 17 days (but who’s counting??) since I have run, and I am doing my best to settle into this new life of training without running.   I had been averaging 50 mpw for 7+ months, so to suddenly stop has created a series of strange emotions and feelings.

I know that “one day at a time” is an AA saying, but that phrase has been running through my mind daily.  When I start thinking about the all training I am missing – the miles, the tempos, the track workouts, the long runs – my heart rate accelerates like crazy and I feel like I am going to unravel in a full fledged panic attack.  Not to mention all of the fears.  Fear of losing fitness, gaining weight, re-injury, losing sanity, the fear of the unknown, etc.   When those terrifying illusions start gaining momentum, I take a deep breath and remind myself to take today as it is.  What can I control in the situation? I can push myself and give my best in my water workout today and not freak out about the unknown of tomorrow, or October for that matter.

My old gymnastics coach had a big quote on the wall of the gym, and it’s image has resurfaced in my mind.  “Adapt, Migrate or Die.”  I really have three choices with being injured;  Adapt to the situation by making training modifications;  Migrate from the situation (move away, flee or stop progressing); or die.  Die is pretty self explanatory – succumb to the lonely pit of despair, unable to accept that things are not happening as I have so perfectly planned.

I am choosing to adapt to the situation.

I have been hitting up the local aquatic center every morning for deep water running.  I am so glad I hung on to all my old LSU diving suits, I knew they would come in handy again!  The pool offers flotation belts and Amber hooked me up with a bungee cord and her awesome aqua jogger foot booties.   After 2.5 weeks of consistent water running, reading several articles and receiving encouragement from my teammates, I am finally convinced that I am indeed getting a workout.

My old LSU suits!

There are several advantages to water running, and I have to keep reminding myself of that fact.  It’s challenging because the exhaustion and feeling post workout is completely different than after a run.   I realized that I must like the punishment of running.  My exhaustion after a water workout is more of a total body tired.  Below is an example of how I modified my original training plan of 62 miles from last week, to a water running plan:

Monday: 5 minute warm up.  3 sets of 8 x 1:30 hard: 30 seconds easy.   2 minutes easy jog between sets. 5 minutes cool down.  (64 minutes total time).  Light weights in evening.

Tuesday: 5 minute warm up.  1 minute medium effort, 2 minutes tempo, 1 minute sprint, 1 minute easy.  Repeat 10 times.  5 minute cool down. (60 minutes)

Wednesday: 1600/1200/1k/800/600/400/200 cut 1 sec. each (6:20, 4:42, 3:52, 3:04, 2:15, 1:30, :44) This was the original track workout on the schedule.  I mimicked that workout in the water, increasing effort with each split.  5 minute warm up.  Repeated workout 2 times with 1:00 easy jog between each split.  Added 5 x :30 hard effort at the end.  10 minute cool down.  (about 85 minutes total)

Thursday: Ladder workout.  5 minute warm up.  1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy… up to 5 minutes and back down the ladder.  10×1 minute hard effort with 30 seconds recovery.  5 minute cool down. (60 minutes total).  Light weights in evening.

Friday: 5 minutes warm up.  90 seconds medium effort,  2 minute sprint, 90 seconds easy.  Repeat 11 times 5 minute cool down. (65 minutes total time)

Saturday: 10 minute warm up.  45 minutes of straight medium/hard effort (thinking marathon pace), 2 minutes easy recovery.  4×5 minutes at harder effort (half marathon pace),  1 minute easy between.  4×2 minutes hard effort 1 minute easy between. 4x:30 hard effort with 30 seconds between. 10 minute cool down. (120 minutes total).

Sunday: 45 minutes of running in the lake with foot booties but no belt.  (Running without flotation in Lake Washington with seaweed under your feet is… um… interesting).

I almost drowned of boredom one morning, so I thought I would share some of the added benefits I came up with in attempt to keep myself motivated and sane. I have decided to make a list of some of the additional perks of water workouts:
  • No dried salt on the face, arms, etc. post workout.
  • I can put in a hard effort workout each day without risk of further injury.
  • I am getting a much better arm workout and ab workout.  I will be able to pump those suckers the last 3 miles of Chicago like it aint no thang!
  • Water workouts force me to be creative.  This is challenging my ADHD and forcing me to focus… or try to focus… or focus on other people.  Fish out of water! Polo?
  • I get to be inspired by all the people coming to the pool to exercise despite their ailments, size, age and limitations.  I don’t get to see that as often on the road or trails.
  • I have met people at the pool that I would have likely not met.   Who knows where those connections and relationships may lead!
  • My evenings are more open.  I am typically an after work runner, however, it is wise to go to the pool early in the morning unless you want to be bombarded by little children.  My workouts are over by 8:15am.

As different situations and challenges arise in this new training regimen,  I am committed to seek the opportunities to learn and grow.   The truth is, I cannot control or change the facts of the situation.  I can only control how I choose to overcome it.   For now, I will continue to take it one day at a time and do the best that I can today.

Court and Amber got up early to join me for a water workout.! SO helpful having company
Court and Amber got up early to join me for a water workout! SO helpful having company.



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