This morning, I was glad to run in light rain. It’s been almost five months since I last ran in the woods. Running uphill, I had to take a cue from Jens Voigt and say, “Shut up legs!” Whatever running-specific strength I had is gone.
The stress fracture in my left foot is mended, and I’m gradually getting back into running. Very gradually. Yeah… getting lost on back roads on the bike has been great. And I’ve been happy to see bruins return to Lake Denmark when I roller ski. But I’ve missed running big time.
By June, the doctor and my physical therapist thought the fracture healed and wanted me to gradually get back into it. At first, I resisted: I had major trepidation about aggravating the injury and having to wear one of those walking casts. The first couple of weeks, I ran on aquatic treadmills at the local YMCA. They have treadmills in the pool, with underwater cameras and hooked up to a giant box on the deck. So you’re running in chest-deep water, and you can look at a flat-screen display of your feet and lower legs bounding along. It looks a little like the velociraptor in Jurassic Park. And yes, even when you can look at your feet on TV, treadmill running is still less fun than watching paint dry.
If you’re recovering from an injury, I can’t stress enough the importance of a good physical therapist. Even though I used to be a salesman, trust me on this: there are big variations in PT. The challenge is identifying a therapist who goes beyond the surface – especially if you’re dealing with a reoccurring injury. If they just put a band-aid on it, so to speak, and everything works better and you never need to return to the therapist, that’s fine. But if you keep returning for therapy for the same problem, year after year, there’s something that’s not being addressed.
Quite by accident, I found a place where they not only addressed the injury, but found the reason why my hamstring kept going bad year after year: A weak gluteus medius wasn’t doing its share of work, constantly over-stressing my hamstring. Once the therapist started aggressively treating the root cause of the problem, I was able to run pain-free – at least until my foot started hassling me.
Today, I ran 25 minutes in my usual stomping ground, Hedden Park. That’s a far cry from an appropriate workout, but like I said above, I’m easing my way back. My first running sessions were five, then eight, then 10 minutes on a flat ball field. Running uphill in the woods is hard. A 50-mile race is not in the cards this fall, but I’ll be getting some trail racing in even if I do shorter distances. Looking forward to it.