So it begins.
I finally got the greenlight to take the Aircast off and see how the foot responds to unsupported walking and a moderate dose of running. The second metatarsal on my right foot has been broken since March 6th and I have been in the cast almost as long. That's roughly five months of not running and being largely immobilized from the knee down on my right side.
The break was a good one, and when I say good one, I mean a terrible one. On the list of bone breaks you don't want, it ranks as number three, which is good enough for a podium finish! Compound and spiral fractures are your worst examples, but a comminuted break with displacement is a solid attempt at a worst case scenario. I am nothing if not a hard tryer.
This past week's x-rays show a healing bone with a decent sized callous formed around the original fracture. It's what the doctors called a "delayed union" when the weeks were ticking away and has been the bane of my goddamn existence this season.
Then this happened:
I went out for a run after my last doctor appointment and decided to see where I was, and it turns out I'm not as bad off as I could have been or probably should have been with the layoff and the injury I had. A sub 5-km pace is not something I am going to complain much about after losing almost half a year of training.
It's not the race ready pace I needed this year to find a top five or even a podium finish in my races, but it keeps me in the mix for my age group and is a minor miracle that I am just going to be grateful for at this point. Then I got this text from a friend:
"Your athletic prowess makes me want to quit running. Clearly I'm a shitty runner or whatever I'm doing is totally wrong. "
Which is not something you necessarily want to hear from a friend, but at the same time helps make you feel better about your lot in life as you work the details out for what is going to have to be an epic comeback if there ever was one. Because this journey that is supposed to come to a close in August? It started in December of 2014. Imagine how disappointing it would have been to lose 75 pounds of body weight, regain my running fitness, and improve my cycling abilities only to have it all end six months out from the race I had spent three years trying to get into. Just an epic fail if there ever was one.
But now? I might just make it to the starting line and, if all goes well, the finish line, too. There are certainly no guarantees in life, but still--here I stand at the precipice of a comeback. That, in and of itself, will be a satisfactory conclusion to this multi year plan, closing off the duathlon chapter of my athletic career in what can only be described as the best possible outcome given the challenges along the way.
So. Many. Challenges.
Regardless, I'm close. Which brings us back to my friend's message after he saw my Strava feed. It was never my goal to make anyone feel bad about their abilities, but he had fair and reasonable questions about how I was able to hold some speed after all the setbacks. The only thing I could tell him was "cross training" and lots of it.
I don't keep secrets about my training or diet or supplements or anything; it's all out there for the asking if you really want to know. But does that adequately explain how I did it? Not really, no. I can tell you right now that it really was a matter of a few key things:
1. Cross training.
2. Higher intensities than what I would have normally done in running workouts.
3. A mission.
If you choose to read the linked essays in that top three, there might be some contradictory information, but not much. For the most part? That's how I train around injuries and achieve goals years into the future; I would go as far as to say that it's the only reason I have lasted this long.
I don't consider myself a particularly gifted athlete in any sport, to be honest, but I do know how to problem solve better than almost any person I know. Yes, that sounds arrogant but ask anyone who has ever brought a problem to me and he or she will tell you that I know how to find solutions. It's probably the only reason people keep me around, now that I think about it.
Sports are complex problems. Injuries like broken bones are simple ones. When you realize that best practices can often be applied across several domains, it makes desired outcomes much more achievable. In my case, I needed to maintain my fitness enough that I could still race in August after breaking my foot in March; the complicating factor being time and specificity. Cross training, intensity, and a mission would be the best practices to achieving what I wanted in the first place. Guess what?
They still are.