Brace yourselves, I have so much going on in my brain today that this may be a very, very long entry.
First things first. I followed up with a doctor, who listened to my encyclopedia of symptoms, examined my xray, and was able to give me my first definitive answer in almost 6 weeks.
I have been hobbling around due to the f-word. Not THAT f-word, the nastier one - FRACTURE. On the tibia, right under the kneecap. Crack.
However, there is good news. First of all, it makes sense. The diagnosis came with a bit of relief (ok, not gonna lie, AFTER I bawled my eyes out) because I knew this had gone on too long, with too little relief even though I'd done everything in theory that should relieve a calf strain. I'll be 100% honest here, I have suspected a stress fracture for a while now. I put it out of my head at first because according to my research, a fracture that high up seemed to be pretty rare. The spot that hurt (the one spot where I had a pinpoint pain) was the same exact spot that hurts due to patellar tendonitis. Therefore, I chalked it up to PT, even though my wonderful knee strap not only did NOT alleviate it, it made it hurt worse. (Well, no wonder. I was putting a tight strap right over a fracture. Ow ow ow.)
I did put the thought out of my head, because the onset certainly didn't point to fracture, but over the last few weeks, the recovery has been eerily reminiscent of the stress reaction a year ago. No pain, but the same weakness, the same fatigue, the same general "wtf, my leg doesn't work" feeling, and oh yeah, I couldn't hop on it. So yeah, I can't say I'm surprised.
The good news is that I feel pretty hopeful that it'll be better soon. I'm already walking much, much, much better. No limp. I catch myself unintentionally speed-walking and jumping around a little. It doesn't hurt during, or after, walking around for a while (or doing yardwork, which I've been doing alllll week.) NO issues with any activities other than running. I have a feeling - and it's rooted in experience - that I can try some running soon. I want to see how the 5k group goes on Monday, and then I'll be able to gauge my recovery a little better.
Yeah, I'm still coaching. I moved from coaching run/walkers to coaching walkers, and the walkers are an, errr, older crowd than myself! For a while I could barely even keep up with them. We walk on some HILLS. However, the doctor said that I can continue to walk with them. I think it's even been helping my recovery in some strange way.
After talking to a physical therapist, and the trainer/massage/ART guy who's been working knot after knot out of my leg muscles, I've come to the conclusion that I really, really need to fix my lower half. Since I was a kid, I've been knock-kneed and pigeon-toed and have weak arches. Orthotics can keep my arches in the right place, but they can't do anything about the fact that my entire lower leg up to my hip rotates inward. It's gotten better in adulthood - as a kid I would literally trip over my own feet at times - but it's still there. I can turn my feet inward so they almost face behind me (was one of my favorite "gross everyone out" tricks in high school), and I can barely turn them out at all. It's obviously not good at all for everything below my knee. As for the arches, I want to strengthen them rather than relying on orthotics.
It's going to take some time but I'm amassing a variety of exercises - core exercises, hip flexor exercises, glute exercises, resistance band exercises, foot exercises - that I hope will strengthen everything that keeps normal people's legs and feet pointed forward. I have a goal to do at least something every day to address my crazy legs. I'm starting to self-correct when I walk, when I stand, when I do yoga, when I sit. 30 years of default posturing that I can hopefully undo.
I will take any tips and tricks that ya'll have got. This is GOING to go away, and with it, my insane injury prone-ness.
The other thing I'm working on is that, in the wake of this injury, my mental well-being collapsed faster than my arches. I won't lie. I've battled depression and anxiety in my life and they came back with a vengeance when I stopped running. Trouble sleeping, headaches, craptastic eating habits, irritability, went through the motions of doing my job and got insanely far behind on everything and I didn't care. I could cry or get insanely pissed off at little things. I KNEW that if I could go that crazy because I couldn't run, that meant that running had taken on way too big of a role in my life, but I didn't know how to fix it. Heck, the only thing that would clear my head enough to allow me to reprioritize would've been a good run.
I'm fixing it. Aforementioned massage guy, who works with lots and lots of crazy runners, said something to me the other day that pretty much smacked me in the head. He said (and I can't remember, so I'll paraphrase) that I need to start running as just one thing that I do, not because I'm a runner, but because I'm a healthy person who likes exercise and values being fit. It may be my favorite, but it's not the only thing in my life and it will no longer be the thread that holds my sanity together. He's right. I don't know how it got to that point - holy crap, probably millions of times I've thought back to when I intensely hated the very idea of running, and wondered how the heck I could evolve into a creature so dependent on it. But that's done. Running is a part of the whole picture. Running is something I enjoy. And it's turned into this ugly monster that is fueled by numbers and desperate fights for PR's and training plans. Not that any of those things are bad - they're great in their place. But for me and my brain, running has become much more of a big deal than it should be. It's turned into an obsession that didn't feel unhealthy at all until it was gone and I probably would've sold my soul to the devil for a good 15-miler.
So I've made a conscious mindset shift, and it's going well. I'm no longer obsessing about following the IM training plan. Of course I'm still working out and (at least the swimming and biking) as if it's my goal, and using the training plan as a guide, but it's become a more fun, less obsessive and desperate, more logical pursuit. My goal is no longer "complete 140.6 in the best shape and best time possible", it's "I will work on becoming stronger, more fit and healthy, and in four months, I will be fit and healthy enough to complete a 140.6 mile triathlon." And I'm feeling much better about everything, even not running. I still love biking. I don't love swimming yet, but I like the master swim group so I'll keep going. Every workout is making me a healthier person, and THAT is a goal that makes me happier than trying to be faster and able to cover a certain distance. And some days NOT working out and NOT running and NOT following the training plan will make me healthier in some way, and I'll do that too. Health is not just physical, peeps.
Not to mention, a big part of the reason I do all this craziness is because I know that exercise is GOOD for my mental health. I'm going to keep it in the place in my life where it stays that way.