Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Dreaded Flat Tire

"I get it.  It's like someone has told you that you can't breathe anymore."  A friend told me when she saw me in my walking cast for the first time.  What a relief to hear those words.  Someone actually got it.  Eight weeks ago I was a stronger, more confident and dedicated runner that I've ever been.  It felt amazing.  I was at the top of my game and only four weeks away from running my first 50K trail run.  I had been training for the last four months and was having the time of my life on the trails.  I lived to run.  Then I got injured and my world was turned upside down.

At first I was scared, but hopeful.  The race was four weeks away.  I would only miss one long important run before tapering for the race.  I had weekly visits with a highly skilled ART certified chiropractor who treats Olympian athletes and countless runner in Eugene.  I slept in a night splint that was supposed to help my foot heal.  Not only was it terribly uncomfortable but it also gave me a nasty case of insomnia.  Multi-hour sessions cycling on my stationary bike, swimming and lifting weights would replace my running for the next few weeks.  While far from ideal, this plan would enable me to complete the race that I was so excited about running and had trained so hard for.

As race day approached, my foot continued to hurt despite the fact that I had been following all the doctor's orders and was cross-training, stretching, icing, splinting and giving myself ultra-sound treatments in the bathtub once or twice a day.  Much to my chagrin, my non-injured foot developed tendonitis from having to compensate for the injured foot.  Now both of my feet hurt and they hurt all the time.  It was my heart that really ached.  I felt such an overwhelming sense of grief and loss.  Letting all those four months of hard training pass without my culminating event was just too much to take.  Additionally, I had hotel reservations for two nights, had paid my registration fees, bought my t-shirt and the best hydration pack for the big day.

At the appointment before race day, my typical jovial, chatty doc was quite somber during my treatment.  While my foot was supposedly healing according to my chiropractor, it was in no way ready to take on 31 miles of grueling mountainous trail running. "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being terrible and 10 being wonderful, how good of an idea would it be for me to run this race?"  I asked after he flat tired me.  I was still weighing my options and not ready to give up yet.  "One, maybe a two," he replied.  I was still skeptical.  Doc continued voicing his professional opinion.  "You would be in pain throughout the whole race.  It would be unlikely that you'd be able to finish the race."  The room was spinning, I was fighting back tears at this point but still wasn't ready to throw in the towel.  "After the race, it'd be likely that you wouldn't be able to walk for two weeks.  You would be out of running for the next two to three months.  I am sorry.  I hate flat tiring runners.  If you were one of my athletes at the Olympic Trials, I'd pull you from the race."  How many more ways did this poor guy need to explain to me why I shouldn't run this race? 

This wasn't happening.  It's all a bad dream I thought as I pedaled home on my bike.  What was I going to tell my husband?  What was I going to tell my running partner with whom I had signed up, trained and fretted over race details with?  Not only had I let myself down, I was letting them down.  Over the last few months, I had been so public about my intentions to run this race.  Everyone knew about it.  Suddenly I was terribly embarrassed that I went and got myself injured.  Why did I chose that location?  Why didn't I stick with my beloved soft dry forested Rideline Trail?  Why did I run two miles more than my training plan indicated I should run?  Why did I barrel down that hill?  Why did I wear those shoes?  Why didn't I take an ice bath after that run?  Why didn't I rest after the race rather than go to a social event afterwards?  Why didn't I immediately see a doctor when I found that I couldn't put any weight on that foot the following day?  Why did I throw an end-of-the-year party for my kids' preschool rather than take care of myself?  Why, why, why?  Why me?  Why now?