I am a road runner but ALWAYS running against traffic and ALWAYS on the side of the road. However, I will transition to the sidewalk if a car is heading precariously close to me, on an extremely busy roadway, or early in the morning when I am not yet awake and can’t be bothered to move out of the way for an oncoming car.
Although they are much safer to run on than in the middle of the road – sidewalks- are never flat. From cracks to divots to uneven pavers – runners might be safer from cars but must, I think, be more vigilant because one mis-step can mean the difference between taking that next step or heading for a faceplant.
And that’s what happened to me – one morning in early April. I was warming up for my upcoming track workout – less than a month from the New Jersey Marathon. Training was going good, great even. I was hitting my paces, my mileage was in the high 50MPW range, and my coach had just “dropped” my workout paces. I was flying!
I had parked at the High School before dawn and headed out for my warm up. Heading back to the track, I transitioned to the sidewalk, on a route I knew the ins and outs of. BUT that morning instead of putting one foot in front of the other, I hit a raised portion of the sidewalk and tumbled forward.
I did not hit the pavement and after a quick “is anything broken assesment”, I brushed myself off and headed to the track because there was a workout to do and miles to record!. The workout went “ok” but my left hip started to give me problems toward the end of the workout – it felt tight and “off”. I chalked it up to the end of the training cycle and normal training aches. I self-diagnosed my injury to be a hip flexor strain.
It was a little over 3 weeks from the NJ Marathon so coach and I decided to play it safe and get to the start line healthy – run easy and let it heal. During that time I did everything I could to relieve the pain and discomfort I was feeling – chiropractor, stretching, icing, heat, massage, and a lot of praying. I don’t think I really let on how much my hip was bothering me.
The confidence that I had for my entire training cycle was disintegrating before my eyes BUT I carried on. I worked too long and no one (not even a pesky hip flexor strain) was going to derail my plans.
I headed down to NJ for packet pickup and headed back to my room to rest, praying to the running gods that my hip would stay together. The morning of the race I KT taped my left hip to one inch of my life as well as smothered it with Biofreeze and Icy Hot.
The plan was to head out and run 8:30s for the first ½ and then increase the pace for the 2nd half. I lined up with the 8:30 pacers and was pretty happy when they actually held their pace. With the exception of some minor shin tightness during the first couple of miles I settled in behind the pacers.
I won’t bore you dear readers with a mile by mile description, but it was at mile 20 that it all went to pot. That stretch of the course was a mixture of tyvek and wooden boards – basically the course was on a board walk. It was a momentary lapse in thinking and looking where I was going. One minute I was heading toward the finish line – the next I literally did a “stop drop and roll”. My left foot struck a raised portion of “old boardwalk” which was my demise. My calves which were on the cusp of developing charlie horses seized up, locked up and I was in excruciating pain. I was lucky that two runners helped me too my feet and I started back toward Mark and the finish line.
It took all I could muster to finish – my plan to run a sub 3:40 disappeared before my eyes, especially when the 3:45 and 3:50 pacing groups passed me. All those weeks and months of training, gone. Those last miles, running by myself were very lonely and I spiraled into a pit of despair. Crossing the finish line I was spent, emotionally and physically. I felt disappointed in myself, felt I let down my coach, my husband and all those rooting for me. It was the first time after a race that I cried and felt dejected. I was so glad that Mark was there because he enveloped me in a hug and lead me away from the finish line. I hobbled back to car and ultimately home to lick my wounds.
This was my fifth marathon – so I knew the soreness that comes afterwards but what I was not expecting was that the soreness in my left hip never decreased and a deep burning sensation developed. My hip started “catching” , “clicking” and almost every time I stood up, a shooting pain enveloped my hip. I ended up taking a week off BUT started running the next week because I was to Runner #3 in Ragnar Cape Cod the next weekend.
Ragnar in itself is tough but as part of an Ultra team – I ran 6 legs instead of the “normal” 3. Again a combination of BioFreeze, KT Tape, Motrin, and lots of laughs got me through the race but afterwards I knew I needed to find out what was really going on – I had idea but I did not want to admit it to myself.
After looking for recommendations on Facebook I saw an orthopedist at Orthopedic Associates of Hartford. After an x ray and a description of my symptoms I was basically told I had a tear, to let him know when I wanted to have surgery and (only after my insistence) given a prescription for PT. He seemed very flip about the entire thing and I left feeling dejected but at least I could start PT.
I went to Select Physical Therapy in Newington and saw Bill, whom I have seen for several years and trust. He basically told me the same thing as the orthopedist said, adding that if I had a strain I would be able to palpate the source, and when I pressed on it, the pain and discomfort would cease. He gave me some #Realtalk and said that with a tear I could manage it by running less but that with a tear it would never heal. He said some days would be better but some days would be worse. In our conversation I told him that I needed to see the tear – that until I had physical proof I would be in denial.
I was fortunate that he knew of an orthopedist (and runner) that specializes in hips who would see me. After my appointment I was referred for an MRI arthrogram where they shot dye into my hip to get a better picture of what was going on.
I grabbed a CD of my results on my way out and as soon as I got home I compared my results to what I found on Google. My detective work, the report that I got from Jefferson Radiology and my follow up confirmed my worst fear – I had a “degeneration, fraying, and small superimposed tear involving the anterosuperior labrum”.
My doctor and I decided to try a guided steroid injection to see if it would stop the inflammation. It would not heal the tear but the doctor (and my research) had shown that it helped many with my ailment, even long distance runners.
I sailed through the injection and after the anesthesia wore off I was left with a hip that felt “normal”. No clicking, no catching and full range of motion. I had to give it a week of rest to make sure that the steroid had a chance to “do its job”. The first day back – I rode the bike and the next day I tried a 20 minute run. I felt like baby deer but I was back running and my hip felt great. I even considered signing up for a fall half marathon.
I had a couple of more “great” runs before I started to notice a faint but familiar feeling – burning, soreness, a shortened stride, and decreased range of motion. Granted I could still run – and my paces were not horrible but when I tried to increase my speed (i.e. lift my leg or lengthen my stride) it was no brueno.
Frustrated and three weeks after my injection – Mark and I headed back where I shared the news with my doctor. The prognosis – live with this, stop running, or surgery.
I had been so gung-ho in the beginning to do anything to fix my hip, but now when faced with the prognosis of surgery, I wavered at my decision. Leaving the doctor’s office – Mark and I talked and he ultimately said that I had been depressed since NJ (true) and I love running (true) so the only option was to have surgery.
So – August 3rd I will be undergoing an arthroscopy procedure to repair my labrum. From there I will be on crutches for probably 4 weeks and at the end of the day – won’t be running until the late, late Fall. Until then my new focus and “training” plan will be recovery and rehabilitation.
Until then, you guessed it, I have still been running – just not a lot. 3-4.5 miles is my limit and with every step I feel the pain and soreness that reverberates up and through my left hip. Some days feels better than others but the bad days at this point out weigh the good. And trying to run with “speed” – ouch.
I feel so out of the loop – my Facebook feed is “throwing up” running posts of my friends and my “memories” of what I was doing just a year ago. So I continue to slog some miles because after August 3rd – that will stop.
People have asked why August – I mean the weather is nice I spend the time outside and get the surgery when the weather is crappy. BUT I want to be (hopefully) running by the end of this year and maybe (possibly) get into some type of training cycle at the beginning of 2018.
See – that’s how much running means to me. Even being injured I am still planning my return.
What will be interesting is that for at least a couple of weeks I am going to be totally inactive AND reliant on someone else (Mark) to take care of me – it’s a hard pill to swallow but a necessary evil.
So – that’s the long and the short of it.
In scouring the web and running message boards, I have read about both the good and the bad of having surgery. What I have not really found, with the exception of one blog, is an account of the surgery and recovery from a torn hip labrum from the perspective of a runner.
I am planning on writing about my recovery (the good, the bad, and the hopefully not ugly) because my hope is that what I am going through will help someone else in the future.
So although I am not “moving forward” the rest of the year as I had hoped, I plan on dedicating as much time to recovery as I do to training.