The Right Way to Deal With Unexpected Injuries

With the flu taking me almost entirely out of commission for two weeks, my build-up to the Tarawera 100-Mile Endurance Run wasn’t exactly perfect. But it was pain-free, which makes any training block damn near perfect to me.

Or, rather, it was pain free until my first day in New Zealand, four days before the race. My feet were swollen from the 24 hours of travel, but I put on my shoes anyway and went out for a little four-mile jog. It wasn’t until I returned to my Airbnb, salty with sweat and seawater from a mid-run ocean plunge, till I noticed the little lump on top of the fourth metatarsal on my right foot.

It hurt when I applied pressure directly on the bump, but not when I ran or walked, so I figured it would be ok. I felt even better after Zac Marion, Doctor of Physical Therapy, encouraged me to race if I could run without pain, despite the suspicious bump.

The foot held up until around mile 40 of the 100-mile race. But six miles into the race, out of nowhere, I felt a very sharp and very deep pain in my opposite hip. Although I was able to run through it and stay on my spits for 20 miles and then hobble for another 20, I stupidly convinced myself I could finish until the pain grew too intense to bear. Eventually I was moving so slowly I began to fight cutoff times. I was forced to DNF.

What I suspect happened is that even though my foot didn’t hurt (or maybe I just convinced myself, it didn’t hurt), I was still so aware that there was an issue that I changed my running form to compensate. And the result was hip pain on the opposite side. My body shut down and literally didn’t allow for another step.

Seven days later and I’m finally walking without a limp. But the fact remains that I’m likely injured. Again. And I don’t know what the injury is. But my big goals for 2020 haven’t changed, so cross-training is inevitable. Here’s how I plan to stay positive in the coming weeks.

Focus on what I can Control

When I’m injured, it’s easy to become emotional and focus only on how I can’t run. Not only is this frustrating, it’s unproductive. Instead of dwelling on my injury and worrying about whether I could run each day, it’s far better to focus on cross-training, core work and executing a rehab plan.

By focusing on what I can do instead of what I can’t, I hope to take some of the mental pressure off and keep motivation high. That way I can keep pushing hard without getting discouraged. Of course, I’ll have up days and down days, but by focusing on what I can control (therapy and cross-training), I can keep my training consistent.

I have important goals coming up soon, so I’ll be going a little heavy with the cross-training, something I wouldn’t do if those goals weren’t looming. Last year, I took the entire winter and most of the spring off due to injury. It’s what I needed to do but it took a toll on my season. While cross-training like a maniac is sometimes appropriate, sometimes it’s not. Look at your situation honestly to determine whether hours in the gym is really necessary for your goals and hope that your next injury falls on or near an offseason.

Don’t Freak Out About Fitness

Taking 10-12 days off from running isn’t going to degrade your fitness as much as you may think.

Sure, I may be able to run faster with the perfect build-up to a race, but I refuse to see my current situation as a disaster. I hope to still capitalize on my previous months of hard work. I could have freaked out about the injury and tried to rush things back or test myself with a challenging workout, but I will try to remain patient and calm, which will result in a better season and a happier Cat.

Focus on Long Term Success

When my coach Adam St. Pierre and I discussed this setback and the impact it may have on my season, we agreed I need to be patient and look past 2020. This year I wanted to win big international races such as Tarawera 100, Lavoredo and CCC, but as he pointed out, getting to the startline and performing at 70% will likely be a good result and a massive improvement to a DNF.

“You feel like you have been patient because you have been racing without the high-level results you are capable of,” he said. “But that isn’t patience. In the last two years, you have been going for big goals under-trained and have been underperforming. Maybe for this year, we set goals like get to Lavaredo start line healthy and finish strong and give you a real chance at actually adapting to a training load.”

Being patient isn’t easy. But he’s right. As athletes, we have to do what’s best for our long-term progression and your personal goals. As tempting as it is, I will not let short-sightedness limit my ability to train consistently. Anymore that is. Here’s to turning a new leaf (and some bicycle pedals)!