Flying Pig 2015

Flying Pig 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Marcie: Coping With Injury Via the Five Stages of Grief

I decided to start featuring guest bloggers and Marcie is my first! You guys, this is a great story of Marcie's innermost feelings about her recent injury. Please keep in mind how brave it is of her to share her story and to be vulnerable about something that feels so personal.
 
Most of us are familiar with the stages of grief. Marcie chose to tell us about her recent injury through these different stages. Even if you aren't an athlete, you can relate to this in some form.
 
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In the words of Marcie:
 
Most of us have heard of the stages of grief, which many go through when they experience the loss of a loved on.  I recently read an article which highlighted the five stages of grief that a runner goes through when injured.  http://www.active.com/running/articles/how-to-cope-with-the-5-stages-of-injury-grief The article resonated greatly with me, as I am just coming off of a seven-week hiatus from running due to a stress fracture. 
Stage 1: Denial
Many runners can feel an injury coming on.  We all have tweaks and little things that bother us, but typically we just run through them, icing and foam rolling as needed.  I’m very in tune with my body, and I can honestly say I did not feel a thing prior to that fateful morning when I literally had to stop dead in the middle of a 7-mile tempo run.  I knew it definitely wasn’t a good thing that I’d had to stop, but after a few minutes of sitting on the sidewalk with my friend Allison massaging my calf and my other friends looking on worriedly, I figured I’d be fine to finish up the run.  After all, we only had about 1.5 more miles, and the last mile of that was going to be a cool down.
Not so much… after a step or two, I realized that there was no way I was going to run back to our cars.  In fact, I couldn’t even walk.  Thankfully, my friends went to get a car to pick me up, and Dani stayed with me as I unsuccessfully attempted to limp back.  All the while, a little clock started to tick in my head.  Tick-tock, tick-tock, your marathon is in 27 days, Marcie… I refused to let the clock bother me, though.  I just knew I’d be able to run. I mean, I’d trained all winter for this race; there was no way that I’d have to sit it out.
I saw a doctor (not my normal sports med doc, but another in the same practice) that day, and was told all was good—just a little tendonitis.  Rest a couple of days, you’ll be back on the road by the weekend.  I allowed his words to push me deeper into denial.  I was going to run the Glass City Marathon on April 26.  I was going to BQ.  It’s all good, I convinced myself, even as that little voice in the back of my head started to argue with me that maybe it WASN’T all good. I plugged my ears to the voice and the clock ticking away, and stayed focused on forgetting about the fact that I couldn’t even put weight on my leg over 36 hours after the injury occurred.
Stage 2: Anger
From the article: “’I was like, Why is this happening to me before the biggest race of my life?’ Frey says. It's this sense of injustice that triggers anger. ‘You feel betrayed by your body, your training, the universe,’ Taylor says.”   
THIS. I felt sooooo mad at the world!  Like, why ME?!!  I did everything right this time!  I only did speed work once a week. I did all of my long runs at a 9:00+/mile.  I ran easy when I was supposed to.  I did cross training (BodyPump) and core work weekly.  And I only ran four days a week.  So, again, why ME?!!  This was going to be my race… my BQ.  I’d proven at my half marathon just a couple of weeks earlier (I’d ran a 1:40, which was a 9 minute PR) that I had it in me to go at least a sub 3:40, if not faster.   I could taste that BQ.  This was NOT how it was supposed to happen! 
Anger was the strongest emotion that I felt over the past two months, and my mind returned to this feeling many, many times over the course of my forced rest period.  I would see others running and get so very annoyed with them… and annoyed is putting it lightly.  I actually had to unfollow the local Moms Run This Town Facebook page that I am a member of, because I just couldn’t stand seeing all of those running posts every single day.  My friends would try to mention running as little as possible in our group messages, knowing how much it was hurting me to hear about what I was missing.  I knew they were running, though.  That upset me so much… I’d wake up at 4:30 AM, and my first thought would be of those who were meeting to run, without me. Of course, I knew their lives were not going to stop just because I was injured, but that didn’t make it any easier. 

Stage 3: Bargaining
After my initial (incorrect) diagnosis of tendonitis, I got a second opinion a few days later.   This new doctor said it was likely a calf strain and had me start physical therapy immediately.  I threw myself into the exercises that my PT gave me.  Whatever he said, I figured if I could do it and do it well, then I’d get better. Strengthen my glutes?  Sure!  Try dry needling?  Why not?!   I was told that I very likely could still race my marathon, and I clung to those words with all of my might.  Even when I was experiencing pain while running on the Alter-G (anti-gravity treadmill), I pretended it wasn’t there… until my obvious limp was pointed out by two different therapists. 

I finally had to admit that no amount of trying to “fix” this injury was going to make things better.  If I couldn’t even run a 10 minute mile with only 50% of my body weight, then how in the world would I be able to run an 8:20 pace for 26.2 miles in just over 3 weeks?  Answer: I couldn’t.  Which quickly catapulted me to the next stage...
Stage 4: Depression
I fell into a deep, dark funk after admitting that my marathon wasn’t going to happen.  I was able to appear as my usual chipper, happy self to the rest of the world.   Fake it till you make it, right?  People remarked how well I was taking everything.  I only revealed how very sad I was to those who I was closest to, and was met with varying responses, all supportive in their own ways.  Amanda checked in with me almost every day, and allowed me to vent to my heart’s content.  She told me that I was allowed to be mad, sad, etc.  I needed this permission as I dealt with all of the emotions that the injury brought on in me.  Erin gave me time to mourn the loss of this race, but also was the one who forced me to remember that I would run again, and I needed to be grateful for this fact.  This “tough love” approach had a role in my recovery as well.  Jen’s words made me laugh when I was at my saddest; she wouldn’t let me stay down for very long.  She too made me realize that I was lucky that this was merely a small blip on the radar of my running career, and that I would reach my goal eventually, just not as quickly as I’d planned.  Andrea was there for me as a best friend should be; she seemed to know exactly what to say for whatever mood I was in.  It was our long runs together that I missed more than any other!
There were days that were better, and days that were worse.  I made the choice to travel to Toledo with a few friends who were racing.  I was questioned for this choice… why would I want to go to the very race that I was now unable to run in?  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the thought of all of my closest friends being there without me hurt more than not getting to race.  I decided to try to embrace my role as cheerleader, making posters and riding my friend Elisa’s mom’s bike all over the race course to offer support to those who were running.  The tears flowed freely several times that day… when I watched all of the participants start the race… when I saw the 3:35 pace group run by me at mile 20… when I rode solo down the street and realized today was THE day.  Even now, almost a month after the race has already taken place, I am crying as I type these words.  This was a loss in every sense of the word, and it is still very raw to me.  I’m not sure when I will be able to think about the “marathon that wasn’t” and not get choked up.
Stage 5: Acceptance
I made the choice to accept the fact that I wouldn’t be racing on April 9, which was ten days after I suffered my calf injury.  However, like those who are going through the stages of grief for the passing of a loved one, I vacillated between the stages.  I didn’t remain in any stage for an extended period of time.  I finally had an MRI about 4.5 weeks after my injury occurred, and was told that I likely had experienced a stress fracture in addition to a calf injury on March 31; the calf injury was more acute, and that pain masked the stress fracture that had happened.  I felt like I was back at square one again when my doctor told me that I needed to rest an additional couple of weeks.  More time off?? Was he kidding me?!!

I felt great by that point, and wanted so badly to lace up my shoes… but I listened and continued to swim and bike and go on the elliptical at the gym, biding my time for a bit longer.  Patience is a virtue, and it’s definitely not a strength of mine, but my goal was to be smart so that I wouldn’t have to take more time off in the future.

My total amount of time without running ending up being 48 days, just one day short of seven weeks.  This sounds like a much shorter time than it actually felt like to me.  I’m one week into my recovery right now.  I am following a return-to-running plan given to me by my doctor, running for short distances at a very relaxed pace.  Every time I get to run, I am extremely grateful… yet also very, very scared.  It doesn’t help that I get these “phantom pains” every now and then, almost like mental flashbacks to when the injury first occurred. I was warned that I likely would experience these pains, but it still scary every time I feel a little twinge.  I know that as my pace gets faster again, the fear will continue.  I am terrified of adding speed back into my training plan, although that is a couple of months away.  I’m trying to take things one run at a time, staying in the moment and enjoying the mere act of putting one foot in front the other again.

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