Peter Fain

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rebuilding A Mountain Runner

By Peter Fain

Injuries plague all runners. None of us can escape it. But it is a matter of when you chose to deal with it and how you deal with it. I rarely dealt with my injuries. I pushed and pushed. Most often I persevered in races and training but at the cost of difficult walking and chronic pain. I’m now 40. And turning 40 was like seeing your own mortality, well it was for me. Suddenly, I no longer felt invincible.

Tackling an old injury is like remodeling an old house. Once you tear into the first wall, you discover there is a lot more to deal with than you first thought. I had been running with a torn ACL since 2007 and plantar fasciitis since 2003. Those were the major problems the Summer of 2011 forced me to face.  Surgery followed and down time began; down time in more ways than one. The diagnosis was not as cut and dry as I had hoped. If I had dealt with these problems earlier I wouldn’t be where I am now. I have a long road of rehab ahead of me. That was where I was in November. Now it is nearly July.

I started running again March 28th. Not on pavement (who wants to do that anyway) and not on trails, just on the treadmill at the training center I began to frequent as soon as Physical therapy was over. But I was running... Finally.

It took a month before I could run 20 miles in a week. I tested it prematurely at the one month mark and ran the Knickerbocker trail half marathon in Cool, CA. It was too much too soon. There was swelling and a soreness. But what was humbling was the  lack of stamina. My fitness did not bounce back as quickly as I had hoped.

I continued to plug the slow easy miles into my routine, with equal parts bike workouts as I did run workouts. By the end of May I was able to run 2o miles on flat fire roads. That was one week before the Ohlone 50km.

It was a bad idea to try to run “The Ohlone”. It was hot (for me), the downhills are treacherous and it’s a competitive race to boot. In a nutshell the race started great. It’s an uphill start so I was comfortable. But as soon as the descents began my confidence went out the window. Fear of re-injury dictated my pace and lack of fitness

 dictated my ability to compete. With a 5 mile downhill finish, runners were flying past me as if I were not moving, but I did finish. I managed to leave my ego out on the course somewhere and humility hung over my head like a halo. Once again too much too soon. I can hear my physical therapist, my surgeon, my college track coaches all calling me a dumb ass for not taking it easy.

Fast forward to June 22nd,  I have an appointment with my surgeon to check my status. Pressed for time I snuck in a 10 mile run right before the appointment, arriving a mere 5 minutes early. It has been a month since the lastappointment where he removed 50ml of fluid from my knee (normal is 5ml).  This time he chose not to remove the fluid but felt there was near the same as last time. The good news is that my knee is continuing to improve except for the swelling issue. The next push is to try some gel injections (That’ll be in the next progress report) to try to control the swelling.

For the next 3 weeks I’ll continue to push the mileage, to prepare for the Tahoe Rim 50mile race. And then September is Wasatch.

A lot can still go wrong. I try to spend time on the bike to give my knee a break, I go to the gym to work on flexibility and strengthening, and I’m still cautious running downhill. I’m hoping my confidence returns soon because this pussy footing is getting annoying. Patience... I’m getting better at it every day. 

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