The Long Road Back from Injury

In October 2015, I was having a solid month. After the back-to-back trail race and half marathon, followed by a win at the Runaway Pumpkin 10k, I closed out the month with my largest ever training week of 57 miles. Then disaster struck.

Halfway through a trail long run on December 31st, I tripped on a root, slicing the very tip of my toe off and slamming my shoulder/chest on the ground. I was able to run with Brandy the following day, but was starting to have trouble breathing. Later that week, I went to the doctor and they did a pulmonary function test. I had the lungs of an 84 year-old. They did some further tests and sent me for x-rays to rule out a collapsed lung. I went back a few days later. There was no collapsed lung, but my breathing was getting ever tighter. I couldn’t run more than 3.5mi, and that was with significant rest breaks. They believed it to be an intercostal strain, gave me two anti-inflammatory shots and sent me home.

During this time, (approximately 1.5 weeks) I was doing strength training and PT exercises like crazy, since I couldn’t even bike due to the chest. Finally, I started to be able to run again, but I had some sudden knee difficulties. It would sudden lock at times, with excruciating pain. I could run ten yards or two miles and be fine, and then suddenly it would trigger. It got so it would do it just while walking, and that made it difficult even to get around at work. I actually had to send out a class with another teacher during a fire drill.

I saw a physical therapist, then another physical therapist, who did some assessments and gave me some exercises, but none helped for awhile. The chest was finally allowing me to bike, so I put in 102 miles the week of Nov 23-29th, doing 28mi and 40mi rides with Dan Lader.

Suddenly, by chance, the PT found some extreme tightness at the back of my knee. It was the popliteus, a small muscle that controls the locking of the knee. It’s our thought that I had strained it when I suddenly added so much strength training, especially single-leg with weights. With some heavy massage and several more appointments, I was running again!

In all, from November 2nd to December 6th, I ran a total of 19miles. The next week, I was able to run 23 miles. By Christmas morning, I was able to do a 10 mile run up and down Ascutney with Brandy. I slowly built my mileage back up to 43 miles the last week of January.

I got so I was running alongside Brandy for a lot of her long runs in preparation for her Rock 'n' Roll DC Marathon. 15 miles, 17 miles, 19 miles, 20.5 miles… things were coming together, and I was clearly getting much stronger. I know running with her at a slightly more relaxed pace gave me more strength for what was to come.

Brandy ran an awesome race in DC, and I was very glad I got to be there with her to see it. She finished in 3:43 for 79th out of 1000 women! Her dedication and hard work are so inspiring to me.

I began “officially” training again, coached once again by David Roche, at the beginning of March, just in time for Brandy’s taper for DC. Working with him has brought me so much more fitness than I had prior to getting hurt last year. Every few weeks I hit a new lifetime high for miles-per-week. 60, 60.5, 73.9… and my consistency has been much better overall as well.

On April 2nd, I race-directed my first race! The Bluff Spring Runoff 5k was a big success despite some sketchy weather, and we had over 110 finishers. That’s a pretty big number for a race in Claremont, especially for a first-year event!

On April 9th, I ran my first race of the year at the Merrimack River Trail Race (The New England Trail Championship). Fighting my way through digestive cramps in the later miles, I shaved 1.5minutes off last year’s time, 1:04:53, good enough for 22nd place in one of the strongest fields in the race’s history.

On Sunday May 8th, I ran my first solo 20-mile run since 2014. The longer distances have historically been very difficult for me, so this was a important boost for my confidence that even 73 miles a week can’t provide.

I’m looking forward to the summer. With David’s guidance, I hope to increase my mileage further and get some really solid training in. I’ve planned fewer races, so I hope to do some longer mountain adventures like 2014, and just get outside more. With more time for running, and adventures with Brandy, it looks to be a great summer!

I will be updating my 2016 Race Schedule next, but here are my key races:

May 29 – Pineland Trails 50k

June 18th – Mt. Washington Road Race

July 3rd – Loon Mountain Race (USA Championships)

October 2nd – Wineglass Marathon


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