Long Road to Recovery

“Some people train knowing they’re not working as hard as other people. I can’t fathom how they think.”  Alberto Salazar

This is my favorite quote I’ve seen in a long time.  I first saw it a couple of months ago and it came at a perfect time.  I was in about week 7 of my recovery from my broken ankle and ruptured ligament and feeling very frustrated.  This recovery has been very slow going…lots of “one step forward, 2 steps back”.  A very simple inversion/eversion exercise with the lightest band was quick to put me on bed rest for 48 hours and a walk around the neighborhood got me “5 days of no activity until all swelling is gone again”…frustrating but I haven’t let it get the best of me.

I believe I’m now in week 14 and have finally, in the past week, started to make some progress.  It’s tri season and I just assumed that I would be racing again this year but I won’t be.  I am, however, still going through the motions.  I hate to swim but just assumed it would be my “recovery exercise”…not at all.  I didn’t realize the pain I would have when trying to kick.  Unfortunately my only somewhat redeeming quality in swimming is my kick so taking this out (using pull buoy only) has been humbling. I went to the pool twice a week for about 2 months and was never able to swim more than 50 yards but I went anyway.  I figured going through the motions keeps my brain on the right track and eventually,  my ankle would be a little more forgiving.  Well, after 9 weeks back in the pool, I’m finally up to 1000 yards….nothing compared to where I one was or where I’d like to be but it’s a lot further than where I was 14 weeks ago.

Biking….well, that’s been an interesting adventure.  I started back on my trainer in about week 4 of recovery.  I could light spin (no resistance) for about 30 minutes before the swelling started to come.  I did this with a leg brace on and would have to get off my bike and manually unclip my shoe because I didn’t have the strength in my ankle to do it.  Getting on the bike and not really even working up a sweat was very frustrating but I did it anyway.  I knew this would pass and eventually I’d be busting my ass again on the trainer.  I wasn’t able to get on the road for the first couple of months because I didn’t have the strength or proprioception to unclip. I had a bit of a breakthrough about 2 weeks ago and started being able to unclip without having to use my hand to push my ankle out.  This is progress and it came with a lot of hard work.

Oh, dear running.  This is a tough one.  At the time I broke my ankle, i had a very solid running base.  I had been running without injury of any sort for about 16 months (that’s a lot for a runner!) and was typically running 3-4 hours for my long run every weekend.  I have spent 13 weeks in PT and almost every day at home working my tail off to rebuild strength in my ankle so that when I got the green light to run, I would be ready.  This is a humbling one.  I was running 3-4 hours with ease and now a 45 minute run wipes me out.  My VO2 max has plummeted and I get sore in 4 miles but I’m not complaining.  I’ve now been back to running for about 10 days and while I’m nowhere near where I was or want to be, I’m patient, forgiving, understanding, and most of all, hard-working.

So, while this has been and will continue to be a long road to recovery, I’ve pushed myself to the limits and worked as hard as possible.  I don’t judge  those people who don’t work hard but I don’t understand them.  What you’re doing will vary based on what you’re training for and your physical capabilities but your ability to work hard never has to change.  I feel that I owe it to my body and my mind to give it my all, whatever my all may be.