Friday, July 17, 2015

USA Track and Field Championships follow-up

I know it's been a few weeks since the US Track and Field Champs, but I encountered some unforeseen circumstances following the race that I wanted to resolve before writing. I'll start with a quick recap of the 10km race. Not unusually, I was somewhat pleased but not elated with my 5th place finish. It was a very competitive field, maybe the best in terms of depth and PRs that I have raced in. Looking back, there were several other athletes that could have beaten me had they not had a down race. With 200 meters to go, I was confident that I had 4th place locked up, but fellow Oklahoma State alum, Shadrack Kipchirchir, came flying by me around the last curve, and I did not have the wheels to go with him. It was fun to have two former Cowboys go 4 and 5. Admittedly, this was one of my better US 10km champs tactically speaking; I did my best to put myself in the race, moving up at each break. Although I missed the final break, I closed the best I could. Had the race been run later or the weather cooler, it could have been exciting to see how fast we could have run in a championship setting.

During the race, I began experiencing tightness on the top of my foot. The pain never became extreme, and it did not effect my race in any way. I simply noticed it. After sitting down for a few minutes after the race and standing up again, the pain became unbearable immediately and I could barely walk. Obviously I was concerned, but the swelling that surrounded it had me convinced I just aggravated a tendon. I took the next several days off, and each day it improved significantly to the point that it was nearly undetectable. I started running again, and after three days the pain returned to as bad as it had been following the race. My coach, Dave Smith, strongly advised me to get an MRI right away as he was concerned about a navicular stress fracture, which often requires surgery. The MRI didn't bring the worst news, but it certainly could have brought better news. I was diagnosed with a navicular stress reaction. Fortunately it had not progressed to a fracture, and after consulting with several doctors in the Portland area, the consensus is 4-6 weeks away from running. I was overwhelmed by the great deal of support from local coaches, doctors, and friends in aiding in my diagnosis. The running community is tight, and especially tight in Portland. It has now been nearly two weeks since my last run, and I am finishing up my recommended time on crutches, although I will still lug a boot around for a bit longer. Cross training will start on Monday and will mostly include aqua jogging, but I do plan some cycling as well. The timing could have been significantly worse. No matter how long I take to heal from here, I will have more than enough time to train exactly how I want heading into the Olympic Marathon Trials in February. I will also be able to get in a half-marathon between now and then, but I haven't chosen one yet. Had this happened in a couple of months, I would have been completely devastated.

I haven't had a serious injury in about 9 years, but I do recall the mental process that went along with it. It starts with denial heading into the MRI machine. The diagnosis then brings a strange combination of anger and sadness, and the next several days are spent wallowing in self-pity. Soon, however, I get a spark of defiance that gets me excited to hit recovery and cross training and intelligently and intensely as I can. The spark this time around came as I arrived at my in-laws' home
in the Czech Republic. I had several races planned for this European trip, so I was especially bummed out. After receiving sympathy for the last week, I greeted my father in-law, who was a 2:13 marathoner some time ago, and his first words to me were an unsympathetic "this is a normal part of the sport Ryan." And that was the end of that conversation. He's right. I do what I do knowing full well that injuries will happen at some point, and I have been fortunate to be nearly unbreakable over the years, even through marathon weeks of up to 150 miles. Nearly every elite runner has been exactly where I am now, and the best come back better than they were before. I am going to do my best to take these next few weeks to rest my entire mind and body, reflect, and prepare myself mentally for the smartest and toughest marathon training block yet.

I'll keep everyone posted. Thank you for all the support, and thanks for reading. Follow me here on Twitter for more updates.