Tuesday, March 16. Last long run, 10 days before the half. Almost 12 miles. Hard-fought and satisfying. At about mile 8, I feel a hard tweak at my shin. "Uh oh," I say, "shin splint on the tracks." I correct my form, stop and stretch, and it feels OK.
Wednesday, March 17. Legs feel fine. I hop on the bike trainer in the morning for a happy spin.
Thursday, March 18.
Trainer Kevin: (runs thumb up and down shins) Um. That could be a stress fracture.
Who knew. The phrase "stress fracture" is the "Voldemort" of the running world. Speaking the words provokes cringing, wincing, and outright fright.
I passed the next couple of days gathering opinions, runners' personal experiences, advice; letting my legs rest (and get stiff); and worrying that if I ran, my shin was going to snap like a pretzel. The half marathon was just over a week away.
Do you want to know how worthlessly crazy it can get in my brain? "Oh noooooooooo I will try to run and will trash my leg and need two years of rehab and I won't be a triathlete anymore and if I can't run or bike my body will go all soft and uncontrolled and weak and I will feel horrible and be depressing and N. will run away with some 30 year old ex-podium girl/professional rock climber who speaks six languages and I will be old and alone and have no endorphins."
I told you it was crazy. Not running the half would be kind of a bummer, losing April to bone healing would be annoying, but of course why stop at annoying bummer when you can have INSANELY TERRIFYING.
Next door nurse Peggy: I can't tell any difference, maybe a little swelling, but with this kind of thing I'm very conservative. You should get the x-ray.
Online wisdom: X-rays don't detect many stress fractures. You will need a bone scan or an MRI.
Follow the old rule: if it doesn't hurt while you're running, go ahead; if it hurts while you're running, don't run on it. And if you know you're going to run, just do what you can and don't worry about it.
Austin: Pfft, stress fractures. They hurt but they don't have to be a big deal. You heal, you keep going. I ran on mine for a long time.
I test the leg on Sunday afternoon. Four miles, good news, the shin is pain-free. But because I've let the legs go stiff and unused, my right soleus seizes up, vise-like, and spasms start rippling up and down my calf. Great. Calf strain. Perfect.
Yesterday, I visted the amazing Dr. Joel Terry at JET Chiropractic. After the regular tuneup of neck and back, he tested my shin by holding a vibrating tuning fork to points up and down the shin.
OK, good to know. Doc JET went to work on the knots in the calf. And it's a new leg today. Or rather, my same old leg that I didn't think much about while I was running. No weird calf spasms. No pain.
I kicked out four easy miles this morning and it felt so good that I ran another mile. Feet feel great. Knees not even making their usual rice krispie noises. Quads and hamstrings, fantastic. Endurance — if I were doing a sprint distance tri this weekend, I would absolutely slaughter it.
So, half marathon. I think this will be okay. But now I am mentally prepared to DNF and cross the course to cheer for the field. Tuning fork test or no, if the shin bone hurts, I stop running. And spend April becoming an amazing swimmer.
Either way, wish me luck and know that I am having FUN. Crazy body. Fun!