Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lessons Learnt From A Stress Fracture

I am fully healed. My recovery from my stress fracture to one of my toes has taught me some invaluable lessons as an endurance athlete and leader. These are:
1) Listen to expert advice. My sports doctor, Roger Tien diagnosed my case well and made some recommendations. From opting for an MRI scan (costly) instead of X-ray (less likely to pick up hair-line cracks), he diagnosed, correctly, I had a stress fracture on my left toe. I experienced my first MRI and saw what a stress fracture looked like from the scanned photographs.
2) A battery of tests conducted on me, led to the earlier prognosis of a stress fracture. Specific-muscle testing leads us to appreciate the situation better. Pain and discomfort is a good indicator of injury.
3) My clear description of my symptoms gave more context to my physical condition. I noticed crippling pain on my left foot one week before Ironman Switzerland. I also noticed that I could not put much weight on that foot during the marathon. My post-race limping was validation of a serious condition.

4) Learning to rest completely was a tough call, but the call needed to be made.
5) Cross-training was allowed, so I could still maintain some degree of residual fitness after the Ironman triathlon. I could still swim or ride, but no running was advised.
6) I learnt how to manage my frustration and impatience (a trait I thought I had developed well) through the trial and tribulation of convalescence. Talking to friends (online) and face-to-face, who had experienced similar injuries gave me a sense of assurance that I would recover rapidly and surely, to return to running even stronger than ever.
7) Having completed the Berlin Marathon (on 30 September) successfully (although in a dismal time of 4:00 hours) gave me a clear direction of my progress. No more pain, and enough residual fitness to allow me a reasonably healthy finish. I raced on no run-specific training.
8) The Berlin Marathon and two shorter tune-up races, recently (last Sunday and two weekends ago), provided me adequate data and confidence to race. The 16.8K and 12K races assured me that my racing 'mojo' was back! I lost an enormous and inordinate amount of running fitness and speed, and I had to recall it (the so-called muscle memory effect).
9) Three more weeks to go, and I think I can nail the Singapore Marathon in a reasonable time of 3:40-3:50. A BQ of 3:24 would be more realistic for the Gold Coast Airport Marathon next July.  
10) With another 10K trail run next weekend, I would be in a clearer position to strategise my marathon. I should be able to hold a 5:05-5:15 minutes/km pace. Meanwhile, I will run 4-5 sessions per week (1-2 21K sessions; 2-3 10-12K sessions). Less is more. Less can be faster, as evident from last year's running performance.
Toes crossed!

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