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December 15, 2016

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Linguini Made of Igneous Rocks: My Recovery Tale

She's baaaaaack. RADrabbitPRO Sabrina Little shares her experience dealing with, recovering, and learning from her recent injury - a broken foot. And, we must say, we are SO glad she's back running!!! Read more in Sabrina's own words:

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A few weeks ago, I sat in the waiting room of my physical therapist, reading a book. I looked up and saw a woman next to me. We made eye contact.

Woman in Neck Brace: I like your boot.

Me in Fracture Boot: That is a pretty necklace.

The physical therapy lobby was full of athletes—serious ones, casual ones, high school ones, and my new friend—Neck Brace Woman. There were 4 or 5 fracture boots like mine. They say Fall is boot season. We were all on trend. Like a herd of pirates, we clicked the floor as we walked.

Like a herd of pirates, we wobbled like we were on the high seas. My new friends—the broken foot gang—regaled each other in tales of triumph and heartbreak (foot break). I guess it is worth asking, how did we all get here?

Sabrina Little

This was the day before my foot broke. I ran the Tyler Rose Marathon.

 

To review, in early October, I broke my foot. No one was more surprised than I was. When I first go injured, I denied all responsibility. My podiatrist deemed it a fluke, and since I hadn’t experienced any pain that I was actively ignoring, I happily accepted his characterization.

But every injury is experienced twice—when it first happens, and then backwards—slowly—while it heals to proper form. And while it healed, I paid attention. I noticed slight weaknesses, muscle compensations, dull aches, and a residing pressure. I remembered having experienced these things—my clues—but thinking nothing of them. I experienced my injury backwards, looking around me, like a car driving slowly in reverse, and I began to feel remorse—what Aurel Kolnai calls “moral residue.” I realized I was largely responsible.

Of course I was responsible. I felt like one of those kids who breaks a lamp playing ball in the house and calls out “It wasn’t me!” before looking around and realizing she’s the only one in the room. If I didn’t do it, who did? It is my foot.

So, I scoured my running logs and thought a lot. I made changes. I recovered, and I began running again. It is glorious, really. Running is as great as I remembered it was. And I am looking forward. I have big goals for this year.

Sabrina Little

I pass this beautiful field on evening runs. I love where I live.

 

…But I have noticed that a trend in elite-level and professional racing is that injuries are often not spoken about. Runners get hurt, disappear from the scene, and reemerge whole again, and there are lots of missed stories here. What happened? What will you do differently in the future? Here are a few reflections on what I did wrong (and right):

(1) I wore my shoes down too far. WRONG.

I am in graduate school. Sneakers are expensive. On average, I typically double the recommended mileage for sneakers. This puts me in a risky situation. Through this injury, I’ve realized that the 300-500-mile sneaker-replacement recommendations are not for the benefit of the shoe companies, but for the safety of the athlete. I’m going to replace my sneakers more often.

(2) I doubled most days. WRONG.

During race seasons, I coach at 6:30 each morning, and I run with the team. Then I fit in my own workout at some point, if possible. I call this prepositional running: before things, between things, and after things. It means I am prioritizing my day job—school—and fitting in running when I can. I do my runs at a high intensity and have more focused efforts on weekends, and this has worked really well for my racing…just not for my recovery. Most days I double. This not only prevents me from recovering, it prevents my sneakers from recovering. My PT told me that sneaker foam rebounds when they are left alone. If I run in them twice per day, I am not giving them this time.

(3) I ate a lot of calcium. RIGHT.

I don’t eat dairy, but I consume approximately a dump truck full of green leafy vegetables on a weekly basis. This may be an exaggeration, but I doubt herbivorous dinosaurs ate as many leaves as I do.

(4) I foam rolled daily. RIGHT.

I foam rolled a lot. Still, I could probably do more. My running buddy always stretches her calves, and I always say something along the lines of, “My calves are fine. They’re loose like linguini.” I found out that this is only true if linguini is made of igneous rocks. My doctor told me he has never encountered calves as tight as mine.

(5) I did not prioritize recovery. WRONG.

I thought I was. But if I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I took a day completely off. Actually, what is recovery, really? Because I used to say things like “I’ll go for an easy 10,” but maybe that is not recovery.

(6) I have a quirky form. WRONG.

My physical therapist recorded my running, then made me watch it in slow motion. It turns out my personality is not the only quirky thing about me. I supinate quite a bit. I have been working on foot strength to land in a way that bears more shock. On a related note, there is nothing more horrifying than watching yourself run in slow motion. Trust me on this.

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So these are my observations. Injuries are unfortunate (particularly poorly-timed ones that knock you out of your focus races), but they are sometimes a part of the game, and always an opportunity to learn. Choose joy, and happy trails.  

– Sabrina Little, RADrabbitPRO

 


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