To race or not to race; the clash between injuries and high goals

Already in the beginning of July, my leg felt strange. It hurt when I ran far in a weird way that wasn’t the usual calf-muscle stiffness that can be fixed with a tennis ball and a foam roller. Eventually, I got it looked up and in July, I got diagnosed with an edema in my tibia, and was advised to not run until it was healed, which really meant . An edema is an inflammation, or a an assembly of water, in the bone marrow. It is the pre-state of a stress fracture and if you are not careful it can lead to one. This injury is caused by repeated stress on the bone (essentially too much running). 

ÖtillÖ race is a race, and there are many more important things in life. However, this race was important to me and this injury felt very unfair, as I felt I had done everything right. But it is what it is, and luckily I had a doctor that understood my aspirations as an athlete and gave me hope it was still possible to participate in the World Championships less than 2 months away. With lots of help from fellow athletes and advice from expert friends that had been in the same situation, I continued my training and never gave up. The last part of July and August, my training consisted of anything I could do to prepare my body for 75km of swimrun, without taking one step in my running shoes. Somehow, this adversity motivated me more. Everything has a reason, and maybe this was meant to happen to me to make my mind stronger. I passed lonely hours on the crosstrainer and stationary bike in the gym (one positive was lots of time for some inspiring podcasts). I spent an eternity trying to reach the other side of the pool water running like a maniac accompanied by lovely Catalan seniors speeding away from me doing breaststroke, and I worked on my strength with various exercises for the core and legs. Of course, I did swim quite a lot as well, which made my shoulders even bigger than my college athlete years. I also went to magnetic and current therapy sessions and ate all the foods on the highest calcium concentration toplist (sardines, chia seeds, spinach, pistachio nuts…). 

All this came to a test when I had to do another MRI the Monday before ÖtillÖ. I was so nervous for this, even more than the actual race. Because to this day, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to race or not. If you have ever done an MRI, you know that the machine is quite peculiar. You get to lay down, they strap your leg into some cast, and you get inserted into a huge tube. You get a pair of headphones for the noise, and an emergency alarm in your hand to push if anything unexpected happens. Then, the machine starts and it sounds approximately like you are laying in the underground of Mordor where the orchs manufacture their combat arms. I am not sure why it is so loud, but Im guessing a tremendous amount of energy needs to be generated from this engine to push the magnetic force to actually move the electrons of your cells’ atoms. This is what makes the magnetic image; when the electrons bounce back to their natural position, the distance is measured and shapes an image of the inside of your body. 

Anxious as I was, I begged the staff to have my results ready earlier than the standard two waiting days, but with no success. I had to wait until Wednesday. On Monday after the MRI, I went out for a Swimrun session to test the strength of my leg. It went phenomenal and I was flying away on the streets zig-zagging between the sunbathers on the beach. I was beyond excited to Swimrun again, and my leg didn’t hurt. This of course gave me hope that everything was going to be fine (although slightly scared of my out-of-this-world leg soreness two days after). 

On Wednesday, I went to the hospital to pick up my results. You get a little bag with a bunch of printed images, a CD with a digital version and a doctors’ note from the specialist that analysed your results. With high anticipation, I sat down in one of the chairs in the waiting room and opened the envelope. The images showed a very similar picture of the leg, with a white dot in the middle of the bone, although slightly lighter than the previous MRI (bone is supposed to be solid black). I read the doctor’s note about five times to surely understand the advanced medical Spanish, and could understand that the edema was still there, but had decreased. It was a bit tough because I had hoped to see a picture of solid bone. I had to wait until my meeting on Thursday with the doctor to get advise on these results. This didn’t help my antsyness, and I could barely sleep the next night. Even though I was pretty sure I could at least give it a try since my leg didn’t hurt, it is never fun to take risks when it comes to your health and something that no one should do. A race is one race, but a life is a life and you only have one body to live it with.  

On Thursday, now only four days until the World Championships, I sat again anxious in the waiting room. The schedule was behind and I had to sit there for 15 minutes, which felt like an eternity. One of my weaknesses are that Im impatient, especially when you cannot make use of the time in any way. Finally I got to speak to my doctor, and to my delight he agreed that I could go ahead and compete! The bone around the edema was perfect, and the inflammation decreasing. He just told me I had to stop in case it hurt.

This was such a relief, I felt like I had already won. The mental battle I had been through this summer with waiting and not knowing, keep on going and always believe that it will be possible, was exhausting. This was one of the happiest moments in a long time. Now, the only thing left was to go in with a positive spirit and believe that anything is possible on the starting line in Sandhamn. You can read more about how the race went in my race report. 

What did I learn from this injury experience?

1. I got perspective on my life priorities and that a healthy body is invaluable.

2. Never give up. Alternative training is key, and it is possible to get really far with it.

3. I could never have gotten through this without support from my nearest and dearest. You believed in me and helped me through the though moments. I am forever grateful ❤

Have you had an injury that jeopardised your athletic goals? It would be cool if you shared your experience, how you got through it and if you had any other important life lessons from it in a comment!

2 thoughts on “To race or not to race; the clash between injuries and high goals

  1. Hello Fanny

    Thanks for interesting and well formulated thoughts. As you raised a question about injuries here are my resent kind of similar journey. Although I am not a top athlete like you I have my goals and aspirations and its allways tough to have to abandon your dreams and plans because of a stupid injury. As you know I also do swimrun (team envol) and this winter and spring planed to improve my running skills. Set back by the flue for a month in march and Utö Swimrun not far away in the beginning of may I ran way to much during my first week of recovery trying to catch up. Very stupid! This resulted in a very sharp pain below the kneecap when I for example walked in stairs. I was diagnosed with jumpers knee. Did an xray to exclude any other possible problems but there was none. That was good! This was mid april and I had signed up for 3 races coming up later during the year. Jumpers knee I was told could take 6 months to heal, but I hoped it would not last that long. I hoped to do Utö Swimrun but had to cancel. I rested for 2 months with no running. I swam instead and did strength excersises like consentric knee bends. Then I slowly tried running. Its really strange not knowing how strong your knee tendon is and constantly be on guard of the pain coming back. I had never had any previous knee problem and all of a sudden this. To make a long story a bit shorter I have slowly recovered and feel good now. But on guard. Since my jumpers knee injury in mid april I have completed 3 races. One of them LED wich is quite tough. Allthough LED went slow and I compensated using more of my right leg I had no pain during or after the race. I am still worried that the jumpers knee will come back. My lessons learned come from my naprapat Stefan på idrottskadespecialisterna who has helped me recover with stötvågsbehandling and some kind of electric current on the knee. Stefan said most injuries occure when you feel strong. You have trained hard and feel fine and want to train even harder. You kind of loose your judgment. Thats when many injuries occur. Another lesson learned is to try to recognize the early warning symtoms and then rest. I am also equally amazed that the body can heal and recover. Just one day of resting can make a huge difference. Keep training smart and keep the injuries away and you will be unbeatable in swimrun!

    Lars

    Like

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