Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mission accomplished: finished NYC Marathon (with a stress fracture)

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t” – Rikki Rogers

It's been quite some time since I last updated my marathon training. Why? 1) I was depressed and couldn't bring myself to share my feelings that I had a tibial stress fracture 2) I was in denial about my injury 3) most of my free time was spent on various appointments every week and active healing 4) I was ambivalent about being able to finish the marathon.

Given the above, it was a nightmare that I did not foresee nor ever thought it could happen a month before the NYC Marathon. Did I cry? No, but I was very close to. I felt like it was the end of the world for me because it was a significant commitment I made to myself and of other momentous meanings. Even though I was inconsolable, I received positive support from some fellow running friends in Run & Chug, the Rise and close friends. I kept a positive attitude and focused on healing both physically and mentally. Of course I also received concerns from various folks including my family, my doctor, my physical therapist and co workers. I heard the same speech on permanent damage and what not. I refused to digest it and tried to block the negativity out since I was already degenerated from dealing with my injury. Nonetheless, I was determined to run at a slower pace. Though a subliminal message was still somewhere in the back of my mind that my legs could become dysfunctional at any point during the race.

On the marathon day, I woke up extra early to tape both of my shins and carefully slipped my compression sleeves on top on the tapes. This is the video I used: taping posterior shin splints I wasn't very excited which is the complete opposite of how other runners felt. I was worried about permanently damaging my legs and feeling excruciating pain that I can't finish. I took a real deep breath once the race began and starting running through the wind tunnel - the lower level of the Verrazano Bridge. I was almost blown away but safely made it to Brooklyn and saw Rob. That's when I started to feel excited!

Throughout Brooklyn, I saw quite a lot of familiar faces cheering for me! Brian and his family, didn't get to take a picture with them. From mile 4 on, I just listened to music and kept going because Becky was waiting for me at mile 8 with other friends! The picture depicts our love in a nutshell!

After mile 8, I was looking for Cory and Erin and their friends near McCarren Park in Williamsburg. Erin made me a poster and almost left out the 'H' in my name! It was awesome seeing them! Nonetheless, the pain in my legs really built up around mile 12, I slowed down a lot and walked a bit. I was really scared that I couldn't go any further because my feet, my ankles, my knees and my shins felt like they were falling apart and I was not even half way done. So I took another Advil, had a bite of my homemade peanut butter sandwich and a couple chomps which I stored in my waist pocket. Finally I made it through the Pulaski Bridge and the Queensborough Bridge because I saw a lot of runners running for charity such as cancer and I thought those people are in greater pain than the pain I was feeling, that was one of the biggest motivation to keep me going.

After getting off the Queensborough Bridge, I missed my Run & Chug friends because I forgot where they were cheering. But they made cute posters!! 

I didn't see anyone else I know on First Avenue, but a lot of spectators cheered for me because I had my name on my shirt! Each cheer brought me a little further! I took a gel pack at mile 17 and had another bite of my peanut butter sandwich. After going in the Bronx, I still felt energized. I was getting really excited as I approached mile 20 and knowing I have only 6 miles left which I could totally do! I saw Becky and friends from the Rise unexpectedly at mile 22 (I think). And Becky even ran with me for a few minutes down Fifth Avenue! At mile 23, I saw my pt Raechel and other pts from Finish Line. As I headed south by Mount Sinai, my roommate, Alyssa was there cheering! She was working at the hospital that day and asked for a quick break as she tracked me down! I was really running on adrenaline down Fifth Avenue and into the park and in the park. I knew I had to finish because my best friend, Michelle who traveled all the way from Boston, was holding my boot by the Finish line. I finally made it to mile 26 and high-fived her and Eric!

Shortly after seeing Michelle and Eric, I made it to the finish and earned my first marathon medal!!! I was overjoyed that I crossed the finish line!!!

It was a dream and a miracle that I finished! I truly appreciate all the support I have gotten from everyone from training to injury to race day!! It was also bittersweet because I wish I was able to run at my normal pace and not worry about how bad my fracture was post race.

I missed Lauren unfortunately, but reunited with her and her awesome poster at the bar post race!! 

9 of us did the marathon from Run & Chug! Can't wait for NYC Marathon 2015! I definitely think I am capable to run it again and run it a lot faster!

I recalled what Michael told me when I was signing up for races to fulfill the 9 + 1 requirement in 2013. He highly encouraged me to run a marathon when I said I can never do a marathon. He said I'll thank him when I finish the marathon. I did not believe him, but I did after I completed it!

Michael and I at the first marathon training run (I should probably bake him a dozen cookies now)

It's been over a week since the marathon, my leg has been feeling better day by day. I don't think I broke my leg. The first couple of days were the worst, my legs were in complete pain especially walking down the stairs.....
I am waiting for my latest MRI result, I am a bit anxious! I think anything is possible if you strongly believe you can do it. I took a huge risk and loaded 26.2 miles on my injured leg, but I don't recommend other runners to do the same. If you do, listen to your body and don't push it!

How did I deal with my injury pre race? A bunch of things! I looked into different outlets to speed up my recovery. 

My healing regime consisted of the following:

1. I was put in a walking boot which takes the pressure off my right leg to prevent further damage to the fracture. I wore it religiously all day every day! I was restricted from running, jumping, spinning, high impact activities and plyometrics. I hated the boot and I still dislike the boot (currently still wearing it, some people say I have been rocking the boot which makes me chuckle and got me on a few dates) 

2. I amended my exercise routine: swimming, biking with low resistance, core workout, yoga with modification, weight training with modification

3. my doctor prescribed a bone stimulator - a low intensity ultrasound (I have been using it twice a day, 12 hours apart) This is an expensive device..Thank god my insurance covered it, the retail price is $5,000!!!

4. I inserted orthodics in my running shoes because I have relatively flat feet

5. I went to physical therapy twice a week at http://finishlinept.com/. It's a great facility! My pt is Raechel, she does soft tissue massages on my legs and stretches with me to alleviate tension in my legs. She also assigns stretching exercises to increase mobility in my hips and glutes and foam rolling exercises to do at home. She is an awesome pt! 

6. I went to http://www.nycpoints.com/ for acupuncture sessions to release the "qi" in my legs. I had Imani and Jon and they were both really good and professional. Unfortunately my insurance does not cover this, I had to pay $70 per session. I bought a package of 5 for $300 eventually. I went for a few times before the marathon. How does acupuncture help?

7. My doctor recommended a bone density exam for me. My result (Z score) was below the standard deviation in my age group probably due to my diet as a vegetarian. So I was asked to take Calcium and Vitamin D supplement. I take it once a day after meal.

8. I drank a lot of tart cherry juice which helps to reduce muscle inflammation. 

9. Put on kinesio tape and compression socks!!

10. Most importantly, I stayed mentally strong! I believe psychological stress delays the healing process and it's true!

Overall, I think my tibial stress fracture was primarily driven by unhealthy bones, flat feet, lack of mobility in my hips and glutes which my shins overcompensated, heel striking when I run and continued running on my initial injury, shin splints.

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