My last run note was published back at the start of December 2020, five months ago. Towards the end of that note I wrote:
I’ve got my six week check with the physio at the end of this week.
My hope then was I’d get the all clear to starting getting back into running.
It is now the start of May 2021. I’ve only been starting the running work to get back to longer sustained periods of running the last couple of weeks. That’s over four months later than planned in December.
What took so long?
Sometimes processes are there for good reasons
In early December I had my check up with my hospital based physio. He told me something had been bothering him since I first started spending time with him: He was surprised that I hadn’t had a full range of scans as from what he was looking at it seemed to be a nasty fracture. He felt like I’d missed some steps in the usual process. So he showed the scans I’d had done to his boss. His boss then happened to see one of the leg specialists when he was getting a coffee and they had a chat. The specialist looked at my scans and recommended I see him and probably get a full set of scans again.
In the proceeding two weeks I went into two hospitals for a face to face chat with the leg specialist (and my physio’s boss!) and then a series of scans, the last on the 23rd December. I was told to continue doing stretches and raises to help my muscles but nothing more. Christmas and the New Year came and went.
Early in January I went back in to see my little leg fixing team and got the lowdown: The fracture was to my tibia (which we knew), the scans showed it was a lot worse than was initially expressed (in July after one scan the physio at my GP’s surgery recommended I rest the leg for six weeks and up my intake of vitamin D and that was it).
If I’d been sent in for all the scans and the specialist had reviewed them, as process set down I was told, we would have known this a lot sooner.
But the situation now matters the most, which is: It’s healing, it looks like it’s healing well, but it’s going to take a while before I am running again. At best: March. Being realistic because things never go to plan: June. At the start of the year June seemed a long way away.
It’s 1 May as I type this. June is just next month. June is turning out to have been the realistic prediction.
It’s the grind that gets you down
I needed a different kind of recovery programme. The next week I had a long phone chat with my physio. I took notes. We needed to change things. I needed to do activities every other day, I needed to “build my bone back up”, but I also needed to see how my leg felt after each. This would determine what I did next.
The short version: Any pain, stop what I am doing. If the pain subsides go back a step in the plan. If the pain is substantial call the hospital. No pain? Keep going with the plan.
What this amounted to was lots of walking, lots and lots of walking. A lots more squats and stretches and lifts, and hops and jumps, some just myself, some holding a weight of some kind. The gyms had shut due to lockdown so this was all done in the backyard at home. In the in between days I could cycle (so the turbo trainer my bike was hooked up to proved very useful) and get some value out of that Zwift subscription.
At the start of every month I caught up with Jonny. I had been taking it steady for the first four weeks, gradually increasing my effort and load as Jonny said. I had got to the point of some small two-legged hops, sets of 10 and 20, and one legged hops (which I was and still am useless at). No negative reactions so in February’s catch up we set up gradually adding more. Towards the end of February I started to get an ache in my right shin, rested, eased back a couple of notches. The ache didn’t surface with the lower level exercise and I waited for my March catch up with Jonny. I had held out that March could have been a time to do a little running but knew this ache was a symptom I couldn’t ignore.
In March’s catch up Jonny assured me I had done the right thing, it’s not worth pushing it, better to slow down for another month or two of recovery than face a lot longer out. So we kept with increasing the load but spread out the increases.
My body weight had also increased since the summer, during this time of leg problems, by 1 and a half stone (neatly 10kg). One of the reasons I got back into regular running was to help my type 2 diabetes. Now I was weighing in at 14.5 stone (92kg). I was worried what this increase in weight was doing to my insides. In late March I had a blood test and the results showed my levels had crept back up to where they were a couple of years ago. Time alone doing exercise, be it jumps, the bike, whatever, and now knowing what was going on inside me. This wasn’t a happy place to be. I needed to grind through this. But more grind meant more time alone. And the grind got me down.
So into April, the fourth session with Jonny. For some reason it was closer to the middle of the month. I went through what I had done, how my body responded. Jonny told me with the work I have been doing past week I am beyond the point he would ask someone to try going for a short run. “So you should try and go for a run.” But he was clear, go for a walk — which I’d been doing — and roll in some faster segments (not fast just faster), so maybe walk for 5 minutes and run for 5 minutes, do that a couple of times, see how it feels. Any sharp pain, stop running. Test and try, but be prepared to roll back or stop if needed. If after a couple of successful sessions it feels OK increase the load a little: same distance, a little faster; a bit more distance, same speed. And best of all: No more jumps. Yes!
This run: 9:08/km
So on 15 April, after a couple of walks with “jogging bits” I gave it a go. I went out, aiming to walk for half a kilometre and then “run” for half a kilometre. The early running* halves I tried to keep at a slow “recovery” pace. I didn’t find this difficult. I hadn’t done this for a while. Slow was easy. But I found that I wasn’t feeling tired, the bike work maybe helping with this. After 3km though I found myself running faster than I thought I was. No harm for just half a kilometre I thought. Another walking half and the next running* half I concentrated hard to slow it down and carried that on until the end of 8 or so kilometres.
My leg felt strange, I could sense there was something different about my right leg but I couldn’t quite place it. I was reminded that fracture was now “filled in”, a massive scar on my bone, a chunk of my bone that was new, that needed to respond to the work I was putting it through. I needed to respect it, to “educate” it, so it goes along with me — otherwise I won’t be doing much running for the rest of my life.
No pain. Glad to be out. Half hope, half fear what happens next.
I left it a few days before I went out again. There was a slight ache in my shin the next day but it subsided.
6 more runs, 7 runs for the month
So, I’ve now had two weeks of being in the groove of going for a run every two or three days, building it back up. I’ve not done any start-to-end distance where I have just run — but I am OK with starting, doing some running, doing some walking, and finishing. There’s some longer stretches of running in those (I managed about 3km earlier this week). At some point I’ll do 5km all running. But there’s no rush. I’m not in a race. Just keep building it back up.