Since it's the Bobby-and-Shannon-Blog Show, it looks like I'm up.
Alright, so maybe nix USA Cross Country this year. Following a return to training post-Club Cross Country, I managed to string together a handful of half-decent runs...but my foot. My dadgum foot. I figured taking a week off after Clubs would yield a miraculous recovery--actually I never thought twice about it--but to no avail. Following a uh...really delightful (attempted)...long run up the Chutes to Goldcamp Road that ended up being abruptly halted by said foot--resulting in a LONG walk/jog/hobble/shuffle back home (but at least it was nice out) I actually had to relent to the fact that there might be something up. And that it might unfortunately have nothing to do with too-tight shoelaces, which is what I'd been telling myself since freakin' October.
So fast-forward a couple of weeks and one reluctant MRI later, the mystery of the last two and a half months of not quite being able to run longer than about 4-5 miles at a given time and not even being able to put together more than a couple consecutive days of that without my toe feeling like it might snap in half, was finally solved as there was not one, not two, but two and a half (the half being a stress reaction) stress fractures in my big toe. One toe. It didn't even spread the love to any other toes. That poor guy, not sure what happened there.
Sometimes it's just like....wtf?
So as my friend/teammate Amanda asked me the other day, "So, are you just like 'SERIOUSLY?!'" Yes, I'm just like SERIOUSLY. Not being particularly prone to stress fractures, there's about a half a dozen potential reasons I could think of for how the whole thing transpired: Could've been the upped-mileage this past year (slightly likely), the upped-mileage being performed mostly in less shoe than what I'm used to (very likely), the attempt at vegetarianism that I still get made fun of for (unlikely), the slightly altered and hopefully more effective (at least eventually) mechanics recommended to me by a biomechanist I saw last spring; more specifically, one issue being that I didn't effectively use my big toe during push-off (incidentally on what ended up being the affected side) and needed to learn how to do it better (also very likely), the suggestion of acquiring more of a forefoot strike (also very likely) with less of a shoe (again, likely), or it could've been the quick-as-possible comeback from an SI joint injury last summer (slightly likely), or maybe the fact that I stupidly can't seem to learn to take an easy day all that easy and can't get away with it as easily as I could in college any longer (very likely), or it could be a combination of most or all of these things. Whatever the case, advice thrown in for free: when it comes to your mechanics, if you're going to make changes, no matter how small, you'd better do it painstakingly slowly. Thousands of steps a day makes small pretty huge.
Or it may not have been any of these things. I've decided that if you try to figure out a reason for every single setback your body throws at you, you'll just drive yourself nuts and get paranoid over every niggle. There will always be weak links to fix, but if you change one thing, you'll change everything, so approach with caution. Sometimes it's a single misstep that'll throw you off for weeks, and it just has to run its course. I guess you just have to avoid things that you know don't work, be proactive, and take care of stuff as best as you know how to before a molehill becomes a mountain, but you can't prevent everything and you can't always learn from everything either. But in spite of that, there are always blessings in disguise. A screwed up SI joint and messed up hip/hamstring that put me out for almost two months last summer led to the discovery of an awful lot of longstanding imbalances going on in the hip flexors, glutes, core, and low back, and thanks to being forced to address all of those issues during the downtime, I now have a pair of hamstrings that aren't forever feeling ripped-in-half after EVERY workout (for the last two years) and glutes that actually do their share of the work. So there is occasionally a silver lining. Two steps forward, one step back, and eventually things get there. Although truthfully the actual training part of this sport can sometimes be the least challenging part of the process of "getting there."
On the upside, this injury isn't nearly as tough a nut to crack as that one was: No tight this or weak that or scar tissue to be broken up here or there. Just four to six weeks and GO. In the meantime, back to my Injury BFF's the pool and the stationary bike out in the garage (who I have christened Old Goldie--he's older than me and has been my faithful ally in many a comeback) and soon enough the Alter-G.
Okay, admittedly 2013 hasn't gotten off to the greatest start, it's a pretty discouraging start actually. I'm really disappointed I won't be on the line in St. Louis on February 3rd, chances are I'll be unplugging myself from the running world as much as possible that day. But sometimes that's the risk you run for putting most of your eggs in one really small basket: extreme disappointment. But, as Cassie said to me referencing her broken foot following last year's Clubs (and that was a legit break, none of this measly crack-in-the-bone nonsense) that caused her to miss most of last year including the Trials, "There's a reason for it, I just haven't figured out what it is yet."
2012 was far from everything I was hoping for. But even so, I PR'ed once, I finished higher than I ever have at Clubs (and a few spots closer to Team USA--baby steps), and I got out of some of the training ruts that I got myself stuck in for the last few years. Two steps forward and one step back. So here's to an injury-free and PR-plagued rest of 2013.