Its been a while. After a busy spring of racing, I finally admitted that I was in fact injured and took almost a month off. I had an MRI, I saw a specialist, I found out what I already knew (bilateral hamstring tendonopathy) and was given no advice other than to rehab it. I asked how exactly and referenced protocols and activities I had already been doing, his suggestion: “Sounds like you know more than me so do what you think is best.” Not exactly helpful. But I did the best I could, listened to and read tons of research, and tried to be patient. I walked with friends, rehabbed, did some yoga, paddle boarded, and rode my bike in the driveway on a borrowed trainer. I even biked outside a few times though I crashed 2 out of the 5 rides so maybe not the best option 😜. I hate not training but I did the best I could to stay optimistic. Mid June I started building back, still lots of cross training but trying to get enough in that I would be ready to pace Corrine at western states. Lots of long walks and hikes and even an attempt at summiting Rainier plus a few runs over an hour and I hoped I’d be ready enough. Even when I got to California I wasn’t sure I could do it but Corrine believed in me, a big boost of encouragement I needed in a time of struggle, and I had a super fun time keeping Corrine company from 60-80 miles and watching her fight her way to another top 10 finish.
I stayed the following week in Tahoe and did a mini “training camp” with Tad and Maria. We ran, hiked, ate good food, relaxed in the cabin, and overall had an amazing week. My injuries seemed to be getting better and I was able to put in some solid runs and even workouts. But when I got back home and tried doing faster workouts and road runs the struggle continued. Some days would be ok, others were downright terrible. I limped, I cried, I doubled down on rehab and doing anything I could to get back. With no races on the schedule I didn’t need to run fast or get in good training so instead I took advantage of summer adventures. I ran the 34 miles copper ridge loop with Katelyn, chain lakes and ptarmigan ridge with Alyson, yellow aster butte and other baker trails, new to me Seattle trails with Liz, anything I could drive to. It was great. Sometimes it was more hike than run and average paces over 15 min/miles were common but the views and company were worth it and while I couldn’t run fast I could run long and up so that’s what I did 🙂 This summer was by far the most vert I have ever run.
September rolled around and Maria and Tad got back from Europe meaning my main trail training partners were back. I still couldn’t really run fast and didn’t really have training goals or hopes but I like helping friends so I would jump into whatever parts of Maria’s workouts I could to help and keep her company. I would shorten reps, take head starts, lag way behind, but I was out there and it was fun so I just did what I could. We went on an adventure weekend to Squamish and nearly froze to death on top of opal cone, a good signal to me that mountain running season was about over and I should trade adventures for higher quality long runs close to home. I also made a bunch of changes- I went back to Ash Goddard at nine needles acupuncture, started seeing Dr Lockwood at Align Chiropractic, and lifted more and heavier weights. Admitting that I couldn’t fix myself and asking for help was key. I think after seeing the specialist in June I gave up on getting help, why ask when no one can help you anyway? But getting things adjusted and released so that my rehab and strength training could actually work was essential. Instead of feeling like my hips and pelvis were put together wrong I actually felt normal walking around during the day. My optimism that I might actually get over this injury started to grow. I also stopped working with my coach around this time. With the unpredictable nature of the injury I needed to listen to my own advice and thoughts instead of following a prescribed plan. I also needed to quit trying to do speed work and focused on strength work and what I COULD do instead of dwelling on what I couldn’t. So while my road running times remained the slowest I had been since college my trail specific strength continued to build as I chased Maria up and down fragrance trail repeatedly.
The next 6 weeks were some of the strongest running I have done. 80 mile weeks with 6k+ of vert and what I like to call “big girl workouts” with Maria. Long uphill reps, 10 mile tempos, solid long runs. I am so thankful for the friendship, direction, and encouragement and have never had so much fun in a training block. Trust is so critical to effective training. I 100% trusted that Tad chose hard enough workouts, and that the paces and efforts were what I needed to do. Instead of constantly questioning if I was running hard enough I just keyed off Maria and followed the plan. Sometimes they had to remind me to focus, or slow down, or push myself harder. Their belief in me and pushing me to do workouts I would never dream I could complete made such a huge difference and I love seeing progress and improvement in my workouts again. While the training and workouts were going great, my rust buster race at Baker lake 50k did not. It was a beautiful course, perfect weather, I raced with friends, and my legs felt ok. I just didn’t want to race. I don’t know why and can’t explain it but I just had no motivation to compete or go faster. So it turned into just a long run. I have always loved racing and competing so this felt very odd and worrisome to me. I’m hoping it was just a day and that I haven’t completely lost my competitive mojo! The benefit of not trying very hard was that I was able to roll into a few more weeks of solid training. In fact I was beginning to feel like I was healthy, ready, and out of excuses. I’m racing Run the Rock 50 miler at Smith rock in Bend on 11/9/19 and 10 days ago I would have told you I have no reason to sandbag or not believe that I can actually compete and race. Then on Halloween I misstepped and aggravated my left hamstring while running in the dark. It’s not as bad as it was but it’s not good either. Lots of rehab this week, some extra rest, last minute help from Dr Lockwood and I’m hoping things are back on track for tomorrow’s race. Maybe my leg is fine and my brain just needed the safety of an excuse 😜. I think the key will be convincing my mind to go for it and compete again! Either way lessons will be learned, I’ll practice different aspects of racing (drop bags, headlamps, fueling), and I’m sure I’ll have at least some fun running in a beautiful place I’ve never seen before! Wish me luck 🙂
By Nikki Buurma