Stress is stress is stress…

Well the unfortunate has happened and it appears I will not cross the start or finish line of the Chicago marathon 2018.  I have re written and added to this blog many times but it is hard to find the correct words… it really just feels like a bad dream.

In a way I am eating my own words.  I had just posted how amazing my training was going and how far I had pushed myself and just like I had said the magic words an injury came about.  Now there is always more to the story than meets the social media channels and that is why I wanted to write this blog.  Not as an excuse but more with the purpose to help others learn from my mistakes.

Let’s start by examining my training this past build.  When asked how training was going this summer I often said it was ‘fine’.  There was nothing miraculous/surprising about slogging through this hot and humid summer.  Now that I have been training at this level for a couple years it is much of the same each training cycle. Everything that needed to be done was getting done, so it was in effect “fine”.  I did have some pretty amazing opportunities where I got to do some training with some pretty speedy ladies.  The likes of Lyndsay Tessier and Rachel Hannah.  It felt so great to be able to join them in their training.
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The incident:

So how did I get here?  Injured that is… Well all in all I think this is an accumulation of many things but here is my take on it.  I think it is a classic too much stress and my brain was overloaded and needed to shut something down.  This has happened to me before.  But it is not what you are thinking; yes, I was pushing myself in training and had run more than I ever had and had done a huge workout.  But there is another side to this story, as there often is.
Sadly, my dad passed away a month ago the week before my peak week.  Meaning the visitation and funeral took place during my peak week.  I made it through okay and was happy to have my training as a coping mechanism.  But as I will describe below; to the brain stress is stress is stress.  And it will adapt until a point where it can no longer and then it will shut you down in some way… easiest way is usually physically—so an injury takes place and suddenly the training/physical stress substantially decreases. I think a lot of us are good compartmentalizers (*I am GREAT at this).  What I mean is we like to bundle things under headings and assume there is no co-mingling…. But there is.  The brain does not decipher between emotional, physical or mental stress.  It just knows stress in absolutes. So, if you are stressing your body physically (ie. Training for a marathon) and then you add in a large emotional stressor (ie. A death in the family) the brain can become over loaded with stress.
***Side note:  My dad was my absolute number one fan never missing a high school track or xc meet and travelling to see me run my first two marathons. I know he will forever be on my running shoe during my upcoming races.  This is also why it is so difficult to not be able to run right now as it truly is very therapeutic for me.  It still feels like a bad dream and is hard to accept.

pre race
I had a big workout planned for the 5k Canadian champs.  It consisted of 6k warm up / 5k race / 5k tempo / 6k cool down / 10k shakeout in the evening. I felt my SI joint a little before the race but did not think much of it and I had a great workout, that I am still proud of.  That evening heading out on my shakeout it was certainly more pronounced but stubborn me pushed through.  The next day it was there but not terrible, so I did half of my run on the alter G.  The following day it was painful to walk.  And cue me feeling like an absolutely idiot and being beyond frustrated.
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I would be lying if I was to say I am fine; obviously there are many emotions and life changes I am still working on processing.  There have been many tears shed over the last month.  But at the end of the day it is just running.  I will run again, I will run fast again, I will run a marathon again.  There are many far worse things in the world. Of course, there lies the temptation to say this is ‘not fair’.  And sure, I think it sucks to have an injury when I really needed my running to help me cope with life but maybe I also need to face what is happening with a bit more focus.  And you know what….. sometimes life isn’t fair.  It is also not fair that my dad died at the age of 59 from a terrible degenerative disease.

What is injured?

My sacroiliac joint. This is not something abnormal for me it happens from time to time and usually resolves with some treatment and mobility.  But not this time.  There is fluctuation and has been improvement.  But some days I feel pain with every step walking. My body is normally quite resilient but for whatever reason that is not the case at present. This is extremely frustrating really leaves me feeling kind of lost.
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What have I been doing?

Well when this initially happened I took one day completely off and then started to cross train with the hopes that it would resolve quickly and I would be able to maintain fitness in order to get to the start line.  Unfortunately, it has not responded and so I have now taken 4 days completely OFF with the hopes that, that will help it to calm down.  I told myself I was going to take the weekend off being an athlete and as soon as I gave my self permission to have a break I felt better.
Cross training included spinning and pool running, both of which I detest. Although I think that I have really started to master pool running as other pool goers have asked if I was ‘running in the pool?’ to which my response is always ‘yes… but I would rather be outside’.  How do I get through these torturous endeavours of cross training? I always go back to my “why”.  My goal is to break 2:40 and if doing some pool running and spinning is going to help me get there than so be it.  I will try to write a separate blog on cross training so stay tuned.
I have also been trying to (*except maybe over the weekend) maintain my clean diet in order to help with the healing as well.
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Lessons I have (hopefully) learned:

  • When something hurts stop missing out on some mileage is far better than misssing out on the start line
  • When you know you are going to be faced with an increase in emotional or mental stress adjust the plan to decrease the physical stress

What I got out of the build:

  • A black toe nail (R 4th toe)
  • A race win (TO Women’s run 10k)
  • A 5k personal best (16:48)
  • My highest mileage week ever (180km)
  • My longest run ever (44k)

I am a big believer that there is always something good to come out of any unfortunate situation.  And I know I will come back stronger and better for it.
“If you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.” -Dr Wayne Dyer  I am trying really hard to work on my mental game through this… but man it is tough!

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What’s next?

Well first thing is first I need to allow myself to heal so I can come back strong.  Best case scenario it resolves sooner rather than later and I can resume training with my hopes set on a late fall marathon (*with no pressure just allowing myself to see how my body takes it).  Worse case I am forced to take more time off, do a block of cross training and come back to some base building when I am ready.  Either way I am sure there will be many more hard days, but I will continue to push on towards my crazy dreams.

I want to end this blog with a quote that really hit home for me from Kara Goucher on Instagram about coming fourth in the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon:
“But even knowing the result would be the same, I would do it all again.  Why?  Because I felt so alive wanting something so much.  Training with such purpose and passion.”
https://www.instagram.com/p/BnrIqCyHJJY/?hl=en&taken-by=karagoucher 

I have no regrets about pushing my limits and chasing my crazy dream.  I do have regrets about not allowing myself to listen to my body—so this is something I am going to have to continue to work on.  That line between pushing and being stubborn and pushing and being smart.  In no way am I looking for empathy or pity I just want to fully explain my situation as I know I will have to discuss it over the coming weeks so at least if this is here and people want to understand they can.

Also I highly recommend this blog about the marathon not owing us anything it is a great read:  https://medium.com/@bromka/the-marathon-doesnt-owe-you-anything-904b4ae73993

Thank to each and every one of you that read this whole blog… it was a long one and I truly appreciate it.  Your support means the world to me.

My dad will forever be in my heart and on my running shoe. ❤ 

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13 thoughts on “Stress is stress is stress…

  1. Brittany,
    You are such an incredible person and I know your Dad is looking down on you with tremendous pride. Take the time to heal both physically and mentally so that you pursue your dreams soon!

    Uncle Paul xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wish you a good recovery. Physical and mentally. The next start line you are you will be ready and better than ever. And the finish will be magical, for you and for your dad above. But take the time that’s needed. The future goal (Olympic Marathon ?) could be so much better than the current goal (Chicago Marathon 2018). Keep up the good work, you are doing great and great results will follow.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brittany, you are such an inspiration to the Toronto running community. I know It sucks not to be able to run for the next little while. After all, that’s what we love to do day in day out. But take the required time off to heal both mentally and physically. I know you will come back stronger and hungrier for more success. Wish you a speedy road to recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As hard as it is right now Brittany, know that your story will help many struggling with similar stories (and there are many) and know that it will help your own healing. Keep looking forward, there will be another finish line in the near future to work towards and cross faster and stronger than ever before .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, condolences on the loss of your Father, and all the best on your recovery (physical and every other way as well). Best wishes on a kick ass 2019 of training and racing! Chicago will still be there – it’s not THAT windy there 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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