What a journey this has been. My thoughts and emotions are raw as I sit here and type this. To be honest my eyes are welling up, my throat is tight, and my stomach feels like it has a ‘pit’ in it. I am beyond grateful at this moment to be healthy and ready to run the Western States 100. If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is my most favorite race and it means so much to me to be a part of it.
If you are just catching up to what happened to me last October I will give you a quick rundown. On October 22, 2017 I was running a 50K trail race and sustained an injury during the final half mile of the race. An MRI showed that I had a complete facture in my lateral superior pelvic rami and a stress fracture in my inferior pelvic rami (basically I broke my pelvis). I was to be non-weight bearing for 4 weeks followed by several weeks of minimal activity. It took me up until February to actually start running again (on an anti-gravity treadmill). I didn’t start running outside full weight bearing until March. Since then I have gradually increased my training load under diligent guidance of my physical therapist, coach, and doctor.
|A constant reminder I saved on my phone.|
It was exactly one month after my injury I was given one of the coveted spots to run Western States by the Ultra-Trail World Tour. I knew right then that I had to become focused on recovery. I had this opportunity and I was not about to waste it. Thankfully this meant I did not have to rush my recovery in order to race for a Golden Ticket, which was a huge relief.
Reflecting back just 6-months ago when I was unable to run and barely able to walk, I was uncertain if I was even going to be healthy enough to run 1 mile let alone 100 miles. The future looked so bleak at times, but I kept the faith and continued to believe that if there is a will, there is a way…so they say. In time I was able to start running on the anti-gravity treadmill. I’ll never forget that first time at the 17:00 minute mark crying because the feeling of running again felt so powerful. It took over a month of physical therapy and running on the anti-gravity treadmill before I was able to run outside at full body weight.
|The anit-gravity treadmill|
When I first started running outside again I had pain in my groin with every step. The pain would go from a dull ache to random sharp pains. If it became too sharp, I would end my run. Then I would typically have to take a day or two off before I could run again. The dull pain persisted, but I worked through it knowing that as long as it wasn’t sharp it would be ok since it had been over 13-weeks since the injury. And bone heals between 10-12 weeks and actually becomes stronger than it was previously.
I basically had to retrain myself to run again. After using the anti-gravity treadmill and using the Arc-Trainer (like an elliptical) my stride was short and choppy. It took me about 2-weeks before I finally felt like I could stride out normally. During my transitioning to full weight bearing I suddenly became extremely anemic. My hemoglobin in just two weeks went from a healthy 14.0 to an unhealthy 7.2. That drastic drop took all my energy away. My runs suffered and so did I. The sudden drop in my hemoglobin was caused by a couple of factors. One being hemolysis (foot strikes caused a destruction of my red blood cells). The second being my own fault of not taking my iron supplement or eating iron rich foods. It took a good 3-4 weeks of taking iron 2-3 times a day, adding in red meat and fortified foods such as Cream of Wheat into my diet, and cooking in a cast iron skillet to slowly rebuild my red blood cells. I am still on the low end of normal, but I will not let myself neglect my iron ever again.
Finally, in April I started to feel more like myself. I decided to test my fear and sign up for my first race since the injury. It was the Free State Marathon in Kansas. This scared me more than running my first 100-mile race had. I knew if something would cause my injury to return, that I would not be able to run Western States. I had to test my body and trust that whatever happens, happens. It ended up really testing me because the rain came down on my second half of the race causing the mud to stick to my shoes. The weight of my shoes was going to pull on my injury site and if it was going to fail…this would cause it. I had only a minor pain here and there, but nothing constant or to the point of stopping. I finished the race overcome with joy and gladness. I made one big step towards my goal.
|Photo Credit: Mile90photography|
Soon after I talked to my coach, Jason Koop, and we came up with a solid yet flexible training plan. I did a similar final build up like years in the past, but a little dialed back. I’ve also taken more days off than I typically ever have in all the years of running, but I was listening to my body and being patient. I wasn’t going to risk any setbacks.
Now with only having 5-days until I start my 5th consecutive Western States 100, I know I have done everything I can with the amount of time I’ve been given to be as ready and able to run 100 miles as best as I can. I am starting this race full of gratitude, thankfulness, and a new inner-strength that I have grown since recovering from my injury. I am taking this journey from Squaw Valley to Auburn to celebrate life, health, and the ability to run free. Here’s to a great day full of memories and adventure!!
Thank you everyone who has been with me on this long road to recovery. You have no idea how much your words, messages, and thoughts have meant to me. Please know that I take each of those messages to heart and they have helped me heal. I am dedicating my 2018 Western States race to all of you!!
|Photo Credit: Gary Dougherty|
Kaci AKA Pixie Ninja