An Athlete’s Perspective is a blog series of event and/or training experiences written firsthand by the athletes themselves. An Athlete’s Perspective is a completely unscripted and raw look into the mind and daily life of an athlete as they prepare for their next race. Readers will discover training regimens, eating tips, gear recommendations, and an uncut perspective into the lives of people like you and me.
Returning from Injury: The Uphill Battle
By: Anita Perez
The beginning of 2016 has definitely been the highlight of my running career. On February 13, I finished 33rd at my first Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles and two months later I ran a 10-mile race in Austin and set a PR of 57:46 on nothing but maintenance. My coach and I sat down and agreed on some solid goals for the upcoming months. I was fit and feeling great! I was unstoppable!
The little nagging aches and pains. Nothing major, some hamstring tightness here, plantar tightness there. Just the typical pains every runner faces at least once every training cycle. It may not have stopped me from running but boy did it frustrate me. Good races came and went and next thing you know it was time to start the build-up for the 2017 Austin Marathon. On October 9th, I had my first ever DNF at the Army 10 Miler. I should have known that was a sign of things to come. Nonetheless, I kept training and pushing towards the goal of a great marathon in Austin.
THE NIGHT THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
On Tuesday, December 13, 2016, everything came crashing down. The workout called for 4x1000m with 400 rec. First 1K…3:25…right on pace. Second 1K…this is when it happened, this is when I felt “pop.” I knew in an instant something was really wrong. I fell to the ground, couldn’t put any pressure on my foot, and remember thinking…this is it. It’s over. I tried hard to keep my composure because my little ones were there and I didn’t want them to know how much pain I was in.
Two days later I was diagnosed with a stress reaction. My running had come to a dead stop. In my 20 years of running, this was the first time I had experienced a “real” injury. Everyone around me told me I would be fine. They reminded me that the cross training I was doing was only going to make me stronger. I had people telling me that I’d be back running in as little as 4-6 weeks. Well, that wasn’t the case. What was diagnosed as a “stress reaction” seemed to act like a “stress fracture.” Every step I took hurt which left me no choice but to wear a boot. Fast forward 8 weeks after the initial diagnosis, I decided to give running a shot and met my coach at the track. After a failed attempt to make it halfway around the track, I realized I was no closer to running than I was in December. My frustration level grew and my confidence level dropped. I found myself wondering if I was ever going to run again. Fortunately, I have a really great support system. I had people encouraging me along the way and found motivation in the community of runners that surrounded me. But the one memory that stands out the most was the conversation I had with my 11-year-old daughter Jadeyn. We had discussed the 2020 Olympic Trials, and I remember her saying, “Mom, I know you’re injured but we’ve got plenty of time to qualify for the Olympic Trials.” Just like that my drive and desire for running came back. I had a goal, WE had a goal, and that goal was to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials. Slowly but surely I started to regain my fitness. In the spring of this year, I started to really focus on building my mileage. My eyes were set on the Chicago Marathon. Although things were going well, I would still have random foot pain. Each time the pain would show up my confidence would drop. I have to admit, I had doubts that I would make it to the starting line. Every time I’d have a bad workout, my coach would assure me that “things are going to be fine.” I must have heard him say that over 1,000 times. Not just after workouts, but throughout the day. I was really struggling with the thought of not being able to run a marathon pain-free. I had my moments of struggle, moments of doubt, but I kept getting out the door at 4:30 am to get in the work. My goal was to run just run under 2:50. The hardest part was convincing myself, despite a subpar training cycle, that I could still run a decent marathon. However, my coach kept saying things to me that kept the trials standard in the back of my mind every day.
THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
I finally agreed to his madness and decided that I would execute the race plan he put out for me. When that day came, I trusted the process, stuck to the plan, and somehow managed to run a 2:44:04 and once again qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials. WE DID IT JADEYN! After I finished the marathon I realized that I still can run fast, I still can put in the work to continue to improve in this sport, and I have a fantastic group of people around me to help me through the struggles we all go through. My training partners, who are there every morning at 4:30to get in the work, my coach who puts up with the highs and the lows of an athlete struggling to move forward in this sport, and most importantly my kids who inspire me every day to be the best role model and mother I can be for them.
With my confidence restored I can’t wait to toe the line at both the 3M Half Marathon and Austin Half Marathon to make up for the disappointment of missing both races last year. I especially look forward to 3M because you always know you have to be ready to race well as everyone else tends to bring their “A” game to this race. There is nothing better than lining up with some of the fastest ladies all looking to take advantage of the downhill course! A couple things to remember…1) Stick to the plan 2) Trust the process and most importantly 3) Have fun! See you at the starting line!