So I decided to run a marathon.
This post has been sitting in draft state for, no joke, almost a year. A lot has gone down in that year.
To recap: I signed up for the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon. Shortly after, I began seeking treatment and diagnosis of a back injury that was bothering me somewhat intermittently. It started around the same time I started my new job at the University of Maryland, so I was willing to blame the transition between working at home and working in the office. I went through 3 desk chairs and finally a standing desk at work. In the meantime, I saw a chiropractor and, when that didn’t seem to help, I went to see my physical therapist (who I can’t say enough good things about).
With the help of my physical therapist, I made it through the 2018 roller derby season, capping off my derby career at the North America East Continental Cup in Kalamazoo, MI. My husband made the trip with me, and some of my family and friends from the midwest came to see me play. It was a great way to go out. I retired with the intentions of focusing on my graduate school courses and hoped to continue skating on a recreational level as time allowed.
A few weeks after the derby season ended, I hurt myself lifting at the gym. My back was feeling really great after 2.5 months of PT, so I decided to do the exercise I noticed bothered it in the first place to see if it still bothered me — back squats. I didn’t even move that much weight (95 lbs, which would have been a warmup set for me in the past). I did two sets of 10 at the beginning of my workout and then did other things. Everything seemed okay at the time.
Immediately after completing the workout, I was walking across campus to my office and already starting to regret the weighted squats. My back was getting very sore already. It felt like DOMS at first, except it set in WAY fast, and the pain continued to get worse for about two days. Ibuprofen didn’t help. Stretching didn’t help. My PT exercises didn’t help. Moving around was uncomfortable, but so was sitting down and laying down. This culminated in me coming home from work one night and laying on the living room floor in agony. Corner asked if we should go to the emergency room. I was in so much pain I couldn’t imagine being so uncomfortable anywhere but my own home. Plus, I already suspected the pain was not muscular, so I wasn’t convinced there was anything they could actually do to help me, short of giving me some crazy pain medication that I wasn’t sure would resolve the actual problem. So I stayed home.
A few days after the ill-fated workout, I saw my physical therapist, who recommended I also seek out an orthopedist. She recommended a guy and I made an appointment. Of course, it took a few weeks to get in and during this time my nerve pain (because I know that’s what it was now) started to subside. In October, I finally got an MRI and discovered that I have two herniated discs (L4-L5 and L5-S1; the two most commonly herniated ones). And not a little herniated….a lot herniated. The ortho says the damage was probably cumulative (so not from one specific incident), but there’s no way to really know.
I was told no more roller derby (good thing I had just “retired”) and no yoga and no spin class, but I was allowed to run as long as it didn’t hurt. Running was never the thing that seemed to make it flare up, so I continued sporadic short runs (3-4 miles, never on back-to-back days) and going to the gym to do upper body and very basic bodyweight workouts.
At some point during all this, I deferred my Marine Corps Marathon registration from 2018 to 2019. I was bummed but knew I would be better suited for marathon training 12 months down the road.
It was a pretty boring couple of months, if I’m being honest. Luckily the holidays and my grad school courses kept me fairly busy.
I was released from PT just before Thanksgiving. Eventually the ortho cleared me for more activities, but yoga still makes my back stiff and crabby afterwards so I am continuing to avoid it for now. And I’m still not allowed to play roller derby. While I had no plans to skate competitively this season, I did want to drop in occasionally to scrimmage and, you know, see my friends.
I started running longer distances again knowing that I am running the Rival Run Challenge at Disney World in April. I also joined OrangeTheory Fitness in February when they opened a location in College Park (it’s a 5-minute walk from work!). It’s great cross-training and I don’t have to plan the workouts myself. I just modify parts of the floor workout if it involves movements that irritate my lower back. Love it!!!
On Saturday I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC half marathon. It was my first half marathon in over a year (my last half was the 2018 Disney Princess Half Marathon last February!). I even managed to snag a PR — 1:57:09. Almost 6 minutes faster than my last half! And my back didn’t hurt afterwards (only my legs, hahaha)!
tldr; I’m back to distance running and planning to run my first marathon in the fall. Pending my followup MRI later this week, I hope to be back on skates soon, too.