Friday, 14 November 2014

Back From Injury Plus Skyrunning

The joy of a stress fracture

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post, mainly because I've been very busy setting up the 2015 US Skyrunner Series and also because I've not been running. Also, I spoke to Ultra Runner Podcast about the same topics a couple of weeks ago.

Firstly, the Skyrunning side of things - I've loved these epic mountain-style races for years and have been involved with the International Skyrunning Federation since 2012 on the Board. It's an honor to be involved and I'm very happy with the range of races brought together in the Series across nine different States in the US. In particular it's very enjoyable to work with Race Directors with a real passion for trails and mountains who live that lifestyle every day. Here are a few shots from the 2014 US Skyrunner Series races I went to in person.

Lone Peak at the Rut in Montana

Runners ascending Lone Peak

Kilian on top the VK podium at the Rut 

Anna Frost coming into an aid station at the Rut 50k

Fellow coach, Ellie Greenwood, with a switch from road dominance at Comrades to the mountains at the Rut

Try getting those prizes home on a plane!
Jeremy Wolf above 11,000ft at the Flagstaff Sky Race in Arizona

Michael Versteeg starting the final descent at Flagstaff
Secondly, I've been traveling around a lot but not running due to a stress fracture in my right foot. I first felt it back in July after running down Mt Whitney after pacing at the Badwater 135, where I hit the same spot multiple times near my second toe with some sharp rocks. I felt like a bruise and I ignored it, including through the Leadville 100 a month later. After that I'd planned to rest a month as an off-season anyway, so I wasn't as aware of the problem til I tried to run again in mid-September.

Overall, I've not been too worried about it since I really needed a rest after the three 100s this year (Rocky Raccoon, Western States and Leadville), at which I already felt fatigued due to the Grand Slam last year. So I took it easy, had a three-week visit from my parents where we went to a few National Parks (Yosemite, Sequoia, King's Canyon and the Grand Canyon) then realized I needed a break from even walking...and a break from taking a break! Below are a couple of photos from those beautiful places, although I do wish I could have run in them properly instead of light walking.

No running shots in the GC, but it's well 'just' taking in the views

"I wish I could run down there right now"
Thanks to the crutches at the top of this post, I then took around nine days of zero impact for my right foot and that was obviously frustrating. However it seems to have paid off in combination with Sarah Lavender-Smith's ultrasound machine (see photo below) since I've been able to get back to walking longer distances. 20 mins a day of this machine seems to have helped, although it's difficult to tell and the science behind it isn't conclusive for this type of situation. I'd be willing t try it again if I get a similar problem, since it's better to have proactive options like this rather than just pure rest. It's also helpful for giving me more insight as a coach - a stress fracture is almost a right of passage for a runner and I've never had one before. So although the use of ultrasound hasn't been conclusively proven to help with healing fractures, it seems to have a neutral effect at worst and it helps pyschologically to be doing something proactive.

Ultrasound for bone stimulation

Amy and I even power-walked the US Half Marathon together in 2h59m at the start of November, which gave me the confidence to restart running. The following week I took a risk in starting the Berkeley Half Marathon and just hoped I could run every step, so was pleasantly surprised to still have some speed and to run a 1h25m with only minor soreness afterwards (except my muscles which really weren't used to it). In the few days after that it feels fine again and I've been able to run pain-free, so I can hopefully progress beyond runs every other day very soon.

So that sums up the past three months. Really busy and that probably helped by stopping me worry about the injury. I'm very optimistic that this long break will pay off in my 2015 season and it's certainly got me excited about running again. Now I have just over three weeks to my next benchmark, the California International Marathon. Originally I'd planned to have a long, solid build-up and to go for a sub 2h30m, but now the main focus is to run every step pain-free as a confirmation that I can train hard again.


  1. Thanks for posting about stress fracture recovery. A lot of us need the encouragement to have faith and keep off the foot! I think that machine is electrical stimulation, though, not ultrasound. My PT told me never to ultrasound bones!

  2. No, it's an ultrasound machine aiming to stimulate bone regrowth. It's fairly common as a part of treatment for stress fractures, although it's not conclusively proven to benefit stress fractures through scientific studies (depends on which expert you ask). Ultrasound used to be advised against for fractures, but now is widely recognized as being appropriate.

  3. Thanks for posting about the recovery process, especially when someone like myself wants to be stubborn and "run" it off. Ive been night running and that's how I got my stress fracture, I'm blind as a bat and kept hitting technical routes anyway. I tried to ignore the pain...took a day off and then kept running. I couldn't bear pain anymore so I just rested a few days and stubbornly ran again. Not a good idea. I finally decided to rest the longest period of my life, 6 weeks! It was frustrating, and very humbling...but I'm up and running again. I hope you get back to 100% Ian and keep inspiring the rest of us! And thanks for putting together such a series!
    Fernando Baeza
    Austin, TX