Femoral Neck Stress Fracture: Rising from the Ashes

me crutches IB

 Swimming at Indian Brook Reservoir right after incurring my stress fracture (big no no)

I’ve had a lot of injuries over the past 5 years and have always gotten right back to business and training. But a femoral neck (top of femur bone) stress fracture was the worst injury of my athletic career. About a year ago in May 2015 I started to have some right hip soreness. By the end of May after a 5 hour hard bike ride and 1 hour run, I had a very sore right hip. And from there it never got better. I thought it was a strained hip flexor and did take a week off from running. However the soreness persisted mostly when I attempted to run. My mileage was so much less than marathon training but my body was just tired from the many hours of swim/bike/run. I still wanted to attempt the Mont Tremblant Half Ironman on June 21, 2015 which was the biggest mistake and the day where the bone definitely “cracked”. I did have a decent swim and a good bike ride but after a mile into the run I was limping pretty badly. I couldn’t believe how painful it was to run even slowly! At about 1.7 miles I had to stop and have a volunteer drive me back to the medical center. My hip seized up so much that I couldn’t even get out of the golf cart and had to have a wheel chair. It was one of my toughest days not being able to finish a race and incurring such a severe injury.

me tri bike MT 70.3

 Mont Tremblant 70.3 bike course June 2015

A week later I had an appointment at Dartmouth Hitchcock in New Hampshire for an MRI. I was crushed when I received the bad news that morning from my doctor. I would be on crutches for the next 11-12 weeks. It was bad, very very bad. A femoral neck stress fracture can take anywhere from 4-8+ months to heal. It’s one of the worst injuries a runner can receive.  I was crushed as my Ironman dreams went down the toilet for that summer. I new it would be long time before I could run. And to add insult to injury I came down with a bad case of pneumonia. I’m not joking! I had hit rock bottom. For July and August I was injured and sick, living mostly on my sofa. And much to my fear I gave Scott my pneumonia so he was not able to do his Ironman either. It was a real sh*t show at our house last summer to say the least. It couldn’t have gotten much worse.

In regards to training, I bit off more than I could chew that spring. I thought I could handle a full time job along with a 20-26 hour training week. Boy was I wrong! I also made a few training errors by moving some running hill work right before a 16 mile club time trial on the bike. And my body may not have had enough time to recover for the big weekend of training. The doctors said they believed it was over training that caused my stress fracture. Also I might have been slightly underweight as well. My body BMI was well under 20 and many coaches want their female triathletes to be at least 20. My blood work came back stellar and my bone density scan was normal for a female in her mid 40s. I just did too much. It happens. There was a well known female pro triathlete who also had the same stress fracture as me last summer. And I have learned that this type of stress fracture is not uncommon for runners and triathletes.

cross bike maine  me in ocean

Maine in September – doing a little too much!

The body does heal and I did get better slowly. By the end of December my 3rd MRI showed more than 90% healing. My doctor was trilled with that since my second MRI in September showed the fracture line had increased. That was bizarre since my hip was feeling progressively better and I was walking around, running on the Alter G (at 20-30% of my body weight) doing some easy fat biking and swimming. It was hard to be patient but eventually I did get better.

me mtn bike rail trailMountain biking on the Rail Trail from Morrisville, VT – Oct 2015 

me running on bike path feb 2016

 Running on the Burlington Bike path in February 2016

me riding in Morrisville easter

Riding from Stowe up through Hyde Park in March 2016

I hired a wonderful new coach who is now working closely with me and watching my training almost on a daily basis. I feel I’m in good hands and trust her completely. She gave me my first easy week of training in January 2016 to be cautious. I started with the walk-run-walk-run protocol and eventually by February I was running outside without walk breaks.  I had also done a lot of “jogging” on the Alter G up to 95% of my bodyweight by the beginning January. But it was exciting to finally be running outside. We had a mild winter here in Vermont so there were many days where it wasn’t too cold to run. We also purchased a treadmill which has been a huge help in the road to recovery. I have never been a fan of the “dreadmill” but as I get older, I really have no interest in running when it’s –7F or in other silly winter weather. The computrainer is another important tool that has been helping me regain my bike fitness. Hard wattage workouts are new to me but very effective. I know they have been a huge help. And I can’t forget to mention the master swims on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The training and friendships have been one of the best parts of my week for the past 6+ months!

us in FL by lake

In March, we decided to visit my new Ironman coach in Clermont, Florida for a week. I wanted to work on my swimming and ride my bike outside in the sun. Vermont winters are long, dark and difficult and this was exactly what I needed. I also did get 3 very nice runs done during the week while still being conservative. The week was beautiful with temps in the mid 80s and sunny every day. It felt like paradise and I was happy all week long. I flew my tri-bike down and Scott rented a nice tri-bike during the week (he had to switch it with a road bike on the last 2 days due to a race and it being rented). We rode every day on the nice quiet back roads in Clermont and Minneola. It was nice to feel safe on the roads down there. The pool at the National Training Center (NTC) was the best aspect of the trip. It was our first time in an outdoor 50 meter pool. And I had swim lessons with Lisa and her husband Dave almost every day. It was super helpful! They are great teachers!

me and lisa pool

National Training Center in Clermont, Florida with Lisa

me lake apoka trail scott apoka trail

Running on the beautiful Apopka Loop Trail outside of Clermont, Florida

scott alligator lake louisaNo open water swimming for us in Florida!! Lake Louisa State Park

When we got back from Florida we began to volunteer each Friday evening during the next four weeks for Swimming Saves Lives. This is a volunteer program through the US Masters Swimming and it helps teach adults to learn how to swim. I’ve gotten so much out of our own masters swim program that I feel the need to give back! It’s a wonderful program and this was our second year helping people in the water. While it does benefit so many people (nationwide), I feel that I get a lot out of this program as well. I love helping people get involved with swimming, biking and running. It’s my true passion. I loved working with my student who was so eager and excited to learn to swim. At the end of the 4 weeks, she was swimming freestyle all the way across the pool. It was so satisfying for both of us. I look forward to helping out again next year and teaching more people how to swim and save their life!

SSL group foto

I recently got back from a business trip out in San Jose, California. My training has been going so well the last couple of months that I wanted to make sure I was able to run and swim out there between the conference and socializing with clients and co-workers. I did find another outdoor 50 meter pool at the San Jose University Aquatic Center and the Guadeloupe River trail, both close to the hotel and convention center. I always do love training in new places. I even had one of my awesome co-workers join me on a swim workout and early morning 8 miler! Thanks again Mike M!

San Jose Aquatic center

Guadeloupe river trail san jose

The Guadeloupe River trail was a bit sketchy in the morning with homeless people sleeping on the side which made me sad . I was glad to have company on Thursday morning. The pool was big and uncrowded, but not quite as clean as it looks. Band aides and bubble gum were among many things sited on the bottom of the pool. But it is a university pool, not the National Training Center. Still it was awesome to swim outside after being indoors all day at the conference.

Now that I’m almost back in full force there is a lot going on in May. On May 1st I finally participated in the Waterbury Gravel Grinder dirt road ride. It’s not a race but sorta is a race! I had a lot of fun riding Scott’s new Litespeed gravel bike since he was flying back to Vermont that morning. I’ll probably blog more about this when I do it again next year. It was great to see many cycling buddies.

me chris john gravel grinderWaterbury Gravel Grinder – post ride with Chris and John

So now I continue to train for the Mont Tremblant 70.3 on June 26, 2016 and the Mont Tremblant 140.6 on August 21st. I’m so excited to do our first Ironman together! And I have unfinished business at the MT 70.3!! Next week is the local Stowe Triathlon Sprint. That will be a good little tune up and super fun day. I haven’t raced in almost a year so it will be exciting to see how I’m coming along with my fitness. I’m not quite 100% yet but I’m getting there thanks to Lisa. I’m making a comeback! Stay tuned!

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