Two steps forward, three steps back

It all started this time last year. Texas sweltered through 90 days of 100+ degree temperatures, and I spent a lot of time running indoors, on the treadmill. One day I set it on a bit of an incline, and near the end of my run, suddenly my left hip flexor sort of popped. I felt a sharp pain with every step.

Over the next few weeks I tried everything–stretches, ice, heat, ibuprofen. Nothing helped. I went to a sports therapist. I saw an orthopedist, who found nothing on X-ray or MRI. Then he told me to stop doing the thing that made it hurt. I continued with the sports therapist, and I worked out on the elliptical at the gym. My family ran a 5K while I watched from the sidelines.

Two months later, it felt better, and I slowly started running again. By June, I was up to 8-9 miles a week without problems, so I felt good about beginning this half marathon training.

Reality check: my hip flexor is not healed.

I thought it was–training has gone well for nearly two months, and I ran pain-free for 21 miles last week, save the usual soreness that comes with increased mileage. I felt great, maybe even a little accomplished.

But this week, I crashed back to earth.

About a mile into last night’s training run, I felt a twinge in my left hip. I slowed my pace a little and tried to ignore it, hoping it would go away. Naturally, that didn’t work. The twinge became a sharp pain and I had to walk. At the two-mile point, my coach was waiting. He saw my awkward limp–and the look on my face–and knew something was wrong.

I just wanted to sit on the curb and cry. I’ve been pain-free for six months. I’ve stuck to the training schedule even when it was 102 degrees, when I traveled, and when it required me to wake up at 5:45 on a Saturday. I’ve worked harder at this than at any athletic endeavor since high school. And I am terrified that it all may be for nothing.

I told my coach that I didn’t want to wimp out of the training run, but I was worried this might be the beginning of the same spiral that would sideline me again. He said I wasn’t wimping out–he wasn’t going to LET me run. Classic teacher move–he took the decision out of my hands so I wouldn’t feel like I was quitting. He told me to walk back to the store, then go home and ice my hip. As I walked the mile and a half, I felt like the guy on the losing team, heading dejectedly back to the locker room.

There is no happy ending. Not yet anyway. It feels better today, and I am hopeful that it just needs some extra recovery time from last week’s mileage. I don’t know.