At what point do you cross the threshold from "coming off of an injury" to being "recovered" from an injury and back at normal training? It's a gradual process, and I don't think there is really any particular day I can cite as being "recovered". But I think I have finally crossed over to the other side!
What does it look like to come off of three stress fractures? Not that horrible. For the first few weeks, I followed Pfitzinger's post-injury plan which was specifically written for stress fracture recovery. At first it was run/walking a few times per week and the walking gradually disappeared. I continued to cross train consistently because I wasn't running enough to maintain my fitness level. In April, my focus was on gradually increasing the mileage (by about 10% each week) and introducing short races and speed work. Here's the run down:
April 4: REST
April 5: 4 miles (plus pool running intervals)
April 6: 6 miles (plus elliptical for 45 mins)
April 7: (pool running + swimming for 70 mins)
April 8: 4.1 (5K race @ 7:19 plus warmup)
April 9: REST
April 10: 6 miles (plus 90 mins pool running)
Land Miles: 20.1, Pool Miles: 22, Elliptical: 45 mins, Swimming: 800yd
April 11: (Elliptical for 50 mins)
April 12: 5 miles (plus pool running intervals)
April 13: 5 miles (plus pool running & 1200 yd swim)
April 14: (Elliptical for 40 mins)
April 15: 5 miles (inc. 3.5 @ 7:27)
April 16: (90 mins pool running)
April 17: 8 miles
Land Miles: 23, Pool Miles: 19, Elliptical: 90 mins, Swimming: 1200yd
April 18: REST
April 19: 6 miles
April 20: 5.5 miles
April 21: REST
April 22: 4.4 miles (5K race @7:11 plus warmup)
April 23: (pool running for 80 minutes)
April 24: 9 miles
Land Miles: 24.9, Pool Miles: 8
April 25: (Elliptical for 49 mins)
April 26: 4.5 miles (plus pool running intervals)
April 27: 9 miles
April 28: (1500 yd swim + 20 mins pool running)
April 29: 7 miles
April 30: REST
May 1: 6.5 miles (8K race @ 7:24 plus warmup)
Land Miles: 27, Pool Miles: 8, Elliptical: 49 mins, Swimming: 1500yd
During this time, I was careful to increase my land mileage by 10% each week, but I didn't have a goal for the other cross training. I just did what I felt was enough to keep me fit without tiring myself out too much. There's probably a lot of variation from week to week (like the week of the 18th when I purposely did less to "taper" for the 5K). I didn't have a plan-- I just took things week by week.
After all that, I think I am officially back. I don't have any shin pain when running, although I will occasionally have an awareness of where the fractures were when just sitting at rest. This freaks me out a little bit, but it always goes away and hasn't yet affected any of my runs.
Last week was 30 land miles, 14 pool miles and 1700yd swimming. This includes an 11-mile run-- a distance I have not run since early January. I'm still doing track intervals in the pool, because I'm afraid to introduce another day of speed work into my routine. The pool intervals are extremely challenging and I am confident that they are doing their job, so I am not in a hurry to get back on the track.
I'm now at a point where I can start thinking about summer races. I've decided to not do any more short races in May. This was a tough decision to make because I feel like I was "robbed" of the nice cool March races and now in May it seems like we still are having some cool mornings.
However, I am focusing my training on the Alexandria Running Festival half marathon on May 29, and I need to prioritize longer runs over races. The longest I will probably do leading up to the race will be a 12-miler, which is a lot lower than my previous half marathons over the past few years. Typically I am in marathon training mode and I have at least one recent 20-miler under my belt prior to the half. As such, I am not expecting a PR at this distance. With a May 29 race, I'll have to adjust my time goal based on the weather, but my real goal will simply to be to run my best possible race and not bonk.
I'm both cautious and optimistic about my comeback. I think the time off was probably a much-needed break after years of high mileage and that the cross training will be a nice long-term supplement.