Dawn Baker: Preparing For My Comeback

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The doctor who thinks I am crazy to continue running, in my opinion, did at least one thing right. He arranged for me to get a bone stimulator. It's an ultrasonic bone growth stimulation device that accelerates the healing of stress fractures. I have now been wearing it for more than a month – 14 hours a day- everyday. He told me that there was some research that suggests that the medical device might help heal my bone faster. I was relieved that he would at least help me get that. Ironically, the same doctor who had just told me the day before that I was running for publicity ended our conversation by saying, "You never know, if it works, the company might give you a t-shirt to wear for the race." Now, isn't that funny. To him, it would have been bad for me to run to get attention, but now, he wanted me to run so that I could serve as a moving advertisement for the medical equipment company that makes the bone stimulator. Isn't that interesting?

A couple of weeks later, I went for a second opinion. The new doctor also agreed that I definitely had a textbook case of stress fractures brought on by overtraining. Instead of telling me that I would have to forget about my passion for running, he encouraged me to continue with the program that I had started about a week before with my trainers. He went on to say that there is no reason that I would have to put aside my hopes of fulfilling my dream of running the Rock n' Roll ½ Marathon on November 5th. At that time, the race was about sixty days away. He made me promise that I would not run on the ground again until after he had cleared me to run. Thank goodness I have always been a fighter. I have never given up on any of my dreams- at least not any of them that were realistic.

Fortunately, right from the beginning of my program in February, I have been surrounded by caring trainers, Lydia DePue, Robert Espinoza, Ernest Ledesma, and Jason Sapp, who I believe, always had my best interest at heart. I talked with them and Ernie developed a plan that would allow me take a break from running so that the fractures would heal and I would still be able to take part in the race. After a week off, I started cycling three times a week and running in the pool one time week. That plan may not sound like a big deal to you, but to me, it was frightening- a real life nightmare coming true. I had not been on a bicycle since I was a child and the last time I felt confident swimming, I witnessed a drowning.

I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I always knew had to do it. I will never forget how Ernie, Jason, and Robert made sure I got those water workouts in. Robert got me suited up in an aqua jogger and tethered me to the ladder in the pool with a rope. I looked like such a dork, but they did not let on even though I knew I looked funny in the get up. So far, to my knowledge, I have not shown up in youtube. The guys took turns running the workouts in the pool with this girl whom I just know they thought might have a flashback at any moment and end up drowning all of us. This went on for weeks and no one complained. My team just kept on reassuring me that I would get better.

After about three weeks of having no pain at all, I called the doctor and asked if I could at least try running on the Alter g, an anti- gravity treadmill developed by NASA. You can actually run on that treadmill while taking up to ninety percent of your body weight off. So, you are still getting the anaerobic benefits of running on the ground without the stress on your joints. The doctor agreed and now I have been doing an interval program on the Alter g for the last few days with thirty percent of my body weight off. Right now I am only running about fifty minutes averaging about three miles. Next week, Ernie will continue to tweak my program by allowing me to run for longer periods of time and adding more of my body weight back on. It is going to be an interesting time as we are now less than a month away from the race.

As I was recovering, my favorite coach, Robert, had surgery on his knee. So, there goes my partner. He was supposed to run with me and make sure I made it over that finish line. Robert is now recovering. Unless he really is Superman, he will not be able to run with me. So, now, I am even more afraid. The anxiety is building. I cannot even begin to explain how anxious I am about the race. I will be doing a run/ walk. My training during these next few weeks will determine my run/ walk ratio.

It is the smartest thing for me right now and probably forever since I see I will not ever become a band- aid thin runner. I used to be obsessed with constantly worrying why I was not losing more weight. I was watching what I ate and burning more calories than I have ever burned in my life. In spite of my discipline, I have not lost many pounds this year. In fact, I have remained around the same BIG number. That is so frustrating that I write a book about that. I relaxed a bit when Robert told me one day that some of us will be fire plugs! Well, at least fire plugs are strong!!!

I am taking it easy and following my physical therapist's orders so that I will not ever have that kind of pain again. I am optimistic that my dream team will help me get across that finish line in one piece and in no need of medical attention. I guess, like Robert says, "It's all part of the journey." I agree, but I still wish mine was less adventurous at times. It is scary to have to start over with my training so close to the race, but I will finish even if I end up walking more than I had planned. Success for me will be finishing before the bus comes along that picks up the people who have exceeded the time limit. So, I am just planning to "beat the bus" without getting injured again. I am requesting that you guys cue up the "Eye of the Tiger" as I run "my race" with dignity. I will see all of you at the finish line one way or another on 11/5, but this time, I will be walking with pride and running with wisdom! Thank you for the support. It really means the world to me.

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