It's not easy for an elite competitor like Regan Weidner to slow down, let alone come to a complete halt.
The runner-up in Class 1A a year ago has had to do just that in order to preserve any shot for her Bureau Valley Storm in the cross country postseason. Not to mention her track season and, further down the road, her senior season in both sports.
Weidner experienced pain in her legs from the first meet of the cross country season. But she cross-trained and ran through pain at the Princeton Invitational in mid-September.
"She's a competitor, but we instill into the athletes the importance of looking at the whole picture," said Bureau Valley coach Dale Donner, who pulled Weidner from the Bureau Valley Invitational on Sept. 21, the beginning of a 5-week hiatus.
It was time to stare reality in the face. Something was wrong. Weidner's mother, Christine, is a physical therapist and has helped her daughter kick myriad injuries, including a hip issue last season.
This time, Christine took Regan to her boss. X-rays revealed an issue, and Regan next went to Methodist Center in Peoria, where a sports specialist told her it could be a few things: severe shin splints, the beginning of a stress fracture or a bad stress fracture that would put Regan in a boot and likely end her season.
An MRI showed that the Weidners caught the beginning of a stress fracture, and Regan's running was shut down for a month.
But she had a partner in rehab, as she and fellow Storm runner Ryan Taylor – who broke his toe – spent many hours on the elliptical or the bike or in the pool at Metro Center in Princeton.
Weidner was pain-free at her follow-up appointment, but still had to ease back into running. That meant running two 10-minute miles – more than 4 minutes slower than her clip in Peoria last November – broken up by 5 minutes of walking.
"She says, 'Coach, I don't know if I could run that slow,'" Donner said.
“It was difficult, and I don’t know if I was always going at a 10-minute mile, because it was so hard,” Weidner said. “It basically felt like I was doing a warm-up, walking, and doing another warmup. It was like doing a warmup and cool-down and skipping everything in between.”
And that's the best part. So one can only imagine how thrilled Weidner was to be able to fully open the throttle – albeit for just a mile and a half – this past weekend.
“Even though it was only a mile and a half, I could definitely feel that I hadn’t run in a month,” Weidner said. “It was definitely fun to be able to get out there and do that, but it also brought in the realization that I have not run for so long that, if I want to move on and be competitive at all this year, it’s gonna hurt."
So Weidner has had to adjust her goals.
"We talked about, 'Don't think you're going to take second in state this year,'" Donner said. "Right now, it's about getting the team through. Then we regroup next week."
“It’s hard knowing how well you’ve done previously and that you can’t expect to do as well again – because it isn’t realistic,” Weidner said. “But I think I use everything that people tell me – that I can’t do as well this year or compete the way I did in the past – I think it all just makes me motivated, more than anything.”