Success on the Streets of Atlantic City
By Lottie Bildirici of Running on Veggies
I first walked into Finish Line PT in 2013. At the time I had recently started working with a running coach who recommended I have a gait analysis. So I made an appointment at Finish Line, and off I went to meet Jason Lakritz, who was the PT assigned to conduct my analysis.
I don’t remember much about the actual appointment but I vividly remember the office. It was unlike any physical therapy place I had ever seen: pictures on the wall of athletes holding medals, an AlterG treadmill, TRX, foam rollers — a far cry from the PT I had seen a year ago for my “runner’s knee.” Everything in that place was outdated, and I must have been the youngest patient in the office by 40 years.
A year after that initial visit my ITB flared up, and Finish Line was my first phone call. Jason nursed me back to health, but unfortunately this was the first of many injuries he and I would have to deal with. I returned to running that summer and fall but noticed a pain in my hip that winter. Right away I emailed Jason, and he told me that if it persisted I should come in to see him.
A week later I was in his office complaining of that same nagging pain which turned out to be the much dreaded diagnosis of a stress fracture. To make matters worse, this was a femoral neck stress fracture — the worst kind.
I was scared and anxious about my prognosis. I didn’t know what this would all mean for my future running career. I went back to Finish Line that same week, and Jason showed me how to use crutches and properly walk up and down stairs. He was so patient, helpful and sympathetic; he’s a runner as well, so he understood how I was feeling.
I worked hard to heal, but once again I found myself at Finish Line 10 months later with the same pain. I explained to Jason what it felt like, and he suggested I go back to the doctor again, just to see what he says. Turns out that was crucial advice because the doctor said I had a stress reaction in the same spot.
I was thankful I caught it early enough to avoid another fracture, but I was also concerned as to why it was happening again. After a few months of rest from running, Jason had me back up and running on the AlterG. Five months later I found myself back at Finish Line with the same pain, this time in my opposite hip.
It couldn’t be, right?!! Wrong. A stress fracture in my femur this time in the opposite hip! I had now been diagnosed with three stress fractures—all in my hips—in less than two years. It seemed like I couldn’t catch a break. I loved running, and it wasn’t something I could ever see giving up.
Fortunately, Jason and I were on the same page. Unlike many doctors and physical therapists, Jason and the Finish Line team never once told me to stop running forever. Instead they worked with my doctors and my coach to figure out a plan so I could take proper time to heal, safely return to running and complete a half-Ironman that September. Talk about goals!
What is unique about Finish Line is that they share my same mentality of “if there is a will, there is a way.” Like me, they believe that if you can treat and prevent the problem, you shouldn’t have to compromise your goals. Jason eventually gave me a full work-up, exploring my gait extensively and cadence in order to figure out if I had any imbalance in my hips and or if I needed to strengthen specific areas. Based on the results, he gave me exercises and tips to improve my gait and prevent injury. And he and my coach agreed that I should do most of my 70.3 training runs on the AlterG, with very few outdoor runs.
The night before my race, I thought back on all of my training and all of Jason’s critical guidance along the way. He had emailed me that day to give me his blessing and wish me luck. I felt so fortunate to have found Finish Line. Jason and the Finish Line team have become a second family to me, cheering me on and lifting me up when I was down. They never let me lose sight of my goals, and they never doubted my ability to achieve them.
I completed IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City on September 18 with a time of 6:19. Every time I felt like walking during the run, I remembered my injuries and all of the times I dreamt about finally being able to race. That’s what kept me going.
These days I still see Jason, but now it’s all about maintaining fitness and preventing injury. After living in Boulder this year with Kara Goucher and watching how the elites train, I recognized a common thread among them. They all are so diligent about doing their “prehab.” As an athlete—elite or amateur—it is important to recognize that there is a lot more that goes into training than what meets the eye. Doing core, strength, glute and mobility work is a discipline that a lot of athletes are missing.
Doing prehab / rehab work with Emma Coburn.
Finish Line helped me reach a goal that I was beginning to think was possible. Most of the staff are athletes themselves, and they totally “get it.” I am so thankful for that first visit in 2013. I know that it is because of them that I can continue in this sport that has changed my life.
Lottie Bildirici is a blogger and health coach who has a passion for eating clean plant-based food, running, fitness and everything in between. She graduated from The Fashion Institute of Technology in 2014 and The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2015. She now runs her own Health Coaching practice, working with individuals to help them reach their personal health goals. Within her practice, she also develops innovative plant-based recipes that are specifically designed to fuel an athletic lifestyle. More at runonveg.com.