David Fuentes, one of the top runners in Texas, has experienced life at the peak of the sport. He’s won the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (2011), and is a three-time winner of the Austin Half Marathon. And in 2016, he was part of the gold-medal winning USA Mountain running team.
He’d regularly put in 80-90 mile weeks, complete with hill work and speed sessions. But this past year, Fuentes has had to deal with a foot injury that set him back to ground zero: no running at all.
“I’ve never been a really high mileage guy,” said Fuentes, 30. “I went to Brazil in November and was going to do another mountain race. I had been running on a lot of trails and hills at the time.”
Fuentes ended up breaking his foot in the race, partly due to a bone spur in his big toe. Compensating for the spur resulted in too much stress and broke the metatarsal.
“A mile into the race, it was a really dull ache,” said Fuentes. “I had 24 miles to go, and I was really starting to question how I could continue leaping across rocks and stuff. The first time jumping across a stream, I knew it was broken. I ended up having to walk five or six miles back to the start.”
Fuentes, who has an IT background and is a web designer, accepted his fate, knowing he was going to be out for a while: no Austin Marathon in February.
“I knew something was seriously wrong,” he said. “I went straight into the orthopedic surgeon, and the X-ray revealed the metatarsal was broken all the way across. I was pretty confident in the recovery process for the broken bone, but I scheduled surgery for the bone spur.”
Taken together, it was a fairly serious setback.
“The broken bone I knew would heal well. I was more concerned about the big toe joint,” said Fuentes. “I had to take a very patient approach. I knew it would be a long recovery process. I had the surgery in January in order to make my running career longer.”
Fuentes threw himself into a lot of bike training, riding with guys averaging 20 miles an hour.
“You can really put some serious work in on the bike,” he said. “I did everything I could to make it count.”
He also spent significant time pool running.
“It’s [pool running] really boring, and I’ve done a lot of that,” said Fuentes. “Early on I wasn’t cleared to ride, so I did a lot of pool running. I thought about ‘real’ running every day. You end up putting everything into perspective. I’ve stayed in as good shape as you possibly could without running.”
Fuentes first run back was actually the Cap 10K, which he basically jogged. He now has been running every other day. So overall, it was five months off.
“I still run in the pool on Mondays, and every other day I either ride or run. It’s a slow process building back,” said Fuentes. “I was invited out to a race in August. It’s a 30K mountain race in the Swiss Alps called the Sierre-Zinal mountain race. It’s a pretty prestigious race. The goal is to be reasonably fit. I’m not looking to win anything.”