Small Steps

I ran Friday.  2 miles.  Slow.

It was my first run since my Achilles Tendon Time Out.  12 days off.  I have switched from training to rebuilding.

I realize that I have not detailed the injuries that have plagued me since December.  To be honest, I really did not take them seriously.  In the past, a day or two of rest was enough to banish the pain and regain my form.  I’ve never pushed myself to the breaking point.

But its been four months now, and I still can’t get back to my Happy Place.  I’ve had to cancel two races that I was really excited to run, and a third (NF Endurance 50K) is pretty much a lost cause.

So this blog is going to switch gears for a bit, because it’s important for me to chronicle these feelings and take notes during this time of rebuilding.

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I first noticed that something was wrong on November 26, 2011.  I had run the Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving Day.  With my marathon base, I was happy to PR on an exceptionally hilly, difficult course.  I should not have been racing on legs that were still in recovery, but overall I felt strong.  Two days later, however, Jimmy and I went for a 9-mile run on the Appalachian Trail.  My knees, right hip, and ankle were all painful, and I had to walk a large portion of the route.  The next day, I stubbornly insisted on an 8-mile run up and over the hilly terrain of Western MD.

Over the course of the next two weeks, I went for my standard runs.  5-6 miles at a time, but my legs just felt dead.  I was slower.  I hurt more.  The joy was gone.  I managed a few long runs before Christmas.  The last, an 18-miler, was torture for the final four miles.  The pain centered on my right hip and ankle.   Femoral Stress Fracture?  Anemia?  Lyme Disease?  My doctors ran series of tests.  They ruled out fractures, iron deficiency, and illness and gave me my diagnosis – Piriformis Syndrome.

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I’d dealt with this when training for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2001.  A few PT sessions, and I was good to go.  My doctor referred me to a well know PT, who told me that I had overstretched my Piriformis muscle.  He told me to stop stretching, analyzed my gait and recommend a few changes.  It didn’t help.  A friend referred me to her guy, who had helped her get over a similar problem the summer before.  I started PT with him on February 5, just days before Holiday Lake.

Andy gave me the once over and determined that it wasn’t just my Piriformis that was acting up.  My pelvis was misaligned, my lower back had slipped out, and my glute medius was aggravated.  Over the next month, we worked twice a week to massage out the knots, heal the muscles, and strengthen my core.  And it was working.  Until we added lunges.

For some reason, as soon as I tried to do a left-side lunge, I felt a weakness in my left knee and left Achilles Tendon.  I’m not sure what happened, but the previous week (March 7th) I took a nasty spill during a trail run.  A few days later we took the girls hiking in Shenandoah National Park and I ended carrying 30 lbs of SweetBabyJ a mile & 1/2 up the side of the mountain.

The knee pain really didn’t bother me, but I started to notice a creakiness in my AT.  It was worst when I flexed my ankle, but it didn’t hurt when I was running.  I continued to train, with fair warning from my PT that I was on the edge of full-on tendonitis.

To be safe, I backed out of the Instant Classic Trail Marathon.  But a week later, as I posted, a triple-dose of runs caused the tendon to swell, and the rest is history….

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So here I am, in recovery mode.  After the 2 mile run Friday, I iced and wrapped my ankle.  I tried to stay off it for the rest of the day.  No major swelling.  Small Steps…

Saturday, I got on my bike for a hilly 6 mile loop.  My AT felt very similar to my run the previous day.  So I repeated the icing.

Today I’m resting.  The AT remains creaky with just a hint of tenderness.  I’ll run again tomorrow and see how it goes.

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I continue to do my core-strengthening routine every other day.  Crunches (2 x 50 each:  center, left, and right), Flutter Kicks (2 x 50), Atomic Situps (2 x 25), Back Extensions (3 x 30).  Plank leg lifts (2 x 10), Planks (1 min hold).  I also do leg strengthening:  25 forward lunges (both sides), 25 side lunges (both sides), Side leg lifts (w/ resistance band): 3 x 15 (both sides).  Eccentric Calf Raises (3 x 15, each side).   I feel like I need to up these numbers, as I don’t quite reach failure.  But it is so hard to motivate.

I took a Power Yoga class Tuesday and loved it.  It did a better job of working my core & legs, and I was sore afterwards – what a good feeling!

I’m trying out some supplements:  Glycine, Lysine, Creatine, Glucosamie Sulfate, and Vitamin E.

I have backed off the Ibuprofen.

I’m trying to drink more water.

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If all goes well, I will continue to run 2-3 miles every 2nd or third day.  I will only increase this mileage as my AT can tolerate it.  I hope to maintain my cardio base with spin classes, bike rides, and swimming.  I’ll do Power Yoga 1-2 times per week, as well as core & strengthening 3 times per week.

I want to give myself enough time to properly train for JFK, which means I have about 6-8 weeks to turn this around.

Wish me luck!

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Not Running – Week 2

Short post today.  Saw my PT this morning.  Swelling in Achilles is gone, but creaking (aka crepitus) and pain are still present.

No running for another 3-7 days.

Tomorrow, I get on the bike.  The bike will be my new friend until I can get back on the roads.

JFK training begins May 14th.  I will get there.

Time Out

I’ll be honest.   My three darling girls are rarely angelic.

Don’t get me wrong – they are good kids.  The are bright and caring, and I am SO proud to be their mama. But……..

They inherited my stubborn streak.

No matter how many times I tell them:

  • Don’t run in the parking lot
  • Stay in your seat
  • Be quiet
  • Respect adults when they’re talking
  • Don’t scratch out your sister’s eyes

They’ll ignore me when the desire to do what they WANT to do outweighs the punishment they KNOW they’ll receive.

When that happens, we simply remove them from the fun.  A well-played “Time Out” does wonders to calm the terror and restore order in our house.   It’s like they need to be alone to find their center, calm the storm inside their head, and return to the land of Normal.

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At 36 years old, I got put in Time Out today.

I ran 5 miles on Friday, and hit a 7:15 pace before running into a friend and slowing down for the finish….

….I ran 6.5 miles Saturday, on the trails.  My achilles was a bit tight, but loosened up after 20 minutes.  I ran fast and hit an 8:00 pace on the trails for the first time since September.  I felt GREAT!….

…I ran 11 miles Sunday.  Wanted to get in 15, but we had a showing on our house and I needed to be there.  I ran a comfortable 8:00 pace, but 6 miles in, my right hip started to spasm.  My achilles was also talking to me.  Since I couldn’t get Jimmy on the phone, I ran it home, stopping to stretch every mile or so.  Still, as soon as I stopped, I knew I had done something wrong…

Three days of running was more than this injured girl could handle.  While I felt good to OK during each run, the cumulative effect was to send my flirtation with Achilles Tendonitis into a full-blow love affair.  It swelled up, and was quite apparent when I went in for Physical Therapy on Monday.

My PT doesn’t mince words, and he told me what I knew, and what I needed to hear:  No running for 7-10 days (best case).  Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – I’ll be RICE-ing like a champ.  Slow return to the road.  Buh-Bye Speedwork, Buh-Bye Hills.  If I want to do JFK in the fall, I must listen.

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But Monument  is this weekend.  It’s not a Runner’s Race, which is why I love it.  All of Richmond comes out.  40,000 people take to the prettiest stretch of the city.  Last year, when VCU was in the Final Four, it was a sea of black and gold.  This year, the azaleas and dogwood are so beautiful they’ll make you weep.  Bands, cheerleaders, costumes…it’s just fantastic.

My crazyily-gifted-talented-runner-friend-and-neighbor (aka Kate) is running it, and I’m actually able to keep up with her this year.  I know scores of other friends and acquaintances that will be out there.  And I promise to be on the sidelines, cheering them on.

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I have no idea how long this Time-Out will last, but I hope I learn my lesson and listen to my legs.  My goal for 2012 is endurance, and I will be starting to rebuild myself soon, a more humble runner than when I started.

If only it was that easy with my girls….

#10: Doucument the Journey

At long last, almost three months after starting, I’ve come to my final 2012 resolution. Clearly, I could be doing a better job documenting the journey!

I started this blog for my daughters.  I hope to have some record of the thoughts and philosophies that bounce around in my head.  I want them to understand the connection between me as an individual (i.e. runner) and me as a mother.  And I want them to see how vitally interconnected these two personas are.

I could not be the runner I am today without first being a mother.  Motherhood has given me strength, grit, and endurance that I utterly lacked.  Since becoming a mom, I’ve stopped expecting much in the way of physical comfort (try saying ‘no’ to three little munchkins that all want to sit on the same lap at the same time!).  I’ve stopped expecting solid, long periods of sleep.  I do not rest.  I clean the same messes and wipe away the same tears – hour after hour, day after day.  I am a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a counselor, a guardian, a disciplinarian, a spoiler, a chef, a recycler, a housemaid, a laundress, and the biggest cheerleader these girls will ever have.

But I could not be a good mom without my running.  It’s in those runs that I find my rest.  In the miles and the footfalls, I find my peace.  It is in the hills and across the streams that I find my soul.  I return to the chaos ready, and thrilled, to tackle the day

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I am really, really bad about taking pictures.  Even worse about organizing them.  The girls’ baby books gather dust, incomplete.  But when I open the images saved on the computer and scroll through the last six years, I see how far we’ve come.  This little, srawny infant:

is now in kindergarten.

This heartbreakingly young couple:

have 15 years under their belts, have built a home, a business, and family of five.

It’s in this reflection that I can see what we have done.

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I must admit I am a bit down today.  Last weekend’s race, which I scrapped in deference to my aching achilles, still chafes a bit.  I wanted to be there, on the trails, having fun.  Instead I sat on the sidelines.  Promised Land, a gorgeous 50K, is coming up next month.  I know I can’t run it.  Aside from my aches and pains, there are several family obligations that take precedence.  But it still rankles me to think about missing the fun.

But there is a blessing in these missed opportunities. The chance to rebuild, to make myself stronger.  I’ll take a deep breath, and know that there will be other races, other adventures.

And if I keep my resolution to document the journey, through words and pictures, maybe I can look back at the trail this time next year and see how far we have come.

#1 – Dispense with the Unessential

I really, really, REALLY want to start my “resolution” posts with #2 (Rest, Recharge, yada, yada, yada), because it is particularly appropriate today.  But, since I am a left-brained, everything-in-its-place, type of gal…Let’s begin at the very beginning, shall we??

I.am.not.efficient.

I would like to be, mind you.  I’m an accountant by training, so I despise (in theory) redundancy and wasted effort.  But personally, I spin my wheels.  A LOT.  Again, it comes back to laziness.  Sometimes, its just easier (in the short term) not to think, but just do.  SO I clean rooms that will be messy again in an hour.  I drive to the store to purchase XYZ instead of calling to make sure its in stock.  I pick up an extra thermometer, bottle of shampoo, hairbrush, etc. instead of taking 5 minutes to locate what I know I already have.

But what really gets me…what is my true achilles heel…is my tendency to overcommit.  Try it – ask me anything.  Want me to watch your kids?  No problem.  Host a party last minute?  Be glad to.  Need a spare kidney?  I’m free a week from Thursday – want to squeeze in the surgery then?

I suffer for this, a bit.  But my girls and Jimmy really take the brunt.  I’m so focused on completing all the things I “HAVE TO” do, that I lose sight of their little needs.  Sure, we play and snuggle, I feed and bathe them.  But too often, I’m brushing them aside for something that’s not really that important.

Not this year.  This year, I’m taking a page from my friends’ playbook.  I say “no” when I need to.  I ask for time to think before giving an answer.  Somedays the dishes & laundry won’t get done.

Today I had to make the most painful dispensation.  Two races, which I have looked forward to for months, must be scratched.  I am NOT ok with this. The first was to be my longest trail run to date (35K).  The second was to be my first ultra-marathon.  I could cry right now thinking of it.

But the numbers just don’t add up.  Since December 4, each run has become more painful.  My pace has slowed by almost 1 min/mile. My heartrate has increased.  I knew I was injured.  The doctor just confirmed it today.  No impact activities until the pain subsides.  No estimate on when that might be.

It is essential for me to be a good mother & wife.  It is essential for me to be a runner.  The rest can be put aside.

Please say a prayer for my sanity, will you??