After weeks of waiting, I finally got some imaging done, not the MRI that the hospital’s doc and my GP recommended, but an ultrasound. It’s a start.
During the summer, it was obvious that Tammy the Hamstring was the problem. Time off and a lot of treatments helped her to heal, but while I evicting Tammy, she started to move north and enlisted the help of her friends. Some days, my piriformis was acting up; other days, my glutes were joining her attack. Injuries can be like that. As the epicentre starts to heal, the pain shifts, but it comes back under control. Tammy and her friends followed this pattern.
When my right side gave way on the Wednesday before Chicago, though, it was a totally different feeling. My hip buckled under me, and Tammy and her friends joined the party. I felt as if my entire right side was being invaded. My chiropractor, acupuncture and I counter-attacked, but my hip went down again during the first mile in Chicago.
Everyone wanted imaging and, five weeks after that first battle, it finally happened. Is it Tammy, my piriformis, my right adductor, my femur , my hip, bursitis, a tear, a fracture….it could be anything. All we do know is this is not an isolated pain because all of those bones and muscle groups are interconnected. The instigator remains a mystery.
By the end of the week, I will have the results and, as the days get closer, I feel more and more like a child waiting for Christmas morning. Hopefully, they will shed some light on what is happening inside; two more sleeps.
Yesterday morning, I was visiting my chiropractor and the topic of mental health came up. “When I have competitive athletes,” Sandy said, “I have to watch their mental health. If they stop running me and they aren’t doing anything else, I worry because that is when they can fall into depression.”
I have seen it. Years ago, a close friend of mine was injured and flat out refused to go for a walk, come to yoga, start swimming with me (and if I am willing to get back into the pool, you know that I am trying everything to get him active again)….All he wanted to do was run and depression took over.
Ironically, Kelly-Lynne and I were talking about how runners deal with injuries just before Tammy the Hamstring started to complain. “I’m pretty sure that I would find something else to do,” she said. I was sure of my reaction. “I know I would. After watching my friend suffer….I don’t want to go through that.”
As much as I miss running, I have accepted whatever injury I have and that I need the time off. When my forced break began, I could barely walk without being in pain, but I looked for things that I could do – or try to do – and, week by week, I find that I can keep adding something else to my list of can’s. This week, I feel especially grateful for the things that are a part of my healing.
I am grateful to be able to do:
a. Yoga. For weeks, this was my only outlet. At the beginning of October, I could not get into a Warrior One pose; now I can. Two weeks ago, I still couldn’t move into a Crescent Moon, but I did a few on Friday for the first time; I had to work to hold it, but I got into the position and that is progress. Yoga sets a bar for me and I get excited when I find that I can suddenly do something that I couldn’t in the class before. I am committed to going three times a week, which I will continue once I am back in my running shoes.
b. Lunges. Three weeks ago, when the temperature dropped, I didn’t want to do my lunge drill outside because it was too cold; I worried that the cold could be detrimental and I could end up doing more damage to the same muscle group that I have been trying to rehabilitate. So I turned indoors. Twice a week, after dropping off my son, I head to school before almost everyone else and stretch and strengthen through the hallways before my work day begins.
c. Planking. This started off as a bar to measure my strength but it has evolved into a personal challenge. Two minutes, every day, and anywhere: no problem. We’ll see how high that number can climb.
d. Indoor Cycling. I use to ride a lot: I commuted through Toronto by bike; somedays, I felt like I lived on a lifecycle at the gym; Dave and I covered a lot of miles on our rode bikes. But that was before kids and when the roads were less busy and less dangerous. Somehow in the past few years, cycling of any kind has become a part of my past. But my windtrainer is still in the basement. I walk past it every time I have to hang up laundry and, every time, I tell myself that I need to start spinning the wheels again. Three weeks ago, as soon as my leg was strong enough, I got back into the saddle. For now, it is my only form of cardio and it can be as boring as heck, but I am glad to have it.
And I have more options to look forward to: weights, rowing, swimming….As soon as I know exactly what I am dealing with, I can introduce other ways to build and maintain as I transition back to running. I can’t worry about what I can’t control, but I can focus on the things I can.
After getting back from Chicago, I knew that Tammy the Hamstring needed to see a Sports Medicine specialist. But getting an appointment wasn’t easy. I had to go through my GP, which was a two week wait. Then, I had to wait another 10 days before I could see the sports doc. I joked that by the time I would actually see him, I would be almost healed.
Tammy and I drove to Burlington on Friday to see Dr. Elliott at his sports medicine clinic to try to find out what is setting her off and turning her a real pain in the butt. While waiting, another patient recognized me. “Cynthia?” she asked. “It’s—. So how is retirement treating you?”
“Ummmm…I am not retired.” It’s a week later and I still don’t have a good comeback.
It’s a good thing that I have already established a relationship with Dr. Elliott from a previous injury years ago as my first interaction on Friday was with his resident. When she called for me and I got up from the chair, I stumbled because my hip was sore after sitting while waiting. She laughed at me and I felt put out. I wasn’t clumsy; I just have something going on with the right side of my pelvis which is why I was there in the first place. She took me into the examination room and began to ask questions, one of the first being “Give me some examples of when it hurts.” So I did until she cut cut me off: “Okay, I get it. You’re in pain.” Somehow, I managed to bite my tongue. After more discussion, she suggested a cortisone shot. I was, again, taken aback, wondering why she would jump to an injection without examining me first. When she got around to doing that, she commented “Wow, you are really skinny! No, you are really skinny!” I still can’t find the right words to explain how I felt: shocked, angry, upset, annoyed….None of them were positive.
My confidence was restored when Dr. Elliott walked into the room. He wanted imaging – hooray! – and requisitioned an ultrasound of the entire right side of the pelvis. As I expected, he wants to see what is going on inside so that we can proceed with treatment. Meanwhile, he said, I have done all of the right things.
Dr. Elliott suggested that I may be dealing with bursitis, but there may also be a tear somewhere; hamstring tears, he told me, take about 3 months to heal. Meanwhile, there is obviously a lot of inflammation so I walked away with a prescription for anti-inflammatories.
Getting closer to solving this puzzle has left me feeling positive. The worst case scenario is a tear and, if so, I’m more than halfway to three months. I am still not convinced that there isn’t a stress fracture, though, and I am waiting for an MRI.
As crazy as it sounds, I am looking forward to racing in 2019. I have already targeted Robbie Burns at the end of January, crossing fingers that I will be back on the road by mid-December. Once I get the first set of results, I can decide if I should register. Meanwhile, I’ll continue with yoga, increase my time on the windtrainer and, when I am feeling gutsy, get back into the pool. Once this is all over, I should be ready to slowly rebuild my base and get back to chasing my dreams.
When you work with Grade 7/8 kids, your Halloween costume better be good. You want something unique, something that is going to impress and wow them. And you want something that is school friendly and going to be fun.
My three teaching partners and I decided to plan a “team costume.” We created a school license plate: LMMO-182. The letters are the initials of our last names, the dash was replaced with our school logo, and the 182 is the sum of our ages (Yes, we put ourselves out there with that part). But we didn’t tell our students what we were; they had to guess.
When our Grade 7’s first walked into our classes, they only saw one piece of the license, and they didn’t know that our costumes went together. “What are you suppose to be?” they asked. My response was very teacher-like. “That’s what you have to figure out.
During the first four periods, I was bombared with questions. Some of the best are:
1. Are you 82 years old? (Oh, good grief!) -No, and you need to work on your estimating skills.
2. Is it a Math question? -Math is involved.
3. Is there a back? -No, I don’t need a back.
4. Are you 82 squared? No, you’re a rectangle. -Ooo, thinking exponents. I like that one.
5. There isn’t a sign between the 8 and the 2, so that automatically means multiplication, so 8 x 2 = 16. You’re 16! -I like that answer better than 82 years old.
6. You’re a composite number! (Yay, they are listening to me!)
7. Are you a runner? -I am a runner, but I am not wearing a runner’s costume.
8. You’re a composite number, a square and a rectangle. -Can you show me where the square is? -Oh, that’s a rectangle too. What has 2 rectangles and an 82?
9. You’re a marathon runner!
10. (Said a student who saw the #1) You’re 182! -There goes your math mark.
11. Can I go to check the Book of World Records? -Why? -Because, apparently, you are the oldest person in the world.
We had the 12 year olds hooked. After all, who doesn’t love a good puzzle. If they weren’t asking us questions, they were looking at us, and I could see the gears in their heads turning. By the afternoon, a few kids had figured out that we were a license plate and the reasoning behind it, and they stood back to watch the others struggle to piece us together.
At the end of the day, we gave our students the answer to our puzzle. Our grade 7’s were impressed. I loved that they had so much fun with it, and I had a lot of fun with their own creative answers.
I am now tempted to ask “The sum of your teachers’ ages is 182 years. Find out how old your teachers are.” The possible answers have me curious. Dare I, or dare not? Nope. This time, I don’t think I want to know what our Grade 7’s think.
Last Sunday, I marshalled at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Quite honestly, volunteering at the event was about the last thing that I wanted to do, especially after the Chicago fiasco, but my club (Toronto Olympic Club) always helps Canada Running Series (CRS) with its races. I had made this commitment to help weeks ago and wasn’t about to bail, especially with the prediction of colder weather, which always leads to volunteers not showing up. Besides, it is always good to give back.
I was up at 5:30 to walk Zeda before heading into the city and I arrived in High Park at 7:45. A short walk to my station turned into a long detour due to construction next to the park but I made it to the south side of Parkside and Lakeshore, the 13k point, with time to spare.
As the name implies, Lakeshore is along Lake Ontario and, sure enough, it was cold. I was already bundled up but pulled out my son’s jacket, which I grabbed at the last minute, and added a final layer which left me unrecognizable. I was warm and ready to have some fun.
I ended up marshalling before the runners even got to me. One marshall didn’t show so I was moved to the north side of Lakeshore, which was about 300 metres away from the construction zone, that same construction zone that I was not allowed to walk through. Shortly after I had received an update that the lead runners were about 5k away, a burly construction worker started to move pylons out of his way.
“Um….where do you think you’re going?” I asked.
“Over there,” he said, pointing towards the water station along Lakeshore.
“No, you’re not.”
“No, you’re not. There is a race going on along here.” Imagine saying this while the road is closed and there is not a runner in sight. After getting a perplexed look from this poor guy who probably just finished the night shift, just wanted to go home and couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t, I continued. “So you are going to have to turn your truck around, drive back up to Bloor Street and go home from there.”
“Okay,” he sheepishly replied. Then he put the pylon back, turned around and barely two minutes later, the lead runners came through.
The next real marshalling test came approximately at the same time as the 5 hour marathoners. I looked east and wondered if I was seeing a fire truck. “Is that seriously a fire truck?” Within seconds, I was directing hundreds of runners to left side of the road so that the truck could get by. Then, it turned at the round-about between north and south Lakeshore so that it could go east. The runners were great and cooperated, as I expected they would, and the truck got to its location – about 500 metres east of me.
The other Marshall and I had no idea what was going on. Figuring that there should be some kind of CRS presence there, he followed the truck to where it stopped so that he could direct runners around it and make sure that they were safe. Meanwhile, I stayed back because I figured there was bound to be one or two other emergency vehicles. Sure enough, an ambulance came through and I was more prepared for the turn it was about to make. I am still not sure what happened, but I heard that a runner did leave in an ambulance.
The rest of the time, I was busy cheering on runners and playing route director. Apart from the typical encouraging words, I found a new set of catch phrases to use, including:
**Water station up ahead. Endurance tap up ahead. There is a party going on up there.”
** Porta-potties on the left.
No, don’t use those ones (other, grey porta-potties)! Those are for the construction workers and they’re gross!
Volunteering is good for everyone. It directly supports the runners which indirectly helps the charities. And even though I have volunteered many times, Sunday’s work was different as it came back to help me. By the end of my shift, I was not tired, but energized. I left feeling really good. I loved watching the runners and walkers, and I felt encouraged by their dedication to the marathon. They gave me hope that I will be able to toe the line again. They motivated me to keep chasing my dreams.
The running community is surrounded by volunteers. We work with coaches, depend on race marshalls to keep us safe, and look for those handing out water and Gatorade and blankets to keep us warm when we finish racing. A lot of race directors and their teams are often volunteers. But the one group that we tend to forget about are the First Aid Responders.
Before I write any more, I should make it clear that some organizations are crewed by paid responders, but many are not. What is the difference between them? Basically, none. They are all trained and kept up to date through practical sessions. But an event will often go to a less expensive organization first and any payment goes directly into that medical organization to cover its operating costs such as medical equipment and vehicles; since the responders are not earning income, there is more money to put towards those costs.
We need to remember that First Aid Responders are there because they want to be. It may not their job, and they probably are not being paid, but they are passionate about what they are doing: being there for you if you need help and looking after you if you get hurt. So when you are handing out thank you’s at your next race, remember to wave to the bike patrol, or stop at the truck or medical tent. We all know that a thank you goes a long way. You might just make someone’s day.
Since I have been injured, one of the hardest things to do (aside from running, which is still impossible) is driving. My sitbone being crushed into the car seat can send an excruciating pain through my body. But, unlike running, as a working mom with busy kids, I can’t just say “I’m not driving today.” As the expression goes, I have places to go and things to do.
Last weekend, my son and his friends went to Wonderland for the Halloween Haunt and I won the task of driving them home. That same afternoon, as I made a shorter 20 minute trip to Burlington and whined to myself about the havoc that Tammy the Hamstring was still causing, I started to think of supports and devices that might ease the agony of sitting in a car. I lifted my butt, shifted positions, lifted my cheek again and had a “Eureka!” moment. “I need a donut to lift my butt and surround the sit-bone so that it doesn’t dig into the car seat!”
After dinner, before venturing to Wonderland, I began my DIY butt-nut project. I ripped strips of fabric from an old pillowcase, wound them into a donut shape, fastened it with duct tape and created my prototype.
Dave could only laugh and walk away when I demonstrated how to use it properly. But I was proud; my butt-nut felt good and seemed like it would help me survive the 60 minute drive. The real test was about to happen.
In the car, it took a while for me to find the exact spot for my creation, and I did have to readjust it every now and then. I waited for the 13 year old boy comments about it when my kiddo and his friends got in the car; what teen boy wouldn’t turn “butt-nut” into something? But, instead, I got “That’s awesome!” or “You can go on Dragon’s Den and sell these! You can retire!” If I can impress a crowd of critical teens with these, maybe I have come up with the next great Canadian invention.
When I got home, after a total of 2 1/2 hours of driving, I felt surprisingly good. I was sore, yes, but no more sore than I was when I got in the car. In fact, I felt the best after driving that I have in a long, long time.
So remember: you read about it here first. The butt-nut, a donut with duct tape, personally fitted, designed for comfort. What could be more Canadian?
The marathon can be one of the most frustrating road events. I love the distance, the training that goes into it and the satisfaction from finishing. For the first time in many years, I changed my focus in this last training cycle from a time goal to simply finishing. I took on the “whatever it takes attitude” and I was winning. I was ready. Then the tides turned on me and derailed me during taper week, days before the Chicago marathon. Even then, I made it to the start and felt I could finish, albeit slowly. Instead, I finished one mile – one lousy mile.
I didn’t fail, but I didn’t do what I set out to do. Was I upset? Absolutely, and I was angry too, angry about the wasted time, effort and cost (in physio, chiropractic and osteo treatments). But I got over it, and now I move on.
Before I can do that, though, I have to get to the route of the problem. My hip buckled under me when I ran during taper week, and it did again on Sunday morning. This hasn’t happened before and it has become a cause for concern. Tammy the Hamstring may be playing her games again and partying it up with her friends, but my chiro suggested an x-ray to make sure that there isn’t a fracture.
On Friday night, Dave and I went to the hospital to learn that there isn’t an obvious fracture. The doctor suggested Advil (3 times a day), physiotherapy and a bone scan. (Why do doctors always recommend nothing but Advil and physiotherapy?). On Saturday morning, my chiro agreed that I should have a bone scan to look for a possible stress fracture. “With your high mileage, age, and frame,” he said, “I think it is a good idea.”
So now I wait. I have an appointment with my GP on the 23rd and will, hopefully, get some imaging done a week later. It’s frustrating as that means I probably won’t get results until a month after the first buckle.
In the meantime, I can continue to strengthen my muscles, try to get back on my bike and maybe, just maybe, get back into the pool. I may not be able to run, but I can take advantage of the time off running to do other things that I love, as well as focus on what I can do and work towards improvement.
I use to have a chiropractor who helped me with running aches and pains, usually my left SI joint or my right hamstring. When I had trouble with my back three years ago, though, he wasn’t able to help me at all; yet, he kept wanting me to go back for treatments. I turned to a physiotherapist who had a different approach and it ended up being the right one. I never did go back to that chiropractor.
This summer, I went through the reverse when Tammy the Hamstring acted up. I started with physiotherapy which just didn’t seem to be making any difference in how I felt. I called a friend to ask for her acupuncturist’s name, but she suggested that I see her chiropractor. “He’s really good,” she said. He knows muscles too.” So I took his name, googled him, read that he specializes in running and hockey injuries and had treated some high profile athletes including an Olympian sprinter. I picked up the phone and made an appointment to see him that week.
That Friday, Sandy treated me and gave me orders to run over the weekend, with a long warm-up and a gazillion lunges. And, since the run/walk combination had been too painful, he told me to just run very slowly. After my third visit with Sandy, my husband decided that he would run with me that night but he watched while I did my 6 sets of 60 lunges.
On the run home, Dave exclaimed, “Your form has completely changed!” I waited for the negative comments to follow, about how sore and lop-sided I looked, but instead he said, “It’s unbelievable! You are completely symmetrical! You’ve lost your funny kick. It’s absolutely incredible! Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.”
“Even though I am so slow?” I asked.
“You look great! It’s unreal!”
My husband is not one to hand out compliments, so I was shocked by his enthusiasm and support, as well as blown away by the almost instantaneous change that resulted from just a few chiropractic treatments. It was clear that this was the right therapy for me.
In the past week, I have had a setback, but Sandy’s treatments and fitness plan for me have been effective. I am in this for the long haul and am going to do whatever it takes to heal. Between Sandy and my coach, I know that I will be able to come back stronger and faster than before.
To anyone with an injury, this is my advice: don’t fixate on one type of treatment. What worked before may not another time so it is important to be open to new ideas. I went in for my first visit with a “let’s see how it goes” attitude and, to my surprise, it was the right solution. While I feel like I am back at square one, I have every confidence that chiropractic care will help me get to where I want to be.
Many years ago, I told my youngest that he was brave. In his little boy mind, he didn’t understand so I explained that being brave means that you do something that you don’t want to do.
Yesterday, those words flew back to me when my friend, Wendy, posted that I was brave to stop running. I had thought my decision was tough, hard, smart and even courageous, but not once did I think of it as being brave. I know this seems odd when bravery and courage are synonyms, but “brave” is just that much more of a powerful word.
I thought back to that conversation I had with my youngest: being brave means doing something that you don’t want to do. I spent the past three months determined to start yesterday’s race and, in the past six weeks, I rebuilt my strength and endurance to start and finish. I was excited but also cautious that Tammy the Hamstring could make a reappearance. Sure enough, she did – and at the twelfth hour – but she also settled down enough to make me believe that I could run 26.2 miles.
Yesterday, I was on my guard as I started the marathon and, barely ten minutes in, I stepped aside. I got on the sidewalk and I held myself together while I worked my way back to the hotel. Feeling like a failure, I didn’t want any attention but, ironically, I was upset that not one of the hundreds of spectators I saw asked if I was okay. I wanted to cry, but I had to be brave.
Wendy’s words helped me to realize that bravery was a huge part of this journey. I did what I had to do, not what I wanted to do. I am 55 and want to be running and racing competitively for many more. As I reflect on the past few months and set goals for the future, I know that there are going to be other tough decisions to make and I am prepared to face them.