The Waiting Game

I like to think of myself as a patient person.  As a teacher, working with kids, I have to be; patience and understanding are parts of the job.  And as a mom of two teenage boys, patience absolutely has to be at my side.  But when it comes to me, I have always felt that Patience is not my friend. But over the past 9 weeks, I have learned to accept that “it is what it is” and to do what is right, not what I want.

When I saw Dr. Elliott in November, he suggested that it could be a while before Tammy and Izzy move out for good.  “Hamstrings can take a while.  It could be 8 weeks; in a worst case scenario, we’re looking at 6 months.”  We talked about my starting to run again when things feel right and made a follow-up appointment for next week, which happens to be 10 weeks after Izzy the Ischial Tuberosity was torn.

Meanwhile, I have continued ART twice a week with my chiropractor.   Two weeks ago, Sandy and I noticed that I wasn’t wincing when he was working on my hip and leg.  At one session, he dug into the muscle so deeply that he broke a blood vessel on his thumb, which he described as a badge of honour; I felt nothing.  Before I left, we talked about my returning to running as I appeared to be clinically fine, but I wasn’t mentally ready.   Taking the time off to heal has been difficult and, while I felt that  I was stronger and Tammy and Izzy were under control, I hesitated.  I was willing to wait until my follow-up with Dr.Elliott.

But after another week of pain free treatments, I was ready.  Nervous, but confident about being able to run.  I waited a few days for the right conditions – daylight, warmer, and dry roads.  Last Wednesday afternoon, Mother Nature was on my side and I headed out for 3 miles.  And guess what?  It was painless!   I ran slowly but comfortably, averaging an 8:43 pace.  By no means were things perfect; after all, I hadn’t run since the beginning of October.  But I ran continuously, my stride felt good, my hips felt strong, and I was running.  It was a start.

Happy to be running again.

Today, ten days later, I have run four times with each being better than the one before.  When I saw my chiropractor on Thursday, he said my hip was “perfect” and booked my next appointment for a week later.  I am optimistic, but cautious.  As excited as I am to be running again, I do not want to jeopardize the time and effort that I have put into healing, only to make a rash decision that could sideline me again.

Since October, there have been moments of frustration and there have been tears, but tears are a part of recovery.   Keeping Patience at my side and accepting my injury have also been a part of my healing.   Over the next few weeks, I need to continue to focus on doing the right thing while I start to build my mileage again – with Patience.  Together, we will get to where I want to be: running, running fast, and chasing my dreams.

 

Product Review: Noxgear Lighthound Vest

Waiting in her Lighthound vest.

Last November, my husband came home after walking Zeda and commented on a light that another dog in the neighbourhood was wearing.  “It’s great,” he said. “You can see it all the way down the street.  I want to find out where she got it.”  A week later, we had a Noxgear Lighthound vest for Zeda and a Tracer 360 vest for him.

Keeping visible as we walk by a busy plaza.

I was in complete favour of putting the Lighthound on Zeda.  We live in poorly lit community.  If we stay in the residential section, I know how hard it is hard to see us as I have trouble seeing pedestrians, dogs and cyclists too.  When we walk on the busier main roads which are better lit, we have to deal with drivers who rush to turn left or right and don’t expect to see someone walking in the dark .  It can be especially dangerous when we pass the Tim Horton’s and the McDonald’s drive-throughs.

Shadow walking

Every morning, Zeda and I are out for her morning walk – always in the dark and sometimes as early as 5:00 – and every morning, she wears her vest.   We change the colours around to match my mood and her collar, which makes it fun.  The lighthound has kept her (and me) safe. Drivers see us and always (and I mean always) give us the right of way; this never happened before.

I cannot say enough good things about Noxgear.  Their product is excellent and their customer service is top-notch.  If you are out and about with your furbaby in the dark, I highly recommend you get one.

PS: I now have a Noxgear vest to run in too, but that is another post.

 

The Power of Lunges

When I first saw Dr. Sajko at the end of August, he directed me towards lunges.  “Do a box drill,” he said.  “Run to the park and you’ve got your box.”  And he proceeded to show me three types of walking lunges: straight, my front leg angled out at 45 degrees to strengthen the adductors, and cross-overs to target the gluteus.  “Use the box.  Do one on each side of the box.”

The next day, I jogged to the soccer field and saw several boxes: the full field, the half field, the penalty box… “Which one should I use?” I wondered.   I decided to use the width of the whole field, jog along the length for recovery and repeat.  By the end of the workout, I had done 6×60 sets of lunges and my legs were fried.  Once I started running more, I cut back on my lunges but started again (this time indoors) after the Chicago fiasco.

After getting the results that show a tear, I asked Dr. Sajko if I should still be doing my lunges.  “Why not?” he asked.  After explaining my fear of stretching out the area where the tear is and injuring it more, he explained.

Think of the tear as a lifesaver.  As you suck on it and as one part gets thinner, so does the rest.  It works the opposite way when a tear heals.  You’re building up muscle around it and as the muscle gets thicker, that will fill up the space at the end of the tear.  Eventually, the whole area is filled..

The weakest part of Izzy the Ischial Tuberosity is at the V’s of my fingers.  If the tear is going to get worse, that is where is it is going to happen.  So building muscle around that area is going to fill in the tear until there is no empty space, help close the tear and strengthen the tendon.

Making time to lunge before school starts.

 

I was secretly hoping that I could take a break from lunge-days.  Truth be told, though, I do like them; everything about them from finding the time to doing them (and properly) can be a challenge, and I always finish feeling great.  Just don’t tell my chiropractor.

 

 

Introducing Izzy

After 6 weeks of waiting, I finally have an answer; it’s a tear and, yes, it is a real pain in the butt.

My official diagnosis is a partial tear of the tendon at the ischial tuberosity.  In October, when that first came up as a possibility, I asked, “The what?  Did you just make that name up?”  It is real.  There are three hamstring muscles and one leads to the ischial tuberosity, which is at the top of the femur but under the gluteus Maximus – basically, at the sitbone.  When we sit, the glutes pull up and leave the sitbone to dig down.  With the tear that I have, sitting kills.  This week, I almost feel like I could start to run, but with sitting bring as painful as it is, I know I can’t run yet.

3mm deep – between the height of 2 dimes and 2 nickels

It is obvious that I tore my ischial tuberosity at the beginning of October. After 6 weeks of healing, it currently measures 6mm by 4mm by 3mm; I wish that I could tell how big it was when I first started.

The first thing I did when I got home was text my kinesiology student, who replied with “LOL. The old tuberosity, eh.  I literally had my hands on one an hour ago.”  After a few messages back and forth, I decided to name it – something with a harsh sound, but one that Tammy the Hamstring would like.  I decided on “Izzy, the Ischial Tuberosity.”  Can’t you imagine Tammy and Izzy hanging out together?

Model of the tear: 6mm by 3mm

Messaging my son gave me another idea.  I had to make a model of the tear so that I could understand it better.  Suddenly, the pain I have had makes sense as I imagine a gap or a hole in my tendon that needs to be filled.

Dr. Elliott, my sports medical doctor, said that healing can take up to 6 months, but he doesn’t think it will take that long.  “You’re in a lot better shape than most people at this point,” he said. “It will probably be another month.”  I don’t need surgery, which is great.  Dr.  Elliott suggested a cortisone shot, but I want to stay away from that as cortisone can break down tissue.  PRP (platelet rich plasma) therapy is another option, but it won’t speed up healing; it does, though, strengthen the tendon.  While that still sounds appealing, it comes with a hefty price tag (up to $2000) and there isn’t enough evidence to prove its effectiveness.  I will continue to research that, though, and sit on it (haha!) for a while.  At this point, my answer is ‘no’.

Meanwhile, I will continue to do what I am as it is obviously helping.  And now that I know exactly what the problem is, I can work with my chiropractor and coach to get me running again and, hopefully, ready to race in a few months.

 

Tammy Gets An Ultrasound

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.

 

Gratitude

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:

Bridge: so good for the gluteus.

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.

Lunges: 6 x 60 various types of lunges twice a week.

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.

Boring, yes, but it is saving my cardio.

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.

 

Tammy Goes To The Doctor

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.

The logo from the clinic sums up my feelings.

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.

A team approach to Halloween

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.

The Boomerang Effect: In the day of a marshall

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.”

“I’m not?”

Looking into the construction zone.

“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:

Boxes and boxes of Endurance Tap.

**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.

Cheers for Volunteers

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.