Just Keep Swimming

I did it!  Thanks to a Family Day holiday with open pools and an early morning text from Monica, I finally made it back into the water.  Was I nervous?  No.  I was absolutely terrified.  But that fear disappeared as soon as we had changed; we both had the same style and colour of swimsuit and the same googles, and that made me laugh.  This was the obvious sign that my swim was meant to happen.

Being Family Day, though, the Y was busy.  Three lanes were set aside for adult lengths, and they were crowded.  Being a “newbie,” I headed straight to the slow lane and, yes, I was the slowest.   Before I started, a speedy 10 year oldish boy turned at the wall and while I had doubts about my own ability, I swallowed them and pushed off.  Ten strokes in, I stopped.  “Man, this is hard!” I thought.  “How am I ever going to make to the end of the pool?”  But I started again, imagining that every set of lifeguard’s eyes were on me, worried that I might start flailing my arms in distress.  When I finished the 25 metres, my heart was pumping.   I needed to rest.

When I was ready, I headed back to the other side, this time without stopping.  That was progress.  I took another long break; I needed it.  I felt discouraged and out of shape.  But I also remembered having these feelings years before.  I swam in high school and stopped, only to start again when I was in my late twenties. I clearly recalled what a struggle that was as I pushed off again and swam my third length.  Then, half way down the pool, I had a flashback to a recent conversation with my husband after he had peeled potatoes for dinner that night.

“That was the hardest thing that I’ve done in my life!” he said.  “It’s absolutely impossible.  You have to hold onto those itty bitty potatoes and peel them?   How do you do that.  I can’t do that again.  It’s too hard.”

“Nope, this is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life,” I thought as I worked my way down the pool.  “Peeling potatoes is nothing compared to this.”

I met Monica after 200 metres of back and forth.  “I’m at 8.  Anything from here on it great.  I’ve met my target; I’m swimming.”  I did have another target, suggested by my son earlier in the morning.

“How your cardio?”  he asked.
“Um, I think it’s fine.  I’m on the bike for an hour.”
“Then you should be fine with 1000 metres.”
I gulped.  “A thousand metres?!!” I hesitated.  “Challenge accepted.”

I had kept this to myself and, as I stood proud of my 8 lengths, I wondered how I would make it to 40.  “This is like doing a track workout,” I told Monica a few lengths later.  “I push myself, then rest, push myself then rest.  It’s hard.”  It wasn’t long, though, until I had shortened the breaks between each length and was swimming 50 metres at a time.  I lost track of my distance after 500 metres and lost count again after another 400 metres.  At that point, I just stopped counting.  I didn’t care.  I was swimming, I was hitting 1000 metres, and I was proud of myself.   By the end of the swim, I was swimming 100 metres at a time and think I covered a total of 1200 to 1400 metres.

Thrilled that I met my goal!

Judging by today’s sore triceps (which could, in fact be a result of breaking up a driveway covered in ice over the weekend)  I may have done more than I was ready for.  But I did something that I didn’t think I would be able to do. I set a new bar and I know that I am going to be able to keep raising the bar.

On Monday, I challenged myself and did much better than I expected.  I’m still smiling.  I’m proud of myself.  This is the challenge that I need right now and, lucky or not, there is lots of room for growth.

 

 

Finding Inspiration

Like most runners, I finish a race and I either mark it for my ‘to race’ list next year or I consider it as a ‘maybe’.  With that decision come goals for improvement or goals to adjust my training.  This year, I think it’s safe to say that I don’t have any race goals; any winter or spring goals went out the window when I got my MRI results.  I can only hope that I will be running by summer and can plan for the fall.  But I am still able to work towards improvimg my training.

Since November, I have been consistent on my bike (albeit on my windtrainer) and, for the past three months, I have been hitting just under 400 miles each month.  Tammy the Hamstring is still not ready to plow through an interval workout, but she doesn’t complain about steady cycling.   In the past month, my average speed has increased and most rides are now 50 to 65 minutes.  That’s progress.

I am also seeing improvement at the yoga studio.  In October, just after tearing my tendon, my list of “can not’s” was huge.  As expected, any balance poses were impossible, as were crescent lunges and twists to either side.  Now, almost 5 months later, my balance is 90% there and I can almost  do a crescent lunge.  Each week, it seems, I watch the bar get a little higher.

As a runner, one of my greatest weaknesses is being comfortable.  Building distance and long runs were easy and I could do them week after week.  But changing things up and doing something different, like moving into the trails or adding tempos or intervals to my week, was a huge step out of my comfort zone.  Fortunately, I have fantastic training partners who made it easier for me to put away my hesitations and take me to where I needed to be.

Now, as a runner nor running, I find myself in that same vicious cycle again.  I am comfortable on the windtrainer and at the yoga studio and I am doing everything that I physically can.  But in the past month, I can feel that my metabolism has jumped, leaving me with this unexplainable need to do more.  The pool is calling me.

The issue is I am not a swimmer.  Years ago, living in a Toronto and during my life without kids, I was swimming.  I climbed into the pool 5 times a week: 3 afternoon distance swims and 2 inteval workouts at 6:00 a.m.  I was slow, but my strokes were good and I averaged 5 – 6 miles a week.  Becoming a mom changed all of that, and I haven’t swam a single length in years.  Getting back into the pool scares me.

On Thursday night, I drove up to Glen Eden with my 13 year old who has been teaching himself to snowboard for the past two winters.  He doesn’t want group lessons; he wants to work at his own pace and do what he wants as he feels ready.  This week, I watched him practise his jumps for the second time, proud that he has made this commitment to snowboarding and that he has done it all on his own.   As we drove home that night, he told me how scared he was before he started and, again, I felt proud, proud that he has pushed himself out of his comfort zone.

“You know you’re inspiring me, don’t you?” I asked.

How?” he asked.

“Because you are doing something that scares you.  You get out there, you do it, and you do it well.  You’re helping me realize that it’s going to take work for me to start swimming again, but I’ll be able to do it.  I just need to get back into the water and start.”  That’s when I made the decision to get in the water before the end of the month.

This morning, coincidentally, while going through a pile of papers, I found a quote by Stephen Hawkings that I had copied in the summer.

“And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.  It matters that you don’t just give up.”

For whatever reason, these words spoke to me many months ago and I wanted to make sure that I remembered them.  After finding them this morning, I’m taking it as a sign. Tomorrow, I will get into the pool, I will push myself out of my comfort zone and I will not give up.

 

 

One Day At A Time

A few weeks ago, I finally picked up a training journal.  I had just started to run again and I wanted to get back to tracking my running on pen and paper.  Five days after buying it, before I had even opened it, I was pulled from running and was told that it will probably be 3-6 months until I can run again.  Since my MRI was at the beginning of January, this week marks the end of my first month.

At my physio appointment on Friday, Tammy’s power and flexibility were good; I am feeling much stronger in general.  The only indicator that I am not ready to run is my butt aches when I sit down.  Looking back, though, I realize that it has been sore when sitting for the past two or three years, maybe longer, which indicates that my hamstring issue may have been brewing for a long time and I just didn’t recognize it as a problem; instead, I attributed my sore sitbones to a skinnier tush.

These days, I am encouraged by the almost normal feeling that I have.  “Does it really take 3 to 6 months for a hamstring to heal?” I asked my physiotherapist.  “No” was the fast reply.  “It takes 6-8 weeks.”  I laughed. “Then, by the time I have my PRP injection, I should practically be healed.”

In mid-January, Dr. Elliott submitted the referral for me to see the hip specialist but I don’t even have an appoinment yet.  “They’re probably still getting over the backlog from the holidays” was suggested as a reason, which is fine, but I really want to know when I am going to see the doctor.  Will it be a consultation with a second appointment for the actual treatment, or will it all be done at once?  How many treatments does he think I’ll need?  And what about the labrum?  Do I need to worry about surgical repairs?

As the days pass, I get more and more frustrated that I haven’t had my PRP injection, nor any kind of communication from the doctor’s office.   But I am starting to believe that I may be back on the road in the spring as my hamstring seems to healing on its own and the injection will only strengthen it.

Fingers crossed, hopeful thoughts, and dreaming of running again….Believe.

The Grass is Greener on This Side of the Fence

Throwback to a cold tempo: January 2018.

This is the first winter that I haven’t run in a long time and, truth be told, I am not complaining.  I do not miss the piles of laundry which come with 2 base layers and 4 tops from every single sub-zero run.  Nor do I miss the trails of frozen snot that are stuck to my jacket.  But I do miss the feelings of power and satisfaction that come after finishing something that, to most, seem unhumanly possible.

A few years ago, my friend, Erin, drove past as a few friends and I were just heading out for a run.  It was a mere -19 below and she yelled out her window “You’re crazy!  You know is 19 below, right?”  Since then, she has also become a runner and, on our Snow Day this week, when 2o-25 centimetres led to road chaos and school closures, she headed out for her run – in temperatures hovering below -25C.  From my side of the fence, she looked crazy.

A few days later, when temperatures were even colder, my heartrate jumped when I saw friend Walter bolting along the road.  His face mask was covered with condensation turned snow and frozen snot.  Only a runner can understand the excitement that comes from seeing another running doing something that the general population would describe as insane.  I sent Walter the friendly double-honk, waved, and cheered him along.

During this week’s deep freeze, I have often thought that I am glad that I am not running.  Then I qualify that thought with an “almost.” Had I been running through the fall, I most certainly would have been running in this seemingly coldest winter ever.   I would have embraced the cold, struggled with the footing and finished feeling mighty.  And I would have complained about the laundry too.

Instead, this year, Tammy the Hamstring and I get to drop into a downward dog at the yoga studio, where temperatures are 30c.  As we get ready to leave, covered in a hot, sticky sweat, and someone opens the door, the cold rushes in and I watch the steamy air turn to an Arctic breath.   For a brief moment, I think “I’m glad I’m not running,” pick up my shorts and tank, and head home.

And almost every time, on the drive home, I wonder if I would be running in this cold.  Would I take a day or two off?  Would I turn to the treadmill?  Would I crosstrain instead?  And every time, I have the same answer: I would most certainly be running.

But the fact is I am not running and, while I miss it, I really don’t miss running in the cold.  This winter, I am happy to have my little escape to a hot, humid studio – and my little pile of laundry.

Feeling Like a Rock Star

Every now and then, out of the blue, someone makes me feel special.  I end up carrying those feelings with me for days or weeks, maybe even longer, and they end up driving my energy.

On Thursday, as a group of Grade 7’s was leaving my Math class, one of the boys stopped, looked at me in the eye and said, “Thanks, Mrs. O’H.” I was caught off guard because he doesn’t usually talk to me at all.  But what came next was even more of a surprise.  “You’re a good Math teacher.  Ya.  So thanks.”  And off he went.

I really don’t know where that comment came from.  He isn’t a top student and he never comes in for extra help but he works hard.   I guess Math is starting to click for him.   Regardless, he made me feel great and, let’s face it, I’ve been feeling down in the dumps since I got my MRI results back so I needed  this “feel good” moment.

My second rockstar moment came on Saturday when I went for my ultrasound.  The technician looked at my history before she started so that she knew exactly what images she needed.  “How did you tear your tuberosity?” she asked.  “It’s a running related injury,” I answered, only to find out that she had the a similar injury and is just starting to run again after being off for a year.   So, of course, during the ultrasound, she spoke about her running, cross-training, and rebuilding – and she suddenly stopped.  “I’m so sorry,” she said.  “I should be focussing on you.  I mean, you’re here for your ultrasound and I’m busy talking about me.”  I insisted that I didn’t mind; I love to talk about running.  Besides, it took my mind off the whole procedure.  But she continued anyway.  “You look really fit and fast.  How far were you running each week?”  I could only laugh.

We chatted some more, mostly about the Chilly Half Marathon and Around the Bay.  We both really want to run Around the Bay this year because it’s the 125th anniversary, but her mileage isn’t high enough yet and I’m just not running.  I asked if she thought about walking the 30 kilometres instead and her face lit up.  “I never even thought about that!  I can do that!  I’m sure I can!”  I suggested that she try walking the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington at the beginning of March and, if it went well, then she would still have time to register to walk Around the Bay at the end of the month.

As we were finishing up, the technician asked, “Should I know you? I mean, are you famous?”  I just laughed. “Only in my dreams,” I replied.  “Well, you are so motivational.  I am so happy to have met you today.  I really hope that you are going to be running soon.”  And that was that.  We parted without exchanging digits or handles, but as two runners who found a commonality and connected.

Meeting this technician was a gentle reminder of how supportive the running community is and how much I need to be a part of it.   It’s made me realize that, despite everything, I still need to get involved with the running scene either as a volunteer or a coach (or both) as I work my way back to being a healthy runner.

Until that happens, though, I am going to continue to bask in magical moments like these that leave me feeling like a rockstar.

 

 

 

When the Wind Changes Direction

Don’t you love that feeling when you are out for a run and, after fighting the wind for miles, you turn around and let the wind blow you back home?   Other times, we aren’t quite so lucky and turn around to find that the wind that we thought we were running into was the tailwind, which means that running back is going to be that much harder.

Emotions can be like that too.  Almost anyone who lives with a teen has experienced the noise which can follow them home from school, similar to the sounds of an explosion after a 747 has crash landed in your living room.  As adults, we are better at controlling our emotions.  We can run with the feeling of the wind being on our back for months or years on end until, without any warning, a plane crashes into our home and leaves us feeling broken.

Last night, I got my results from the MRI of my hip.   This was requested months ago, at the end of October, and I finally had imaging done at the beginning for January.    Since I had started running again, I thought about cancelling it, but my husband and son both said, “Why not?  It’s only going to give you more information.”  So I went ahead with it, hoping that I would find out exactly why it still hurts when I run.

I got what I wanted – and more.   First, I learned something new; there is a tear in the labrum.  The doctor says I don’t need to worry about that because it isn’t an area that is bothering me.  Secondly, I got more information about my old friend, Izzy.  While I thought that Izzy had moved out, she is lying low and creating havoc.  There is inflammation between the gluteal insertion at the tuberosity, which is diagnosed as enthescopathy.  This seems to be caused by osteo-arthritis, which is starting to show in the hip, and by overuse from running.   And, even though I thought I was getting better, the tendon at the ischial tuberosity is still partially torn.  It involves less than 50% of the tendon which, to me, sound like it is between 25-50%, or the results would read “less than 25%.”  So, in a nutshell, my hip is a bit of a mess.

It isn’t the hip results, though, that are weighing on me.  I also got some unexpected results.  A round structure was found in an organ.  I’m not ready to talk about it yet, other than to say a more detailed ultrasound is in the near future.

Dr. Elliott and I looked at a treatment plan for my hip.  First, I am off running, and he thinks it will be another 3 to 6 months before I will be able to again.  We decided to go ahead with Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy to strengthen the hamstrings so he sent in a referral to the specialist at McMaster Hospital.  Hopefully, I can get an appointment soon.

This was a lot of information to digest.  In some ways, I am not surprised by the hip results.  I feel better knowing  why running has been  hurting, why it doesn’t feel right, and why I have been so hesitant to push myself.  It’s not because my muscles are waking up; it’s because there are some structural weaknesses.  I’m glad that I followed through with the MRI as now I have a concrete plan to correct the aches and pains that we know about and, I hope, eliminate the other concern.

Last night was the first night that I crawled into bed before 10:00 in a long time.  I needed a quiet spot, a place to rest, a place to think.  Like the plane before it crashes, I felt myself start to shake while fighting to maintain control.  And then I cried.  By the time I got out of bed this morning, I was over it.  For now, I will salvage what I can and do what I am able.

This is a new day, filled with questions and hope and I am reminded of the words “Focus on the things you can control, not on what you can’t.” Today, I will focus on me, my thoughts and my actions.  I will focus on finding inner strength and moving forward – one day at a time.

 

 

 

Oh, What a Feeling!

After finally being able to run consistently, every other day, for the past 3 weeks, I have a renewed energy.   I can’t get too excited since running still hurts, but it isn’t the “Ow, I am broken” kind of hurt that I had all fall; nor is it the “I’m so out of shape” feeling that we often get when we have been off for a while.  It’s a stiffness, a type of knot, a sensation that I really can’t describe.   I like to think of it as a “healing pain” to remind me of Tammy and Izzy, my unruly tenants who moved in during the summer and fall, and of all the work that I have been doing to evict them.  It’s a message to not push myself just yet – to be careful.

At my chiropractic visit on Saturday, Sandy asked how my legs and hips were feeling.  “It’s just my glutes,” I told him, “and the very top of the back of my thigh.  I feel like I have gone for circle.”  In July,  I went for a massage because those were the two areas that were bugging me, but that treatment led to a chain reaction of a tightness, pain and tears.  “That’s it?” he replied.  “That’s good.”   “Well, my quads were killing me earlier in the week, but that’s because I am an idiot.”

You see, I am running but it isn’t enough – in terms of distance or intensity.  I need more of both. While I love that I am back on the road and running, I don’t feel like I am getting much out of that time healthwise, so I am keeping up with the lunges, bridges, planks, cycling (windtrainer) and yoga that I have committed through the fall.   Somehow, through my determination to get stronger and a touch of bad planning, I somehow managed to do everything within 24 hours.

On Monday night, I hit yoga class (warmed up with my bridge routine) at 6:00 and rode on my windtrainer after that.  Tuesday morning, I did my 360 lunges at school, ran 5K after school and had a chiropractic treatment at 6:00, 24 hours after my Monday night yoga class.  Then, to top it off, I rode for an hour before going to bed because it seemed like a good idea at the time.   When I woke up the next morning, my legs were sore!  But it was a good kind of sore, the kind you get when your muscles have been pushed and are tired, the kind of sore that feels better as you move around through the day, the kind of sore that feels great!

I haven’t had that feeling in months.   Sandy laughed after he heard my insane description, especially with the treatment details in the middle.  “You are obviously doing everything you can to get stronger and that’s okay.  It’s okay to feel sore.  Just overdo it.”

I don’t think there is a chance that I could ever repeat that Monday/Tuesday- at least, not in the near future.  But the satisfaction of thinking about what I did makes me smile.  It’s made me realize how far I have come in my overall fitness in the past 7 months and it gives me hope for chasing dreams and crushing previous times.   It makes me feel great!  So I won’t say “never again.”  We’ll see how long it takes me to lose my mind again.

Staying a Part of Your Teen’s Life

At the Toronto Christmas Market

One of the things that this injury has given me is extra time with my son. For years, during a typical school week, I would get home from work around 6:00 and head out the door to run. For the past few months, though, since I have been side-lined, I have been at home more, spending time with my recently minted teen and watching him become his own person.

When our kids are little, we spend time with them because we have to. They need us – all day long. So we do the things that we, the parents, want to do and and give them, the children, the experiences that we want them to have. Usually, these include going to parks, swimming lessons, and touristy things like visiting a museum or science centre. But as kids get older and become more independent, friendships become more important and, suddenly, they don’t need us around anymore.

I wasn’t ready for this change. My youngest has always been the child who needed me around. Now, he wants to spend time with his friends instead, either online or in real life, and understandably so. But, while he doesn’t realize it, he is still young and needs my guidance. I like being there for him; I want to be a part of his life a little bit longer.

A few weeks ago, it became obvious that he still wanted me to be a part of his life. On the weekend before his 13th birthday, while planning our schedule for the week ahead, as we always do, and I jokingly said, “Oh, look. Tuesday is open. Am I forgetting something?” To this, he smirked and replied, “I want to go see a movie.” After asking if he wanted to text a few friends to see if they could go, he replied, “Nope. I want to see Creed, and I want to go with my mommy. Just you and me.” Creed was one of the last movies on my to-see list. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather just go with friends?” I hoped. “Nope. Just you and me.” So, on his 13th birthday, we saw Creed, just like he wanted.

That’s when it hit me. If I want to stay a part of my teen’s life, I have to do the things that he wants to do, not the things that I want him to do. So, over the holidays, we went to an escape room and the Toronto Christmas Market with his friends, spent time at the indoor driving range, and snowboarded. Even though I don’t golf or snowboard or ski, I am quite happy to stand around and watch him grow and learn. I am even happier that he wants to do these things with me.

As I reflect on the past almost six months and feel sad about the times that I haven’t been able to run, I remind myself of how lucky I am to have this “gift” of time, time that I can invest in my youngest, time that belongs to my teen and me.

A Gentle Reminder

It’s been three years since my parents died and holidays are still tough, especially Christmas. Growing up, Christmas was extra special; my mom spent months planning and baking, we got dressed up for two family dinners (Christmas and Christmas Eve), sang songs and built memories to last a lifetime.

Fast forward a few decades to when I have been with Dave for more than 25 years and we have our own boys. Like most couples, we have created our own family traditions, which included spending time with my parents. Since their passing, it has just been the four of us on Christmas Day; my brothers spend Christmas with their in-laws and we get together later. This year, I needed my brothers to be a part of my Christmas Day.

As ridiculous as this may sound, my not being able to run has made this Christmas a difficult one. Year after year, I have always looked forward to the time off work and having a few decadent runs in the middle of the day; I have loved the challenge of making time to run on Christmas morning; I have been grateful for having the flexibility to run with my friends when it fits their schedules. This year, I didn’t have any of that. As much as I hoped that I would be running by Christmas, my shoes are still hanging in their cinch bag by the door.

This morning, I woke up at 7:30 and the house was still quiet. Zeda hadn’t asked me to go for a walk yet, and my two teeens were still sound asleeep. Christmas was different this year: no family, no running, and, now, no early wake-ups by my excited children. I was sad.

After walking and feeding Zeda, while waiting for her humans to wake up, I began to realize how lucky I was. Dave and the kids were all sound asleep. They weren’t driven by the need to wake up early to open their presents; they were happy. I stopped feeling sorry for myself.

I may not be able to run, but I have my health. I am injured; that’s it. I am not sick; I don’t have cancer; I’m not dying. I have my family: my husband, children and dog. We live in a well-built house, and we are safe and warm. This morning, they reminded me that we don’t have needs. They reminded me that life is good.

Focus on what you have, not what you want. Think about what lies ahead, not what you left behind. Keep dreaming and breathe because life is good.


Setbacks

On Thursday, I had a follow-up visit with Dr. Elliott.  At this point, I think that Tammy and Izzy have moved back to their respective homes and are following the rules.  But my right leg remains slightly tight through the upper hamstrings and that has me on my guard.

I am fairly certain that this tightness is not running-related but parenting-related.  Last Saturday, I took some marking with me to my son’s soccer game.  As I do at every game, I looked at the hard metal bench and thought “No way am I sitting on that,” so I stood like I usually do.  But marking while standing is tough so I entertained the idea of sitting on the turf.  “Nope, my pants will get dirty.”  So I went into a squat and marked until I heard the whistle.

“Have I really been squatting for twenty minutes?”  Slowly, I started to get up and I realized how tight my right adductor had become in that twenty minutes.  Part of me was impressed that I was able to hold a squat for that long and another part of me was doing some pretty serious name-calling.

On Tuesday morning, I went out for an easy run and I could feel the tension in my adductors by the end of my first mile, along with a general tightness in what I thought was the top of the IT band. Just after I decided to turn around and head back to school, my Garmin died. “It’s a sign,” I told myself. “This run was just not suppose to happen.”

When I saw my chiropractor, he explained that my glutes are starting to work again so my adductor and tensor fasciae latae, which is next to the IT band and below the pelvis, are working to support them.  Saturday’s super squat irritated them; yes, I overstretched.  A few days later, when I saw Dr. Elliott, he said the same thing.

“I don’t know what else I can do,” I told him.  “I’ve been doing everything right.  And, then, something stupid like this happens.”

“You just need more time,” he answered.  “Hamstrings take a while.  Just be patient.”

Patience.  I thought I was but it looks like I have to find some more.  I need to take a deep breath, sigh and a step back for a little while longer.  I am not willing to take any chances and, at this point, another week or two off will not make a difference.  So I am looking for positives:

  1. I have more time for my family.  My oldest came home from school yesterday; my youngest has a birthday this week; Christmas is coming.  Even though it means I am not running, I am grateful for the time I have with them.
  2. I should be back on the road by next week.  This is a huge advantage as I will be off work and have time to start slowly, stretch, and re-establish some running routines before I go back to work in January.
  3. The end is near.  I can feel it.  In 2019, I can get back to chasing my dreams.

But I won’t just be chasing them.  I’ll catch them, find new ones to go after and chase them down too.  2019, I am coming after you.