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.

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.


Bridge Work

I think everyone knows that lunge workouts have become one of my training habits. We have a love-hate relationship. I started doing them in late August and, by the end of October, I could feel my quads getting stronger; another month later, the physical definition in them was more obvious. My lunge workout takes time (30-40 minutes) and effort, but it is good for me.

When Izzy was finally diagnosed with a tear, Dr. Sajko added bridge work to my regime.  I initially wondered where the extra time to do them was going to come from, but I listened to his instructions.  Sandy has earned my trust; if he wants me to do something, I do it.  Besides, I like bridges.  It is one of my favourite holds at yoga.  

When Sandy saw that I could do the typical bridge pose, he challenged me.  “This time, lift your core, then lift one leg so that it is parallel to the other.”  I did, and Sandy stepped back.  “Wow, you have a strong core.” Suddenly, I felt jacked. 

After working through a set of those, we bumped it up again.  “This time, start with your feet together, lift your leg like you did before (parallel to the other), then lift your body up.” Basically, I was lifting myself into a bridge position with one leg.  They were harder but I could do them.

I was a bit relieved to hear I only had to do 3 sets: 10 of the typical bridge, 5 (each side) of the single-leg bridge, and 5 (each side) of the lifting single-leg bridge.  Finding 15 minutes is easier: before school, before yoga, even before the dog realizes that I am on the floor and tries to lick my face.  

It’s been three weeks since I have added bridge work and I can feel my glutes and hamstrings getting stronger.  There is still more work to be done, but this is a good start, especially when I can sense that they are forcing Tammy and Izzy to pack their bags and head out for good.  

I know that working with weights to build and maintain muscle mass is in my future.  Until I am 100%, though, and physically ready to start, I am happy to keep up with my lunges, bridges and whatever other rehab exercises are thrown my way.

 

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.

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.