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.

 

 

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.

The Butt-nut

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?

Moving Forward

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.

 

 

Happy Feet – a year later

Finishing a training run in my Mizuno Wave Riders.

Since the beginning of April, I have logged 750 miles, or an average of 47 miles a week.  Running higher mileage like this for an extended period of time is new to me and I didn’t think that I would be able to hang onto this higher volume.  Doing a few double runs has helped me to build but looking after my feet has made a huge difference.

Many older runners will tell you that their feet start to hurt when they reach a certain distance.  My Mizuno waveriders gave me the support that I needed until five years ago when, at age 49, my feet would start to ache as soon as I reached 15 miles.   Thinking it was just the shoe, I tried a few other brands but kept going back to the waverider; I knew the sore feet were not caused by the shoe but, simply, just my getting older.  But, stubborn like a marathoner can be, I trained through these aches for the Buffalo, Chicago and Boston marathons, with my feet hurting more and more each time.  Now aches are common with many distance runners but they are that much more pronounced in older runners as our feet tend to have less fat.  Determined to not walk away from long distance yet, I needed to find a solution and turned to a chiropodist, Dr. Werkman.

I saw Dr. Werkman last August and he designed a more supportive insole for my shoes – not an orthotic, but my mizuno insole with the addition of poron, which provides more cushioning under the balls of my feet, the point of impact when I land.   It took a few adjustments to get them “just right” but they have made a huge difference in how comfortable my feet feel.  Since they aren’t traditional orthotics, this is also a much more financially reasonable solution.

My worn-down insole on the left vs newly constructed on the right.

Last week, I went to see Dr. Werkman as I knew that I was pushing the limits on my last pair of insoles.  He built this pair for me in March and, by mid-June, I could tell that they were well-worn because the balls of my feet were starting to hurt a little, something that I haven’t had in almost a year.  When Dr. Werkman saw how flat my insoles were, his eyes popped.  “How far have you run in these?” he asked.  The man is a magician.  He took my Mizuno insoles from the shoes that I purchased in June, lined them up with my old insoles (also Mizuno) and replicated them.   They felt exactly the same but the true test was my long run on Sunday.  After 18 miles, I complained about the heat and I complained about the hill at Mile 16, but I did not complain about my feet.

The 12 weeks ahead in preparation for the Chicago Marathon are not just about logging the miles.  They involve a lot of self-care; looking after my feet is just one part of that, one step to keep me chasing my dreams.