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.

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.

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.