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.

 

 

Taming Tammy

Taking two weeks off running was completely my idea.  I needed to remove the pressure of trying to run and to train for Chicago.  I needed to focus on healing. At the time, I honestly didn’t know if it was a good idea or not, and I still don’t, but it gave me the break that I needed.  It gave me the time to accept that Chicago will not be the marathon that I want it to be; once that happened, my frustration disappeared.

But taking the time off was still hard even though I walked Zeda, I spun my wheel on my windtrainer (because I didn’t trust that riding up and down hills in the great outdoors would be good for Tammy the Hamstring), and I went to yoga.    I survived the first week  without running but, by Day 10, I was getting antsy.  “Four more days will not make a difference” I told myself.  By Day 14, I was quite excited – one more day.   It no longer hurt when I walk, my stability was back and I felt stronger, but I didn’t know if the time off would help my running.

I decided to test the trails on Saturday afternoon instead of in the morning as I felt my body would be more awake and Tammy would be less of a nuisance.  I knew that I had to do 2’s and 1’s, and slowly.   My osteopath also gave me some exercises to do before and after: hip rotations (like using a hula hoop), opening and closing the gates, and leg swings (forwards and sideways).  I could hear my hip popping during the first set, which made me nervous, but I stuck to the plan: go out slowly, on a soft surface, 2 minutes on, 1 minute off, aim for a mile.

Two miles run!

When I left the house, I was able to run along a straight plane but I had trouble manoeuvring corners and turns, even at a 9/10 minute mile pace.  I almost quit and went back home.  “Stick to the plan.”  After 3 sets of 2’s and 1’s, I could feel that my hips had loosened up and I was moving more easily.  After 6 sets, I was able to turn the same corner that I couldn’t get around before.  Success!   Then I went through my exercises at home for another 20 minutes.  In the end, I spent more time warming up and cooling down/stretching than I actually did running, but it really didn’t matter because I ran!

Taming Tammy

Today, I went through the same routine but ran on a mix of surfaces – grass, gravel path, road – and for a bit longer.   As on Saturday, I finished feeling good about running, but Tammy was still a pain in the butt – not as much of a pain as she was before, but still a nuisance.  As my osteopath explained, there is scar tissue surrounding Tammy that has formed a rope and it needs to be loosened.   When Tammy complains to my brain that she is sore, my body reacts by tightening up even more to protect her.  But my joints and bones are healthy, my tendons are strong, and there is lots of fluid flowing through my veins.  So I need to run – slowly and carefully – to start breaking up the scar tissue, to tame Tammy and to send the message to my brain that I am not broken; I am strong.

What does this mean in terms of the Chicago Marathon?  I have no idea.  I will be there and I will be running.  I don’t know how far or how fast but I do know it will be with Tammy, and she will be on a very short leash.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I cried today.  It has been the first time I cried since my training for Chicago has been sidelined.  Heck, it is the first time that I have cried in I don’t know how long.  But I do know that since Tammy started acting up, the uncertainty of whether I will be able to run the Chicago Marathon has left me feeling blue.  Last week, I only ran on Monday,  when I realized that Tammy the Hamstring needed attention, so I turned to yoga and spinning on my wind trainer for the rest of the week.  The rest helped; I noticed that the range of motion in my right leg improved over the seven days as did my strength and balance.

Success! Three miles done!

This past Monday, I was cleared by my physiotherapist to try some shorter distances so I ran 3 miles that afternoon.  Tammy was still tight, but she wasn’t sore like she was the week before and I felt fine the next day.  On Wednesday, I was starting to feel normal; my hips felt like they were opening up again and I seemed to be walking properly.   At my physio appointment the next morning, I was told that the puffiness on the back of my thigh was down and the weird bruising, which started to surface when we taped my leg the week before, was disappearing.  Things seemed to be progressing and I was encouraged, so I ran again on Thursday night; this time I covered 4 miles.

This morning, everything changed.   I headed out for an easy 3 mile run and Tammy decided to start kicking me in the butt.  At the one mile mark, I stopped my watch, walked home and cried.  I have been doing everything right: my exercises, my warm-ups, rest, sleep, physio…but it hasn’t been enough for Tammy.  She obviously needs more time.

Today was the first time that I have cried since my training for Chicago came to a halt.  In the past two weeks, I have played the “what if” scenarios, including not starting.  I have toyed with the idea of walking the 26.2 miles but that is not what I set out to do; I want to run the course, not walk it.  I have thought about running part of the course and walking the rest, which I would be okay with if that becomes the plan, and I’ve considered running part and dropping out.  But not once during the “what if” games that my mind played did I cry.  Until today.

This afternoon, I decided that I am not going to run until Tammy is in better shape.  I feel that my trying to run is like playing Russian Roulette; how much more can I push Tammy until she has had enough and really bites me in the butt?  I looked into pool running as a way to supplement my training and was ready to buy a belt, but I don’t want to pool run.  When I put things in perspective, I reminded myself that running Chicago is suppose to be fun, so I don’t need to torture myself with things that I don’t want to do.  Instead, I will continue to ride on my wind trainer and go to yoga; I’m even willing to start swimming again.  If I don’t start in Chicago, so be it.  There is always another marathon.  As I walked with my youngest in the late afternoon and felt Tammy’s presence again, I realized that taking a step back like this is the best thing for me.

I am trying to stay positive but there will likely be more tears between now and October 7th while I figure out what exactly Tammy has planned for me.  Who knows?  Maybe I will be able to pull a miracle out of my butt and I’ll be able to chase my dreams sooner than I think.   Only time can tell.

Keeping Up With the Boys

CR - ClimbIn December 2014, I took my sons to Climbers Rock in Burlington to try some indoor climbing.  The oldest dude had done some at school, earned his certificate to belay and was keen to keep at it.  My youngest was a natural; watching him go up and down the walls reminded me of Batman scaling city towers and, then, jumping down.  Me: I’m afraid of heights so I spent countless hours watching the two of them climb together.  But the more I sat there and the more I saw others harness in and reach for the top, the more I realized that I should be able to as well.

We stopped climbing when I broke my jaw, started again when I was cleared to resume activities, then stopped again when my parents died.  For whatever reason, we never went back.  The three of us never discussed why we weren’t going, but I often found myself thinking about it.

Fast forward to December 2015.  I wasn’t running due to a tight SI joint and was tired of just spinning and yoga.  The dudes were bored and needed to get more activity in their lives.  We talked about heading back to Climbers Rock and it wasn’t long before the dudes were literally driving me up the wall.

CR - walltopiaDuring the past two months, I have realized what a fabulous form of cross-training this is for me.   First, it is a great way to strengthen my feet and counteract all of the pounding I do to them when I run.  When climbing, my feet are constantly stretching; I can tell that they get stronger.  The day after every climb, I almost feel as though I’ve had a foot massage.  Climbing also supplements the yoga work that I have been doing to strengthen my core and it helps me to really stretch out my legs and back.  I love the feeling of waking up back muscles that I haven’t used in a while.

The best part of climbing, though, is I can do it with the boys.  One night, the Littlest Dude climbs better than all of us and, another night, I can climb tougher walls than the dudes.  We’re at approximately the same ability level right now and that will change. But we will still be able to do it together and, when we aren’t climbing, we’ll continue to  watch and support each other.  It is a great family activity.

CR - trySo once a week, we are committed to going to Climbers Rock.   Getting one busy mom, a working teen and an active 10 year old to find time to do this together can be a challenge but we do and happily get out of the house.  Hubs: he is happy to have the house to himself.

And my fear of heights?  Well, I am still working on that.  But I am reaching for the top and make it up there.  I just don’t look down.