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.

A Most Unfortunate Side Effect of Not Running

During the first few days of dealing with my hamstring (now named Tammy the Hamstring.  Why not name your hamstring?), it hurt to walk but it was Zeda who really suffered.  Gone were our morning walks; our 5K afternoon walks were also put on hold until I felt more mobile.  In the mornings, I let Zeda out in the backyard, fed her and watched her sulk until one of the boys woke up and could take her around the block.

On Friday morning, Zeda went outside, roamed the yard and visited her usual spots.  She found a stick to chew, mud to dig into and a skunk to play with.  Well, somebody forgot to tell the skunk that Zeda just wanted to play.    The backyard reeked.  It was so bad that I initially couldn’t tell if it was the yard or her that smelled.  I called Zeda and did the sniff test; Dave smelled her too.  We agreed that it must have been the neighbour’s dog that got skunked because she didn’t smell all that stinky…until she had been inside for about 10 minutes.  I heard bedroom doors suddenly slam shut.  It was obvious that our Zeda had been skunked.

Zeda and I headed back outside to bathe her.  Dave bought a skunk shampoo a few months ago – the “just in case” purchase that makes perfect sense after 3 previous late night skunkings with Chase, our previous fur-baby.   Zeda had a 45 minute bath with 3 shampoos and rinses.  The next day, Dave washed her again. The smell still lingered.

While he walked her that afternoon, a fellow dog-parent told Dave, “Do you know what really works?  A female douche.  (Is there any other kind?)  It’s full of chemicals and takes the smell out.”  So, when Dave got home, he asked me to pick up a “female douche.”

“A what???”

“It’s suppose to work.  So if you’ll get one, I’ll help you with it.”

“You want me to go to the drug store to get a douche shampoo?  I know kids who work at there.  There is always one of my former students on cash on Saturdays.  They’ll talk… or start a rumour.”  Dave looked at me and repeated, “I’ll help you.  Get the product: a female douche. This is out of my territory.”

Obviously.  I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.  It was bad enough that Zeda got hit by a skunk because Tammy was being a pain in the butt and making it difficult for me to walk.  But now I had to go to the drug store to pick up a douche shampoo.  I toyed with the idea of driving to the other end of town where no one would know me, but I pulled on my big girl shorts and headed to my local Shoppers.

I honestly didn’t know what to get for Zeda.  “Do I buy the $4.99 one or the $24.99?  Okay, let’s eliminate the ones with applicators.  We don’t want gels.  Hmmm…lemon coconut…maybe scented would be nice.  Nope, let’s get that one; it looks like Johnson’s baby shampoo.”  So I picked up a bottle of Vagisil and bee-lined for the cashier, paid for the shampoo, walked out of the store – without even asking for a bag!  – and prayed that I wouldn’t walk into somebody I know.

When I got home, Dave was ready.  He rinsed Zeda’s coat and I washed her again: over her head, covering her mouth, around her eyes and in the nostrils.  Suddenly, a purchase with an applicator made a lot of sense.   We let everything soak in her, rinsed her off and, as we did, we could smell the stench being pulled from her.  We repeated the process and, during Zeda’s second scrubbing, I asked, “Who thought of this anyway?”

“The guy I ran into while walking her.”

“No, who originally thought of this?  Why would someone use a douche shampoo on a dog? Whatever would possess them to think of that?”

And that remains a mystery.  At first, I thought that a genius idea like that had to be a woman’s.   Then, I thought it came from a  guy who panicked when his dog was sprayed, ran into the bathroom to get some soap and grabbed the wrong bottle.  I’m surprised that something so effective did not end up on the list of “accidental inventions” or a DIY life hack video.

As we cleaned up, I said to Dave, “I’ll leave the Vagisil here with her other shampoos.  It will be a conversation piece.”   I carefully placed the bottle on the toolbox next to his workbench and retreated to the safety of my kitchen.  Then, I added Vagisil to my list for my next trip to the drug store.

Playing All of the Cards

On Friday morning, I went out for an easy 5 mile run.  Half way through it, I noticed that my right adductor was tight so I slowed down; by the time I got home, the front and back of my upper thigh was sore.  The next afternoon, I decided to go out for an easy run to make sure that my leg had recovered and I’d be able to handle my long run the next day.  I felt good for about 3 miles, but as I climbed a slight uphill, I heard the back of my thigh start to scream at me.  That’s when I thought my piriformis was source of my grief.  I got home, took the next day off and waited for Physio on Tuesday.

Since then, I have seen two physiotherapists.  One appointment was pre-scheduled to work on my diaphragmatic breathing but since movement was a huge issue, Tracy worked on my leg instead; the other, with Lisa, was a routine maintenance check, again scheduled weeks ago for today, and became a  “Let’s get Cynthia moving” appointment.  Both physiotherapists said the same thing: my right hamstring, right at the top of the leg where the hamstring meets the butt, was aggravated so the muscles around it (the other hamstrings, glute medius, sciatica) are tensing up to protect it.  Well, they have been protecting it for a week now, and I’d really like the hamstring to relax and settle down so that I can get back to my running.

Since I have time these days, I also went to my family doctor who agreed with the others.  I asked if he thought there was a tear because recovery has been so slow, but he said that my leg isn’t swollen enough and I’m not in enough pain for it to be a tear.   All three professionals agree on the diagnosis: hamstring strain.  Hooray, I think.

Meanwhile, I’m not running and I’m not happy about it.  I’ve been told to take it really easy for a few more days: walking and some gentle cycling if it doesn’t hurt.  I can go to yoga but I need to be careful to not overstretch.

Meanwhile, with Chicago only ten weeks away and the Canadian 5K Championships in mid-September, I am using every card in my hand to recover quickly.

A bit of acupuncture in my back to alleviate the tightness.

Card #1: Physiotherapy: My doctor agreed that this is a must for a fast recovery.  I have been getting ultrasound and acupuncture and my right hamstring is taped for a while.

Card #2: Anti-inflammatories: My right thigh is only 2.5 mm bigger than my left, which is not really significant.  However,  it has been a week with very little progress so we are being a little more aggressive through a prescription.

2XU Compression shorts – hope they help.

Card #3: Compression shorts: Lisa suggested that I wear compression shorts all day until my hamstring has settled down.  Living in a house with ultra-conservative boys and men, I don’t own compression shorts.  Fortunately, I found a pair of 2XU shorts on sale at National Sport.  I think this may actually count as another “Hooray!”

Card #4: Rest: Of course, and I’m milking it.  I’ve told my husband that I can’t vacuum or do any housework that involves using my hamstrings (like cleaning the bathtub), and I can only walk Zeda if we go for a slow walk.  Yes, I am absolutely taking advantage of this!  Shhhhh…..

Card #5: Stay calm:  I’m not panicking.  I’m frustrated beyond belief, but I am trying to stay positive.  I have a solid base behind me so I’m trying to look at this a short period of forced rest to that I can be my best in the fall.   But, Hamstring, be warned: if you play this game for more than three weeks, I will become a force to be reckoned with (and that’s when you’ll hear my husband and kids complain).

My advice to anyone thinking about massage is to start establishing a relationship with an RMT during  your off-season, when a strange ache that might follow doesn’t matter.  The RMT didn’t know me; she didn’t know what I could handle.  On another runner or triathlete, the same pressure probably would  have been fine but, on me, it wasn’t.  Maybe I will go back to see her, but it will be after the marathon.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep playing the cards in my hand; one of the them has to be the lucky one.