One Day At A Time

A few weeks ago, I finally picked up a training journal.  I had just started to run again and I wanted to get back to tracking my running on pen and paper.  Five days after buying it, before I had even opened it, I was pulled from running and was told that it will probably be 3-6 months until I can run again.  Since my MRI was at the beginning of January, this week marks the end of my first month.

At my physio appointment on Friday, Tammy’s power and flexibility were good; I am feeling much stronger in general.  The only indicator that I am not ready to run is my butt aches when I sit down.  Looking back, though, I realize that it has been sore when sitting for the past two or three years, maybe longer, which indicates that my hamstring issue may have been brewing for a long time and I just didn’t recognize it as a problem; instead, I attributed my sore sitbones to a skinnier tush.

These days, I am encouraged by the almost normal feeling that I have.  “Does it really take 3 to 6 months for a hamstring to heal?” I asked my physiotherapist.  “No” was the fast reply.  “It takes 6-8 weeks.”  I laughed. “Then, by the time I have my PRP injection, I should practically be healed.”

In mid-January, Dr. Elliott submitted the referral for me to see the hip specialist but I don’t even have an appoinment yet.  “They’re probably still getting over the backlog from the holidays” was suggested as a reason, which is fine, but I really want to know when I am going to see the doctor.  Will it be a consultation with a second appointment for the actual treatment, or will it all be done at once?  How many treatments does he think I’ll need?  And what about the labrum?  Do I need to worry about surgical repairs?

As the days pass, I get more and more frustrated that I haven’t had my PRP injection, nor any kind of communication from the doctor’s office.   But I am starting to believe that I may be back on the road in the spring as my hamstring seems to healing on its own and the injection will only strengthen it.

Fingers crossed, hopeful thoughts, and dreaming of running again….Believe.

The Grass is Greener on This Side of the Fence

Throwback to a cold tempo: January 2018.

This is the first winter that I haven’t run in a long time and, truth be told, I am not complaining.  I do not miss the piles of laundry which come with 2 base layers and 4 tops from every single sub-zero run.  Nor do I miss the trails of frozen snot that are stuck to my jacket.  But I do miss the feelings of power and satisfaction that come after finishing something that, to most, seem unhumanly possible.

A few years ago, my friend, Erin, drove past as a few friends and I were just heading out for a run.  It was a mere -19 below and she yelled out her window “You’re crazy!  You know is 19 below, right?”  Since then, she has also become a runner and, on our Snow Day this week, when 2o-25 centimetres led to road chaos and school closures, she headed out for her run – in temperatures hovering below -25C.  From my side of the fence, she looked crazy.

A few days later, when temperatures were even colder, my heartrate jumped when I saw friend Walter bolting along the road.  His face mask was covered with condensation turned snow and frozen snot.  Only a runner can understand the excitement that comes from seeing another running doing something that the general population would describe as insane.  I sent Walter the friendly double-honk, waved, and cheered him along.

During this week’s deep freeze, I have often thought that I am glad that I am not running.  Then I qualify that thought with an “almost.” Had I been running through the fall, I most certainly would have been running in this seemingly coldest winter ever.   I would have embraced the cold, struggled with the footing and finished feeling mighty.  And I would have complained about the laundry too.

Instead, this year, Tammy the Hamstring and I get to drop into a downward dog at the yoga studio, where temperatures are 30c.  As we get ready to leave, covered in a hot, sticky sweat, and someone opens the door, the cold rushes in and I watch the steamy air turn to an Arctic breath.   For a brief moment, I think “I’m glad I’m not running,” pick up my shorts and tank, and head home.

And almost every time, on the drive home, I wonder if I would be running in this cold.  Would I take a day or two off?  Would I turn to the treadmill?  Would I crosstrain instead?  And every time, I have the same answer: I would most certainly be running.

But the fact is I am not running and, while I miss it, I really don’t miss running in the cold.  This winter, I am happy to have my little escape to a hot, humid studio – and my little pile of laundry.

Feeling Like a Rock Star

Every now and then, out of the blue, someone makes me feel special.  I end up carrying those feelings with me for days or weeks, maybe even longer, and they end up driving my energy.

On Thursday, as a group of Grade 7’s was leaving my Math class, one of the boys stopped, looked at me in the eye and said, “Thanks, Mrs. O’H.” I was caught off guard because he doesn’t usually talk to me at all.  But what came next was even more of a surprise.  “You’re a good Math teacher.  Ya.  So thanks.”  And off he went.

I really don’t know where that comment came from.  He isn’t a top student and he never comes in for extra help but he works hard.   I guess Math is starting to click for him.   Regardless, he made me feel great and, let’s face it, I’ve been feeling down in the dumps since I got my MRI results back so I needed  this “feel good” moment.

My second rockstar moment came on Saturday when I went for my ultrasound.  The technician looked at my history before she started so that she knew exactly what images she needed.  “How did you tear your tuberosity?” she asked.  “It’s a running related injury,” I answered, only to find out that she had the a similar injury and is just starting to run again after being off for a year.   So, of course, during the ultrasound, she spoke about her running, cross-training, and rebuilding – and she suddenly stopped.  “I’m so sorry,” she said.  “I should be focussing on you.  I mean, you’re here for your ultrasound and I’m busy talking about me.”  I insisted that I didn’t mind; I love to talk about running.  Besides, it took my mind off the whole procedure.  But she continued anyway.  “You look really fit and fast.  How far were you running each week?”  I could only laugh.

We chatted some more, mostly about the Chilly Half Marathon and Around the Bay.  We both really want to run Around the Bay this year because it’s the 125th anniversary, but her mileage isn’t high enough yet and I’m just not running.  I asked if she thought about walking the 30 kilometres instead and her face lit up.  “I never even thought about that!  I can do that!  I’m sure I can!”  I suggested that she try walking the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington at the beginning of March and, if it went well, then she would still have time to register to walk Around the Bay at the end of the month.

As we were finishing up, the technician asked, “Should I know you? I mean, are you famous?”  I just laughed. “Only in my dreams,” I replied.  “Well, you are so motivational.  I am so happy to have met you today.  I really hope that you are going to be running soon.”  And that was that.  We parted without exchanging digits or handles, but as two runners who found a commonality and connected.

Meeting this technician was a gentle reminder of how supportive the running community is and how much I need to be a part of it.   It’s made me realize that, despite everything, I still need to get involved with the running scene either as a volunteer or a coach (or both) as I work my way back to being a healthy runner.

Until that happens, though, I am going to continue to bask in magical moments like these that leave me feeling like a rockstar.

 

 

 

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.