Learning what I thought I knew when I didn’t know

I had some days after hip surgery where I conjured up a conspiracy in my head where in fact the orthopedic surgeons were trying to ruin my life and stuck me with two unnecessary stainless steel pins in the femoral neck.

But more often I think I’m probably receiving a message from Valhalla or the heavens or spirit world, or whatever you believe in, and the message is retraining my form, my habits, posture, strength training and mental game. Specifically I have to strengthen my glutes and quads, work on my gait, massage my psoas, IT band and leg muscles so I can release some of the pressure on my increasingly Valgus knees, and work my way up the spine and to the slight kyphosis in my cervical spine. More specific: take anti-inflammatory herbs and joint health supplements like turmeric, Flexnow, glucosamine and chondroitin, more vitamin D and E. More yoga- later. When I’m not moving like a senior citizen.

If you’re not into anatomy you’re probably scratching your chin or rolling your eyes but the point is I need to retrain hat I thought I knew into what I need to know. Sure I’m 35 but at least I’m not 50. Sure I had a stress fracture and hip surgery but I didn’t have a hip or knee replacement and if I’m smart maybe I can get back into running, and back into shape, and maybe into the best shape of my life, and not even have to ever get more stainless steel in my body again- maybe.

I will run. Channel slightly demonic cartoon villain voice: oh yes, I will run. For now, still hobbling with a cane, my toddler is faster than me. That’s cool. I’ve got a future training buddy.

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Part Cyborg, hear me roar

A few weeks ago-as some of you may have been following- when I was running mile four of five in 90 degree heat, my thigh started throbbing. By the time I got back to my car I could barely walk. I went to urgent care and a had a bored lady doctor send me home with notes on IT band injuries and some painkillers. Two weeks later, struggling to complete each day of medical massage clinicals and watching a toddler, I returned to urgent care and begged for an MRI.

I finally got a CAT scan yesterday and a half hour later an orthopedist called and said I had to come in, fill out a pile of paperwork and get surgery ASAP before my hip displaced! I had a stress fracture in my hip. What what?!! I knew I’d been hiking and running a lot but I’m not a female military recruit so I didn’t really expect anything like this was even possible- and yet what a relief to know my pain wasn’t just a phantom and there was light at the end of the orthopedic tunnel.

This morning charming Dr. Reid, (who used to live in my old Portland hood), his colleague Dr. Black, and a handful of skilled orthopedic surgeons placed these stainless steel screws in the femoral neck (tension side) of my right hip. It was a superior femoral neck stress fracture; they pinned it so it won’t progress to avascular necrosis. Then they sent me home same day to rest with my mum and baby girl. In follow-up, I’ll need a bone density study, to check for osteopenia/porosis, to prevent recurrence, and to get my calcium, Vitamin D supplementation worked out properly, given your otherwise healthy restricted diet.

Self-care time.

I guess the aikido class, my anatomy and exercise physiology classes and years of cross country didn’t do what one unexpected injury required me to do, which was to remind myself of the body’s (and mind’s) intrinsic need for recovery and self-care time- the balance of yin and yang- to be a true warrior. Just as strength of spirit is fortified with kindness and empathy to others, strength of body is fortified with kindness and empathy for myself. Now for ice cream and Netflix. Cheers.

Fractured faith

I had a CAT scan this morning and they called back only thirty minutes after to tell me to get the weight off my hip. I had a hip fracture. Actually it was a stress fracture in the femoral neck of my hip in the more rare tension side on the superior side which requires immediate surgery… tomorrow probably?

It explains the three weeks of excruciating pain but Jesus. How did this happen? I messaged people and called my mom and asked the dudes at the September trail half marathon for a refund and texted my daycare friend and grad school friend visiting tomorrow and my husband who has been out of commission for his substance abuse. And I emailed my professors. My whole life is altered for a couple months and it’s not the summer of trail runs and hikes I imagined. And my updates will be about the healing process for now.

I’m feeling lots of negative emotions lately especially after receiving this news because I feel like my body keeps letting me down. First it was preeclampsia and two months of hospitalization while pregnant with my daughter and now this- probably the repercussion- as I tried to get lean and strong again after illness and a c-section. It was running and also the baby backpack for long hikes on uneven terrain. It happened during a five mile run but it was probably developing for weeks or months. And now I live and learn more… so I can get back out there.

Don’t get me wrong. I still plan to do San Francisco next year. I’m a warrior- on crutches and a little lame (Claudia actually means lame in Latin and that’s hilarious right now) but a warrior nonetheless.

38 + 365

I got an email this morning announcing hat the San Francisco Marathon is 38 days away. I wasn’t running it this year but couldn’t if I wanted to. I’m still waiting to get an MRI to see why I can barely walk. But I immediately thought: “I’m running that next year”. And I might be a little fucked up right now to the point of a lady comparing my cane to her grandma’s but I’m still a runner. So yeah, San Francisco. Next year. 2019. That will be my year.

A Groin Experience

“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

It’s only been a couple days! A couple of long sad days since I tore an adductor four miles into a run. That’s what we think it is even though the doc at urgent care honestly pointed at my inner thigh and declared it my IT band proving that her and her printed google notes were insanely unaware of anatomy and the body NO BIG DEAL.

So yeah. A torn adductor. Serious groin strain. It was an “experience” for sure. I’d been doing a lot of getting out of the car and straight running and then back in and then out and running without a single stretch of warmup for a month. I really don’t know what I was thinking but again- as a person with amnesia- I’ve been hit over the head with reality: you will be injured if you don’t put as much relaxation and chill time into your high intensity training time! This happened in high school so of course it is going to happen as a 35 year old woman watching a two year old and in a full time university program. And you know what? This is exactly what I deserve because I needed to remember, before I get any older or- terror thought- over the hill, that chill time is ESSENTIAL to preserving a badass banging body that can handle the poundage of a hard run.

So I tore an adductor and now I wait. And heal. But the trick is staying in shape without doing absolutely any high cardio activity that might straight my groin/adductors. I mean, what is there? Rowing? No because you have to bend your legs. Elliptical? Really no. Cycling? No. Swimming? Maybe? I don’t know maybe I can get some PT in and maybe some of the other massage students will give me a little aid recuperating. But how long will I have to wait?

When I thought it was a Charley horse and would be gone in a day I ordered pizza and drank some wine and watched Netflix but now it is terrifying to think that this could last a month- or two months!- and my training program for my September race is out the window, or rather deleted out of my Runkeeper app. I’m replacing it with my yoga mat and YouTube videos on how to train with a torn adductor. And a couple of frustrated tears. Any advice would be appreciated, oh my wise running internet friends.

I guess I’m not Super Woman

It’s funny to me when runners scoff at other runners for getting injured. Like, “if you weren’t so damn stupid you’d be ok now.” I mean. Yes, sometimes we do stupid things and get injured but when has any serious athlete/runner/highly active person not been injured at some point (usually several points) in their life? It’s part of the passion and grit that goes into being an active person, where sometimes even all of your training and common sense can’t stop you from going that extra mile/day/workout that makes your body go “enough”.

I had a day like that yesterday but like most of those “enough” days I had some warning. I’d been over zealous to hike with my daughter on my back in Kasha Katuwe tent rocks and white sands. I had been pumped to run ten miles then the very next day hike/run Wheeler Peak. A week later my husband was supposed to watch my daughter and was MIA all day, so by then time he returned home at 11pm I still was adamant I had to check off that day’s Runkeeper training run- ten miles- in the dark and brisk New Mexico air. And you know what? The next day my foot hurt by I ran anyway. And then yesterday it was my leg. Four into five miles I stopped and hobbled to my car because out of the blue my right thigh was throbbing.

I still don’t know exactly what it is and I gave three massages on the throbbing nightmare. Last night and this morning were a wreck and I’m seriously stressed about what it going on, how long it will last and what I’ll do with my summer massage therapy clinicals and this little two year old with boundless energy. I had some warning signs and yeah I feel a little stupid for ignoring them but I’m not going to beat myself up because let’s face it, I already did that and now I need to heal. So I ordered pizza and I’m taking hot baths. I guess I’m not super woman after all. Maybe it’s a Charley horse? I’m going to knock on wood and try to remember why exactly stretching/yoga/warming up and cooling down (all those things I talk about) actually need to be practiced- every single day.

Too tired to think

Today I had to run tomorrow’s ten miles so I could hike tomorrow. Let me explain: my running app- Runkeeper- has me running my longer runs on Tuesdays, but the last time I tried that (my anniversary) my husband was about as thrilled as a preacher at a bar mitzvah. I was shamed for hours and ran much later in the day so I was tipsy and a little agitated when I finally ran.

I didn’t want that for tomorrow especially if I was planning on hiking up a MOUNTAIN so instead I ran at the middle school track and recalled my life 22 years ago listening to TLC and Mariah Carey, toting a smelly lunchbox with embarrassing vegan foods and hating my life. Something don’t change.

Five miles in I really had to pee so I paused my app and drove to another track around a soccer stadium that had public bathrooms with real toilet paper. Then I continued. I was nearly finished when at miles 8.67 my therapist called. I was TWENTY minutes late for my appointment. I apologized eight times and then ran my ass to my car and drove to my appointment, talked about my narcissistic dad and passive aggressive mom and childish, self-centered husband, and then I drove back to the middle school track- which is completely infested with prairie dogs by the way- and ran the remaining 1. 33 miles.

Feeling bad about all the breaks for sips of water, the bathroom, the driving, and the thirty minutes of therapy, I ran another miles- two minutes faster than the exhausted shuffle I’d been managing, in lieu of my usual rest day, and then I collapsed, sun-kissed, sweating and too tired to think, on the pole vault mat.

It feels good to be too tired to think. And I guess that’s why I run.

Nobody but you can decide what you can do…

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: nobody but you can decide what you can do.

A few months ago my exercise physiology professor said I “don’t look like a runner”. It was a brief stereotype. Then he asked in reaction to my frown: “well are you a runner”. And then when I said I had run my whole life and was getting back into it after having a baby, that most runners looked “emaciated”. Was that his polite way of telling me that my postpartum belly fat was acceptable as long as I didn’t run?

But I do run. I ran when I was six in Texas and 14 in Wyoming and I ran even when I was a smoker and drinker in college. I have taken time off and of course had a baby but I always return to running.

And you know what? No one, not your mom, not your dad, not your partner, sister, friend or exercise physiology professor can tell you what your body can do.

When I was in high school I remember observing other girls with really long, slender legs and thinking I wasn’t enough of the body ideal. But I was one of the fastest girl on my cross country team. Sure I wasn’t number one and I was on Wyoming, but I was right up there doing something pretty well and beating some of the long legs and feeling pretty good about it.

And I’m feeling pretty good about it now. I’m training for a rugged half marathon up a freakin mountain in September and after that I want to run a marathon and maybe after that I’ll run an ultra. Because why not? This is MY body- my shape, weight, age, condition. I’m finding my health and balance again- in body and time- as only a postpartum mom can do. In some ways, after having a baby and being through the life experiences I’ve had since my first half marathon in San Francisco five years ago- I feel mentally stronger and physically wiser than ever. This is MY body and I know what it can be and what it can do.

Trail of tears and joy

I’ve been training for a half marathon in September that may sound a long way off but it has a few things going for it that I have never dealt with in a half marathon race before:

1. Lots of incline (I run up a freaking mountain)

2. Lots of elevation (the Taos ski valley and Fraser Mountain- which we run up- are higher in elevation than most Olympic training centers)

3. Lots of rocks and roots and debris to get snagged on

So what I know is this isn’t going to be the half marathon I ran in San Francisco with music and hecklers and a few road hills. I won’t be running 7-minute miles (I don’t really do hat anymore anyway) or even running parts of it… more like crawling with tears.

I hiked up the first part on a rocky route that I’m hoping isn’t on the official course map and the hike alone left me huffing and puffing and moving slower than my Nana’s old poodle when she fed it too much bacon. Point is I need all these months to train and this is what has to change as I transition to trail and my first race as a 35 year old (my god how did I get to be 35?)

What I need to know (and what you need to know) as a runner transitioning to serious trail running status:

  • First of all you do not have to win. Unless you’re a professional and you need sponsorship from Saucony or Brooks, you really can just take your time. Worst case scenario you’re so slow that everyone leaves before you finish and you just chill with some birds and squirrels for a few hours before you take your time returning to normal life off the mountain with a few beautiful photographs for Instagram
  • Rocks, roots, trees, leaves: these are all going to be doing their best to knock you on your ass and it helps for traction and peace of mind to get good trail shoes with grip. My favorite for my feet used to be montrails masochist until Colombia bought them and they changed shape entirely. Now I run in Salomon Speedcross (a half size larger than street shoe size for swelling) and they’re perfect. Likewise, it’s important to wear your contacts or glasses so you can SEE the roots/leaves/rocks, and lift your feet.
  • On trail, as on road, you have to be mindful of others. On the road you have to avoid careless drivers and pedestrians and on the trail you have to avoid trees and hikers and careless mountain bikers. In a race you’re saved from bikers just as you’re saved from drivers in a road race, but you still have to put safety first. This means plan ahead: aid stations or not, bring water in a camelback, hand held bottle, and/or hip pack. Water is essential. Being able to see well is essential. Wearing wicking layers and socks for sweat, and the optimal clothes (you can always shed layers) for the elements, and even some snacks (a couple espresso gu gels maybe). This may not be a survival race in the Australian Outback but you’re going to be in the trees, mountains, cold or hot climate, and whatever you have to face needs to be visualized, prepared for and ultimately respected. “Don’t fuck with Mother Nature” is my mantra and it’s a relief when you put her first and your race goals second.

That’s it I guess. Trails are more fun. Cities are fun but stopping for red lights and speeding trucks can be a drag. Getting covered in dirt and leaves feels like a return to your roots- literally. I like taking pictures in far off enchanting lands, next to my dogs, steep cliffs and hundred year old trees, and sharing them on my smart phone to the world that doesn’t leave their homes and offices enough. Makes me feel like Shackleton on the Endurance except with more food and less hypothermia. Or just like a badass. A postpartum, 35-year-old, mama in yoga pants, pigtails and compression socks badass.

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