Time to pause and switch gears

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Hello, friends —

I haven’t been running for five weeks now. I’ve been going to PT for like three weeks or so.

And, well, what I’m trying to say is, it’s really hard to go through all of this again. So, I’ve started a new blog.

www.ottertravelmore.com

Why a new blog?

Because I want to focus my time and energy on another subject that is near and dear to my heart: travel

What does this mean for this blog?

I won’t be posting as often here … but, you already knew that if you’re a frequent reader.

To be honest, writing about how I can’t run and how I am doing PT again makes me feel even worse. I started this running blog to share the highs and lows of running and training for long-distance races … but for someone who hasn’t been able to run knee pain free for more than two years, well, it just really hurts.

I’m not giving up on running.

You better believe that I am diligently doing all my PT exercises at home. You better believe I am not running until I am given the green light.

I’m just tired of writing about PT appointments. I’m just tired of people asking me how running is going, and me replying that I can’t run again.

Thank you all for your virtual support, well wishes, comments and IRL encouragement. I know I’m not the first person to go through a running injury. I just won’t be documenting it all as closely as I would have liked to. Right now, it just makes me feel worse about the whole situation.

If you want to see what I’m up to non-running-injury-wise, please follow along on otter travel more. I have two exciting trips coming up in the next few months: Colombia and New Zealand! It’ll make for a better, more up-beat time, then here for now 🙂

 

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What does being injured mean?

I’ve been silent again.

I just haven’t felt like writing here lately because this is a running blog and I am just tired of writing that it hurts when I run, or that I don’t feel like a “normal” runner still.

Sure, if you look at my Instagram posts, it looks like I am healthy and back out there running races again. I guess I’ve fallen among the majority of people who only post about the happy events and activities in their lives on social media.

Because what I excluded to share is that two weeks ago I went back to the doctor. To specify, I went to a new doctor. (So, for those keeping track ever since I was diagnosed with a stress fracture on the side of my knee in summer 2016, this would be my third sports med doctor).

I shared with this new doctor the timeline of events since spring/summer 2016. I hate retelling this timeline of events because summer 2016 to present day seems like such a long time to still be broken.

Just to be on the safe side, the doctor wanted to do an MRI.

Last week I did the MRI. Now my third MRI, they really aren’t “that bad” to me. The first time it was super startling. Now, I just listen to classical music and half fall asleep …

Three days after the MRI, I got the results from my doctor. Stress fracture has not returned. Ligaments fine. Nothing broken. I still have “runner’s knee” and he has referred me to PT.

You’d think I would be happy to hear that I did not re-injure my knee. After all, I was going into the appointment with so many worst case scenarios in my head. “You have a stress fracture again. You can’t run for six to nine months. You need knee surgery …”

I still feel frustrated and lost though. I’ll be starting with a new PT this week and am hopeful. My doctor says he refers all his injured runners to this place and that “they have never failed him.”

I guess the silver lining is that I do not have to completely stop running at this time.

Am I still injured? How do I categorize myself as a runner?

Maybe it really doesn’t matter. All I know is that I want to be able to run without hesitation, without fear, without pains or aches or discomfort.

Back to the way things were

I honestly don’t remember the last time I had a run where I didn’t have any sort of knee pain, ache or discomfort.

I’ve been diligently doing my PT exercises for the past month. I haven’t noticed an improvement.

It’s frustrating. I think my friends, family and coworkers are tired of hearing me say “my knee doesn’t feel normal.”

Yet, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Didn’t you run a half marathon a few months ago?” or “Didn’t you run up a mountain doing that trail relay recently?”

Yes and yes.

For about nine months, yes, I have been running again. But, no, my knee hasn’t felt entirely 100 percent.

I could have just been having phantom pain but really, do the ghosts haunt you for nine months??

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I want to be back to how things were before — where I could run and train for full marathons. I want to go back when I could run completely knee-pain free.

Does that mean going back to my sports med doc? Or to physical therapy appointments? Or, for a third opinion?

Maybe all of the above?

I’m too stubborn to not be able to really race ever again. I still have big running dreams.

A constitutional recap

Coming off of a weekend being surrounded by fast trail runners makes me want to be fast(er).

Bryce and I and four other friends did a trail relay race up on Orcas Island at the beginning of the month. The Moran Constitutional Relay definitely did not disappoint.

There was such a positive spirit among all the runners. We stayed in bunks right next to the main race head quarters, which was where the start/finish was, so it was all super convenient — and allowed us to soak in everything in a relaxed manner!

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The race is about 70 miles total, divided into 12 legs. So, with a team of six, we each ran two legs. Mine were legs #1 and 6, which were both on the first day so I actually had no running on the second day!

The weather was perfect on Saturday. Cool in the morning but the sun came out. I had breathtaking views at the top of Mt. Constitution during my second leg.

But, let me start from the beginning.

I kicked off the race for my team at 7:30 am and although I tried to start conservatively, everyone started out super fast, so I ended up going out way too fast. I found myself completed winded and out of breath after a mile. This leg was 5.9 miles total and I quickly started delving into a “dark place.” What if I have to walk the rest of the way? What if I finish last? What if I can’t finish?

There were rolling hills and I definitely walked a lot. But, this helped in lowering my heart rate and mentally calming myself down. Several runners passed me, saying “nice job” or another form of encouragement. I carried on.

Eventually the course flattened out — thank goodness! I started getting into a groove and dug myself out of my “dark place.” About at the half way point, another runner passed me but I could always see her up in the distance, which was helpful. I no longer felt completely alone.

Part of the leg went alongside a lake. It was still not that bright out since it was early morning but the calmness of the lake was nice. I could hear cheering as I got closer and closer to the exchange point. With about a mile to go, I really kicked it in and picked up the pace. And, not that it really mattered, but I passed a good handful of runners in the last half mile or so. What a difference the beginning and the end of my leg felt!

My team was waiting and cheering me in when I got to the exchange. Alex started on leg 2 and my job (for now) was done.

Around noon, I started leg 6, my last leg of the race. Because my teammate I was exchanging with was a speedster, Maria was waiting for me at the exchange when I arrived! As soon as we saw her waving her arms, adrenaline kicked in and I was frantically taking off my jacket and sprinted towards her.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry I’m late!” I yelled at her as she handed me the timing chip.

Despite the frantic start, I enjoyed this second leg much better.

It was uphill all the way — 1,724 feet elevation gain —  but I went into this leg knowing I would be walking/hiking quite a bit. This leg was 3.1 miles total.

The first mile was definitely the steepest with mostly walking sprinkled in with just the tiniest bit of jogging. I passed two other runners who were chatting together.

The signage on the course was great so I never was concerned about getting lost. However, as I progressed up the mountain, I suddenly started coming across other runners … coming towards me. I continued along the path but, of course, was worried I had made a wrong turn. Why am I the only one going this way and everyone else is running in the opposite direction?

Well, turns out that the next leg goes back the way I was going. All these runners coming towards me were running a different leg! Phew, I felt better once another runner passed me who was doing the same leg as me.

The last bits to the top of the mountain were draining but the views were so worth it. I wanted to stop and take it all in but I knew Bryce was waiting at the top to run the next leg. I kept going and was rewarded with this view at the top.

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Day 2 of the relay didn’t have the same great weather. It was cloudy and rainy off and on. But, my team still killed it.

We surprised ourselves and ended up placing 13th out of 52 teams! Also, our day 2 standing was 9th overall. Not bad for a group of friends that included a new trail runner, someone who joined our team a month from race weekend, one who was coming off a cold and a few who “didn’t really train.”

Fall relaying

It’s been hard for me to blog consistently and I honestly think it’s because I’m tired of writing in words that my knee is “not normal” or that it is “achy again.”

But, putting that aside this weekend as I’ll be on beautiful Orcas Island with friends for the Moran Constitutional Relay!

Unlike other two-day relays I have done, this one is organized so that everyone gets to sleep! Each team completes a certain number of legs on Day 1, then sleeps and then on Day 2, everyone starts up again at the same time to complete the rest of the race’s legs.

I’m doing both of my legs on the first day so we’ll see how that goes. At least I’ll have the second day to recover and cheer my teammates on!

 

Thoughts on racing again

I successfully completed my 21st half-marathon near two weeks ago.

Yes, I still feel like a fraud. I still don’t feel like my old running self.

Why?

My knee does not feel 100 percent normal.

But, before I complain about my knee, here’s a quick Beat the Blerch Half Marathon 2018 recap:

  • Joanna and I arrived early with plenty of time to stretch, find the start, use the bathroom and eat.
  • The weather was pretty darn-good racing weather. It was grey, kind of muggy but it started drizzling toward the end of our race, which felt nice.
  • I didn’t time the race. Joanna had her watch running but didn’t activate her GPS. I basically didn’t want to know what our pace/time was.
  • The course is a flat out and back, so what more could you want? It was a gravel trail which my body overall appreciated.
  • We chatted throughout most of the race, running side by side. We definitely kicked it up a notch on the way back — or the same level of effort felt harder — but the fact that we were passing other runners makes me think we picked up our pace.
  • The last two miles felt not-so-great. My feet felt like they were going to start cramping. My old-injured knee was kind of throbbing. And, my body as a whole was just tired.
  • We spotted Bryce on the course with a mile or so to go. I got a brief burst of energy from seeing him cheer for us but then then pain re-emerged.
  • Somehow managed a kick at the end. We finished side by side and just under 2 hours (my “secret” goal).

So, what’s next? I honestly don’t know.

I’ve been doing my PT and strength training exercises again in hopes that strengthening “everything else” will alleviate the knee pain. We’ll see.

In a month if I don’t feel any improvements to my knee, I may need to go back to my sports med doc and/or PT.

Because, right now I don’t feel like I’m ready to start seriously training and racing again. And I really would like to train and successfully race a full marathon again … soon …

Dreaming of next races

I’m participating in a half marathon in five days.

Secretly I’d like to be sub 2 hours but seeing that my fitness is nowhere near what it used to be prior to my knee injury, I’ll be satisfied with finishing the race without significant pain.

With that being said, I’ve already been thinking and brainstorming what my next race will be.

I’ve always wanted to do the Honolulu Marathon, but since this race is three months away and I need to give myself more time before going back to full marathons, I looked into when the half marathon on the island is. It’s in April. And, if the stars align, maybe I’ll do that one. (The first step was signing up for the race’s email list so I can be notified when registration opens this fall).

Short-term I will probably do Dawg Dash in October. Some friends will also be doing this race at our alma mater so it’ll be a fun time. There’s a 10K and 5K option. I can’t wrap my head around which distance will “hurt less.” Things to ponder on my next run.