Being OK with being injured

When I reread some of my past entries about being injured, I think, “Wow, was I really that mad?”

Just as I’m sort of becoming used to the dull knee pain I experience every so often, so is my status as an injured runner.

It’s been nearly 13 months of not running and about 15 months of being injured.

I’ve cried three times (that I can recall) during this whole “injury period.” Once was after one of my doctor appointments. The other two times were actually at races.

Bryce and I were in the Bay Area in May for a friend’s wedding. We spent the weekend in San Francisco and Bryce was in the middle of training for his upcoming 40-mile race. It just so happened that we were in SF the same weekend as Bay to Breakers. Bryce did a recovery Sunday run in Golden Gate Park while I went for a walk. I stopped mid-way through my walk to watch and cheer on the Bay to Breakers runners. It was pretty entertaining with so many people in various costumes and get-ups.

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Then without realizing it, my eyes started welling up. I was overcome by a feeling of sadness that I could not do what all these people were so easily doing. I quickly pulled myself together though. And, focused more on the man dressed up as the Pope who was “blessing” all the runners that went by.

Then, the same thing happened at Bryce’s 40-miler! By no means was I jealous that I couldn’t run a 40-miler. The longest distance I have run is a 50K and I have no desire to do anything longer. So, it was weird that I started producing tears at the start of his race.

We arrived at the race with plenty of time for him to get ready. As most races go, the porta-potty line was long. While Bryce was using the restroom, the race director started making announcements to runners about the course. I walked a little closer to the huddled group of runners to catch anything important to relay to Bryce. As I stood there in the back of the crowd, again that deep feeling of sadness hit me again.

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Emotions can be weird.

Yet, through it all, I have tried to remain calm and positive.

Ask me again tomorrow or in a week, but, I’m OK with being injured.

It’s all part of my narrative.

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Injured runner: Checking back in (again!)

I ghosted again without meaning to. Apologies.

I feel like I blinked and the month of August — and summer in general — has passed!

A lot has been going on, so let me try to recap as quickly and succinctly as possible so I can get to writing more detailed posts about some of these recent happenings.

  • Still continuing with PT — No significant improvement with the knee but my physical therapist isn’t concerned. I am trying to stay calm and not get worked up about the fact that I’m not out running and the dull pain still comes and goes on my knee.
  • Participated in Ragnar Rainier the other week!
  • Haven’t swam in like a month but have been very diligent about doing my PT exercises nearly every day and going to the gym after work each day.
  • Trying to go on as many hikes as possible as I hold on to summer.

OK, no more ignoring the blog. I promise.

Injured runner: Checking back in

How have I been doing? How has PT been? What have I been up to?

Well, for one, I caught a cold that has been going around in my family and my office. I feel better than I did last week when I first started having a sore throat and super runny nose but now I have developed a cough that I can’t shake and still feel pretty tired. (It didn’t help that I had a very busy weekend and couldn’t “stay home sick” from my pre-planned weekend activities and obligations — more on this in a later post).

So, I haven’t been doing all my my PT exercises that I am supposed to be doing … Getting sick in the summer is kind of a bummer because it feels weird to be wrapped in a blanket at home when it’s so nice and sunny outside!

This is week 3 of physical therapy and I have another PT appointment at the end of the week, so hopefully I will feel better ASAP and have a productive appointment.

I haven’t been to the gym and/or swimming in like a week with getting sick and all. Even though I have been injured from running for almost a year, this is probably the longest stretch of “inactivity” in a while.

Hope to be back on track with everything (life, work, PT exercises, going to the gym), next week.

So, nothing really new to report for now.

Knee is still the same.

This is 30

All names in this post are changed to protect the old and innocent.

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She felt bad that she kept having to leave me alone at the table. First it was to go get water. And then it was to go order ice cream.

No, she wasn’t extremely hungry or thirsty. She was trying to subdue her tastebuds that were on fire at the moment.

Samantha and I met up for dinner at a place that has take-out chicken sandwiches. She assured me that the tofu sandwiches (for this vegetarian) were also delicious. You can choose the level of spiciness of your sandwich and I ordered mine “medium” while Sam decided to go for “hot.” She said she ate there before and ordered medium but that she felt like it wasn’t spicy enough.

Well, folks, we’ve learned that there is a big difference between “medium” and “hot” at this place. While I was scarfing down my sandwich, she could barely eat hers.

“Kristin, what’s wrong with me? I’m in pain!” she said.

It’s one of those scenes that you want to be laughing at, but it actually didn’t come across as funny to me. I felt bad because there was nothing I could do to help her. (And she clearly was not in the position to be laughing).

“Do you want some of my sandwich?” I offered.

Sam said it was too late. Her mouth was already burning. She went back for more water at the self-serve station and left a little later again to order vanilla ice cream in hopes that the cold cream would off-set the burning sensation in her mouth.

“Is this what it’s like to get old?” she said while half laughing. Or, was it I who said that to try to lighten her mood?

Either way, maybe this is what getting old is like. Most of my friends and I are now 30, or about to approach 30.

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I have one friend, Brandy, who just got back surgery last week. Yes, back surgery! And, just like me she is only 30 years old! And, I have another friend, Maggie, who is about to get a colonoscopy because she has been having unresolved gastrointestinal problems.

Maybe this is the 30 that no one talks or writes (or posts on social media) about.

Except that I have been constantly writing and reminding you all about my year-long running injury!

We hear stories or see Facebook posts about Judy from high school’s new baby boy, or Agatha and her husband’s new million-dollar house or Angie’s elaborate wedding in the Bahamas.

We don’t hear the stories about the surgeries, doctor visits or that time your friend Sam could barely eat her dinner because she ordered it too spicy.

So, let’s be real. (I guess) this is 30.

Injured runner: Learning how to swim yet again

I have had to learn how to swim now four times in my life.

  1. As a child when I was maybe three or four and my parents had me take “little tadpools” swim lessons — or whatever the classes were called at the time.
  2. As an adult when I decided to participate in my first triathlon the summer of 2012 and had never done any “serious swimming” before.
  3. As an adult when I found out I was injured from running last summer and needed to learn how to swim on a consistent basis and for a longer period of time.
  4. Most recently, as of a week ago, when my physical therapist told me to continue swimming without kicking my legs!

This post is going to be devoted to the fourth point because I have conveniently linked out to past posts about points #2 and #3 and I didn’t have a blog when I was four.

Ever since re-learning how to swim as an adult for my triathlon five years ago, I have had mad respect for swimmers. They are tough. They are relentless. They are strong. They can freakin’ hold their breath for so much longer than the average person!

And, now that I have attempted to swim without kicking my legs — so, yes, only using my arms — my respect for swimmers has increased twofold.

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I arrived at the pool Friday a little nervous. I was hoping that the lap lanes were not crowded because I didn’t want to be bumping into other swimmers. Luckily, I only had to share the lane with one other woman so we split the lane. She’s someone I regularly see at the pool and for some reason this time we started chatting and actually introduced ourselves to each other. I mentioned to this 60-something-year-old woman that I probably wouldn’t be in the pool for very long today since I was going to be swimming without kicking for the first time. She replied that she thinks that swimming without kicking is easier.

I placed the little floatie-thing — is there a name for it? — between my legs, just above my knees, and was on my way. As soon as I swam my first stroke, I felt uneasy. My stroke felt “uncontrollable.” I don’t know how to explain it other than saying that my lower half of my body felt like it was floating so much that my top half felt like it was being submerged under water with a greater force than normal. I felt like I couldn’t easily turn my head to take my breaths of air. Whenever my hands and arms would swing back into the water, I felt like I was pounding into the water and creating huge splashes. Sometimes, my arm would even waver and cross over my body as it re-entered the water.

I basically felt like I was not in complete control of my body. A few times I even swam too close to the lines that divide the lanes and ended up hitting the plastic markers!

Oh, and I was moving way slower than I normally do when I swim while kicking.

This was all so hard that after one lap I wanted to quit. I took off my googles, because for some reason they were fogging up, and looked over to my new friend and said, “Wow, that was tough! I don’t know how many more of these I can do.”

I don’t know what I was expecting her to say to me but what she did say kept me going.

“I’m rooting for you, Kristin!” she replied and dunked her body back into the water and continued with her laps.

OK, if this woman thinks I can do it, I can do  a few more, right?

With each lap I completed, the easier it became and the more comfortable I felt about my new swimming routine. I kept telling myself, get to 5 laps, then get to 10 laps, until I reached 15 laps and decided to call it a day.

For reference, I normally swim 30 to 36 laps on an average good day, with upwards of 40 to 45 laps on a really good day.

The good news was that after this workout, I didn’t experience any knee pain. The main reason my physical therapist does not want me kicking while swimming is because I told him that sometimes I have knee pain while swimming.

I’m doing all of this — including my PT exercises — to build strength and eliminate my knee pain.

And, so that I can get back to running once again.

So I’m OK with learning how to swim yet again.

Injured runner: The start of PT

I had my first physical therapy appointment on Monday and I’m excited and super motivated (right now!)

To note, I did self refer myself to PT last summer when I thought my knee injury was “just an IT band injury” but it actually was a stress fracture so the PT wasn’t doing anything.

Once I was diagnosed with a stress fracture, the orthopedic doctor I had first been seeing told me to stop going to PT because I just needed to let the stress fracture heal. I needed to rest and give it time.

So, I did.

But, during that time I also apparently developed “runner’s knee” so when I got a second opinion last week with a sports medicine doctor, he referred me straight to PT.

My focus this week is on single leg bridges (with one ankle crossed across the other knee), side plank clamshells and supine active straight leg raises. I’m doing three sets of 15-30 reps daily. (Well, the suggested number of times is five days a week so I am aiming for daily).

My PT can really tell I “have serious work to do” — my words, not his — because I can’t even do a single legged squat without wavering and wobbling around. I clearly need to work on stability and strengthening my muscles again.

For now, they have me scheduled out for one PT appointment weekly for six weeks. I’m hopeful that during those six weeks I’ll be able to incorporate some walk-jogging into the mix. But, we’ll see.

My PT also told me to stop kicking my legs when I am swimming laps and to lower the resistance when I am on the stationary bike or elliptical. (This is because I told him that sometimes I experience pain while doing these workouts). He told me that my cardio exercise isn’t meant to get me sweating or raising my heart rate. It’s to get my knee functioning properly again. So, if spinning on the bike for 30 minutes at zero resistance is what I need to do, I need to do it.

It’ll be hard.

So, maybe I will just focus on my PT exercises for now.

Good luck to me.

Injured runner: On really being hopeful

My second opinion went just about as good as I could have hoped it to have gone.

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The “TLDR” version is that this doctor has no concerns that my stress fracture hasn’t healed. That issue is basically no longer an issue we need to be worried about.

So, what’s with my off-and-on knee pain then?

He suspects I have “runner’s knee” — the clinical term being patellar femoral pain — which may be due to mechanics of leg strength and improper muscle activity. AKA, my body has not been running for nearly a year and now my muscles are all out of wack leading me to have this knee cap area pain.

“You’ll be running again. I’m not here to tell you, you will never run,” The doctor said, adding that my cartilage and meniscus look great.

 

Hearing this was such a relief. It sounds cliche, but it felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. The unknowing-ness of what was going on with my knee for the past several months was making me annoyed and anxious and angry.

Now I do not need to get a third MRI (that the first doctor recommended).

I kind of wish I had gone for a second opinion sooner but c’est la vie. It is what it is.

I was lucky to snag a cancellation PT appointment tomorrow so at least my comeback journey can begin soon. And, this doctor I saw is a sports med doc so I got a referral to one of the “good physical therapists” who works with a lot of runners.

There’s no concrete timeline on when I can actually lace up the running shoes again. It all sort of depend on how PT goes.

But, that’s OK.

I’m so, so ready and really, really hopeful.