First race after 20 months of injury: A success story

It really couldn’t have gone any better than it did.

I was nervous — about the weather — as the four of us drove from Seattle to Whidbey Island in mixed snow and rainfall Saturday morning.

“She better be right!” Phyllis, my friend, who will also be my maid of honor, yelled from the back seat. Her husband, Andrew, sat next to her.

The “she” Phyllis was referring to was our wedding venue manager. Our wedding is going to be on Whidbey this summer and the venue manager has told us several times that even if the weather is crappy down south/at the ferry dock, it is always nice inland on the island.

This fact proved accurate on race day. I really hope it proves accurate on the wedding day as well.

I bumped into a few friendly faces at the Fort Ebey Trail Race before the start, so that was a nice surprise. Though everyone I knew, including my friends and Bryce, were all running the 10K. I had about 15 minutes of waiting by myself in the extremely cold wind for my 5K to begin. This is when the self-doubt kicked in.

What if lots of people pass me? What if my knee starts hurting really badly? What if I have to walk a ton?

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Finally it was time for us 5K-ers to line up at the start. As the group of us stood there practically shivering, I reconsidered my choice to not wear gloves and my earwarmer headband.

We started the race with a small loop along the bluff, which was annoying but helpful since it helped disperse runners before we got to the narrow single-track trail. Once running in the forested trail, I felt warmer not being out by the water and the wind. My fingers and toes were starting to thaw out but my nose was a running mess.

I leaned forward to attempt a snot rocket — without it hitting the runner right behind me. This was a mistake. I (thankfully) did not hit the runner behind me but in an awkward maneuver to move forward while shooting a snot rocket, I lost my footing and tripped on a root in the ground.

Now my left ankle really hurt. I sort of limp-jogged, wondering if I should step to the side of the trail to let those directly behind me pass. Because at this point we had only been running for about five minutes or less. Nah, I’m fine, I thought. Channeling all the Olympic figure skating I had watched in the past week, I figured if skaters can land jumps awkwardly on their ankles yet continue their routines flawlessly, I can continue running on a rolled ankle.

After a few minutes, the throbbing ankle pain went away and it just continued to be sore, which was fine by me. Plus, my lungs were getting a beating — from my lack of being in shape — so, I eventually forgot about my ankle pain.

As I continued, there were a few runners directly in front of me. The woman immediately in front of me had a windbreaker tied around her waist that kept obstructing my view ahead of the trail. After running through a pile of mud that I could have easily avoided had I been able to see it, I decided to run ahead of her.

After I passed her, I continued on and passed one or two other runners. Overall, I was feeling pretty good. I was running!

Halfway through, I’ll be honest, I was getting tired. I started doubting my fitness and was worried that the people I had passed would catch up to me.

I even walked some parts of the last mile. Yes, I admit that I walked during a 5K! But, there were a few steep parts on that 5K course!

In the last quarter-mile, I could see that there was another women close behind me. With every wide turn, I could either see her out of the corner of my eye or hear her.

My competitive nature, which really only comes out while racing, kicked in.

I will not let her beat me. 

Why this particular person? Probably because the entire race, no other female runner had passed me — just two or maybe three guys did.

Once I was out of the woods and the trees started to clear, I knew I was close to the finish. Eventually the finish line became visible and I could see and hear spectators cheering.

This is it. Time to finish this. 

I sprinted the last few (or several?) meters with a smile. As soon as I got out of the finish chute, I realized that not many people were standing around. I walked over to one of the aid tents and asked a volunteer if any of the 10K runners had finished yet.

“Nope. Just a few 5K finishers so far. You’re early!” she said.

Her comment made me feel pretty darn proud.

I hit the portapotty, got some electrolyte drink and posted up near the finish to watch Bryce, Phyllis and Andrew finish their 10K races. Bryce came flying in, beating the guy behind him by a handful of seconds. Phyllis and Andrew later arrived running side by side looking very happy and cute.

Overall, it was a great day of running for everyone.

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And, to my great surprise, I finished second overall in the women’s division! (Bryce won third in the 10K, too).

“And you say you’re injured?” everyone kept saying to me as I held my “second place” mug I was awarded that I had filled with popcorn.

Maybe it was just luck, or the fact that only about 50 women ran the 5K race, but I did podium. And, while my knee did feel achy after I had completed the race, it really wasn’t that bothersome during the race.

I guess I’m officially not injured anymore?

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Injured runner: An exciting week (but not for running)!

I don’t know why this has turned into the year Kristin became a bad blogger. You’d think that all the extra time I have from not being able to run, I’d be able to at least crank out one post a week. Nope.

But, I have exciting news!

Two-and-a-half weeks ago I got engaged! And then a day later I found out I received a promotion at work! And then a week after that, I was able to successfully purchase tickets to Hamilton (for the Seattle show next year!) And then a day after that, I fainted and fell in public!

So, I guess my attention has been elsewhere …

 

Not to get off topic, but I am fine (from the fainting). I tend to faint once or twice a year so I guess I was due for this year’s episode. I went to the doctor just to make sure everything was OK and all blood work returned normal.

Hopefully, a positive running update will soon follow all this other happy personal and professional news!

Stronger than you think

I looked up from the TV monitor attached to the elliptical, tired of another “Chopped” rerun on the Food Network, and saw a wall full of motivational phrases and words painted across from me.

It was a Saturday morning of PT exercises followed by some form of cardio at the gym.

I was over it. I’ve been over it. I am over it.

Who knew that August of last year when the doctor diagnosed me with a stress fracture of the knee after my first MRI, that I would still not be running today. (For the record, he told me I’d be running anywhere from six weeks to six months).

It’s been 14 months since then.

I’ve had a new doctor since then.

I’ve done a lot of walking, swimming, PT exercises, stationary biking and elliptical-ing. I’ve talked a lot about not running. I’ve written a lot about not running.

But, back to that Saturday morning at the gym.

One phrase on the wall stood out to me the most: You are stronger than you think.

I kept repeating the sentence over and over in my head as I continued using the elliptical. It was kind of cathartic.

In all 10, 15+ years of being a runner*, not running has been the biggest challenge.

But, I am stronger than I think. And so are you.

 

*I ran cross-country in high school as a freshman but didn’t even like running then. I did it for the social aspects of being on a team. By no means did I consider myself a runner back then. But, I stuck with the team throughout high school and running became my lifelong friend. As you can see, I’m not good at letting go of friendships. 

Into the fall

And, just like that, it’s practically the end of October.

You’d think being injured and not running would give me a lot more “free time.” But, the reality is, I still feel busy.

It takes at least 30 minutes for me to adequately do all my PT exercises, which I strive to do at least five times a week. If you tack on an hour of cardio — either the stationary bike or elliptical — I find myself being at the gym for more than an hour-and-a-half!

I go to my PT appointments every other week.

My knee continues to feel the same.

It’s fall, which is usually my favorite time of year because it’s like a second new year.

But, I’m going on 17 months of being injured … and starting to get pretty anxious and annoyed with the whole situation.

So, fall, show me what you got.

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.

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.