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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No more laundry

As a runner, I have twice the amount of laundry to do than a “normal” person. This means I cannot go more than one week without doing laundry.

This past week though, I didn’t do a single load of laundry. I ran Tuesday. And, I ran Saturday.

And now, for a little while, I am not running.

My self-diagnosis is that I have an IT band injury (the “most common” running injury according to many websites and blogs).

I had the same type of pain temporarily during the winter time right before training for the Vancouver Marathon. I iced. I rested. I rolled it out. I stretched. The pain never surfaced again … until now.

But, this time I’m worried it’s worse.

Saturday’s 10-mile run ended up being not 10 miles at all. It was about three miles. My 30-minute run took me one-and-a-half hours. Now, this probably doesn’t make sense to those of you who can do simple math.

I basically ran for 25 minutes when the side of my right knee began to hurt. I stopped and started walking for a few minutes. Once I started running again the pain was pretty intense. I mean, I have a high pain tolerance I would say, but I knew that I shouldn’t be tolerating what I was experiencing. I walked all the way home for more than an hour. I was in tears.

How can this be happening to me?

I felt like I was doing the “walk of shame” as I walked up Eastlake with numerous other runners zipping by me. Heck, even walkers were quickly passing me.

I’m supposed to be training for Chicago right now. 

Instead, I am walking. And, avoiding stairs. And, occasionally crying.

Being a runner who can not run is one of the worst things possible. (Well, we can get into “worst things” another time. No need to get all dramatic now).

I’m going to call my doc tomorrow to see if she can refer me to a physical therapist or if I just can go in to see her. (See! I don’t even know what the protocol is for sports injuries!)

And, I wish I could say that since the pain only occurred one time that I shouldn’t overreact. But, the thing is, it happened the Saturday before when I went out for my 14-miler. That run ended up being 13.5 miles (where I walked the last half-mile).

So, clearly I am worsening. And, not doing laundry.

Once a runner

Once a runner, always a runner? Lately, I have been feeling like adding the words “I was” before “once a runner.”

Running and I have a history. When I started high school, my mom encouraged me to “be active” in school. She wanted me to make friends (or something like that) since all my middle school friends went to other high schools. Seeing that fall sports for girls included soccer (never was good at that in grade school) and volleyball (never had even attempted that before,) I defaulted to the season’s no-cut sport of cross-country. I can run, no problem is what 15-year-old me thought. I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right.

I put in a mediocre-level of effort. I finished the 5K races. I only had fun because I made friends on the team. But I really did not like anything about running.  The only reason I came back to the team the next year was through a lot of convincing by one friend. But that second year, I began to enjoy running. and racing. I wanted to do well on our tempo runs so I could PR at the next cross-country meet. And so it went throughout the rest of high school. By senior year I loved running. (Hey, the endorphins are great!)

And even after high school I kept running. Never on a team or anything but I’ve done races on my own and with friends who share my love for running — 5Ks, 10Ks, numerous half-marathons and of course, the Vancouver Marathon last year. Throughout all the pavement pounding, I never had any injuries. During my four years of cross-country in high school, I never missed a single meet (with the one exception of an invite the fall of my senior year because my parents made me take the SATs for a second time — I don’t count this.) But then out of nowhere at the beginning of December, I begin to get a painful feeling in my lower back. I continue to run because it doesn’t seem to affect my back pain. Eventually the pain becomes unbearable (just sitting at home) and I see a doctor. Doc says I have a “lower back strain” and refers me to a physical therapist. The PT says I have a “bulged disc.” She tells me not to run while I am doing physical therapy because it might aggravate my back. Great. What’s annoying is I have no idea how this happened! She said that bulged discs commonly occur in old people when they bend down and pick up something heavy awkwardly. I don’t exactly fit that description.

Not being able to run for three weeks (or more? I’ve lost count) had been killing me. One day when it was sunny, I almost went running but instead walked. It’s not the same. But last week she gave me the go-ahead to “go on a light jog” if my back feels better. So, I did.

I only went out for two miles yesterday because I could feel the area in my back that had the pain, experience a “feeling.” Not pain, but that something might be there. But, oh those two miles were a splendid two miles. It was very cold but Rainier was out and I was running along Lake Washington so it made for a nice scene. I am a little worried that my back did not seem completely normal while I ran, but at least it has not seemed to make my back matters worse.

No matter what, once a runner, always a runner. I am signed up to race the Tacoma City (half) marathon and since that is four months out, I am determined to ease back into running so as not to “aggravate” my back, and to train and get that sub 1:50 time…

The photo above is from the Seattle Half in 2008. That race is still my PR race (and PY’s too.) This will soon change. Hopefully.