Injured runner: What I’m proud of

It’s easy to get frustrated when things don’t go the way you want them to, the way you think they should go. It’s easy to get annoyed when someone says or acts in a manner that is the complete opposite to what you view as correct or right.

It’s easy for those negative emotions to “turn on.”

I’d always run them off.

In my current state though — slowly returning to running  — I’m doing my very best to not get annoyed or frustrated or mad or sad.

Every run, even if it’s at three-minute intervals, is a victory. If my knee is not in pain, it’s a victory.

I’m currently at stage 5 (of 7) for my Return to Running program from my PT and I’m proud to say that every single run/walk I’ve done, I’ve done outside. I have not done a single one on the dreadmill. This has meant run-walking in complete darkness after work. This has meant run-walking in the cold and rain on the weekends.

I would never run on a treadmill when I was fully healthy so why would I run-walk on one?

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Getting back to running, sort of

My “Return to Running Program” from my PT consists of seven stages. As the stages increase, so does your running time and overall time on your feet. For example, stage one you are active for a total of 20 minutes and only five of those minutes are running (and not even consecutively). By stage seven, you are at a total of 60 active minutes, with 40 of the minutes being running minutes.

I’m on stage three as of right now, where I am only running at two-minute consecutive increments. However, for Thanksgiving, my PT gave me a pass.

Earlier in the week at my appointment, we talked about the upcoming holiday and what we had planned. I told him that every year my high school cross country friends and I meet at 9 sharp at Discovery Park to run together. It’s a tradition we’ve continued for now 15 years! Last year, being injured, I walked with a few friends — one had just had a baby — and this year I figured I’d be walking again.

“If you want to run, you can run. And, then go back to your running program next week,” my PT said.

It was like music to my ears.

I know I’m my own person and I can do what I want. But, it was nice to hear from a professional that I was “allowed” to run (if I wanted to).

So, I did.

I managed one Discovery Park loop with no major incidents. It was a total of 29 minutes of running the 5K loop (with one quick break to take in the sights of Puget Sound from the bluffs).

It felt fantastic to run with my old friends. It felt fantastic to be on our old stomping grounds together, despite the rain.

My knee did not feel fantastic but it also was not in pain, per se. It just felt like it was maybe going to start being in pain. What was most painful was my breathing. I’ve just gotten so out of shape over the course of more than a year of being injured from running.

But, the victory in it all is I did it. I ran.

And, most importantly, I ran with friends.

Injured runner: Return to “running”

At the end of my last physical therapy appointment, my PT asked me if I had any questions.

“Sooooo … can I start running a little bit?” I asked.

His response was yes followed by him away from me — to get me a Return to Running Program handout.

It’s happening! Er, well, it has happened!

I went on my first “run” last Friday. It was a warm, crisp, sunny day so of course I wasn’t going to have my first “run” be on the treadmill.

I considered it a “run” because this is the current regimen:

5 minute walk
1 min. run, 1 min. walk (5 x)
5 minute walk

So, really only five minutes of running was involved. And, really, it was a slow jog.

I broke out my fancy Suunto that I received as a Christmas gift last year. My pace ranged from 9:30 to upwards 11+. For someone who typically runs comfortably around 8 to 9-min/mile range, it was painful.

My body felt so heavy. (I guess justified since I have gained weight in the more-than-one-year-long hiatus from running). I was also just being overly cautious because while my knee did not outright hurt, it didn’t feel completely strong either.

The workout was exciting and sad all at the same time.

It’s exciting because this is progress.

It’s sad because I can only “run” at 60-second intervals.

My schedule has been so busy that I haven’t had a chance to go out on another test run, but I’m hoping to get a few more in before my next PT appointment next week so I can report back that all is well.

I’d cringe to call myself a runner now, but maybe soon I don’t have to call myself an injured runner?

Injured runner update: No update

I went back to the doctor like two weeks ago. He said basically what I figured he would say.

To keep at it with PT. Don’t run yet because all my “hard work” of resting will be for nothing if I start back up while my body isn’t 100 percent.

I didn’t have any questions for him.

I think I knew he was going to tell me those things — or some form of it.

The big teller of it all is that when he had me lay down on my side, and when he pushed my leg down, I’m still not able to push back. My leg can still easily be pushed down.

Gotta keep strengthening those hips. Gotta keep strengthening those glutes.

Oh, and when I am walking or just sitting, gotta make sure my knees do not fall outwards. (My body naturally does this but it’s bad mechanics for runners, or just humans in general).

Am I frustrated? Yeah.

Am I going to be sad and mope about it? No.

It’s been more than a year of being injured and I’m not quitting now.

That’s the “update” for now, anyway.

 

The 40-Miler

I have no intention, no desire, no dream at all to run anything more than a 50K. But, if other people have that goal, I will support them. I will never understand them, but as a runner, I sort of get it.

Bryce trained throughout the spring into July for his first 40-mile race. This would be his longest distance after completing a few “lesser” ultra distances. The race was around Mt. St. Helens in mid-July. I went with him but wasn’t sure how I was really going to spectate since I couldn’t run.

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I ended up just watching him start and finish the race. The hours in between? I drove an hour-and-a-half to Portland (and back) to meet up with my cousin who lives in Salem. We did a lot of walking and market-hopping and eating. It was time well spent because even though Salem is “a short-ish drive away” from Seattle, I hardly see her.

I wanted to make sure I timed my return right so that I would be back at the race to see Bryce finish. He anticipated he would be done in about eight hours. When I arrived back to the race, slightly over the eight-hour mark, I was worried that maybe he was already done.

Nope, only two runners had finished thus far.

I sat around waiting with other friends and family who were waiting for their own runners to finish. Finally one man came sprinting — yes, sprinting! — through the finish. He was yelling a woman’s name. I assumed he was calling for his wife or girlfriend. No, he was looking for the race director.

Apparently there was a runner down who was not doing so well. (I overheard someone say the race number and was relieved that it was not Bryce).

And, it was the same scene when runner after runner finished. They all gave an update on the fallen runner. Someone said he had checked the runner’s pulse. Someone else estimated how far away on the course he was. He was coherent but probably dehydrated and needed help. It was touching to see how all these people who freaking just ran 40 miles were all concerned about this other runner. Before they even went to get a drink or sit down or anything, they were all talking to the race director and updating her.

Trail runners are a good people.

A few runners even stayed with the runner, I later learned.

It started getting cooler — after being in the high 80s all day — and I had no idea how long I’d be waiting for Bryce. But when he did show up, I couldn’t have been prouder or happier.

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He looked strong. He was smiling. He did it! The first thing he said to me was an apology for being late. Usually I’m annoyed when he is late for things, but not this time.

He was on time in my book. He finished in one piece!

I’ve always felt that road races are my bread and butter. But, the more time spent at trail races — even if I’m not running — and the longer I’m injured, the more I think maybe I’ll totally convert to trail running when I’m healed.

Trails are easier on the knees, after all. But, enough about me.

Huge congrats, Bryce. What’s the next race?

 

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: 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.