Sunday, June 24, 2018

Establishing that mind/body connection

I mentioned in my update post that my orthopedist told me I need to rethink the mind/body connection so that I pay attention to signals my body sends when something’s wrong. It would be more accurate to say I need to start paying attention. I’ve spent my entire life disassociated from my body, so I can’t rethink something I’ve never done. Unfortunately, I’m a pro at ignoring signals from my body.

For instance:

  • I took a hard fall from the top of a pretty tall slide when I was 9. Remember, I was a child in the dark ages when our playground equipment had zero safety features, and the playgrounds were hard-packed dirt, not the cushy stuff used today. I landed flat on my back and knocked the wind out of myself. My lower back felt awful, sort of unstable, but I didn’t tell anyone I’d fallen or that my back hurt. That night I remember lying on the daybed in our basement in Bryn Mawr watching the moon landing and thinking I wish my back weren’t hurting. It’s pretty much hurt ever since.*  
  • When I was 19, I had all the symptoms of appendicitis for three weeks. I finally went to the clinic because I threw up (hate, hate, hate to throw up) and was in surgery three hours later. My surgeon later told me that if I’d waited one more day, I would have died. My small intestine was compromised, I had an NG tube for about 5 days and a 7-inch long incision.
  • I went on to have four abdominal surgeries in five years and had a fair amount of pain and discomfort in my lower back (same place from that fall). But what’s the prevailing advice if you have back pain? Do more core work, you’ve got a weak core and once that’s strong, then your back will be good to go. I cannot tell you how much ab work I’ve done over the years. Point in fact, my core is rock solid. That back pain never went away, and I never thought to mention it to any doctor I ever saw. More about that in a moment.
  • I had an MRI a few years ago to see why my ears were always plugged up. When I met with my ENT to discuss the results, he asked me how often I had sinus infections. Never, I said. He told me that I had a raging sinus infection right then and showed it to me on the MRI. That was a recalibration exercise for me right there as I realized the face melting headaches I’d had all my life were in fact sinus infections. That particular sinus infection took two rounds of antibiotics to cure.
  • About that back pain. The same MRI that diagnosed my pelvic fracture also diagnosed mild degenerative disc disease in L4-L3. Guess where that is? Yup, the same spot that’s been hurting me all these years.
  • And of course, I ran a 10K on Memorial Day this year with a fractured pelvis. Yes, I was in pain—enough pain that I had to walk a fair amount, enough pain that my average pace was 90 seconds more a mile than usual, enough pain that I was nearly puking the whole way through. I still didn't stop. Once I ran across the finish line, that was it. I haven’t walked normally since then.

Right this second, I’m trying to pay attention. I say trying because this is hard. Now I feel all the aches and pains, all the discomfort and it’s not pleasant. OK that’s an understatement. I’m in pain and not just from the fracture. I don’t like this at all and to be honest, I long for that disassociation because at least then I don’t hurt.

I’m sure if you aren’t wired this way, I sound utterly insane.

*By the way, I'm not dissing today’s playgrounds—I couldn’t have taken the fall I did if the slide had been both shorter and made of that industrial plastic used today. I was basically skiing down the slide with sand under my shoes. I didn't get enough sand for that trip, caught an edge of my sneaker at the top of the slide and flipped right over. I don't think you can ski down today's slides that way.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

An update

I saw the orthopedist yesterday afternoon. This was the first time I’d seen him (I saw the physician’s assistant in the urgent orthopedic clinic on May 29, which is also when I had the x-ray taken—I had the MRI on June 1).

Good news:

No proximal femur fracture or stress reaction, no right hip effusion, hip cartilage is normal, ligaments are good, and gluteal tendon attachments are good.

Not so good news:

I’ve got a nondisplaced transverse fracture of the right inferior pubic ramus with extensive bone marrow edema and adjacent edema in the inferior fibers of the right obturator externus muscle (which is consistent with a low-grade muscle strain). I also have mild right hamstrings origin tendinosis and left hamstrings origin tendinosis, both with no tearing.

What’s next?

Well this is the hard part. No exercise, zero exercise for the next six weeks. I think I probably blanched at that part. He was really clear though. He told me that I won’t be running for three months (best case) and that I need to rethink and reconnect with the signals my body sends me. No running through pain, no ignoring it because next time, it might be far more catastrophic and completely end running for me. He just did a hip replacement on a 28 year old female, he said, who ran through the pain. Yeah, I don’t want to be that woman. And to be honest, this is about what I expected. The internet is a wonderful resource, and Dr. Google had warned me this would almost certainly be a lengthy recovery.

He’ll take more x-rays in six weeks to see how the bone is healing and I may be cleared then for some very light exercise (think upper body). But yeah, no running, he said, unless I’m being chased by a rabid dog.

For now, I’m on crutches as I need them. I can sort of gimp around the house on one crutch but it’s dicey at work—people don’t always realize I need a bit more clearance coming through. But I expect to be off them in a couple of weeks. I can put weight on the leg now which is a huge improvement. What hurts is bringing my leg forward, or doing anything that involves moving left or right.

Stay tuned. I’m determined to recover completely from this and in the meantime, I guess I’ll have to learn to be patient.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

I’m not very patient

I am sitting here on a Sunday evening, nearly a week after getting injured. I don’t have a diagnosis yet, I don’t have a treatment plan yet, and I’m frustrated.

To be fair, I’ve had an x-ray and an MRI, and I do have a follow up appointment on June 11. But that’s a week off and in the meantime, I’m supposed to stay off that leg which means staying on the crutches.

But on Friday, we fly to Boston to see our friends. It’s a short trip—out on Friday, drive down to the Cape, celebrate a friend’s significant birthday Friday night, all day Saturday and Saturday night, then drive back to Boston on Sunday and fly home. And to complicate things further, we’d originally booked non-stop flights from Kansas City to Boston, only Delta changed the outbound flights and we now change planes in Detroit.

I may not have elite status any more on Delta, but I do know the airports. Let’s just say that Detroit isn’t a great airport if you have mobility issues. Plus our connection time is pretty tight. I've reluctantly booked wheelchair assistance in Detroit.

I have to say, that feels so weird. But I’m also realistic and even though my arms aren’t sore at all from using these crutches, getting from one gate to another if we also have to change concourses would be an ordeal (and we will almost certainly have to change concourses).

Mostly I miss running. I sure hope that on June 11, I get a diagnosis and a plan to get me running again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I’m shocked and thrilled and also bummed

On Saturday, I got the full results of the Heartland 39.3 Challenge.

This challenge was comprised of three half marathons: Rock the Parkway, The Land of Oz Garmin, and Run with the Cows. I did well in the first two races, although I didn’t place in my age group. Ironically, the race I had the most trouble with because of my shoes is the one I placed in (second in my age group).

Apparently I did well enough to win—yes, WIN—my age group for the challenge. I can hardly believe it and I’m so incredibly tickled!

But I'm also bummed.

Remember the race I ran on Monday and the leg issue I had? I did go to my PCP's walk in clinic, who immediately said this injury was outside their expertise and sent me to an urgent orthopedic clinic (I didn't even know such a thing existed but it does and they were packed yesterday).

I'm now on crutches, had an x-ray and I'm scheduled for an MRI on Friday to determine if this is a muscle strain or a tear or who knows what. I fervently hope it's just a strain and heals quickly. On the plus side, my arm/back muscles aren't sore at all. Guess all my strength work is paying off.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Going the Distance 10K—hey if I can’t get a PR, I can at least do good and help someone else finish

This race was a last second decision. Kent's birthday was on Friday and I planned out fun stuff for us to do each day except I didn’t have anything for Monday (today). Then last week, I got an email from a running club I’m in offering a 22% discount for this race. I somehow convinced Kent that it would be a Good Idea to run this race (him running the 5K and me the 10K) even though the temps were forecast to be in the mid 90s F with a heat index well into the low 100s. Fun times, right?

Why this race?
This race is for a cause (brain injury) that’s close to my heart. You see, when my older son was 18 months old, he climbed out a third story window and fell to the sidewalk below and fractured his skull. (Quick disclaimer—we lived in Germany then, none of the windows had screens and all the sills were well above his reach. He was just a resourceful little thing and dragged a box over, climbed up and out he went—super fast and super sneaky. While he was with our babysitter at the time, it could have happened on our watch too.) A few months later, he had a petit mal seizure and we took him to the doctor, who basically said watch him, it may happen again and then again it may not.

Then when he was 12 y/o, he developed Type 1 diabetes (not related to the fall) and then about 8 to 10 years later, he started seizing again. We all thought those seizures were from low blood sugar, and in hindsight some most certainly were but not all. This last year, his now-wife, then fiancĂ©e, managed to test his blood sugar level while he was having a grand mal seizure and lo and behold, his blood sugar was normal. He’s since been diagnosed with epilepsy and it’s almost certainly from the brain injury.

So the race was for a cause that means something to me. Anyway on to the race itself.

I’d hoped to set a 10K PR today—second goal was to maintain the same record, and third goal was not die from the heat or reinjure myself. I’ve been struggling with my right abductor but it seemed like it was getting better so that seemed like a reasonable set of goals.

Mile 1 was right on pace (9:00), mile 2 was slightly under pace, but about a half mile later, my leg really started hurting. I briefly walked and realized that starting up again was more painful, but as I kept going, the pain died down to a dull roar. OK, I thought, I can do this—and I did until mile 3. I walked again, and boy once again starting up hurt a lot. Other runners were starting to walk too, and the heat was taking a toll on all of us.

I'm on the left behind the man
without a shirt; the young woman
I mentioned is on the right.
I’d passed one young woman who looked to be in her early 20s and she reminded me so much of a dear friend of mine. Then she passed me, I passed her, one of those race yo-yos you see. Somewhere before mile 4, I seriously started considering not finishing. My leg was not just hurting but felt wrong, like something wasn’t quite connected properly any more. Then the same young woman passed me, then stopped and asked if I were OK. I realized that a PR was out of the question so I started talking with her. Long story not quite so long, she was struggling from the heat and lack of training so I ran with her at her pace, walked when she needed to, and got her over the finish line. I figured if I can’t set a PR, I can at least do some good, right?

Well I can’t really walk. I’ll be calling my doctor tomorrow to get the official word on what’s wrong (I'm pretty sure it's a groin strain and probably a pretty bad one). Glad this was the last race for me for the summer because even if it weren’t, it would be. Oh and ironically, I still placed 3rd in my age group. And I finished.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Kent’s birthday dinner and celebration for his MBA

Kent’s birthday was on Friday, and since he also graduated with his MBA this month, I decided we should find a really special place for dinner. We both enjoy gifts that are experiences, so I knew he’d like it. I didn’t want to go to Story, not that there’s anything wrong with Story. We still love the place and when we’re both fully employed, I know we’ll go there more often although maybe not weekly. Instead, I wanted to find a restaurant that would be new to us both.

Long story not so long, we went to Corvino’s. I hadn’t heard of them but the tasting menu option sounded amazing. When I mentioned that we were going there to a work colleague, he raved about the food and asked me to take a picture of the tasting menu so he could see what we had. We also opted for the wine pairings and while pricey (OK the whole thing was pricey), those pairings were inspired and completely enhanced the dinner.

The tasting menu is seated in a room off the kitchen, and it’s far more intimate and private than it sounds. We could see the kitchen and hear some of the bustle, but we weren’t so close as to be distracted. The chef himself served us several of the courses and explained them to us. And we had two sommeliers who served everything, food and wine.

Since I have a shellfish allergy, my menu is slightly different than Kent’s, but in no way inferior. My favorite appetizer was probably the tator tot with roe, and hands down the pasta was the best of the rest of the courses. It was all I could do not to lick my plate after that course.

The apricot bars mentioned at the end of the menu weren’t actually served with dinner. They were wrapped in cellophane and then put in a small muslin bag for us to eat later. We ate them yesterday and I’m glad I waited. They were rich, very rich but not too rich—but I think after that amazing meal, it would have been too much.

We’ve decided that when Kent gets a job, we’ll go back and do the tasting menu again and opt for the upgrades (you could get an extra course of caviar, and you could upgrade the rib eye to Japanese Wagyu beef, but we were already spending a lot so said no to both).

Kent's before dinner drink

Kent's menu

My menu

The take home snacks

Monday, May 14, 2018

Running with the Cows Half Marathon and Heartland 39.3 Challenge

Pre-race: The Running with the Cows Half Marathon was the third of three half marathons for the Heartland 39.3 Challenge (I ran the Rock the Parkway on April 14 and the Garmin Land of Oz on April 21).

I wasn’t sure exactly how to maintain my training and ended up repeating the last three weeks of my training plan between this half marathon and the Garmin one. I was a little nervous about the weather—we didn’t really have much transition between winter and summer here in Kansas and we’re definitely into summer heat and humidity.

The weather forecast called for sun and temps in the mid to upper 70s during the race. I knew too that the route would have a lot of rolling hills. I do like hills but coming off the two previous half marathons plus the 5k last weekend, I also knew I wasn’t as fresh as I could be. And then there’s the struggle I continue to have with my running shoes. Anyway, I hoped for a new personal best but also knew that might not be possible.

Race: This race wasn’t nearly as crowded as the Rock the Parkway. I’m not sure if that’s because of the weather or the location (Bucyrus is about 25 minutes south of Kansas City), but the corral area wasn’t bad at all. But none of us could hear a thing—never heard the national anthem, couldn’t understand a word the announcer was saying (and he talked a fair amount). I found out later from Kent that the race was delayed because of weather. We had a big storm moving through slightly west of us with some decent lightning. But finally we were off.

Kent ran the 5K!
The best way to describe this race and the atmosphere is sweet. Bucyrus is a small town, and they have fully embraced the cow for the race. There were cow signs everywhere, some people were running in cow patterned tights or headbands with cow horns on them. Oh and the cow bells. So many cow bells! The high school drum line played right at the first mile marker, and later on I saw a boy playing a full drum set on a flatbed trailer.

I’d started with the 1:55 pace group—I wasn’t sure I could hang the entire distance at that pace and figured I would land somewhere between that and the 2:00 hour. Unfortunately, around mile 7 I could tell this might not be my race.

You see, I’ve struggled finding running shoes that work and don’t hurt my feet. Call me Cinderella but it’s been nearly impossible to find shoes that work for me. I have very narrow heels, a low volume (top to bottom) foot and long toes. If shoes fit my toes, they’re much too wide and if they fit everywhere else, then my toes hit the ends of the shoes. I ran in a pair of Altras that fit me well except they are pretty wide through the ball of my foot and much too tall (top to bottom). That’s OK when I’m running uphill or on flat surfaces. But remember those rolling hills I mentioned? The downhills just killed me. My feet slid forward so I had a lot of friction on the bottoms of my feet and my poor toes got jammed up against the front of my shoes. By mile 8, my feet were screaming at me. So frustrating.

So OK. I faced facts: no personal best for me in this run. What could I learn and how could I get through the rest of the race? I started getting water at the aid stations (I’ve never drunk during races before so this was a good chance to learn how), I walked some short intervals (mostly downhill to spare my bruised toes and what felt like but weren’t blisters on the balls of my feet). I kept playing tag with another runner. He would pass me and start walking so I’d start running as long as I could, then walk. Boom, then he’d pass me. At one point, I said guess we’ll tag team it into the finish line. And you know what? We did.

My running buddy at the finish.
This is what I love about running and runners—we may be competing but we still help each other. With only the point 1 left in the 13.1 race, he and I were both running. We came around the curve and could see the finish line ahead (so far away) and he said OK you ready? Yup, I said, let’s go. And we both did everything we could to sprint across that finish line. He told me right after that his legs were cramping like crazy. I told him thanks for the teamwork and then I found Kent.

Chip time was 2:03:32—my slowest half. Oddly though, I wasn’t bummed. I was just so glad to have completed that Heartland Challenge, and also a bit relieved I’m not running another half any time soon. Kent and I enjoyed the amazing spread of food (seriously, this half marathon puts out a feast!) and then headed home. Once at home, I looked up my official results and was stunned to see I placed second in my age group. That was a total shocker!

What I learned from the series and from this half marathon:

  • I need more endurance, which means I need longer runs.
  • I have to solve my shoe issue. My feet are still killing me and I’m hoping one of my nails isn’t as bruised as it looks.
  • I’m really tough and also the accumulated fatigue was real.
  • I’m also faster than I ever thought I could be. Now I want to see how much I can improve.
  • I need to get acclimated to the hotter, more humid weather. We were lucky on Saturday—we never did have the forecasted sunshine and in fact we got rained on about four or five times.

What’s next: I’m definitely not running the Hospital Hill Half Marathon in three weeks. I toyed with the idea but I need a bit of recovery and some easy runs. But I will find something else to train for—it’s in my nature and also I’m fully hooked.