injured runner

It’s been two-and-a-half-months since Dr. Awesome benched me because he (and since then, another doc) diagnosed me with micro tears on my calf muscle, yet I’m still working out four or five times per week and sweating as much as ever.

I had to take some time off in the beginning, but I’ve been cleared to increase my activity, using pain as my guide. Translation: any pain = stop. So far, so good.

Since I’m not spending a chunk of my weekend mornings running double-digits, I seem to have a little more time on my hands. I’ve invested that time painting most of the inside of our house, including our loft, which we’ve been wanting to turn into our gym.

So el husbando and our favorite 21-year-old moved the treadmill and our bike around so I can be right by the window, under the ceiling fan, and still have enough room to spread out my yoga mat. It’s awesome and long overdue!

Here’s what else I’ve been up to:

Swimming

Never, ever, ever thought I would try swimming, nor that I would enjoy it. It is HARD work and I’m easily winded by even the shortest swim. But I’m doing it once a week, and loving it.

A local gym offers a skills-and-drills class as part of its triathlon team, so I’m re-learning how to swim properly, including how to be more efficient, so that I can spend less energy on what is typically the first leg in a tri. Our coach has been incredibly patient with this newbie swimmer, and I’ve only had to buy a couple of things, including proper goggles.

My friend Michelle was right when she said this would be a good fit for me. The only thing that I’m struggling with is, not surprisingly, the whole wet-hair issue, post-swim. I have to come home to wash and dry my hair, making this quite the production.

biking

Yet another form of exercise I didn’t expect to enjoy remotely, but that is becoming easier and more enjoyable. When el husbando and I first got the Peloton, I was skeptical about how much we would use it, but I’m up to four rides per week — from 30-minutes to a full hour. And today, I added a 10-minute arms workout that left my arms feeling like Jell-O.

Currently considering ordering a second pair of cycling shorts. I should note that, yes, you do eventually learn how to sit properly on the thing so your nether regions don’t hurt.

Yoga-ing

I was just cleared to do yoga less than two weeks ago, but I’ve managed to spend a bit of time on the mat. Surprisingly, both my shoulder and my leg felt just fine afterward.

My cat was especially happy that she could stretch out on the yoga mat.

running

Wait, what?! Yeah, I ran for a whole 10 minutes at physical therapy last week and it felt like Christmas morning.

The therapist hooked me up to the Alter G, an anti-gravity treadmill. First, you wear some super-tight shorts over your clothes, then get zipped into a donut-shaped contraption in the middle of the treadmill.

Once you’re securely in the donut, the machine fills with air, taking off a percentage of your weight off. So, basically, with the machine, you can weigh, say, 40 lbs. less.

It feels like you’re walking or running on air. You feel really light, which is the whole point because your body is taking a whole less pounding than on a regular treadmill. Since I felt so good on the ‘mill, the therapist said that I may be able to start using it for longer periods of time. If she clears me, I may sign up to use the Alter G out-of-pocket for a few weeks until I can run on my own.

This new development has be excited that I might be running — even just a little — by the beginning of the year.

So, how are y’all moving these days? Do you have any running- or non-running-related goals? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

We plan, we train, we sacrifice. For months at a time, we make races our priority, making sure we get our miles — and cross training — in while taking care of our familias, work and other responsibilities.

Reaching that finish line makes all of the trouble worth it.

But what happens when you do all the things…and can’t do the race because you’re injured?

Just three days before the Detroit Free Press Marathon, I got benched. I pouted.

My right calf had felt tight until about a month before when I had to walk quite a bit of one of my runs because it just hurt. The pain subsided and I was able to run the rest of the way and I did the whole rest, ice, compression and anti-inflammatory routine when I got home. I babied the leg for a few days and got back to training.

About three weeks later, the same thing happened the weekend before Detroit, except that the pain got worse and didn’t really go away. I walked a couple of miles back from the day’s long run. I did all the things again, but didn’t get better, so I called Dr. Awesome and he was able to squeeze me in.

Boy, was I relieved. He can fix it, I thought, and then I can run 26.2 miles. After all, I had plans to go to the expo, meet other Bib Rave Pro ambassadors and spend the night in a hotel with my runner friends.

Not so much. Instead, I was diagnosed with a micro-tear in my right calf. A very minor injury — but only if I took a short break and allowed it to heal. Running the marathon, Dr. Awesome assured me, would mean a much-more-serious injury and longer recovery time.

I did the math and sat the race out. Sure, I’ve been injured before and have spent many a week wishing I were running. But this one was extra painful because I have been looking forward to running Detroit for so long. And I had plans, dang it!

In fact, it was my goal race for 2018 and my whole training plan revolved around it. I also got to train with Gatorade Endurance because that’s what was going to be available on course.

What’s a chica to do?

Suck it up, butter cup.

As with all other injuries, I went through the stages of grief and moved on. This time, I listened to the doc right away and did what was best for my body. (I also talked to my sports med doc at Dr. Awesome’s suggestion and he, too, agreed with the protocol: no running or walking; avoiding stairs and anything that makes my calf hurt in the least. If things don’t get better, I’ll have to wear a — gasp! — boot.)

After resting for a week, I’ve been riding the Peloton bike, which helps a bit with my stress levels, tho I am most-definitely noticing that I am more jacked up than normal and I’ve not slept well since I stopped running.

On race day, I made sure to keep myself super busy with chores, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my friends’ accomplishments on social media. So many did their first full or achieved personal records that day.

Now a few days later, I’m still mourning a bit. But I’m moving on. I start physical therapy on Monday and am considering swimming lessons once a week at a local gym to increase my cross-training and, possibly, doing a triathlon next year. Because I may be mourning not being able to run, but I’m also realizing that I’m going to have to take care of my body if I want to keep racking up those miles.

Have you had to forego a race because you got injured at the last minute? What did you do? What type of cross-training do you do? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

That loud yell you heard this afternoon? Yeah, that was me after leaving the surgeon’s office. He officially cleared me to start adding running to my repertoire.

Seven weeks post shoulder surgery, I am feeling pretty good. I’ve actually been walking on the treadmill between three and four times a week since the week after surgery, including at least one seven-miler. Late last week, my physical therapist — who happens to be a marathoner — said I could start including very brief running spurts as long as I stayed on the ‘mill. But it was great to hear the doc officially agree with her.

I started with .05 for each of five miles. I felt good, even hours afterward. So, I went up to .1 per mile the past two days. Still good.

My shoulder definitely still hurts almost all of the time. I still have limited range and physical therapy started including stretching bands just this past week. And I still wake up every night when I accidentally roll onto my right shoulder.

But. I. Am. Running.

I vaguely remember coming back from the third shoulder surgery, not long after I had picked up running. It was winter and I had to join a gym to get on a treadmill for just a tiny bit of time. At least el husbando has since gotten me a used one and I can just jump on any time. In fact, I do most evenings, a bit after dinner and my usual hour or so of work-work.

So, moving forward, the plan is to continue to increase how much I run each time as long as I’m not in a lot of pain.

I only have two races on the schedule this year: the Woodstock 50K in September and the Detroit Free Press Marathon (code 2018DETROCKS gets you 10 percent off your race entry because I’m a BibRave pro) in October.

The 50K training plan I’ve followed the past two years is for 16 weeks and it starts with a 10-mile long run. That gives me the next three weeks to get up to 10 miles. That won’t be a problem at all since I’ve kept my mileage very consistent, but I’ll be mostly walking them at this point. It’s very do-able, but I already know I’ll probably be doing this by myself and each long run will take forever.

So my plan will also include focusing on the things I can do. Since, after all, this is supposed to be fun, no?

Any tips for this recovering chica? What’s the longest distance you have ever walked? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Your doctor and his/her team may provide a lot of information about your upcoming shoulder surgery, but I’m here to give you the skinny on what it’s really like and to share tips that’ll help you survive — and thrive.

While I’m not a medical professional, I have had four — yes, four — surgeries on my right shoulder. The first was probably related to my tae kwon do days, the second and third were due to falls, while the fourth involved my 115 lb. dog pulling on her leash. Hard.

Let me tell you that having the surgery was no fun, but a month after my fourth go round, I can say that they’ve all been worth doing. I don’t want to do it again, mind you, but I don’t regret taking care of tears that wouldn’t have healed on their own.

So, what do you really need to know? Here’s my week-by-week look into what shoulder surgery recovery looks like. Keep in mind that I cleared all of my activity with my doctor before surgery, so please talk to your doctor about what you can do and when.

Week 1

Surgery day: I make sure to wear something that’s super comfortable to the hospital or surgery center. After trial and error, I settled on a camisole with a shelf bra, a hoodie and yoga pants/sweat pants. I have to remove my top and bra for surgery. Afterward, I pull the cami on from my legs/hips with el husbando’s help; the straps are stretchy enough to go over the ginormous bandages on my newly stitched up shoulder.

I was handed socks with grippers and a lovely hair net, too. The nurse sticks a thermometer on my forehead. I look hot.

Stylin’ just before shoulder surgery.

I don’t do well with anesthesia, so I was nauseous and woozy after the procedure. El husbando tells me that I had complete conversations with the surgeons and surgery staff, but I have no memory of anything until the time when I was getting on the wheelchair to head home. I almost faint, so back to bed I go for a little bit. A little juice and I’m well enough to go home.

Back to the ginormous bandage. I was sent home with what they called an ice buddy, which holds ice that cycles through a hose and pad to help with pain management. You should know that you’ll either need a gazillion buckets of ice or frozen water bottles because you’ll wear the ice buddy 24 hours a day for the first three days.

I was also wearing the arm brace, which holds your arm in place so you don’t accidentally do something stupid.

Speaking of pain, follow your doc’s instructions, but mine told me to start taking my pain meds as soon as I got home. I set my phone alarm to make sure I don’t miss a dose. Yes, even at 2 a.m.

Don’t plan on doing much of anything this first day. My kids’ abuela lives with us, so she covered meals and snacks, which was a godsend.

The most exciting thing I do is watch a bunch of TV in bed, propped up on pillows. I nap a lot.

Days 2-3: Feel a bit better already, but still a little off. Probably a combination of the anesthesia and the meds. I spend most of my time in bed, watching TV. I read a little bit and feel well enough to check social media, but not much.

Switched to PJs with the tops that have buttons so I could put the sleeve over the injured arm much more easily.

Since you can’t get the bandages wet, showering is a pain in the behind and frowned upon. I use baby wipes the first day. On the second and third days, I cover up the bandages with a plastic garbage bag and take a quick shower.

The ice continues. The boredom starts to set in, but I don’t feel awesome, so it’s easy to just do a whole lot of nothing.

I switch to Tylenol on the evening of day 3 because I don’t like how I feel when I’m on meds. It wasn’t really enough for the pain, but I would rather deal with pain than side effects. Again, follow your doc’s orders on medication.

Day 4: Bandages can come off, finally. You will probably want someone to help. I remove them  myself because I’m stubborn that way. I use baby wipes to clean around the incisions/stitches and under my right arm, but you still can’t get the stitches wet for the rest of the week. I once again cover my shoulder with a garbage bag and am finally able to wash my hair with just one arm.

My hair looks like a 3-year-old styled it, but it’s clean.

Tip: a washcloth comes in handy, especially when washing under your surgery arm. Trust me, you’ll definitely want to wash and dry well under that arm. It’s hard to use deodorant, but absolutely necessary.

At this stage, I still can’t use my surgery arm, so everything is difficult. But I start to feel a whole lot more awake. Still watch a lot of TV and do a whole lot of nothing.

I walk a mile on the treadmill and feel like I accomplished something.

Walking on the treadmill with the arm brace is ridiculous, but doctor approved.

Days 5-7: Pain is much better so it’s harder to keep from using that hand/arm, even with the sling. My doctor had me wear the thing all the time — including when sleeping. At this point, I have dreams of burning the sling, but I can appreciate it’s purpose.

I have my first post-op visit, have my stitches removed, get a script to start physical therapy and another one to go back to work.

I drive myself to the doctor’s office and feel comfortable enough to run an errand, but am exhausted and have to rest when I get home. Exhaustion is a common theme for the first month.

No stitches means that I can shower without a garbage bag. I still am washing one-handed and my hair still suffers, but it feels good to be completely clean.

Walk on the treadmill for one or two miles a couple of times this week, so I walk four miles outside on Saturday and feel really, really good.

Week 2

I’m still home from work and spending a lot of time watching TV, reading and catching up on social media. Doing anything (including taking a shower) exhausts me. My pain is better, but my body is telling me to take it slow.

Highly recommend tops with buttons in the front to make dressing easier and nothing with zippers because you are still only able to use one arm. I fill my days with Mad Men reruns and running a handful of errands. By the weekend, I’m really looking forward to going back to work.

I have groceries delivered, which was a great help. The whole familia pitches in so I don’t have to do a whole lot around the house.

Physical therapy includes a lot of massage and checking my range of movement.

I get a haircut to help with the styling issue. It doesn’t help a whole lot, but I’m doing the best I can.

Walk a few times on the treadmill, between one and three miles. Very slowly and carefully, wearing my sling. On Saturday, walk five and a half miles and feel great. Walk three miles on trails on Sunday.

Week 3 

Monday: Holy mother of … it hurts. First day back to work is a disaster. I totally overdid it.

The laptop? Yeah, I used it way too much. Taking notes during meetings is almost impossible. I have no energy and can’t wait to get home. Once home, all I can do is sit with the ice buddy and think of ways to minimize the damage the following day.

I’m back at work, arm sling and all!

Just how much Aleve can a chica take safely? There’s not enough Aleve in the world. I go to bed early, but barely sleep. I’m regretting coming back to work.

Tuesday: I ask a colleague to print some materials for me so I don’t have to use my laptop. I grab a much smaller pad of paper and put it on my lap to take notes. I accept offers of help for even the most simple tasks like opening doors and getting my coat on and off. My friend brings me flowers, which lifts my spirits.

I don’t dream of popping Aleve like candy, but I come home to sit and ice again. I feel like I can do this.

Wake up in the middle of the night in terrible pain. Crap. Can’t sleep. Tomorrow will be better. Right? Right?

Wednesday and Thursday: I spend the days with awesome people. Have very productive meetings with partners. Spend very little time on my laptop and use my phone to answer any email.

Better. I still ice when I get home, but I get some relief and sleep a little better. I am so very tired. Did I mention I’m in pain and exhausted?

Friday: I work from home where I can sit in a recliner and ice my shoulder all day. Read a lot of printed materials, rely on my cell phone for any email and avoid the laptop as much as possible. Still get a full day’s worth of work in.

The pain is starting to lessen. Realize that I should have come back part-time for week three. Or not at all.

Weekend: Since I walked a few times on the treadmill (between one and three miles each) during the week, I walk six on Saturday and three on Sunday. Feel good.

Week 4

Much better. I know to spend as little time as possible on the computer by using my phone for email, for reading documents and to call people instead of emailing.

Walking outside with my friend Michelle was just the boost I needed.

I also spend most of the week in the car, driving to towns over an hour away for meetings. Totally worth it and not too bad, given how miserable I was the previous week.

I ice my shoulder in the evening for the first two or three days, but don’t need to after that. The pain has lessened noticeably. It still hurts, mind you, but it’s not unbearable.

Physical therapy continues to be very mild. The therapist asks me to continue to wear the sling 100 percent of the time. I have visions of shooting the sling, setting it on fire and flinging it off the top of the Mackinac Bridge.

I pull Hal Higdon’s plan to walk a half marathon so that I have something to look forward to, even though I had to cancel my May half marathon under doctor’s orders.

At this stage, I still use my arm very little. When I do, I feel where the repairs were made and sometimes I have shooting pain. As much as I hate it, the sling prevents me from overusing the arm while also being a visual reminder to myself and others that I’m still not able to do all the things I’m used to doing.

It may be spring, but it’s still snowing in the Michigan tundra and I have to wear the arm brace over a puffy down coat. It’s about as awesome as it sounds.

I’m fortunate that I have a lot of support both at home and at work. I have learned to accept help and to adapt my expectations of my abilities given that I can only use one arm.

Getting dressed and doing my hair continue to be a challenge. I can put a shirt on (without buttons in the front) by slipping the sleeve into my right arm, then pulling it over my head and, finally, putting my left arm in the other sleeve. But I’ve gotten stuck a few times taking shirts and dresses off. I’ve learned to pull on the back of the shirt/dress behind my neck with my left hand until I have enough fabric to make it OK to pull out my right arm.

Lessons learned

As someone who is so active, I’ve struggled with so much sitting around. But because I’ve done this three other times, I know that taking the time to heal now will mean that I’ll get to do all the things I want to do later.

I’m grateful that my physical therapist, surgeon and physician’s assistant have all told me it’s realistic for me to train for both the Woodstock 50K in September and Detroit Marathon in October.

So instead of bemoaning my lack of running now, I’m choosing to see this time as part of my long-term training plan. Because allowing my body to heal now will mean I will get to those finish lines.

Have you had surgery before? How did you cope? What did you do to get back to your previous activities? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

We had heard the stories beforehand: The time when Shannon almost died. The steep hills. The shoe-sucking mud pit.

But nothing prepared us for just how hard it would be to get through one of two loops for the Old Farts Running Club‘s The Mummy Trail Marathon and Half in Lowell, Mich. It kicked our butts!

With a bum knee bugging me for the past couple of weeks, I signed up for the full marathon on race day, thinking that I would DNF (did not finish) halfway if I had to. I really wanted the gear, which was pretty awesome and included a zip-up jacket, neon-yellow running T-shirt and a towel. All items had either the mummy logo or the name of the race.

Race organization

I arrived at 7 a.m. for an 8 a.m. start. Registration was super quick and organized.

There were stacks of jackets, T-shirts and sweatshirts to riffle through, but each runner got to pick exactly what they wanted. There were stacks of even more clothes after the race and each runner got to pick another item which now included stacks of sweat pants, track pants and shorts.

The gear was stacked on a picnic table, but we all took home a really nice jacket or sweatshirt and there were plenty of sizes and styles to choose from.

There are flush toilets in a building right by the start line and the race is small enough that the line was short.

Speaking of the start line, the race director gave clear instructions, we all lined up and we started right on time.

The trails were very clearly marked with small flags, spray-painted arrows and homemade signs that both encouraged and taunted us.

One of the many taunting signs along the trail.

The race organizers also have some sort of sick love for Chuck Norris who managed to make us feel unworthy every time we saw his face.

Hold me.

Water stations were tidy with plenty of cups and big trash cans. The station at around mile 8 had three of the Old Farts whose names grace some of the toughest spots along the course. They lulled us into a false sense of security by giving us sliced watermelon, cookies and Coke.

Don’t let these smiling faces fool you. The men were friendly but the portions of the race named after them were brutal.

Difficulty

It quickly became apparent that if we were going to do two loops and finish with 26.2 miles, we were going to have to reserve some energy, so we did a lot of walking. Looking back, that was one of our biggest mistakes. One mile had hills so steep, it took us 45 minutes.

How steep, you ask?

We had to crawl on our hands and knees a few times before reaching ropes that helped us climb, but that also made us feel like we would fall backward and plunge to our deaths.

But because climbing up steep hills wasn’t hard enough, this one had huge rocks.

Rocks? Sure, because the hills weren’t steep enough on their own.

And the trees. Oh, the trees. Trees blocked the trail so many times that even when we were running, we quickly had to stop to go over — or duck under — downed trees. At least two of us banged up our knees and got nice cuts and bruises. Never say I didn’t bleed for my running!

We crossed a few streams and slid down a few extra-steep spots on our bums.

 

We were grateful for the ropes, but wanted to lie down and cry whenever we spotted them because we knew what they portended.

No happy ending

We survived the toughest trail race I’ve ever seen. Even the Two Hearted Trail Half, which I considered relatively technical, and the Run Woodstock 50K were easier than today’s course.

Toward the end of the first look, the course gets a lot less technical, so my friends and I discussed going back out to do a second loop. My knee was holding up pretty well, but we were all plum tired. And we must have looked it because one of the race organizers (who happens to be a coach) basically told us we were done.

And we were perfectly OK with that. He even gave us half-marathon finisher medals and told us we did great. So we technically didn’t DNF and it felt like we earned those darn medals.

Lessons learned

There is no way I could do the full marathon at Old Farts. Well, maybe at some point. This was definitely not my year.

Would I sign up for the half? In a heartbeat. And I would run a lot more than I did today, knowing that we “only” had to do 13.1 miles (or more like 13.5 by my watch), making it a shorter trip.

I also was very glad that I had my friends’ support. I can’t imagine going through all of that by myself. There were many times when we encouraged each other, helped each other face our fears and pushed each other to get to the finish line.

The chicos both finished the full, but the chicas and I did one loop instead. That we’re all smiling after the race is a testament to our friendship.

In the end, it wasn’t the race I had signed up for, but I wouldn’t trade the experience — or my crew — for anything.

What’s the toughest race you’ve ever done? Would you consider our change of plans a DNF? Have you ever DNF’d? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)