Friday, May 31, 2013

Race Goals!

Look at me, two blog posts in one day.

I am racing tomorrow.  A somewhat modified version of what I planned, but racing nonetheless.  I'll be doing the Vulcan Tinman Sprint triathlon, the first triathlon I ever did.  I will only be doing the swim/bike, and then my husband will be doing the run.  (This is cleared with the race director, and it's a pretty casual race.)

Usually, I try to throw up a race day post in the morning, but it's a long drive and the whole family is racing, so I expect it to be a bit hectic as well.

My goals:


Usually when I go into a race, I go into race mode where the race is all that matters.  I think that is how I managed to block out any pain from the stress fracture during my last half marathon.  Quite frankly, I can't be trusted to make smart decisions when I'm in the midst of a race.  So, I need to make some of these decisions now.

I want to do this race, but it is not worth causing any delay to my recovery.  That means I stick to the single foot push off in the pool; I don't rush transition (on crutches); I concentrate on a high cadence on the bike rather then pushing high gears.  I can push, but not too the point that it risks anything.

2. Have FUN

This is a fun race, and that's why I'm doing it.  No point in letting anything stress me out.  I'm just going to have a good day.

3. Cheer LOUD

My kids are doing the tinbit race right before mine.  Then, when I get off my bike, I get to cheer my husband on the run.  I've got theatre training.  I may as well put it to good use and project that voice.

Then there's those moments you know that everything will be okay

Getting through this stress fracture has had many frustrating moments.  Last week, I had another one when I realized that my right calf muscle has shrunk.  Really shrunk.  There's not supposed to be anything wrong with my calf, but sticking it in a aircast while fixing the foot has had devastating consequences.

So, I went to see a physiotherapist this morning.  My doctor had told me not to worry about it until I was able to weight bear again, but I figured I needed to get a jump on it.  Do something, anything to try ease this loss of muscle.

It was reassuring.

Yes, my calf muscle is smaller.  I have some tight spots in my lower back, my hips, my other calf - largely caused just by walking in the aircast.  But, my flexibility is good.  Even the joints that have been stuck in the aircast have more mobility then she's used to seeing.  She credited the activity that I have continued to do, despite the injury.

I actually was feeling like an athlete again.  Sure, an injured athlete.  But, a recovering athlete.  An athlete that cares.  An athlete that will work through this.  She asked me what my goals are.  Primarily, to get back to running.  I accept that I will have to walk before I can run.  But, soon, I intend to run.

She reassured me that the muscle can recover fairly quickly.  She gave me some strength work and some stretching work that I can do right away.  I go see my doctor next week, and I'm hoping it will open more possibilities.  One step at a time.

I feel like I'm not longer looking down a long tunnel of injury, but rather, heading towards the exit of it.  One step at a time.  The waiting isn't quite over, but it's getting close, and with it, the possibilities are starting to seem real.

I will run again.  I will recover from this, and it will only make me stronger.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Swimming Flashback

It's been three years since the day I walked into my first adult swimming lesson.  Today, I thought I'd repost the blog post I wrote as I anticipated that lesson.  

At the age of about 9, I was at summer camp and we went to the pool. Everybody had fun at the pool, but the thing I remember most about it was the slide. Person after person went down that slide, squealing and laughing; having a great time. I wanted to try it too. So, I went over to the slide, climbed the ladder and slid down.

And went under the water.

I struggled desperately to get my head back above the water, gasping for air. Then went under again. I remember going up and down, struggling to get above the water, trying to breath. That desperate fight for air, which in that moment was a fight for life.

I'm sure somebody pulled me out before long. There were camp counselors and there were life guards. I also remember the question they asked me.

"Why did you go down the slide if you can't swim?"

I don't remember the answer I gave. I don't know if I had one. I think I watched everybody else doing it and figured it looked easy enough. It probably wasn't that far from the slide to the shallow area, though I'll admit I don't remember. What I do remember was the panic.

That's a panic that I still feel rising up within me to this day. When my husband and I were dating, we went to a lake together. I was willing to go to the point where we were almost neck deep, but when he came to give me a big bear hug, I panicked at the loss of stability and control.

Just a few months ago, I was in an aquafit class, and suddenly realized I had floated to a spot where I couldn't touch the bottom of the pool. I felt my throat closing off in that desperate feeling.

I didn't take swimming lessons as a child. Money was tight in my family and we didn't live in an area with beaches or lakes, so it wasn't a necessity the way it might have been if we had. Once I was older, I wasn't that interested in taking swimming lessons. I was perfectly comfortable in water up to about chest deep and I saw no need to go in water deeper then that.

Until now.

Now, I have set a goal for myself to do a triathlon. Yet, I'm reading accounts of the start of triathlons, where everybody is a swarm heading for the lake, and it's not uncommon to get elbowed or kicked in the initial part of the swim. I'll admit that makes me feel pretty panicky. Having said that, I intend to do my first triathlon in a place where the swim is in a pool.

But, I still don't know how to swim.

In about 48 hours, I'm going to be walking into a pool and starting a lesson. That part doesn't scare me. What does scare me is the fact that I suspect the lesson will require me to go into water where I can't touch the bottom, and I don't think life jackets are an accepted piece of swimming apparel. I do know one thing though.

I'm not going down the slide.


I hope this will explain why I never believe anyone's claim that swimming is the reason they can't do a triathlon.  ;)

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Three years ago today, I ran for the first time.

Okay, maybe it wasn't the first time I ever ran.  I did play soccer for a bit in Junior high, and in high school, we were forced to do the "12 minute run".  I'm confident that while doing that, I probably ran for at least 12 consecutive seconds as I passed the phys ed teacher.

But, three years ago, I decided to do a triathlon, so I went for my first intentional run.  I was thrilled beyond belief that I could actually run for one straight minute.  Those steps set me on a course that I've continued on to this day.  One I never thought was possible, but with every step I've taken, I see more of the possibilities ahead of me.

Of course, today, I can't repeat what I did three years ago.  Right now, I'm taking some of the hardest steps I've had to take yet.  I'm waiting.  I'm exercising patience.  I'm letting the bone in my foot heal.  Today, I will take a different kind of step, in water, as I'll be doing my longest water run yet.

And, it's all part of the process.  I think this is the hardest test I've had yet.

A blog is a funny thing.  It's like a virtual memory, although granted only a memory of what you write.  Looking back, I can see that last year on this day, I couldn't run either.  I had a funny niggle (interestingly enough, in the same foot that I currently have the stress fracture).  I'll remember the current "niggle" a lot more clearly then that one, but in another few years, this one will just be one of the steps I took to get to where I'll be then.

I wouldn't change any of the steps of taken.  It's not just about running, it's about life. Those steps I took that day were steps away from my inhibitions.  They were steps towards my fears, and one step at a time, I ran right through those fears.  Those steps put me on a road towards self discovery and awareness.  Those steps helped me to believe in myself.

I'm going to keep taking steps.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Water running and a new toy

So, it's official, I am embracing water running.  I've been given a choice.  I can just let go of running right now, and then start from square one, or I can water run, which will give me a headstart when I'm allowed to hit the pavement again.

I've chosen the headstart.  I've read articles of professional runners coming back from injuries and doing very well because they water ran.  If it works for them, it can work for me...

I've heard horror stories about the boredom of water running.  Then again, I've heard horror stories about the boredom of treadmill running.  As a mother of young kids, the treadmill in my basement has often allowed me to get a run in when it would otherwise be impossible.  Now, the water lets me get a "run" in when it is otherwise impossible.

The biggest battle is with boredom.  On the treadmill, I usually watch netflix, although when I do intervals, I sometimes just stick with music.

I considered setting up my tablet next to the pool, but I don't think they have wifi there.  Plus, I'd be pretty annoying if I started snapping at swimmers for splashing my tablet.  I needed another solution.

Isn't technology grand?  They now make waterproof cases for ipods.

My newest toy
Once I knew I had a stress fracture, I dropped a very strong hint of a gift idea to my husband.  Mother's day was about to arrive, after all, and I figured he'd probably like a suggestion...

There wasn't quite enough time for it to arrive before Mother's Day, but I got it shortly after.  The only hiccup in using it was when I realized it had really short cords for the headphones, as it's designed to be attached to goggles.  I thought it would look a bit silly to wear goggles for water running, so I went looking and found one of those elastic headbands that claim to be non slip (they aren't really non slip, but were enough for this purpose).

Unfortunately, you can't really see the headband because it's the same colour of my hair.
The headband worked perfectly, and I was good to go.  After doing a few water running sessions with only other swimmers to look at, the music made my last session whiz by.  It's a good thing too, because I boasted to Angie that I could take as much water running as she wanted to give me.  I'll be doing 1.5 hours of it this weekend, and methinks that time may just increase...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Turning a Corner

Last week was a truly difficult week for me.  I felt like I was trapped in a hole and couldn't get out.

Then the weekend came.  I had a really wonderful Mother's Day, which included a trip out to the mountains.  I got some swimming in, some water running.  And, as this week carries on, I've got some perspective.

I've been wearing this aircast for a week and a half now.  I'm at least a quarter, and possibly as much as a third through the time I'm stuck in this.

Even though I was devastated to hear this was a stress fracture, in many ways, it's not that bad of news. The fracture part means forced rest.  No weight bearing.  Period.  But, if I'm smart, the bone should be able to heal 100%.  If it was a soft tissue injury, I likely would have tried to keep pushing it, and return to training without it fully healed.  It's entirely possible it could have dragged out for even longer.

Sure, I'm concerned about this reoccurring, and I am going to try to address some of the possible causes, but I've got some of my optimism back.  I'm getting through this.

I chuckled when I saw this posted on facebook today.  It's practically one of the mantras I live by, and right now, it's not true.

Three years ago, when I made the decision to do a triathlon, it was as part of a resolution to stop avoiding failure.  I felt like I never gave anything my all because I was so afraid I couldn't succeed.  I've always believed that my mind was my biggest obstacle.

I was able to push my body beyond it's limit.  I ran when I shouldn't have.  That race was so important to me.  Feeling good about how I finished this race, that I'd practically quit on two years ago, was a huge success for me.  So important that I pushed my body as far as it could go, and beyond.

I'm tough.  I proved that.  I'll get through this, and prove it again.  Right now though, I don't need to prove I'm tough.  I need to prove I'm smart.  That is going to be even harder.

I'm up for the challenge.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The stages of injury grief

This week has been a rough week for me.  It's been up and down, but truthfully more down then up.

Monday I was happy.  I was able to confirm that the receptionist that told me I had to wear my aircast for everything but showers was out to lunch.  I do have to wear it a lot, but I'm allowed to take it off to drive, swim, water run, sleep, etc.

And then after that, reality kind of set in.  Because I still can't run.  And I find that devastating.  I know that perspective is in order, but it's hard.  Running is my drug, and I'm like an addict in withdrawal.

In fact, I was having so much trouble dealing that I even went to the trouble of googling things like "injured runner depression", "mentally dealing with running injury", etc.

I came across a number of articles and blogs that talked about the stages of grief and how they apply to running injuries.  I've already been through a few of them...

1. Denial

Um, would running a half marathon on a stress fracture count as denial?  Yes.  Yes, it would.  Fact is, I knew something was wrong.  I convinced myself that it wasn't that bad.  In fact, I successfully shut out the pain of running on a broken foot for the last 19 or so kilometers of that half marathon.

2. Anger

I'd say I hit this stage the moment I saw the dark spot on the bone scan.  At that point I knew I couldn't keep denying it.  A stress fracture is non negotiable when it comes to running.  You just can't do it.  There might be varying medical opinions on how long to stop running for, or what other activities you can do, but there is no negotiation on the running part.  "It's not fair", "I've worked so hard", "I don't deserve this".  All things I remember saying to my husband.

3. Bargaining

I think my entire doctor's appointment on Monday was bargaining.  I knew I couldn't run.  "What about water running?"  I asked.  "No," my doctor told me.  "Deep water running," I told her, "My feet don't even touch the bottom of the pool."  She agreed.

Swimming, my doctor was concerned about the kick and the push off:  No push off with the bad foot and I can even swim with a pull buoy at first.  Biking was a hard sell.  Agreed to only on the trainer, as I need to be able to pull the plug at any hint of pain.

4. Depression

A lot of teary moments this week.  Despite the concessions gained on Monday, the reality hit that I still can't run.  I'm a biased triathlete, because I will admit that the run is usually my favourite.  I am a lucky runner to whom the runner's high comes easily and often.  I've even experienced it on the track.  Even when I don't get the high, I still love my runs, and it's a rare day that I don't feel better after finishing.  Nothing else gives me the rush that running does.

The weather has been incredibly beautiful here.  Going out to Horse Creek road (my favourite road to ride on) would have been perfect.  A run along the river would have made me feel so good.  Nope.  Not happening.

This happened at a horrible time of year.  It puts all my upcoming races into doubt, and even if I am able to get things together for my last couple races, it's unlikely I'll be able to put out the performance I had hoped for.  It may even push my Ironman plans back a year.  Since doing the 70.3 last year, I concluded that I need more experience in that distance before going longer.  Now, I don't know if I'll even get it.

I've moped around, and eaten more crap then I'm willing to admit.  And I am so tired of every single person I see asking me why I am wearing the aircast.  I'm just tired of going over it again and again and again.  Normally when I get like this, I need to run. Preferably fast.  Long works too.

5. Acceptance

I can't say that I'm quite there yet, but I'm trying to go through the motions.

Today  I did my second water run, and truthfully, it wasn't so bad.  If it will keep my muscles from atrophying, making my eventual return to running easier, I'll do it.  I was told by a couple people that water running is a horrible experience, but I don't have the luxury of letting myself believe that.  I knocked off 45 minutes, without music.  Once I indulge myself in a waterproof ipod, I am confident I can go even longer.

Being in the water is actually the one place that I feel really comfortable right now.  I feel clumsy, uncoordinated, and like I'm clomping around everywhere lately.  While I've gotten pretty good at walking with the aircast, too much time on my feet and I'm very aware of an aching hip and knee on the other side, probably from how my body compensates.  When I'm in the water, it seems like my body just moves the way it's meant to.

Fact is, in the grand scheme of things, this is a blip in the radar.  I mean, the setback is only a matter of months.  Five years from now, I'm sure I'll be able to look back on this as good learning experience.

All I have to do is follow the rules, and let the bone heal.  Once it's healed, I can proceed with building back into it.  While I'm out, I can try to set myself up for success.  That includes following a much altered plan, which admittedly lacks my favourite sport, but will eventually allow me to come back to it.  Meanwhile, I'm going to work a bit on upper body and core strength as well as the cardio activities that are allowed.  I also am going to see about physio to hopefully address any muscle imbalances that might have contributed to this.  That might have to wait until after though.

Like I said, I don't think I'm quite at the stage of acceptance yet.  Not all of me, anyways.  I think I might have brought my logical side around to it, but my emotional side is usually a bit slower to change course.  I'm working on it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Adventures on Crutches

The good news is I've now been cleared to drive, swim (with a pull buoy), water run, and trainer bike.  The bike was a harder sell with my doctor, and was only agreed to on the condition that I pull the plug at even a hint of pain, hence the necessity for the trainer rather then the open road.

For the most part right now, I'm getting around on an aircast.  It's a royal pain to put on and take off, and I have to do so every time I drive somewhere.  Going down stairs is a bit challenging still, but going up stairs isn't so bad.  Having said that, I can get around reasonably well on it.  It feels almost natural now, to the point that I joked with my husband that maybe I could even walk 5K in it.  Joking of course.  And 5K is only coincidentally the distance I'd have to go to finish a sprint triathlon.

The more challenging place to move around is the swimming pool.  Because I can't get the lining of my aircast wet, I use crutches to get the pool itself.  Somehow I envisioned crutches as being this easy thing to zoom around on.

Not so much.

The first day I was using the crutches, I got changed and then went to pick up my stuff to go from the change room to the pool (goggles, paddles, water bottle, pull buoy).  I realized I couldn't.  Moving on crutches non-negotiably uses both hands and I had none left to carry my stuff.  Everyone else had already gone into the pool.

I tried wrapping my goggles around everything and putting it on my arm. That did not work at all.  Fortunately for me, a friend of mine, who had just finished her swim, was still in the change room.  She offered to carry my stuff out to the pool.

And I hobbled along.  Desperately trying to keep the crutches from flopping around, and just focusing on getting to the pool.  Given my current state, and the fact I wouldn't be following the group workout entirely, I've been demoted to a slower lane, so I hobbled my way to the far side of the pool.

Once in the water, I felt great.  Monday's workout seemed to be designed especially for me and left my arms feeling like jello.  It was so nice to be in an environment where I didn't feel clumsy and awkward.

Then, it was time to get out of the pool.  And I discovered that getting up, when you can only weight bear on one foot, is not as easy as you might think.  It took me a good couple minutes to figure it out, and the thought crossed my mind that I might be better off with a walker rather then crutches.  Then I had to ask one of the few remaining people that was on deck to help me with my stuff.  Then hobble my way around the pool and back to the change room.

Yesterday, I went again, and I was still awkward and ungraceful, but I figured out a few things.  First off, I adjusted my crutches up a notch.  I had them set to the height adjustment for 5'11, which I'm just a bit below.  The heights on crutches are just guidelines.  When I put it to the 6'0 mark, it instantly got easier to use the crutches; they felt way more stable, and I didn't have to slouch way down.  I also found myself a little backpack for my pool toys.

As well, I concluded that the optimal route to take is the one that gets me from change room to water in the shortest distance.  Even if I'm not going to swim in the lane on that side, it is far easier for me to get across the pool in the water then it is for me to hobble around the pool on crutches.  As a bonus, that end of the pool even has a railing on it, so it's also easier to get out and back on my feet after.

I'm figuring things out one step at a time.  I desperately miss running, and nothing replaces it, but at least I'm not housebound and totally inactive.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

When optimism is denial and google fails

In my last post, I mentioned the fact that I was "sort of" injured.  Something going on with my foot, but I figured it just needed some time to heal.  Then I had an appointment with my doctor, who sent me here:

To get a  bone scan, you get injected with radioactive particles.  Sadly, it didn't change me into a super hero, or do anything more interesting then allow the machine to take pictures of your bones.

More specifically, in my case, pictures of my feet.  (There was also one of my knees, as they check those as well, when there's a foot problem.)  Even more specifically, pictures of my feet that showed a very disturbing dark spot in the middle of my sore foot...

A dark spot that landed me in one of these:

That folks, is an aircast.  The aircast is because I have a stress fracture in my foot.  A stress fracture that I raced a half marathon on, because, although I knew I was injured, I was sure it wasn't a stress fracture.

Google is not a substitute for medical advice.

How did I fail myself so completely?

I was so sure it was from lacing my shoes too tightly that I ignored the fact that it was not getting better.

I read (somewhere on google) that a stress fracture does not feel better the longer you run on it.  On the other had, a soft tissue injury often will feel better.  It only took 10-15 minutes of running for me to stop noticing my foot.  That means, in my half marathon, that it either stopped hurting, or I was able to shut out the pain for a good 2 hours.  This is one of the things that convinced me it wasn't a stress fracture.

I read (somewhere on google) that a stress fracture will cause blinding pain when you press on the spot of it.  It hurt, but I certainly wouldn't describe it as blinding.  I've had massages that hurt more.

If I'm honest with myself, I knew there was something wrong.  I didn't want to get medical advice prior to my race because I was sure they'd tell me not to run it.  The only thing I was willing to call it for was a stress fracture, and I was so sure that's not what it was.

It scares me a little bit that I was completely able to shut out my body telling me that something was really wrong.  I take pride in my ability to shut out negative thoughts and the hurt that comes from working hard.  This is not something I should have shut out.  Yet I did.

This isn't a niggle, and it also isn't "sort of" injured.

Right now, I'm not really sure what the next step is.  When the doctor's receptionist called to tell me to go get the aircast, she also said I can't do anything without it on, which rules out even swimming, or water running.  Now, to be clear, this was coming from the receptionist, and in response to my questions about activity.  I'm hoping my doctor will give me better answers, as my research indicates that I should be able to do non weight bearing activities.

Of course, I'm basing that on information found on google, which has failed me before.  So, it's time to have chat with my doctor.  Damn weekend.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On the injured list - sort of

So, a week before my half marathon, I was out for a run.  About midway through, I felt like my shoes were a bit loose, so I tightened the laces.  As I was doing it, I remember thinking that I shouldn't make it too tight near the top, as I've had problems there before.  But I went ahead and made it nice and snug towards the toes.  Now, there's no guarantee that's what's giving me problems right now, but I'm pretty sure that's it.

I was lounging around after completing that run, refueling and showering.  I got up to get something for a kid - and almost collapsed from the pain that went coursing through my foot.  It hurt.  A lot.  Across the top of my foot, but kind of on the bottom as well.

It got better, so I did my scheduled run two days later.  It felt fine during the run, but worse after.  A bit better the next day, so I did bike/run intervals at spin class that evening.  Find during the run, but worse again after.

Then I didn't run again until race day.

It was twinging at me race morning, but I knew I was doing this race.  There was a bit of twingyness the first few kilometers, but then it went away.  In fact, in the last few kms, my head was trying to make up every excuse in the book to walk, and that's the one excuse that never even crossed my mind.  I finished the race with no problems from the foot.

And paid for it after.

I was limping almost immediately.  Then, the next day, I could barely walk.

I've been driving my son to the bus stop in the morning.  The bus stop that is half a block away...

So, you might be wondering why I'm only considering this "sort of" an injury?  It sure is more then a niggle.  Well, I might just be incredibly optimistic, but my gut is just telling me this isn't that serious.  My gut is telling me that I just need to be smart enough to let it heal more completely before running and I'll be fine.

Don't get me wrong.  I am still taking it seriously.  I have a couple ice packs on the go, I've been taking advil, and I even have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow.  However, while I've asked Angie for alternatives to runs for the rest of this week, I am currently expecting to run early next week.  Not exactly planning, because if I think it will make things worse, I'll call those, but expecting.

On the plus side, I am still good to bike and swim.

And, I think I might be able to walk my son to the bus stop tomorrow.