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News flash

6 May

News flash: this year is not going as planned.


Honestly, most of the greatest things in my life have been unexpected and outside of my envisioned “plan” for myself. I have actually been MORE successful when I set goals but don’t painstakingly plot out, point-by-point, the path I’ll take to get there.

So, when Lola and I made a 2010, prep-for-the-triathlon-5K-super-schedule, I should have known that life sometimes invades the most well-intentioned plans. And that the happiest, most successful people learn how to suck it up and move forward in whatever capacity they can. I’d like to always be one of those people, but I can’t deny that I’ve faltered a bit here.

Even so, I’ve never questioned that I will still be standing on the shores of Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg early the morning of July 25th (yes, that really is the name of the lake, and isn’t it just fitting that its name isn’t simple, either). If it means that I run in pain, then I’ll be running in pain. I hope not to be, but if so, oh well. I’ll deal with it. I still have 79 days from today to strengthen my knee and get better. I’m confident that I’ll be standing strong that morning.

A positive outlook, one in which I thought only about today and didn’t worry needlessly about tomorrow, is what got me so far last year. Very few things worth achieving are achieved without a struggle, and I don’t want to be the kind of person who wilts at the idea of something that won’t come easy.

I can’t leave behind the lessons I’ve learned– that what I want, simply and honestly, is to be happy. That I’ve found pursuing happiness rarely leads to happiness; pursue other things, and you find happiness.

And I find true happiness in running and writing….they keep me invigorated, give me energy and make me feel vibrantly alive. I need to pursue them without focusing on the obstacles that might stand in my way, because whatever personal successes come from the pursuit of those things are all that I need- no more, no less.

And don’t it always seem to go….

19 Apr

I’ve been dealing with this knee thing for a month now. In my entire 27 years, I’ve never given much thought to my knees, but now I think about them more than anything else. Or at least, I think about my right knee. The weak one, the one that’s messing with me. It makes clicking noises, every now and again, to remind me that it’s there. As if I could forget.

When I got to the orthopedic doctor’s office and sat down to fill out the paperwork, Miley’s “The Climb” was playing softly from the overhead speakers. I almost started to cry, but it also made me feel stronger, more stable. My doctor’s appointment revealed no major damage, but the doctor’s attitude towards my situation once that was discovered frustrated me. I felt like he couldn’t get me out of his office fast enough. I followed him out of the room, still asking questions. While I was relieved that nothing major was wrong, I was still concerned about the pain, what was causing it and how to get it to go away.

The first time I went running after the doctor gave me the ok (with the brace, always with the brace), I switched on my iPod shuffle and the first song to play was “The Climb”. I just don’t know if I can explain how much that song affects me, but if you’ve read these words over the past year, you have an idea. The fact that it showed up at these difficult, emotional times is amazing to me, leaves me feeling encouraged, determined.

The second time I went running I thought maybe I just needed to push past the pain. Keep running. Try harder. That was not the case. There’s no pushing past it; the pain holds strong. At this point, I can run about 3 minutes before the pain asks me, not so politely, to stop.

I don’t have to wear the knee brace on a normal day; maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, but it only hurts when I run. I wish I could tell you that my knee and I were getting along marvelously, wish I could say that my attitude has totally improved since my last post, but that wouldn’t be true. I go back and forth throughout the course of a day, between being positive and feeling down.

I started physical therapy, which came with it’s own (mostly financial and logistical) annoyances, but I’m doing my best to stay positive. I’ve decided not to sign up for the next race that Lola and I were planning on doing, since it’s this weekend and I know I’m not ready for it. I’m trying not to be too discouraged and frustrated by this, but it’s hard.

All I can do, it seems, is be patient. I have not been very good at that, to be honest. I guess I’m not good at being patient in general— I want control, I want to make things happen. I don’t want to have to sit back and wait, or stand in the physical therapist’s office 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes, making miniscule muscle movements that feel like nothing yet cause my knee to ache and cost $45 a session.

I miss running. On a bad day, just seeing someone running can overwhelm me. I’ll neither confirm nor deny that there was a day, a gorgeous blue-skyed day, when seeing too many runners in too short a time period made me start to cry quietly, a few tears almost hidden by oversized sunglasses. I miss running. I miss the feeling of a really good workout, of clearing my mind of everything. I miss races. I miss trying to be better. I miss the feeling of just running and being, nothing else. I miss writing, but what do I have to write about if I’m not running, not racing? But running, racing and writing… those are my things. My outlets. They are what I do when I want to do something for me. I miss my running self. However slow I was, however much I hated running at times, I ran freely and it made me happy.

I don’t know what else to say. I don’t want to be negative. I don’t want to throw a pity party, and to be honest I hope you wouldn’t RSVP if I did.

Buzz Buzz Blah

19 Mar

Its hard to write a blog. Because when, on Wednesday, you write things like you’ll be “unstoppable in mind” and that you’ll “keep a positive attitude”, and then you spend the next two days after that being a totally cranky bee-otch, well, you might appear a little hypocritical.

Truth is, Wednesday feels like a long time ago. I’m annoyed by this knee brace. I’m on day four of wearing it, and it’s getting less and less comfortable. It fits invisibly under only 1 pair of jeans, which I’ve now worn for 3 days in a row. I’m not in pain all the time, but every once in the while the pain shoots through my knee like a burst of electricity- when I’m walking, or I turn the wrong way, or when I first get out of bed in the morning. The nice weather makes me want to be outside: running, biking—anything! And yet I can’t be. I can’t run in tomorrow’s race; I’m not even supposed to walk it.

It’s not the worst possible thing that could happen, and I know this. I’ve only been out of commission for less than a week. I know that wearing a knee brace is not that much of an inconvenience. I know that whatever is actually wrong with my knee is probably not a huge deal, and that I can handle a few weeks of restricted activity; at least it’s probably going to be weeks, not months. I also know that letting negativity buzz around in my brain has never gotten me anywhere I want to be.

But right now, on this day, in this moment, I’m totally bummed and I can’t seem to shake it.

Bumblee Bee…Sidelined.

17 Mar

“The worst that could happen will almost certainly not happen. And even if it does, you’ll find a way to handle it.”

This is part of my mantra, the Ralph Marston quote that has propelled me through so many days. I’m holding strong to these two sentences in particular, now more than ever.

The words popped in my head after I got a text from James on Monday morning that said “Promise me that no matter what the doctor says, you’ll stay calm–we’ll get through whatever it is.” I haven’t let any of these words leave my mind since.

As I mentioned last week, Sunday was my first 5K of the season. Yay! I was excited to get back into running. I was excited to celebrate the one-year anniversary of our first 5K. Lola, James, and James’ brother and girlfriend were all running. It was a St. Patrick’s Day race, and we were all in the spirit with green shirts, green hair, green socks. The day was fighting against our positive attitudes with its gray skies, windy gusts and drizzly rain, a stark contrast to last year’s race, when it was warm, sunny and bright. As we were lined up, waiting for the race to start, the wind started blowing even harder. Lola turned to me and said, “I guess this might be a warning, that everything is going to be harder this year.” Her prediction turned out to be right; it foreshadowed what would come next.

I was maybe a 1/4 mile into the race when my knee started to hurt. I had experienced some knee pain in the last race I ran, back in November. But that was a longer race, I thought that the extra miles were what strained my knee, and I’ve been taking it easy since then. I was concerned about longer distances, but it never crossed my mind to be concerned about a 5K. I may not be fast, and I’ll probably never think they’re exactly “easy”, but I’ve run enough now to be comfortable with a 5K. I still get a little amped up before a race, but I’m no longer nervous because I know what I’m in for. There’s comfort in the familiar— knowing how my body will feel, knowing how to regulate my breathing, running to the beat of the music that has propelled me along so many miles.

This knee pain was familiar too. It was the same pain I felt at the end of the last race I’d run. Except I was at the beginning of this one. I had miles to go.

I slowed down considerably. James had passed me within the first few steps of the race, and now I watched Lola fade into the distance, too. I was stunned that this had happened. Still, I thought it could be simple– mind over matter. But by the time I turned the second corner of the race, I was barely running. And now, compensating for my injured knee was causing the pain to shoot down to my ankle and up to my butt. Even so, I was determined to keep running. I thought if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to start again. I passed the first mile mark, still running. It was getting increasingly painful, and eventually I had to stop, walking when the pain got to be too much, running when the pain had eased enough.

I always feel like a race is a competition against myself, not anyone else. For me, it’s always mind versus body. When I’m running, I have to ignore my mind when it says “I’m tired. Why are you doing this to me? I want to rest.” I need to ask my body if it’s tired, if it needs to rest. Most of the time, the answer is no. This time there was a different battle raging in my head. My body was saying “Stop”. My mind was saying “Keep going”. Every time negative thoughts started to overwhelm me, I would think to myself: “If it doesn’t hurt enough to cry then you can keep on going. And you aren’t going to cry because you are not a baby.” Repeating this to myself kept me putting one foot in front of the other, even as the distance I could run without stopping became shorter and shorter. I repeated it as the firefighters on the rescue cart passed me by. Twice. In my mind, getting on that cart was never an option, neither was not finishing the race. I would have kept on going if I was the last person, if I had to walk across the finish line dragging my bum leg behind me. I wasn’t giving myself an out. I didn’t want an out. I just wanted to finish the race.

And I did. It took nearly 42 minutes. So much for beating last year’s time (although last year’s time was 39 minutes, so apparently an injury doesn’t make me that much slower than I was last year!). Once I crossed the finish line I was struggling to keep the tears from flowing. I spotted James and Lola and I’m pretty sure some tears escaped at that point. Not from pain, but because I was so disappointed and frustrated. And now that the race was finally over, for just a few minutes I allowed myself to be worried.

I saw my regular doctor on Monday and he’s sending me to an orthopedic doctor. I couldn’t get an appointment for two weeks, so for now I’m armed with a bottle of anti-inflammatory pills, a knee brace and a positive attitude. While I won’t know for sure until I see the orthopedic doctor, my regular doctor said I would be lucky if in 4-6 weeks I could run again (I’m determined to be lucky). He thinks I’ll probably need a little bit of physical therapy. Then, if that doesn’t work, he said it would probably mean an MRI and possibly surgery. But that’s worst case scenario, one that I’m not even thinking about at this point— this is where the Ralph Marston quote comes in. The worst that could happen will almost certainly not happen. And even if it does, I’ll find a way to handle it.

I can’t lie, there are moments when the disappointment rises up in me like a wave—sudden, strong, knocking my positivity off balance. It’s not fading as the days go by. I’m not sure how I’ll feel about standing on the sidelines at this weekend’s race, but I know I won’t like it. I already know that the thought of not being able to run for weeks– just as the weather is getting nicer, the sun is shining more and the days are getting longer– feels like a cruel punishment. Which is funny, because with my love/hate relationship with running, sometimes running itself feels like punishment, and yet not being able to run feels so much worse.

Still, I consider myself resilient. If I can’t be unstoppable in body, I can be unstoppable in mind. I’ll keep my knee brace on all day. I’ll take glucosamine & chondroitin in the hopes that it will help my healing. I’ll follow the acronym so many runners already know: RICE (rest, ice, compression & elevation). I’ll take my anti-inflammatories twice a day, as directed. I’ll flavor my dinners with garlic, ginger and red pepper, all thought to decrease inflammation. I’ll take my place on the sidelines instead of in the crowd of runners ready to race (for now). And I’ll cross my fingers, keep a positive attitude, and hope that this is just a minor bump in the road, as overcomeable as any challenge I’ve faced before.

Bye-bye Bubblemint

9 Apr

I have a race on Saturday, and it’s supposed to rain. While I don’t mind rain in general, and I know that April showers bring May flowers, I’m not too excited about the fact that April showers might also bring me a slower race time and maybe even a slippery surface-induced face plant. While (knock on wood) I have avoided athletic-related injuries thus far, it seems that I have incurred my first diet-related injury. Yeah, bet you didn’t even know that was possible.

Monday morning I woke up with what I thought was an earache. It hurt by my ear but also down into my jaw. It hurt to chew and was making me a little miserable. So, when I got to work yesterday morning with the “earache” still there, I called the doctor and made an appointment for late in the afternoon. In the meantime, I avoided chewing as much as possible (although a girl still has to eat lunch!) and contemplated the possible reasons for my pain. Ear infection? Maybe, I’m really prone to them, but this didn’t feel like any ear infection I’ve ever had. iPod ear bud-related injury? I don’t really listen to my music that loud when I’m running, but you never know. Sinus problems? Dental problems? I wasn’t sure, I just knew it was driving me crazy and I wanted it to go away.

And as it turns out, it was none of that. It’s an issue with my temporomandibular joint. I’m saying that first so it sounds fancy and I feel less like a goober. Because essentially what it translates to is pain in my jaw. And this pain in my jaw is due to chewing too much gum.

I’m not joking. And I have to be honest, I didn’t really know this was possible. I have been chewing A LOT of gum lately; it’s my #1 defense against snack attacks. I never imagined that I was doing myself harm and inducing an injury. Now that I know this, I’m pretty sure gum should come with a warning label: “Dieters beware! Chewing in excess may cause temporary temporomandibular joint pain and unnecessary doctors visits.”

To top it off, gum is now haunting me. Right after the doctor I went to the drugstore to get Aleve. While ringing up my items (I swear, I couldn’t even make this up) the woman looked at me and said “Can I interest you in some new flavors of gum?”. Since when did the people at Walgreens recommend you anything?! I think this was some kind of cosmic joke, which continued at
WW when the girl next to me turned to me and said “Want a piece of gum?” and when I got home and a friend texted me and said “I’m watching The Biggest Loser and it’s making crave Extra gum and Cheerios.” I had to laugh every time.

Then of course, since I had to leave work early yesterday and many of my co-workers knew about my “ear” pain, I had to explain a few times today that it was not my ear, and that I am indeed the biggest weirdo on the planet because I incurred my injury from a piece of Orbit Bubblemint. Or actually, a few too many pieces of Orbit Bubblemint.

And now, I have to be gum-free for the next 7-10 days and chew sparingly in the future. I am sad about the temporary loss of my boredom-busting, snack-stopping, perfectly-flavored friend. Bubblemint, the pain was worth it. And I will miss you dearly.

February 12, 2009

13 Feb

I have obtained my first sports-related injury. Since this injury was obtained while running (ok, I lie, it was obtained while fast-walking. Ok, maybe semi-fast-walking) I feel that this makes me a little more official as a runner (fast-walker).

Before anybody gets nervous, don’t worry. The doctor said I’ll be fine. Ok, just kidding again, my injury didn’t warrant a trip to the doctor (although that would have been a bonus if he was handsome). And ok, so it was a minor cut that was induced by my sock slipping down below my sneaker, causing my sneaker to cut into my skin. BUT I was on the treadmill when it happened, so therefore, it’s my first sports-related injury. And although the treadmill is not a sport, I was on the treadmill due to the triathlon which is a sport, so… sports-related inury.

I wasn’t a baby about it or anything; perhaps I learned my “tough it out” mentality from my little bro, who once played a season of football with a broken wrist. Maybe it’s not fair to compare playing football with a broken bone to fast-walking on the treadmill with a cut, but….you see my point. Anyway, at the time he didn’t know his wrist was broken, kinda like I didn’t know that blood was seeping through my sock and onto my sneaker. I think the blood-stained sneaker might be the mark of a true runner…er, walker. Or maybe it’s just the mark of someone with poor footwear. But in any case, I snapped a photo of the carnage to mark the occasion, and to help give me street cred with the actual runners of the world. See that dark spot on the shoe on the right? That’s the price you pay to be a triathlete-in-training.