Running Remix

Sometimes in life, we need to step back and reevaluate our intentions. Whether we examine relationships, careers, or fitness, we need to realize our goals can change in spite of us. I am at a point at which I have to reevaluate my running, and believe me, it isn’t by choice. My knees seem to be rebelling, which infuriates me. I am trying to do something good that will keep me mentally and physically healthy, but my body doesn’t want to cooperate.

 

For non-runners the answer is easy — don’t run. Runners understand that it just isn’t that simple. Though I haven’t always been a runner, after six years it has become part of my identity. My friends run; my husband runs; I want to run. Running is an emotional release after a challenging day at school. It’s a way to celebrate life’s little joys. It’s a way to deal with tragedy when I don’t know what else to do with myself. Running gives me confidence, strength, and pleasure. Running makes me angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I love going for a run with friends, and I love running alone because it allows me time to process whatever is happening in my life at the moment. In running I find peace. Simply put, I cannot imagine my life without it.

 

I had already decided that I wouldn’t run a spring half marathon. My plan was to let my knees rest by sticking with shorter runs. After running the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon the past four years, it will be difficult knowing my friends are there and I am not. I do, however, plan to run the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll with my step-daughter Labor Day weekend. After my past couple longer runs, that was even questionable. Once I would reach 4.5 miles, my ‘good’ knee would begin to stiffen up – IT band. It felt exactly the same as my right one did two years ago prior to surgery. I hobbled to get to 5 miles (I’m not sure why I have to end on an even number), and ended up disappointed that I couldn’t go further.

 

I am currently reading Tales from Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. It is their third book together, and since I loved the first two, I knew this would be worth my time. One of the essays struck a chord. The woman had knee problems. Ahhh…a sister in pain. She began inserting walking into her runs, and was able to complete her runs. Even though the thought of walking part of a long run, or God forbid, a race, goes against my prideful spirit, I knew I had to try something, or I’d never be able to run long distance again. Yesterday was my experiment.

 

It was going to be a warm sunny day, so I was really looking forward to the run. I had to mentally prepare myself to walk. I know myself well enough to know that if I weren’t disciplined, I would try to run as far as I could, and then I would end up in pain and angry. I decided to run the first two miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile for the rest of my ‘run’. I didn’t know how far I would go because I just didn’t know how my knees would hold up. I had in the back of my head that I wanted to try to go seven miles because my friends who are running the Derby Half were running seven (again, my brain works in mysterious ways). I found that inserting the walking made the outing enjoyable. I looked forward to the breaks, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and didn’t stress over my distance. Each time I took off running, I knew I only had to run 8/10 mile. I ended up going eight miles – with no knee pain. I ran 6.8 miles, and walked 1.2; that’s further than I’ve been able to run in months. Even with the walking, I averaged an 11 minute pace, which isn’t that bad. Did pride step in? Of course. I was hopeful that no one would see me walking; afterall, I’m supposed to be a runner. In the end, I was very content with my effort. And I was figuring out what finish time I would have if I did that at Louisville. I think my husband might just kill me if I suddenly decide to jump in the race because he hasn’t been doing long runs. But we do have a hotel room booked. Just in case.


This is when I have to ask myself, what are my intentions in regard to running. To stay healthy? Or to compete? To spend time doing something I love? Or to beat people? The responsible answer would be that I intend to stay healthy while doing what I love, and I do, but I also want to run well. I want to have respectable times. I want to PR. In short races, I want to place in my age group. Is that going to be possible? I just don’t know. I would rather walk some if it will allow me to continue running, but my pride will have to adapt to this new vision of who I am as a runner.

Let the obsessing begin…

The Derby Mini is now 11 days away. The mix of emotions I am feeling ranges from excitement to fear to acceptance. Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross coined the five stages of grieving. Perhaps I can coin the five stages of pre-race jitters. I did my 11 mile training run Friday. That’s the furthest I will run in preparation for the race; this weekend I will run about seven miles. I love taper time – I’ve put in the time, and now it’s time to rest my body and stick to easy runs.

My 11-miler was a mix of positive and negative. One of my students had been asking about running with me. I didn’t think he’d follow through just because he’s a 14 year old, and typically 14 year olds don’t want to hang out after school with a grandma/teacher. I saw one of the boys at Walmart after school yesterday, and he was completely awkward. This boy was serious, so I told him I would be running slowly because I wasn’t concerned about speed; I just needed to run 11 miles. He agreed to run with me until he had to be at track practice. The kid ran six miles! He had never run more than two miles at one time, so he really didn’t know what he could do. I know him well enough to know that he would probably push through, and would not back out during a run. I really enjoyed the run. He did so well, asked a lot of questions about racing, and listened when I gave him advice. The first half of my run went quickly. I dropped my student off at the track, ran to the bathroom, drank some water, and took off for the next leg of my journey.

The second half? It didn’t go so well. My left knee, which is NOT the knee I had surgery on, began to hurt. It felt exactly like my surgery knee did when those problems started. I had to stop and stretch, and then I’d run a little more, and then I’d stop and stretch, and so on. The really frustrating part was that my endurance was awesome. Honestly, I felt like I could have kept running had my knee not hurt. My last two miles were well under a 10:00 pace, the fastest of the 11. I just need everything to work at once.

I am really not sure what will happen come race day. I have run twice since, but only three miles, so my knee was fine. I ordered new compression socks (in a lovely gray, pink, and black argyle print); I have a knee brace; and I have Ibuprofen and Celebrex. I need one good day. You should hear the conversations I have with God when I begin to have pain. I am sure we will have lots of conversations on April 19.

Now is the time I also begin planning my race attire. When I just run here in town, I might or might not match. At a race, I will match. I bought a super cute Nike running hat in a lovely pattern of pink and black, and I have a Nike light pink tank that is really soft, and I know would feel great in a race. I usually wear a skirt just because I like them (once a cheerleader?). I have some compression socks, but they don’t match the pink of my shirt, which would literally stress me out that day (hey, it’s the little things!). Who would wear hot pink socks with a soft pink tank? Not me. Do you see why this sport can get expensive? I told my [very understanding] husband that if I have to walk part of this race, I am at least going to look decent! I also ordered arm warmers. For those of you who are wondering what the hell arm warmers are and why I need them, here’s the scoop. It is usually cool when the race begins, but then it warms up, and I warm up, after a few miles. I want to wear my pink tank, but it will be chilly, so I put on arm warmers, which I can slip off when I warm up. They will (I hope) tuck nicely in my skirt, and will be much easier to take off than an extra shirt or jacket.

Music. When I first started running races, I didn’t use music because I enjoyed listening to the crowds, and then I tried music, and I ran super fast [middle-aged-runner-nana-not-so-fast-fast]. Since then, I have continued to sport earbuds. And so I am also working on my playlist. This isn’t just a matter of playing songs I like; it’s also a matter of strategically placing songs. My first song is ‘Here Comes the Sun’ because we begin at 6:30 am. I have fun songs for the first half. For the second, and hardest, half, I have songs that inspire me. I asked each of my girls to choose a song for my list that would remind me of her. I have a song for my husband, ‘I’ll Stand by You’ because he is my biggest supporter. I have a song for God, ‘How Beautiful’ to remind me that without my God and my faith, I wouldn’t be out there running. I am going to add a song for my dad, ‘Jesu’, which isn’t really a running song, but it one song I remember hearing him play on the piano and organ. Running is such a mental activity; you’d be surprised how music can inspire the legs to keep moving. I hope I get through my playlist! I made sure it’s extra-long in case I end up walking some. Or a lot.

Time to grade papers..or look up race times…I’d better grade!

17 More Days!

In my mind, that sounds ominous. I have 17 days until the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon. Only 17. I have one more long run, which if the weather cooperates, will happen this Friday after school. I would prefer to do my 11-miler Saturday morning rather than after a long day at work, but the girls have their first tennis match out of town Saturday, so Friday it is. This week I have taught four bootcamp classes in three days, and my legs are sore and tired. They  are so sore, in fact, that last night after I showered, I immediately crawled into bed. I  then texted my husband, who was still downstairs: I want to come kiss you goodnight, but my legs are too tired! They refuse to carry me. I love you to the moon and back! How pathetic is that? Seriously, I was that tired, yet, I couldn’t sleep! My body didn’t budge, but my eyes refused sleep. This was especially frustrating because I had to teach HIIT at 5:30 am.

I had planned to run four miles this evening, but – at the strong encouragement of my husband – stayed home instead. Rest is good, right? I teach bootcamp again in the morning, and we will be focusing on arms and abs, purposely avoiding power squats (that’s for my benefit, not the participants’). I might try to run a couple of miles on the treadmill before hitting the shower, but my legs might just have a different plan.

Then I will rest up for Friday. Hopefully my friend Jennifer will be running part of my long run with me. It goes so much quicker when someone is with me. I enjoy solo runs, but have done far too many in the past couple months. Because I still lack confidence in my knee and my endurance, I have hesitated to run with others much. And for some reason, this race is really personal to me, and I just want to do it on my own. Weird, huh? I am really excited for my friends who are running, especially those who will complete their first half marathon, but this race is for me – and for my friend Katie, as I previously posted. After bailing at the 8-mile mark last year, not running a single race since, and going through knee surgery, this is, perhaps, my most important race to date. Just a couple months ago, I was convinced I would never run 13.1 again; I just couldn’t do it. Then running seemed to get a little better, and I was able to run a little farther, and I decided that I have to run 13.1 again. I cannot give up what I love, until my legs refuse to move. Last year, I spent a lot of time focusing on several of my ‘newbie’ friends, and I loved it. This year it is going to take all of my focus and energy to get myself across that finish line. Once I cross, and I will even if I have to crawl or ride piggy back on someone, I will celebrate with everyone else. Lord, I hope I make it.

I said that running has gotten a little easier, but it is still so flippin’ difficult. Every single run takes so much effort right now. I am not running nearly as fast as I was a year ago, but I feel like I am putting in even more effort. We all have tough runs, but I would like to have just a few easy ones. Monday was a beautiful day, and I had looked forward to my run all day as I looked out the windows of my classroom. I was finally going to be able to run in shorts and a tank, and work up a great sweat. My legs felt like bricks. Most of the time, my first mile is tough, but then I fall into a rhythm, and it gets easier. That never happened. I had run five miles Sunday, so once I hit the three-mile mark, I stopped. I could run no further. I walked the mile back to my car, and chalked it up to a bad day…another bad day.

I have thought about goals for the race. Common sense tells me that my only goals should be to enjoy running the race (which is an incredible race with a huge crowd on a beautiful course), and to cross the finish line with my knee healthy. My husband would tell you I don’t often use common sense. The last time I finished Derby, my time was 2:04, and my last complete half marathon time was 1:59. While I know it impossible to get close to those times, I would still like to have a respectable time. And, I have been online looking at last year’s times. I always say I am not going to do that, but I always do. Always. I really have no idea what to expect. When Jackie and I ran our 10-miler, we ran about a 10:26 pace, and usually one runs faster in a race just because of the adrenaline (and because I get caught up in the crowd). If I could run a 10:00 pace, I would finish in 2:11. First, I don’t know if that is possible; second, I surely wish I could run faster. I should just finish this to prove I can run that far, and then concentrate on running faster for a fall half marathon. Will I? Do you see how there is a constant battle going on in my head? No wonder I couldn’t sleep.

My mind will be in turmoil for the next 17 days. My stomach will likely follow suit at some point, hopefully not race morning! That would be awkward. I am not a fan of porta-potties! My next few blogs will probably provide more information about the race than you care to know, but as you know, I write whatever is on my mind (not everything – you’d be shocked if you knew what all goes on in my head; it’s very cluttered in there).

Run on, Friends!

Drumroll, please…

I know – I just blogged last night, and I usually don’t blog twice in one week. However, I finally made a decision, and I want to share what gave me the kick in the butt I needed.

After posting my whiny blog about being uncertain about my ability to complete the Derby Mini, I received a text from a friend. I have known Katie for many years; I kept up with her success as she ran cross country in high school, and then received a scholarship to run at Belmont. We have been friends with her family for a long time, so I won’t forget the day that we received the news that Katie had cancer. We were in Virginia Beach visiting my step-daughter, and Katie’s dad called my husband to tell him that Katie had been diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. Katie fought the disease and won; and then she fought it again – and won again. Despite joining the ‘survivor’ list, the disease and treatments took a toll on her young body. Katie’s lungs have scar tissue, which hinders her breathing during strenuous activity. Long story short – at this time, she can’t run. She is now a junior high science teacher, and she coaches cross country and track. While she is involved in running, she can’t get out there and do what she loves. 

So, last night I received this text from Katie:  Run the Derby! I would give up lots to be able to run it, even if it was an 11:00 pace! Do it!

That’s all it took. I had been complaining because I might have to walk a little, or I might be slower than I was in the past. I have no reason to whine. I can run, and I am going to run for Katie. I am going to tattoo her name on my arm (Just kidding! Permanent marker will do!), and when the race gets tough – which it will – I will look at my arm, think about the battle Katie won, and I will be her lungs and legs. I will never be half the runner Katie was in college, but that’s okay. I am who I am, which is a middle-aged nana who loves running.

Incidentally, Katie will be home that day with her four-day-old baby!

This morning (before I could chicken out), I registered. And since it cost $75, I’m not backin’ out! I had planned to run five miles after school, and because the forecast was for sunny skies and 60 degrees, I was really excited about the run. It wasn’t sunny, and it wasn’t 60, but it was a great run. I don’t know if it was because I was now officially training, but I ran better than I have for months. I wasn’t worried about my pace, but at the one mile mark the little lady in my ear said I had run it in 9:49. My pace felt good, so I just kept it up. I ended with an average pace of 9:29, and miles four and five were 9:16 and 9:18 – smokin’! It was one of those runs that when I finish I just want to cheer for myself. People give me strange looks when I do that.

Though my time was good for me, there was this group of fast runners out at the same time. They happen to be my friends, Jennifer, Kelly, and Tomi Jo, and I am oh, so envious. I saw them take off, and wished I could keep up with them. As I was flying down the street, I came up with this analogy: I am a senior on the freshman team, and those three are varsity. I want to be on varsity, but know I just don’t have the ability (or young legs) that they have. Seriously, they just blew past me when I thought I was running fast!  

When I arrived at our humble cabin in the woods, there was a box outside. My new running shoes had arrived! Maybe those beautiful shoes will help me make varsity! Or not. But I’ll look good! 

About Running…

This is how I felt after my first run of 2014!  The only thing missing is a dialogue bubble with cuss words in it!

This is how I felt after my first run of 2014! The only thing missing is a dialogue bubble with cuss words in it!

I went for a five-mile run yesterday to end 2013.  Because I hadn’t run much in about nine months, I was determined to get a decent run in.  I have surely missed my running life.  It wasn’t a terrible run, but it was difficult.  My stomach didn’t feel great, my right knee (the one I had surgery on) hurt a little, and my endurance has not yet returned because I simply haven’t run enough.  At four miles my left knee began to hurt, and I recognized the symptoms.  I had that same tightness behind my knee that I had when my right knee began to bother me.  I had to stop and walk at about 4.5 miles, and then hobbled through to be certain I ‘ran’ five miles.

When things got really tough and I became frustrated, I thought about two young people from our community, Sarah and Jacob, who were both involved in accidents in November, and both are relearning to walk.  I thought about how difficult it must be for those two athletes to start all over learning to do what they had done for years.  They have both worked so diligently, and have faced so many obstacles.  I cannot begin to imagine the range of emotions they have gone through.  And so I pushed on and ran.

I also have two friends who are currently battling breast cancer, Larky and Pam.  As I struggled along, I thought about their battles, and the fear and frustration they must feel.  I thought about their positive attitudes and the strength they’ve shown.  And my pain seemed mild.

I finished that run, and though the realization hit me that I will probably never run another half marathon, I was grateful for those few miles.  I so enjoy being out in the fresh air, having undisturbed time, and feeling strong as I run along in solitude.

I decided to go for a run again today.  I had ended 2013 with a run, and I wanted to begin 2014 the same way.  The very first step brought pain in my surgery knee, but it was tolerable.  I hadn’t run up Mozart Hill since March, and that was today’s goal.  I had decided that even if I had to walk, I was going to make the attempt.  I ran up that monster of a hill, and I did not walk.  As I rounded the corner at the top, I felt that sense of exhilaration that comes with running.

And then I hit the two-mile mark, and the pain in my left knee hit.  I hobbled a little further, while a thousand thoughts swam through my head.  Why?  With our new insurance, I can’t even afford to go to the ortho.  My surgery knee isn’t perfect, so I wouldn’t go through another surgery anyway.  Why can older people run with no knee issues, and I can’t?  I am going to have to stop running.  What the hell will I do?  When will I see my friends?  I run with my friends.  That is what we all do, and I won’t be a part of that any longer.  Crap.  I walked for a couple of blocks, and then ran again so I could at least get three miles in.  I was so angry when I finished.  I have fought my right knee for a year now, I didn’t complete one race in 2013, and had looked forward to a decent return to running in 2014, but it seems that isn’t to be.

I truly feel that I am going continue to have problems, and though I don’t want to give up running, I might find myself with no choice.  And that sucks.  I wish there were alternatives that appealed to me, but right now, there aren’t any.  Gary has talked about getting more into biking, but thus far, I have no interest.  It takes so long to burn the number of calories I can burn running.  I enjoy my Tabata Bootcamp, but I need cardio, too.  Zumba is a blast, but honestly, it’s taking a toll on my knees.  I guess this saga will continue, and I will work to find what will work with my body.  I will also whine.  A lot.

Here we go, 2014!  Please be kind to me!

I Ran Today…

…and I mean really ran!  The last time I blogged, which was not long ago, I was running a slow mile.  Today I ran five miles, without walking, at a 10:07 pace!!  I was pretty much to the point that I regretted my surgery, and felt I’d never be able to run again.  I just couldn’t accept that, so I kept plugging along.  That first week, I ran twice, a mile both times.  I was happy to do anything, but longed to run farther.

Last weekend my family was in Lake Tahoe, which just so happens to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  The lake is just incredible, and the mountains and trees make a perfect backdrop.  The homes are all made of cedar or stone, and fit right into the landscape, and the air is crisp and clear.  And the one thing I wanted to do while we were in Tahoe was run.  Whenever I travel, I love to go out for a run because it’s such a great way to experience new places.  We miss so much when we just drive through new areas.  When we get out and run, we can take time to take in our surroundings, smell the fresh air, and embrace the opportunity to just be in the moment.  Because my knee still hurt and I hadn’t done any substantial running, I was afraid I would be unable to run while we were gone, but I was certainly going to try!

Friday morning Gary and I got up well before the crack of dawn to head out on a run.  It was 21 degrees – a brisk morning to say the least.   We had packed our cold-weather running gear, so we suited up and headed out.  It was dark, but we took off toward the lake.  As we were running along the main road that runs alongside Lake Tahoe, the sun began to emerge over the mountains.  Ahhhh….those are the moments I absolutely love.  We stopped to peer out over the lake, take in the scenery, and just thank God for the chance to experience his handiwork.  That morning, with my husband nearby, I ran just over two miles for the first time in months.  I ran those miles in Lake Tahoe.

The next morning, Gary was going to play golf with his son, so I planned to run on my own.  I waited until it was light, and took off along the same route.  This time, the sun glistened on the lake, and the snow-capped mountains shone in the background.  I was in awe.  I looked at the detail in the homes I passed, enjoyed the magnificent pine trees that claim this land as their own, and breathed in the cold, clean Tahoe air.  I didn’t run fast; I was really too busy taking in the beauty.  And there is the little issue with elevation.  I didn’t notice it being too much of an issue, but when we got back to Indiana, I noticed it was easier to breathe while running.  That morning, I ran three miles.  Three beautiful miles.  My knee was pretty sore when I stopped, but I really didn’t care.  I had run in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  What’s a little pain?

When I returned to Indiana, I wanted to be sure to continue to run.  I went out alone Wednesday after school.  My knee hurt.  A lot.  And I was angry.  I cursed as I limped along, and felt that I had, once again, taken several steps back.  I am not sure how far I ran that day, but I think it was between two and three miles.  Friday I tried it again.  My sister/friend Jackie was free, and I was determined to run with her.  We went out and ran four miles, with a bit of walking in between.  I cannot begin to express how wonderful it was to be back out pounding the pavement with my friend.   As much as I’ve missed running, I’ve missed my running friends even more.  I love these ladies, and life just didn’t seem right when I didn’t see them regularly.

Today, Sunday, was a picture-perfect running day.  By afternoon, it was in the 60s, and the sun was beckoning me to get out there and soak up its rays.  I went out with no real plan.  I had hoped to be able to run at least three miles, but I really just wanted to run and enjoy the day.  I had eaten two pieces of gooey butter cake and drank two diet soft drinks, which can often be a recipe for disaster (or at least stomach issues).  I put on my favorite playlist and my new shoes (Did I mention I bought myself some gorgeous new Asics?  New shoes can be very motivating.), and took off on one of my favorite routes.  My knee didn’t feel great, but when the little voice in my phone informed me that I had hit the first mile, and I had run it in 10:03, I just knew it was going to be a good day.  I began to tire in the third mile (I found I got out of running shape really fast), but I wanted to get to at least three miles without walking.  Once I got there, I decided to try to get to four miles without walking. I hadn’t yet done that, and knew it would be another major post-surgery accomplishment.  I was just about to the turn-off for four miles, when I decided to keep going.  I knew I could always stop and walk should it be necessary, so why not?  It was such a great day, and no one was home, so I had the time.  I kept going, and when I realized I could make it to five miles, I was ecstatic – almost to the point of tears.  Today, I ran five miles without stopping.  Today, I knew I was back.  Today, I thanked God for helping me heal, and for giving me the drive and determination to keep trying.  It would have been very easy to give up.  When I have tried to run and my knee hurt like hell, I could have easily given up running.  But I can’t.  Running has become part of who I am.  I love pushing myself to run just a little farther.  I love the feeling of accomplishment I have when finishing a run.   I love the time with my friends when we can talk about absolutely anything, and know it’ll go no further.  I love the time alone to process my thoughts and to remember how very blessed I am.  I love the calorie burn running provides.

Another thing I love is the support of the running/fitness community.  Without all of you, I might have given up.  The running/fitness community is an amazing group that supports the very best, and encourages everyone.  We get such a natural high from our fitness endeavors, and we want to share that with anyone who will listen to us.   When Gary and I began running, I kept expecting to quit.  I always had.  I would get on an exercise kick for a few weeks, and then just quit.  The past four and a half years have changed our lives.  It isn’t an exercise kick, it’s a lifestyle change.  I cannot imagine my life without fitness.  My running has led me to become a Zumba instructor, which I love, and most recently, a Tabata Bootcamp trainer.  Through running and fitness, we have made the best friends.  I am blessed to have my incredible husband by my side through all of this, and to have such amazing friends who have never given up on me.

Did I mention I ran five miles today?

Just What I Was Afraid Of

About four and a half years ago, Gary and I began running and our journey toward fitness and a healthier lifestyle.  For the first several months, I worried that I would quit because that’s what I had always done.  I would get excited about exercise, and then after a few weeks, I would skip a workout, and then another, and soon I just gave it up altogether.  Only four years ago, I didn’t stop.  I kept running until soon I could run 13.1 miles.  I kept running, and friends joined me.  I kept running, and began having others ask for my advice.  We also biked and did some other at-home workouts, and after a couple years, I added Zumba to my workout routine.  Fast forward to Summer 2013, and Gary and I are both instructors at Everbody’s Fitness.  Heck, we two used-to-be-out-of-shape-middle-aged-non-athletes even attended – and survived – a fitness conference.  And now it’s stopped.

Four and a half years later and I am totally struggling with motivation.  We are still coaching a Biggest Loser team, but I need it as much as our team members.  I am back to teaching Zumba, but there are five other days in the week I am not exercising.  Oh, I have excuses.  We have been crazy busy with Addison’s golf and band, and I have a new teaching position this year that is keeping me incredibly busy.  But realistically, I feel worthless.  After my surgery, I was unable to exercise for a few weeks, and that quickly got me out of the habit of making time to workout.  I still can’t do what I really want to do, which is run, so I just don’t do anything.  Every day I tell myself that tomorrow I will do a DVD I bought at the conference, and every day I find some lame reason to avoid it.  Each day I say that the following day I will eat better.  I usually have those little discussions with myself after I’ve seen the number increase on the scale or when I put on a skirt or pants that are too tight.  That seems to be happening a lot.

As I was teaching Zumba last Tuesday night, reality stared me in the face; I was in a mirrored studio for 45 minutes.  All I could see was my once-toned-now-flabby belly and the love handles that are making a repeat appearance.  I worked my ass off that night, and have done nothing since.  Next week I begin teaching Tabata Bootcamp.  I have my group of 15 participants, but I don’t know if they all realize that they will be helping me as much as I help them.  I am going to be working that bootcamp just the same as all of them, and I hope it’s just what I need to get my head back in the game.

I still question whether or not I will be able to run again.  I guess only time will tell.  The thought of starting over from the beginning is something I find nauseating.  It took years to gain the endurance and speed (I use that term lightly) I was finally proud of, and only a few months to lose it completely.  I haven’t had a good run since early April.  I so envy all those who are training for the Evansville Half Marathon, a race I PR’d at last fall.  My husband will be running, and several of our friends will be running their first half marathons that day, so I plan to be at the finish line cheering them on.  I have to admit, though (and my husband can attest to this), the last time I did this it didn’t go so well.  I was so depressed that I wasn’t running that I couldn’t enjoy the race at all.  I was actually a big baby.  I can’t say that I won’t be a little (or extremely) sad, but I will be equally proud of those who thought they’d never run a 13.1, and will cross that line.  I remember my first time…it was incredible!

I don’t share this blog for sympathy or accolades.  I share it because I want everyone who is struggling to know that we all struggle at some point.  Even those of us who have been working at this whole fitness thing for a long time have days when we want to eat every sweet and every chip we see.  We have days we go through Walmart and shop in the middle (supposedly the healthy foods are all on the perimeter of the store).  We have days we eat pancakes, sausage, eggs, and fried potatoes for supper (well, it was really good).  And then we suck it up and get back to business.  It’s time for me to suck it up.  It’s time for me stop sucking it in.  Tomorrow.  I’ll start tomorrow.

Two Steps Forward, Three Weeks Back

When I talked with the nurse to schedule my knee surgery, she told me I would be able to run after four weeks.  When I questioned my doctor right before surgery, he confirmed what the nurse had said.  At my post-op appointment, the orthopedic nurse practitioner also said I could run after four weeks (Gary was there, and also heard this).   I actually rested more than was recommended.  I was told that after two weeks I could bike, do the elliptical, and begin doing some easy workouts.  I chose to continue to rest, and the only exercise I tried was walking.  I walked about twice a week.  I have been determined to recover fully so I can get back to doing everything I love.

Yesterday morning, I went to town to walk.  I had decided that since it had been four weeks (okay, I was two days early, but really, two days wouldn’t have made a difference), I was going to attempt to run a little.  I was alone, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with anyone, or making anyone stop because I couldn’t do it.  I walked my favorite route, which includes the River Walk, a one-mile stretch along the Ohio.  My plan was to run that stretch.  I have to admit, as I approached  my starting spot, I began to get really nervous.  I had no idea what to expect, but gosh, I wanted to run.

I got to the starting line, and slowly began to run.  It hurt.  My knee felt tight, and it just felt awkward.  I was going at a snail’s pace, and though it wasn’t comfortable, I thought that since it was my first run since surgery, that was probably to be expected.  I made it the full mile; it wasn’t pretty and it certainly felt awful, but I did it.  And then I limped another mile and a half back to my car.  I don’t think I was ready.

Throughout the next hour, my limp became more obvious, and my IT band throbbed.  Crap.  I went home, propped my leg, and iced.  Since that time, my knee has felt like it did one week after surgery.  I can’t walk without a heavy limp, and any sort of twist or quick move makes me cringe.  So for those few steps of forward running, I set myself back three weeks.  While I was icing, I searched for some info via Google.  I found a woman’s blog, and she had had the same type of surgery.  She had physical therapy after, and was not released to run for eight weeks.  I am not sure why our post-op advice was so different, but I know that I won’t be attempting a run for a few more weeks.

What now?  I am going to get on my trusty bike, though today even that sounds painful.  I might hit the gym and try my least favorite machine, the elliptical.  I had planned to go back to Zumba September 16, but I don’t even know if that’s possible.  I was originally told I could begin teaching within four weeks, but I am not even close to being ready to squat, jump, shimmy, or twist.  I have to find something that works because I’ve also found that not exercising leads me to eating more crap.  Burgers, pizza, and sweets have been my good friends the past month.  I know it’s bad, heck, I went to nutrition classes while we were in Atlanta, but I have no self-control.  As I type this, a plate that once had three cinnamon rolls on it sits beside me.  They were good.

My husband and friends are training for fall half marathons, and I so wish I were training with them.  I just hope that I can eventually run again because after yesterday, I really question whether I will ever run again.  It was that bad.   Do I regret surgery?  Right now, yes.  My hope is that in a few months I will look back and see this as just a little hurdle.

Run a mile for me!  I’ll eat a cinnamon roll for you!

 

Day 3 Post-Op

On Monday, I had a long-awaited surgery on my knee.  I have had pain since before Christmas, and had tried resting, injections, and physical therapy.  Despite my efforts, I could only run a mile or two before being stopped in my tracks by knee pain.  As someone who has come to thrive on running, not running on a regular basis has been difficult.  My insurance finally approved an MRI after I did five weeks of physical therapy, and it showed arthritis behind my knee cap and IT band tendonitis, which is what the doctor had suspected all along.  Since I had already done the injections and PT, the next step was surgery.

I hesitated about a day, and still questioned my decision after a date had been set, but I knew I had to do it.  If not, I just wouldn’t be able to run, and I can’t imagine my life without running.  I felt fortunate that I was still able to complete other workouts without much pain, and I was still able to teach Zumba.  However, if I over-worked my knee, even just by walking a lot or walking down a steep hill, it became really sore.

Gary and I headed to Jasper Monday.  I wasn’t really very nervous – I rather enjoy being put under!  I was also anxious to get the surgery over and begin the healing process.  The surgery went well (I assume it did; I was asleep, afterall).  Dr. Love scraped out the arthritis, removed something that was behind my knee cap, cut a small triangle out of my IT band, and (I think) removed a small bursa that was behind the IT band.  I was still out of it when he explained all of this, but I think that’s the gist of it.  Once I awoke, I drank some Diet Coke, got dressed, and was loaded into the car.  I felt pretty woozy all the way home, but overall, it wasn’t bad at all.

This week I have to rest.  That’s hard.  I know that it sounds good that I have doctor’s orders to sit around all week, but that got old really fast.  Thankfully, my daughters are all home this week, as well as my grandson.  They have helped out a lot, and just kept me company.  Tuesday morning, I took my last Lortab.  I believe it was making me feel worse.  After I took the last one, I was nauseated, and felt drained.  I decided to stick to ibuprofen, and that has been enough.  Tuesday proved to be the longest day ever.  I literally laid on the couch all day and evening.  Bethany stuck with me, and I know she had to be bored out of her mind.  By yesterday, I was ready to get out.  I had planned to go see Addison play in the band at the Schweizer Fest, but my friend Kelly texted me in the morning to see if I could go to lunch with my new co-workers.  I decided it wouldn’t hurt to get out for an hour, and I could keep my leg propped up, so I was good to go.  It takes a lot of effort to walk any further than from the couch to the bathroom, so my outings were all I could handle.

Layne is keeping me entertained this week!

Layne is keeping me entertained this week!

I was glad I went to the Fest last night, but also glad I didn’t stay long.  Bethany dropped me off as close to the stage as possible, but I still had to hobble down the sidewalk through the flea market.  As I was heading toward the stage area, there was a young couple coming toward me.  Now, my knee was all wrapped up, I was clearly struggling to walk, and yet, they made no effort to let me pass!  Seriously,  I had to turn sideways and stop so they could continue on hand-in-hand.  What brats!

Last night I was finally able to take the wrap and bandages off.  I waited until Gary was home because I don’t handle seeing stitches very well at all.  I was also able to shower for the first time, and wanted him to be around in case I lost my balance.  Let me tell you, my husband is an amazing caregiver!  He unwrapped my leg and took off the gauze, which terrified me.  He explained what it looked like before I looked.  He stuck around while I showered (I didn’t hear him complain!), and then bandaged my knee back up.  My knee really doesn’t look that bad (see below).  I have three incisions:  two from the scope, and one larger one from where the doctor made an incision to get to the IT band.  The larger one has four stitches, and is pretty sore.  My knee isn’t too swollen, which is great.

Today is my third day at home.  The kids have all gone to Holiday World.  They tried to convince me to go, saying they’d haul me around in a wagon or wheelchair.  There is nothing appealing about that offer.  I am going to stick to the couch today.  I am going to school Monday, so I want to make sure I am ready to tackle the first week.  I plan (today, at least) to not exercise at all for four weeks.  It’s easy to say that now, when I can hardly walk.  The doctor said it will be four to six weeks before I can teach Zumba or run, and he doesn’t even want me walking for exercise for several weeks.  He said I could do yoga and pilates after a couple weeks, but really didn’t encourage it, so I think it might be best to just avoid anything that could cause problems.  I don’t know what I am going to do with myself because basically all of our free time is spent working out.  Getting the school year off to a great start will be my priority, especially since I am starting a new job (that I am super-excited about!).  I will have lots of time to blog, so I will keep everyone updated on my journey back to running.  It is going to completely suck to have to start back at the beginning.  But I will do it.  And I have so many terrific friends whom I know will encourage and support me.    How blessed I am!

This is the largest incision where the doctor went in to repair my IT band.  Ewww!!!!

This is the largest incision where the doctor went in to repair my IT band. Ewww!!!!

 

This is the top view.  If you notice writing on my knee cap, it says YES, meaning that is the correct knee on which to operate!

This is the top view. If you notice writing on my knee cap, it says YES, meaning that is the correct knee on which to operate!

Just Passing the Time…

…until my knee surgery, which is August 2.  The doctor plans to scrape behind my knee cap to clean up the arthritis, and repair my IT band.  It is by no means major surgery, and the nurse said I will be able to walk normally after about a week.  It is really more of an inconvenience than anything.  I wanted to go with my daughters to take my grandson to Holiday World, but I won’t be able to walk around, and I won’t be able to drive for several days.  I won’t be able to teach my Zumba classes for a month; I will miss my classes terribly.  My new eighth grade classroom is on the third floor of the junior/senior high, so the steps will be tricky.  That being said (written?), it’s a small price to pay to be able to run again.

Gary and I, along with other instructors from Everbody’s Fitness, are going to Atlanta the last weekend of July, and since we will be working out all day for four days in a row – yes, WORKING OUT FOR FOUR STRAIGHT DAYS – I had to schedule my surgery for after that, but before the start of school.  So, for the next three weeks, I will continue to teach Zumba, attend some classes at the gym, and attempt short runs.  I probably shouldn’t bother to try to run, but on beautiful summer days, it is what I want to do, whether it is wise or not.

Today was one of those days.  I hadn’t exercised for the last two days, and I had eaten more than my fair share of crap:  doughnuts (What else is one to eat at 6:00 a.m. during a yard sale?), Wendy’s (We were hungry again by 11:00, and Wendy’s is quick and cheap), pizza (dinner after getting ready for yard sale), fried fish, and a couple desserts after church today.  All of that was consumed in less than 48 hours!  After church, we attended a brunch for our new minister, and then I crashed on the couch for an hour.  I had been attempting to take a nap for the past two days, and it just never worked out.  Today, I was taking a nap.  Afterward, I felt like a toad.  A giganto, green, puffed-up toad.  All of the junk food weighed heavily on my belly, and as I was painting our French doors, I was contemplating exercise.  The only thing that sounded appealing was going for a run.  It was 90+ degrees, but running outside was what this bloated body needed.  Gary had a workout at the gym, so I rode in with him, turned on my favorite playlist, and took off toward the river.

We are so blessed to have such a beautiful river walk in our small town.  It is one of my favorite places to run or walk.  I had no idea how far I could run before the pain set in, so I went with no goal in mind.  I knew I had about an hour to run/walk, so I cranked up the music and ran.  When I had gotten to one mile, my knee still felt pretty good.  The problem is that even though my knee was okay, my endurance was not.  After working for four years to build up my running endurance, it is so disappointing to know that once I get the go-ahead to jump back into running after surgery, I will be starting all over.  When I had a hysterectomy two years ago, I only had to go six weeks without running, which was hard enough.  I have hardly run for the past three months, and it will be another six weeks before I can really get back into running, and that’s assuming surgery goes well.  I can say without a doubt that I will put in the time to build my strength back up.  I love running enough that even though it will be very difficult, I know the time and effort will be worth it.  I need running to relieve stress, to spend time with my best friends, and to get in the workout that best suits me.  I need running to feel strong, confident, and accomplished.  It is such a part of who I am, and I can’t imagine giving it up.

Once I reached the one mile mark, I continued on since I was still pain-free.  My knee became a bit achy after that point, but I was able to make it to about 1.6 miles before it became unbearable. I walked a couple blocks (walking doesn’t hurt at all), and then proceeded to run again.  I then set a goal of running two miles.  I ran to about 2.15 miles, and then had to stop again.  I went to 2.15 because there were several people sitting outside at Frostop, and I didn’t want to stop and walk in front of them.  If you are a non-runner, you likely think that sounds really crazy.  If you are a runner, I would bet you’ve done it before!  I planned to walk the rest of my time out, but after a little more than a half mile of walking, I wanted to run again.  I ended up running 3 miles, and even though there were walking breaks interspersed, I was thrilled to get some running in.  When Gary and I got back in the car, my temperature gauge read 93 degrees!  No wonder it was so hard!  It probably wasn’t very intelligent to run during the hottest part of the day, but that’s what runners do.  We push the limits because we can.  Or we think we can.

I will continue to try short runs just to try to stay in some type of running shape.  I am praying that this surgery does the trick, and I can spend fall and winter gaining back what I have lost.  I miss participating in races, and though I have thought about future racing opportunities, I won’t make plans for a race because that would just make it more disappointing if I am unable to run.

So, I will continue to wait, and you can bet that I will keep you posted on the progress.  The last time I had surgery and made a comeback to running (that makes it sound like I am a pro athlete), I wrote my ebook Grandma Wears a Running Skirt.  Who knows?  Perhaps if I have a lot to say, and an interesting experience, I will write another one.  Grandma Wears a Knee Brace?