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.

A Tough Decision

I made a deal with myself. If I could run nine miles this past weekend, I would sign up for the Derby Mini. I ran nine miles. I haven’t signed up. I just keep going back and forth and back and forth. I eeked out nine miles without walking, but at a slow pace; I averaged 11-minute miles. Last year – presurgery, pre-physical therapy – Jackie and I ran ten miles at a 9:20 pace while training. That’s super-fast for me. The last half marathon I completed, I ran a 9:09 pace – that’s smokin’ fast for this grandma! Saturday as I ran, I kept telling myself that the pace didn’t matter; I just wanted to see if I could run nine miles. I told myself (obviously, I spend far too much time in conversation with myself) that should I choose to run Derby, time would not matter. It would be awesome just to finish.

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of ever being able to run 13 miles again seemed as impossible as winning the lottery. I don’t play the lottery. Saturday, it seemed within reach. My run was difficult; I still don’t have my endurance built back up. At the four mile mark I said some not-so-nice words because I couldn’t believe I had only run four miles, and still had five to go. And then I got to five, and thought Only four more to go! I thought about the cheering crowds lining the streets of Louisville, and the drunk frat boys who always stand outside their house yelling as we run past. I thought about the little kids holding their sweaty hands out for high-fives as we trot by. I thought about my husband waiting for me at the finish line, and the pride that would be in his eyes as I cross the line (he truly is an amazing source of support for me). I LOVE the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon! There are 18,000 runners, tons of crowd support, and a beautiful course. I want to be there, and I don’t want to be on the sidelines. But (here I go) what will happen when I run through Churchill Downs? Will I have heart palpitations as I remember that point last year when my knee finally gave up? Will I cry? Would it be really cool to run that particular race because I haven’t run a race since last year’s Derby mini, and I returned to that same race? Is my knee really ready or will I just reinjure it by pushing too far too soon?

Derbymini

I have an appointment with my gyno this week (TMI?), and I will ask for his opinion. While that might sound odd, the reason I go to this particular doctor is that he is a marathoner and triathlete. No, he isn’t an orthopedic doctor, but I trust his opinion. He helped me through the half I ran after my hysterectomy. Funny story…last year at my appointment, I was sitting on that lovely table in my stylish paper towel gown, and we started talking about the IronMan that Gary and I had gone to watch. Doc whips out his Iphone and shows me pictures of him in that IronMan! Awkward. After talking with him, and attempting a 10-miler this weekend, I will decide. I will have to because they have a cap on the race, and if I wait too long, I won’t get in. And then I’ll be pissed.

In other news, Tabata Bootcamp is becoming quite the popular class! Breanne is starting her next session, and had to add another group because there wasn’t enough room in one class. My crazy-early-morning class also filled up, so I will also be adding another group. I will be teaching two classes before school on Mondays and Thursdays, and one class on Wednesdays. I see some early bedtimes in my near future. I am really enjoying having my evenings free to be a mom. After school today I was able to get groceries and fix dinner before the girls came home from tennis practice. While that might be typical in your home, it isn’t in mine. And I don’t have to feel guilty about not working out because I did Tabata and ran two miles before school today. Who knows? Perhaps I can do a better job at keeping up with this blog.

These will make me faster!

These will make me faster!

By next week, I will post my decision. Just in case I register, I ordered some super-cool new Asics! Although I had planned to get the Cumulus, the Asics 2000 come in a neon yellow that I just love, so that’s what I bought. I bet they make me really fast! When my daughters will little, any time they got new shoes, they would take off running and swear that the shoes made them fast. Now, who wants to run ten miles with me Saturday? And feel free to comment if you have an opinion on the Derby.

Three Months Post-Op

I can’t believe it’s been three months since my knee surgery.  When I was still in pain, time seemed to move at a snail’s pace, but lately the weeks are flying by.  With each new week, my knee and leg feel stronger.  If I have a hard workout, I might still limp, but I don’t mind because I am so happy to have worked out.

Today I ran six miles!  I haven’t run that far in so long,; it felt awesome to be out on a gorgeous fall day, running with a good friend.  This good friend, Debbie, asked me to run a relay marathon in December, and since running a relay is on my running bucket list, I decided to try it.  Besides, having an upcoming race keeps me motivated to work runs into my busy schedule.  Debbie has only run six miles a few times, and I hadn’t since April, so this was an important run for both of us.  We started out fast – too fast – and slowed a little each mile.  Since speed was not our goal, our time did not matter.  I need to build up my endurance before I can even think about speed………….I can type that, and in my head I know it, but admittedly, on short runs I am trying to run faster.  I know it isn’t smart, but I want to get back to where I was, and I don’t want to take the long, arduous route.  I just want to be there.

Debbie and I finished strong!  We ran three miles, and then walked about four blocks, and then we ran the last three.  It was a great run!  Debbie hasn’t been running long, but I think I see a half marathon in her future.  I don’t know if she realizes how convincing I can be, but I am going to work on her.

I am thrilled to be running again.  It has become so much a part of who I am, and life without running seemed a little empty.  Running makes me feel strong; it makes me feel confident; and it makes me feel calm.  It also helps me keep my weight down, and right now I need to run about ten miles a day.  I expected to gain weight after surgery, but I also expected to lose it when I got back into my exercise routine.  That hasn’t happened.  In the four weeks that I have been back to working out five or six days a week, I haven’t lost a pound.  Not one freakin’ pound.  How is that even mathematically possible?  I know I am burning up calories; sometimes I work out two or three times a day.  I am not eating any more than I did after surgery.  I didn’t even buy Halloween candy (which I love).  It is incredibly frustrating.  This week is going to be better.   Those of you who attend my Zumba classes know that means your classes will be kick-ass!

I was reminded this week, once again, of how precious life is, and how it can change in an instant.  Embrace life.  Take care of your health, if not for yourself, do it for your family; set an example for your kids and grandkids.  Love deeply your friends and family.  And tell them.  Let the little annoyances go, and appreciate their unique personalities.  Live in the moment.  Don’t dwell on the past (you can’t change it anyway), and don’t fret about tomorrow – plan for it.  Notice God’s gifts every single day.  Hear the birds, notice the colors of fall, smell the brisk air.  Hug your kids.  Always, hug your kids.  Teach them to be kind.  I want my girls to be smart and successful, but more than anything, I want them to be kind.  I want them to love God and to be thankful for what they have.  And whatever you do, do it well.  Take every opportunity to make someone’s day, whether it be helping unload groceries, or just calling someone to say hello.  Think about who you want to be…and be that person.

Peace….

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!

 

16 Days Post-Op…Losing Patience

I am not a patient person, but it’s expected because patience runs thin on my mom’s side of our family.  It is one of my character flaws, but since I am basking in mid-life, I have just accepted it.  And so I am 16 days post-op, and recovering as expected – by the doctor; I expected a miraculous healing.  I am getting around quite well, but then I forget I just had surgery, and I do something careless,, like try to kneel or squat.

Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not Catholic.  At my post-op checkup, I was told I would not be able to kneel for three or four months.  That might not seem like a big deal, but, seriously, have you ever tried to clean a toilet without kneeling?  Wipe up a floor by bending at your waist?  Squat, you say?  Nope.  I can’t do that either.  I have forgotten I can’t do that, and have squatted down to pick something up, and then pain shoots from my kneecap to every single nerve in my hip, foot, and leg.  And then I remember I can’t squat.   Sunday I simply wanted to sit on the couch.  Sometimes I plop down with my legs underneath me.  I tried this, and again, my knee can’t bend that far back.  I made some primal  (is that a word?  Like a sound that comes from a primate?  Pretend it is.) moan causing my husband to ask what I had done.  Ugh…I just wanted to sit down without propping my leg on a pillow.

I was told I could begin to ease back into exercise, beginning with a little walking, biking, and swimming.  Honestly, I am scared.  My knee still hurts, and the thought of turning bicycle pedals makes my belly turn.  I suck at swimming, so I decided I would go for a walk with my friend and coworker Kelly.  I knew she’d bring her kids in a stroller, which would (hopefully) make her walk a little slower than normal.  We walked over two miles, and I made it, but it was hard.  To go from being able to run 13.1 miles, to barely being able to walk – slowly – two miles is slightly discouraging.  Hell, it’s downright maddening.  But it was nice to have some time in the great outdoors with my friend.  Positive…positive…positive!

Yesterday was my daughter’s first high school golf match.  I don’t like golf.  At all.  Won’t ever.  Yes, I’ve played.  Hated it.  But, being the devoted mother I am, I drove out to Christmas Lake to cheer her on.  And then I found out you cannot cheer in golf.  You may softly utter, “Good Ball’.  That little phrase doesn’t make sense to me.  What’d the ball do?  It was a good shot, good drive, nice putt.  Good ball?  I have lots to learn.  Anyway, the coach from the other team told us we could rent a cart for $5.  I considered it, but then thought I could get a little exercise, and none of the other moms were being wimpy and getting a cart, so I walked.  For three hours I walked up and down hills and stood.  That was one of the most ignorant things I’ve done in a long time (other than purchasing the wrong Cubs tickets).  I was hot; there were bugs; my knee hurt; and I was bored out of my mind.  Golf moves at a snail’s pace.  No, slower.  One hole could take 20 minutes.  By the time I got home, my knee ached like crazy, and it actually hurt all night long, which it hasn’t done since right after surgery.

Tomorrow we have another match at the same place.  And, yes, I will be there with my timid little voice, trying not to make jokes or holler, “Way to go, Babycakes!”, and driving a cart.  I will take a book to read or papers to grade, and I will follow my little princess around in a golf cart.  I will find joy in the moment (probably in the form of a Diet Mountain Dew and a candy bar).   I will rest my knee.

I am supposed to be able to run in a couple more weeks.  Today, I can’t even imagine that.   I am pretty hesitant to try much of anything.  The doctor said I won’t hurt anything, but I could slow recovery, which is just what I don’t want to do.  Getting back in shape is going to be rough.  It takes so long to get into good shape, but gosh, it goes quickly once you stop working out.  I won’t be able to teach Zumba for a few more weeks, and I really need feel good about my mobility before taking it on again.  There is so much I want to do right now.  Gary is working out often, so he’s gone a lot, and I am stuck here.  Maybe next week I’ll get brave and attempt the elliptical.  Woo hoo.  I’d have to be desperate to look forward to an elliptical!

After all is said and done, I am healthy, healing, and blessed.  I spoke with my friend Rob today, and he is currently battling cancer – and winning.  He has the best attitude, believes in the power of prayer, and has been fighting like hell.  If he can take on that challenge without complaining, I think I need to get over myself, be glad I only have a knee injury, and quit whining.  Well, I will quit whining about recovery, but will likely continue to whine about golf until mid-September.   To Rob…You keep up the good fight!   Our family, particularly Morgan and Bethany, have been blessed to have you and Angela in our lives.  We, along with countless other Prayer Warriors, will keep on praying!

Peace and Love….

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?

On Not Running

Not running sucks!  It’s as simple as that.  For the past four years, I have worked at improving as a middle-aged runner, nurtured friendships by running, maintained my weight by running, and relieved stress by…running.  After my big fail at the Derby Mini, I took two weeks off.  I had read that one shouldn’t really take more time off than that because then the IT band tightens up, and it could become worse.  I thought that was good news.  My plan was to take those two weeks, which happened to be extremely busy anyway, and then be satisfied with three to four mile runs for about six to eight weeks.  Once I was healed, which I would be, I could add miles, and then train for another half in October.

Apparently, God has other plans, which I have yet to decipher.  When will I learn?  I patiently waited my two weeks, and one Saturday morning, hit the streets.  By mile one, my knee hurt.  Crap.  By mile 1.75, it was unbearable.  I hobbled back to my car, and still thought that next time would be better.  The following Monday, I wanted to run with my friend, Jennifer.  She had been out of town for a few weeks, and we needed to catch up.  We managed three miles, but they were slow, painful, and broken up with walk breaks.  Because I had managed three miles, I was slightly encouraged.  The next day (I am persistent, if nothing else), I went out again.  It hurt.  I made it about two miles, but it hurt like hell.  I was irritated.  I finally had to give into my body.  I couldn’t keep trying when clearly it was not getting better.  The top of my foot also began to hurt, which I later found out was because of the awkward running I was doing because of the knee pain.  If I kept it up, I was really going to screw myself up.  I had to stop.  So I did.

I made the decision to take six long, and I mean terribly long, weeks off running.  This comes right when I am off school, and could do early morning and late night runs, which I LOVE!  However, if I ever want to do those runs again, I have to quit being so stubborn.  It’s been a little over a week since my decision, so since April 27, almost a month, I have run three times.  And I have already gained five pounds despite doing other workouts.  I don’t mind supplementing running with Zumba or Biggest Loser team workouts, but I dislike having to decide what I am going to do for exercise every day.  I am hopeful that since school is out, Addison and I can play tennis, ride bikes, and hit the gym.  The problem is nothing is as efficient at burning calories as running for me.  I can’t do Zumba every day.  I plan to do the Spartacus workouts on a regular basis, but am afraid that’ll soon get old.  I should go to spinning classes, but it just isn’t much fun for me (sorry to my spinning friends and husband).  In a couple weeks, we are heading to Virginia Beach to see my step-daughter and her family.  I absolutely love getting up early and running when we are there.  It looks like this year I will have to be satisfied with early-morning walks.  What a bummer.  Gary and I had also found an 8k race that was taking place while we are there, but now I know there is no way I can run five miles.  Not even close.

One thing that is helping me get through running abstinance is that when I had a hysterectomy two years ago, I couldn’t run for six weeks, and was able to come back and run a half marathon 12 weeks after surgery. As long as my knee actually does get better, I will be back.   I just hope this knee heals.  It still hurts, and deep down I fear I will have problems with it from now on.  When I began running, a coworker told me that running was really hard on the knees.  I thought ‘Not me, my knees are fine’, and I thought about all of the older people I see at races.  I truly didn’t think I would be affected.  Wrong, again.  I  might have to change the name of my blog to ‘Grandma Walks’.  How boring is that?

Look!  There's me running!

Look! There’s me running!

Not Quite What I’d Planned…

Yesterday was the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/Mini Marathon, a day we had planned for since last summer.  We had a group of 20 runners who had planned our weekend together, and most in our group were running their first half marathon.  There were at least 5-10 other runners from Tell City who would also be running.  What a great representation our small town had at a big city race.  My husband, Gary, was running the full marathon; it was so important to him to have a good run, and we were all excited for him.

Since February, I have had several illnesses/injuries.  This is unlike me; I typically have a cold or two each winter, but overall, I am pretty healthy.  Not this year.  I have had a sinus infection, the flu, a stomach virus, IT band problems, and most recently, a pretty nasty eye infection.  That infection erupted the week of the race.  Great.  Two visits to the opthalmologist. and it seemed to be under control, but not completely healed.  I had also been babying the IT issue: two visits to the orthopedic doctor, a visit to the chiropractor, tape, stretching, rolling, and Motrin.  I wanted to run this race well, and had trained for months.  I was going to run this race, even if it was with one eye and a limp.

Raceday morning I taped up, took my Motrin, put on compression socks (that I happened to find in a nice pink plaid), and felt good.  I was able to get my contacts in, which was another plus.  I did not want to run wearing my glasses.  The excitement that morning was so very motivating.  The ‘newbies’ were nervous, and anxious to get started.  We took the token photo, and all headed to our assigned corrals.  Jackie and I were in corral B, so we took our places together.  I ran my last half marathon in 1:59:43, breaking two hours for the first time.  My goal for Derby was 1:58, which meant I needed a 9:00 pace.  The National Anthem was sung, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the gun when off.  I felt great!  I was running an 8:45 pace, and felt I would be able to maintain that pace.  It was also enough cushion that if I slowed later, I could still meet my goal.  With about 16,000 runners, the momentum helped move me along.  I had strategically planned my playlist, and felt energized by my music.

When I hit the four mile mark, my knee began to hurt, but it was tolerable.  The further I went, the worse the pain.  I started to think that I would not be finishing the race, but I was still maintaining my pace, and I just kept praying.  I just wanted the pain to stop.  I had already calculated that if I maintained an 8:45 pace, I would finish in 1:55, which would be incredible.  Please, God, just make the pain go away.  It didn’t.  It continued to worsen.  As we descended down a tunnel into Churchill Downs, the downhill caused pain that stopped me in my tracks.  I walked through the tunnel, and then tried to run again as we came out into the infield.  I couldn’t run.  I walked a little, and then tried to run again.  Pain ripped through my knee.  I thought to myself This is stupid.  You have to stop.  That’s it.  I can’t do it.  I can’t do it.  Dammit, I can’t do it.  I was done.  I had run eight miles, and could go no further.  As the other runners trotted by, the tears began.  I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get back downtown, but I knew I couldn’t walk five miles.  I had told our friend, Bob Walsh, that I might have to call him to come get me, but I did not want to make that call.

I found a police officer, and asked how I could get back.  He said he could have EMS take me, but I was not about to do that.  I wasn’t dying.  He told me where the best place to meet Bob would be, and, of course, it was about 1/2 mile walk.  I began walking away from the race.  As I walked, I cried.  The months of training were wasted.  I was so disappointed.  I was not going to meet my goal, not going to get a medal, and I would not be there to see all of my friends finish.  And when I did see them, I needed to be excited for them, and I knew how hard that would be because I was so damn upset.  I began to let people know that I had stopped because I knew they were tracking my progress.  I finally made it to a corner where I would meet Bob.  Because of all the streets being closed, he had to take the long way around, and it took about an hour and a half from the time I first called, until he arrived.  I just sat on the corner by myself, looking quite out of place in my pink and black running outfit and a bib number plastered to my front.

Bob took me back to the hotel, and by that time, I could hardly walk.  I limped up to my room, stopping every few steps as pain stabbed my knee, with tears streaming down my face.  I just wanted to crawl in the bed and stay there.  If you are a non-runner, it might seem a bit over-dramatic.  If you’re a runner, you get it.  Rather than crawl in bed, I had to change into warm clothes, and get back to the course.  I still had friends to support, and my husband to cheer on.  I made my way back to the race area, but it took quite awhile because walking was painful.  As I ran into friends along the way, I tried to keep my composure while congratulating them (I didn’t do very well).  I finally made it to the area where I had planned to wait for Gary.  I kept getting my text alerts as my friends finished.  They were all doing so well.

I am so very proud of all of the Tell City runners!  Every single first-timer met his or her goals, and just did an amazing job.  I think they are all hooked!  Others knocked time off their previous runs.  As I spent time with my friends who were staying to wait for Gary, their enthusiasm began to cheer me up.  As I read the messages from people on Facebook, I felt so blessed that I had so much support.  The kindness was overwhelming.  I also received this great text from my daughter Morgan:  You are finishing through all the people you coached – that’s your real success.  She has no idea what those words meant.  This wasn’t my day.  My friend Breanne said that God had another purpose for me that day.  I guess He did.  I do believe there are lessons in every circumstance.  And, though I am still disappointed, I will not stop.  I am going to take some time to heal this stupid IT band, and am already planning for a fall half marathon.  I will run the St. Louis Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon on October 27.  And now that I know I can run an 8:45 pace, that will be my goal.

What about Gary?  Well, he is incredible.  Truly.  He finished a full marathon in under six hours, which was his goal.  I was able to run the final block to the finish line with him (Gosh, it hurt like hell!), but I would not trade that moment with my husband for anything.  He has an artificial knee, and was told he could not run on it.  Really?  He just did.  I am so proud of his hard work, dedication, and determination.

We’re both moving pretty slowly today.  He is sore and tired, and my knee hurts.  Non-runners might ask why on earth we’d put ourselves through all of this.  Sometimes I ask myself the same question.  But, I will continue to run, to train, and to try to meet goals.  I can’t imagine life without running.  It has provided meaning; it has provided friendships that are unbeatable; and it has made me a stronger person.  So, I will be back.  I will continue to run races.  And I will continue to challenge myself.  Just not today.  Today, I’m taking a nap.

I cannot end this blog without congratulating my wonderful running team:  Jackie, Kassi, Kathy, Breanne, Tyler, Breanne, Blair, Danielle, Heidi, Derrick, Kara, Jennifer, Lisa, Tomi Jo, Krystal, Debbie, and Gary………….I am so incredibly proud to call all of you my friends!  Thanks for sharing this weekend with me.  I hope it’s the first of many.  St. Louis, anyone?

And, Bob Walsh, thanks for saving my butt!  I honestly don’t know what I would have done without you.  Sherry, Cathy, Caroline, and Scott, thanks for coming and supporting all of us!  Chris Hollinden, thank you so very much for coming to the race, running a few miles with Gary, and helping keep him on track to meet his goal.  And all of you who posted such kind words or texted me, Thank You!

For the Love of Running

Along with most US citizens, my heart has been with everyone who was affected by the bombing at the Boston Marathon Monday.  As a runner, I ached for those runners who had family members – who were there to support them – injured or killed.  I was so sorry for the over 4000 runners who didn’t cross that finish line.  Their dreams were stolen by a couple of thugs.  The countless hours of training they had put in, seemingly wasted.  Time away from families so they could log miles…all for naught.

One of my favorite aspects of being a runner is that I belong to an incredible community.  Runners are truly supportive of one another.  It doesn’t matter if one runs a 6 minute pace or a 13 minute pace, we are all runners.  We have all had fantastic runs that we can’t wait to post on Facebook, and painful runs that make us think we will never run again. We cheer just as loudly for the last person to cross the finish line, as we did for the first.   We all watched in disbelief as two explosions rocked the finish line at the ultimate marathon, The Boston Marathon.  While I will never run Boston, I feel a connection with those who are able to, for they represent the epitome of running.  When they are hurt, I hurt.  I might not run Boston, or any other marathon, but I know what it feels like to run my race with the crowds cheering, and I know what it feels like to cross the finish line, meeting a goal I set for myself.  I know how special it is to have family and friends on the sidelines, clapping and yelling as I run past.  I do not know what it is like to have evil show up at a race.  And, dear God, I pray I never do.

I assume (and have been told) that non-runners don’t really ‘get’ us.  Why do we love running?  I actually wondered that myself this morning as I drove home after my 8-miler.  I was having a bad allergy day; my left eye was red, swollen, and dripping.  I have struggled with an IT band injury for months, and it hurt beginning at mile 5 today.  I have had a hip injury, stomach issues, and terribly sore muscles.  I have put in hours upon hours of time, just to run.  Life without running?  It would suck.  It’s what I love.  I ran with a good friend this morning, and the miles passed quickly as we caught up with one another’s lives.  I was able to enjoy the beautiful morning.  Running makes me happy.  It cures a bad mood, celebrates accomplishments, and feeds the body and soul.  It’s time with friends, time alone, and time for reflection.  Running is exhausting and invigorating, frustrating and fulfilling.

This week when I visited my orthopedic doctor, he told me my IT band problem could cause me to have to stop running.  Completely.  Those words cause panic.  Not run?  But all of my friends run.  What would I do if I couldn’t run?  I enjoy other forms of exercise, but nothing as much as running.   It is such a huge part of my life; I cannot even imagine not running.  Sorry, Doc, I can’t stop.  I will do whatever it takes to continue.

One week from today, 15 of my friends, my husband, and I will be running the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon (my husband is running the full).  For many of my friends, it will be their first 13.1.  While I am excited for my run, I am even more excited for them.  I know what it feels like to complete 13.1 miles in a race, and I want that experience for them.  I can’t wait to hear about their runs, and to hear the excitement and pride in their voices when they say “I did it!”  And I can just about guarantee they will all do it again.  We will all run for Boston:  for those who didn’t get to finish their races, for those who were injured or killed, and for those whose lives were forever changed.  We will run because we will not let the evil in this world steal what we love to do.  They will not win.

To Our Running Group:  Kick Ass!  You will all do great!  I have so much confidence in each of you.  You have done the work; it’s almost time to reap the rewards (which happens to be a highly-valued race medal).  Best of luck, Lisa, Kathy, Kassi, Jackie, Breanne, Tyler, Breanne, Blair, Heidi, Derrick, Debbie, Danielle, Patrick, Jennifer, and Kara!!

To My Husband:  I hope you know how proud I am of you!  A marathon?  On an artificial knee?  You rock!  I wish you the very best, and can’t wait to meet you at the finish.  You are an inspiration to so many, and I am blessed to be your wife!