Thursday, July 6, 2017

Keeping things interesting

Just when training seemed to be going along as well as could be expected, life throws yet another curveball my way.  Literally the day that I posted my last blog, things became a bit more interesting (again) in the saga of Marcie's running career... and not in a good way.  I'd actually typed up that blog entry the day before, and posted it after I got home from my long run for the week, which I'd done on a Wednesday due to the fact that I was doing the Mingoman triathlon that weekend.  (quick tangent--I ended up not doing the race as it was changed less than 24 hours before the race to a duathlon due to high water in the lake, and I decided along with my coach that it wasn't in my best interest to race it.)

That long run gave me two gifts, neither one of them nice.  The first was an little chafe spot between my legs that was pretty irritating, but only for a few days.  Chafe goes away fast, thankfully.  The second was the real prize... an acute case of plantar fasciitis.  About a year and a half ago, I was first introduced to this not-so-wonderful ailment when I tried out a new brand of shoes.  That time, it was in my right foot and was a bit slower to start, but once it came on, it was a presence for a good solid two months.  Either I've gotten soft, or it wasn't as severe a case the first time.  Right now, my left heel and/or arch is almost always hurting.  Thanks to the first time around, I know all of the "tricks" to treating this annoying injury.  I've got the spiky ball to roll it on, the frozen water bottles, the night splint, the compression sleeves... and my ace in the hole, my chiropractor, who is working on it twice a week.  The technique he uses (Graston) is really the only proven way to actually get rid of PF, but it's more painful than natural childbirth in my opinion.  I have to bring a towel to scream into while he does his magic, no joke. 

I was able to run through the ache of PF last time around, without having to take off more than one or two runs (and those were after a race).  It's been 15 days, and I am at the point where I am dreading my runs, as I know that my foot will hurt.  It's not warming up in the first mile or two like it did before, either.

Unfortunately, nothing is really helping with the pain (ibuprofen does dull the ache a tad).  So, as I said, either I'm being a wimp this time around, or my PF in my left foot is worse than it was in my right.  Either way, my chiropractor and my coach agree that it's time to give it a rest... a short one, at least.  We are all hoping that a week off from running will be exactly what my foot needs.  

On the positive side of things, swimming and cycling don't bother my foot in the least.  In fact, it always feels better after I ride, so I'm allowed to continue these two activities.  It's a good thing, as I have a "little" race in just over three weeks!  I've been assured by everyone that a week off from running isn't a bit deal at this point in my training, and I know this is true (although it's still hard to take time off).

Meanwhile, I will be riding most of the half-Ironman course this weekend, and I'm super excited about that.  I love long rides!  And hopefully the next time I blog, I will have awesome news about how great my foot is feeling. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summertime is tri-time

I will be the first to admit that I am incredibly lucky to have my summers off.  Yes, teachers work their @$$e$ off all year long, and deserve this time to recover (mostly mentally).  For me, though, in addition to needing the mental time off, the sport of triathlon would be utterly impossible if I worked full time during the summer... at least distance triathlon would be out of the picture.  I have no idea how others do it!

With not having a job to focus on, I am able to do two and sometimes three workouts a day.  I don't have to wake up quite as early (at least not every day) to fit in my workouts.  I can do "bricks" (back-to-back workouts such as swim-bike or bike-run).  I also have time to recover physically and mentally during the day, since I have very little to worry about (other than playing chauffeur to my kiddos and their summer activities).  

I am still working with my run coach, George, for tri season.  I have found his methods to suite me, and things continue to go swimmingly.  My training schedule changes almost weekly, but typically I swim twice a week, bike 3-4 times a week, and run 3-4 times a week.   Everything is based on minutes (instead of miles), which has been a great thing for me mentally.  I don't worry as much about how far I'm going or my pace when I am just trying to get the minutes in.

The past two weeks have been big ones, training-wise.  In addition to my other workouts, I had 135 running minutes (about 15 miles) a week ago Friday, followed by a 140 minute (40 mile) bike ride on Saturday + 2 miles of running.  This past weekend I ran 130 minutes (14 miles) on Saturday and biked 160 minutes (45 miles) + 2 miles of running on Sunday.  My body is holding up, but I am always more than ready for my Monday rest day!

Coming up this weekend is the Mingoman triathlon.  I raced in the sprint distance last year, intervalling the run as I was still in recovery mode from my stress fracture.  I also had a horrible bike leg, likely due to mechanical issues that I was unaware of.  This year, I am stoked to be back at the race, and I am doing the Olympic triathlon this year.  The swim (0.9 miles) and run (6.2 miles) are both twice as long as the sprint that I did last year, but the bike is just a few more miles.  I am most concerned with the run leg.  After a less-than-stellar 5K at the end of my sprint triathlon just over two weeks ago, I am wondering how my body will do with a 10K.  

Goals... after analyzing each part of the race, I have the following goals:

A Goal: under 2:50.  This breaks down as 28 min on the swim, 84 min on the bike, and 55 min on the run, plus 3 total minutes of transition time.  I know that the swim and bike (18 mph) are totally possible... again, it's the run that worries me.  

B Goal: under 3:00.  I got this time by saying to myself, "Well this gives me an extra 10 minutes from my A Goal" LOL.  

C Goal: Finish with a smile.  Anything can happen in the world of triathlon. ANYTHING.  Finishing is never, ever a given, and I will be grateful when I do.  And hey, it'll be a PR regardless!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Race recap: Central Ohio Multisport Festival Sprint Triathlon (6/4/17)

The sport of triathlon is kind of like running, where there are many different distances.  In running, you have the track events (most are super short) and the road races (typically 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, ultra... plus many other random distances).  In triathlon, the shortest distance is typically called a "mini" or super-sprint.  Next is sprint, then Olympic, then half-Ironman, then (full) Ironman.  The weird thing about triathlons is that with mini and sprint triathlons, the distance isn't standardized.  By that I mean the distances vary from race to race (e.g. for one race you might swim 0.3 miles and bike 10 miles, but for another you might swim 0.5 miles and bike 14 miles).  It definitely makes it hard to compare races!   For this race, the swim was 0.45 miles, the bike was 13.9 miles (was supposed to be 12.4 but due to construction, the route was changed), and the run was a 5K (3.1 miles, typical for sprint tris).  

This was my second-ever sprint triathlon.  Keep in mind, I am a relative newbie to this sport, having only done one mini (2015), one sprint and one half Ironman (2016), and a couple of indoor triathlons.  My other sprint tri was done on a super-long bike course--we went almost 22 miles!  That's almost the bike distance for Olympic triathlons!  So, I knew this would be a PR, but that wasn't my goal going into the race.  I had a C goal of finishing, a B goal of under 1:35, and an A goal of under 1:30.  I felt that my A goal was very attainable... until I tripped and fell during my 13-mile long run two days before the race!  My poor palms took the brunt of the fall.  Of course, my very first thought was "Oh NO, I have a triathlon in two days!"  I had no idea how I would be able to swim in the dirty water of Alum Creek with my hands all torn up the way they were.  Fortunately, the land of Facebook friends exists, and I got tons of advice on how to patch myself up.  Overall, my injured limbs ended up being a non-issue.  I hated how the "waterproof" tape flapped around during the swim, and I did have a little pain when I would transition from aero to the horns on the bike, but otherwise things were fine, thank goodness.

I suppose that focusing on my hands did allow me to forget about being too nervous for the actual race!  I showed up at the beach pretty early, at around 6:20. I hate to be late to anything!  
Favorite part of races... the sunrise.
I was happy to see several of my friends shortly after arriving.  The hour or so before the transition area (where we racked our bikes) closed flew by, with selfies, setting up transitions, applying numerous bandages (okay, that was just me), etc.  

Pre-race selfie with some of the MRTT gals!

There is an art to setting up transition...
The women's 39 and under sprint triathlon was set to go off at 7:48 AM, shortly after the women's 40 and over sprint race started.  I hung out with my friends on the bank of the water, making the decision to go ahead and get wet before the race started (and staying in the water as well... it was pretty chilly in the water, around 65 degrees, but I'd decided on no wet suit since I'd be in the water for such a short time).  Things were moving slowly so we didn't actually start until 7:56 AM.  I was more than ready to get the show on the road!  One of my biggest concerns was how my hands would feel in the water. My friend Tamara told me that I shouldn't worry; that adrenaline would take over.  She was exactly right--I don't remember feeling any pain at all, just those stupid bandages flapping!  

The swim portion went all right.  I never really got into a good rhythm.  It was an out-and-back, and while I had a relatively clear lane on the way out, I felt crowded on the way back (likely because I was catching up to the Olympic tri athletes who had started before us).  I also swam right into someone who was on their first length but had become lost in the water. Oops!  It happens.  I only got swam over top of one time (a huge guy doing the Olympic), and best of all, no panic attacks.  This used to be an issue for me.  Now that I've told myself I don't have all-out race the swim, it's much easier for me to relax on the opening leg.  I do think that I need to learn how to start pushing the swim a bit more, though.  I have a ton of pool speed, and it's just not translating the way I'd like for it to in the open water.  My split was a 17:52 (which includes the 30-ish seconds that it took me to run out of the water and up to the transition area.  I had a pretty fast transition (no socks helped!), and was out on the bike in 1:24.

I am happy to report that I had no issues clipping or unclipping from my bike, which is a huge victory for me!  I was able to ride in aero for almost all of the ride, which is also a big win in my book--not only because it's faster, but because it allowed me to not put weight on my hands (which I had to do when I was braking or turning).  I felt great on the bike overall.  The only negative was the fact that the roads were not closed for the race.  This was a problem on the way out, and even more so on the way back, as I encountered lines of cars at intersections and had no choice but to slow down, or in one case basically stop!  Talk about annoying, and losing momentum... I tried to not let the traffic affect me mentally, and just did what I could during the race.  No female riders passed me, although several males doing the sprint distance did (no surprise).  My average pace was 19.1 mph, which is good, but not great. I definitely feel I am capable of averaging 20 mph, especially on a closed course.  Heart rate, for some reason, was higher than it usually is on the bike (average 157). Transition two went seamlessly, and was even faster than T1 (:58).

Then, the run... oh, the run.  I am trying to think of something good to say about the 5K that ended this race.  I honestly can't think of anything.  It was over 50% trail, which as pretty much everyone knows, I just don't do.  The race started running through a grassy meadow (dirt path), and then up the side of a mountain hill through the woods.  At about the half-mile mark, we reached the top of the dam, and were at last on paved ground again.  However, that was short lived.  A half-mile later, and the road turned into a dirt path... which turned into a grassy dirt path.  I honestly had no clue how "trail-y" this run was going to be!  My calves were livid (super duper tight), and I permitted them two short walk breaks (at the water stops at mile 0.5 and at mile 2).  The run was also an out-and-back (this tri seriously should be renamed the "Out and Back Triathlon", so at mile 1.55 we turned around and headed back.  I was able again to see most of my friends.  First Jenni ("Oh crap, she's in my age group and she's only like 15 seconds back... and she's a fast runner.  There goes my 1st place AG hopes"), then Jen ("Oh double-crap, she's gonna smoke by me any time, she's such a fast runner"), then Kate ("Oh great she looks so strong, she's gonna catch me too!"), then Tracey ("She looks as bad as I feel--finally someone else in misery!").

I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to hold off Jenni, and I was right.  As we ran down the hill, with about a half-mile left, I heard her behind me.  I asked myself if I had anything more to give.  My brain and body gave me a resounding "Heck, NO!", and I told her to go ahead and pass me, that I had nothing left.  I was so happy to see the parking lot leading back to the finish!  Paved road!  I ended up finishing the 5K with a 27:13 (average pace of 8:47).  Sounds better than it actually was... definitely not the most stellar run in the world, as I'd hoped for around a 25-26.  At least the course wasn't long (I had 3.09 on my Garmin).  Heart rate was 161, which was expected due to the humidity.  Overall time was a 1:31:27 by my Garmin.

Shortly after we finished... me, Jen, Jenni and Melanie.
The total time difference between the four of us was less than 45 seconds!
Four of the top five overall females in the race.

I recovered pretty quickly once I got my medal around my race, and happily got a hamburger and chips--yes, even though it was only 9:30 AM, I was all about the food!  My friends and I chatted about the race, and I contemplated leaving before the awards ceremony.  After all, Jenni had definitely won our age group.  Why stay?  Tracey said I should hang out for a bit longer, and so I ended up being present when I heard "Women's sprint, 3rd overall, Marcie Hatfield."  What the...?!!  I was totally shocked but super thrilled.  

This picture says it all...

Beth and I staged this because I was so unprepared during the actual ceremony!

I had no idea that I was in the hunt for an overall award!  Jenni of course was 2nd, but then my friend Danielle was announced as 1st overall.  The problem?  Danielle had done the duathlon!  The du athletes had finished ahead of us.  I knew she'd transferred from the tri to the du, and informed the race director as such.  It was an easy switch, and all of a sudden I was 2nd overall.  WOW!  There were a ton of other issues with the results (including another duathlete being in the tri results, the times for the 39-under women being 1.5 minutes slower than what they actually were, and the times for the 40-over women being a good 9+ minutes slower than what they actually were).  Things are actually still up in the air.  My friends and I have been trying to figure out how the results will shake out once they figure out the timing error.  It looks like I might end up 3rd overall again (a 40+ year old *may* have beat me by 3 seconds).  I've decided not to let it bug me... especially since I expected nothing at all from this race!  

Awards!  Tracey (1st 35-39), Jen (1st 30-34), Melanie (1st 40-44), and me

My #1 take-away: I need more bike-run bricks.  That run was horrible.  I have an Olympic tri in less than three weeks, meaning I will be running a 10K after swimming just under a mile and biking almost 25 miles.  I need to be ready for that 10K!  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Races galore--a recap of sorts

It's no secret, at least not to those who are close to me, that the months of April and May are by far the busiest months of the year for me.  Between four kids in multiple spring sports and activities, plus Easter, plus birthdays for all four kids, plus end-of-the-year stuff for school for me and the kids... yeah, craziness.  Three activities ended this past weekend (only one final soccer tournament to get through!), and "birthday season" has ended, so I am starting to be able to breathe at least a bit more.  

And, of course, if I can breathe... then I can blog!  In addition to being super-busy with kids' stuff, I've been pretty busy myself.  Let's see, there were two swim meets (March 4 and April 1), a 4-mile race (March 18), a half marathon (April 23), and two 5K races (May 7 and May 21).   I think I did more "racing" in the past two months than I have in the past year!  I say "racing" because I didn't really race any of them--at least not the running events.  I don't have time to do my usual lengthy recap for each one, so I figured I'd do quickies.

The Swimming Race(s) (Master's Ohio State Championships, April 1)
I was so psyched to compete in the Master's Ohio State Championship meet!  The meet was held at The Ohio State University.  They put in an awesome new pool several years ago, but I hadn't had the chance to even see the facility.  It is truly state-of-the-art and gorgeous.  I came down with a raging case of swimmer's ear the week before the meet, as well as a stomach virus a couple of days before it.  NO fun at all!  I was happy just to be able to swim.  My times were all almost exactly the same as they were at the meet the previous month.  I had hoped to swim a bit faster, but realized my body just wasn't there.  I competed in five individual events as well as a relay, and won my age group again in all but one race, and was pretty proud of that feat.

A silly pre-race pic captured by my friend Andrew!

The Freebie Friend Race (Kinsale 4-miler, March 18)
I used a free race entry that I earned from volunteering for this race, and had zero plans at all for it.  I was still doing walk-run intervals, so when Tamara said that she'd be doing the race with her husband Ben and would definitely be doing intervals, I was thrilled.  Race buddies!  It was fun just to be back in a racing atmosphere again.  We did some running and some walking, and lots of talking (well, Tamara and I talked... Ben complained that we talked too much of course).   Overall pace was just under a 12-minute mile, which was about what I expected given that 50+% of the run was really walking.  

Tamara and me, post-race

The Half Marathon Disguised as a Long Run (Glass City Marathon, April 23)
My two best running buddies, Tamara and Allison, had been training for months for the Glass City Marathon.  In fact, most of my running buddies had spring races on the docket.  I won't lie, I felt left out much of the time.  My recovery was so painstakingly slow, and I had to do most of my runs solo, as I was still doing my prescribed intervals.   As I have mentioned, my coach gives me the total minutes I need to run each week, not the miles.  A couple of weeks before Glass City, I decided to actually calculate my mileage for the week, and was surprised to see that I had ran 29 miles.  Wow, I said to myself, that's less than how much I run when I am training for a half-marathon.  I was up to 120 minutes for my long run, and I decided to go ahead and see if my coach would allow me to do the half at Glass City.  With his permission (provided I not truly race), I went ahead and signed up, although it took me until about five days before the race before I actually hit the "register" button!  It would be my first spring race in three years.  After two years of utter disappointment due to being fully trained for marathons and then suffering stress fractures, I was scared to death to actually sign up for this race.  It ended up being a fantastic experience!  I stayed with Tamara in her mom's house in Toledo, and we had a wonderful time with our friends Jon, Amy, Audra and Allison (plus Amy's hubby and Allison's boyfriend).  The race was super-fun.  I ran the first couple of miles solo (long story--too long for this blog), then with Tamara and Allison until mile 9 when I had to turn off to finish the half.  The final 4 miles were solo again.  My final time was way faster than I anticipated (1:51:54), but I felt amazingly good the entire race.  

I'm the master of race pictures ;) 

It was a tale of two races for sure--8:20-8:30 pace for the first couple of miles, then 8:55-9:00 with Tamara and Allison, and then low 8's for my final miles by myself.  After I finished, I realized I needed another 20 minutes to get in my 120 minutes for the day, so I walked out to mile 24 and ran in with Tamara and Allison as they finished the marathon.  So great to celebrate Allison's amazing PR and first sub-4-hour marathon!

The Pace Race (Mommy Mile 5K, May 7)
I showed up at the starting line pretty unexcited.  My coach said that I should try to stick to marathon pace (8:15/mile).  I didn't know anyone else who was doing the race other than my friend Tamara, who had won me the free entry for the race.  She was planning on actually racing the event, so I knew I'd have no chance of sticking with her (seeing as her PR 5K is a full 75 seconds faster than mine!).  Tamara ended up winning the whole darn thing, and wasn't even far from her PR (which she had no plan in even attempting to reach), so it was a good thing that I didn't try to keep up LOL!  At the start, I was so excited to run into Linda, who I met through my MIT runner pals a couple of years ago.  Our mutual pal Steph had told me that Linda was going to try to PR.  When I mentioned my goal pace, she said she'd try to stick with me.  Everyone knows that I LOVE to pace other runners, so I was all in!  After a chatty first mile of 7:50 or so, I realized that Linda was in much better shape than she thought!  Miles two and three were 7:40ish and 7:20ish, with mile three spent weaving through the crowd of walkers who were still on their first lap of the two-lap course that circled a local mall.  We ended up crushing her best 5K with a 24:09, and were 9th and 10th overall females, which meant we got a Fleet Feet gift card!  Super fun!  

Linda and me, post-race... see that "PR glow" that she has?!!

The Mother-Daughter Race (Girls on the Run 5K, May 21)
My just-turned-10-year-old daughter, Charlotte, has been participating in the Girls on the Run program for the past two months.  Their culminating event was held this past Sunday.  I was excited to run as her "buddy" for the race!  We walked some, we ran some, and yes, there were tears (hers, not mine).  But we made it!  Overall time was 41:17 per my Garmin, which I think is fantastic for her first 5K.  She is uber-excited to race in a few triathlons this summer, and I am excited to cheer her on!

Charlotte and me, post-race--super proud of her!

Whew!  So many medals!  In between all of the racing, I've been making my way back training-wise.  I decided to stick with my running coach, George, through triathlon seasons.  He has experience both coaching triathletes and doing them himself, so I knew I'd be in good hands.  He is slowly building up my training time.  I am currently swimming for about 1.5 hours a week, biking for about 3 hours a week, and running for about 4 hours a week.  Those numbers will continue to increase over the next two months. I have a sprint triathlon in two weeks, an Olympic distance at the end of June, and the half Ironman at the end of July.  Yikes!  At least it is almost summer break, and I will actually be able to get in some solid training bricks and open water swimming again.  And... I will get to blog more frequently, yay!   Until then!

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Nevertheless, she persisted"

I feel like the title of this blog was made for me.  One of my strongest character traits is my inability to throw in the towel... sometimes to a fault.  I have been like this my entire life, and I'll admit, it's gotten me to where I am today.  From a state-champion age-group swimmer, to a 19-year-old single mother with college aspirations that weren't going to die, to a middle-aged oft-injured runner/triathlete, I try to meet every challenge in my path with the mindset that I can and will overcome.

Don't get me wrong... sometimes I get down.  I have asked myself, is God trying to tell me something?  Is this not what I should be doing with my life?  But ultimately, the grit and tenacity that fill my heart overshadow any doubts that surface, and I go into problem-solving mode.  It's like the song "Get Back Up Again" in the new kids' movie, Trolls.  If you haven't seen it, here is a video clip:

Especially this part...

"Oh, If something goes a little wrong
Well, you can go ahead and bring it on
'Cause if you knock-knock me over,
I will get back up again."

I WILL get back up again... doesn't matter what knocks me over!  The last time that I blogged, I told about the lemon tree that was once again blooming in my life.  I was busy trying to make lemonade from the unfortunate "injury" that had recently popped up.  I say "injury" because, still, we (myself, my doctors) are unsure if it is an injury, a condition, or WHAT to be honest actually is/was causing the pain in my quads.

I saw a new doctor, a pain management specialist at Riverside Methodist Hospital, and he looked at my MRI of my back.  Like my chiropractor and sports med doctor, he didn't really understand why I was having so much pain in the front of my legs.  The location of the anterolisthesis (slippage of the disc forward onto the vertebrae below it) in my lower back would cause pain in the back of my legs... but not in the front.  Each of the specialists who I've seen have been very confused by this.  My new doctor called me "atypical".  Umm... why, yes, yes I am LOL!  He did a right hip x-ray just to make sure there was no sign of fracture, and then ordered an EMG, which is a nerve functioning test.   We found out that my leg and lower back nerves are functioning perfectly, yay!

The downside to this is that we still really have no idea as to what caused such a severe flare up of pain in my quads and groin area.  My chiropractor did figure out that I had a misalignment/dysfunction in my pubic symphysis, and was able to successfully "pop" it back.  THAT was an interesting experience... and ever since, I haven't had  any groin/inner thigh pain.   Additionally, the pain in my quads is now at zero, which is fantastic.  So, for now, my doctors are permitting me to continue doing what I am doing.  I can, of course, call if the pain returns.  No epidural shot needed at this point (this was originally my doctor's recommendation).

So... that probably brings up the question for my readers, what AM I doing right now?

1) Walk/run intervals: My coach had me start back at 4:30 walk/:30 run intervals three times a week for 50-60 minutes each time about 4 weeks ago.  I haven't had any pain, so I've been permitted to replace 30 seconds of walking with 30 seconds of running each week, as well as gradually add in more total minutes of both.  I have worked my way up to 3:00 walk/2:00 run for a total of 225 minutes (4 sessions last week).  I'm excited that this week will finally bring equal amounts of walking and running!  It will be another 5 weeks before I am permitted to "just" run.  This painstakingly slow progression back to running is frustrating to say the least, especially when I am not experiencing any pain at all.  I am doing my best to trust in the process and stay the course.  

2) Swimming: Swimming hasn't ever caused me pain, so when I wasn't able to run (or even walk well), I turned back to the sport of my youth. For the past two months, I swam 2-3 times a week (to be honest, it was usually only two... Saturday mornings are super busy and that was always my planned third workout).  I decided to truly test the waters and entered in my first swimming competition in almost 20 years on March 4.  It was exhilarating, challenging, fun, and scary, all at once!  I won my age group in all but one race, and swam pretty close to where I figured I would be, given my level of fitness.  Of course, I am as always my own worst critic, and as soon as the meet ended, I decided I needed to swim more frequently in order to get faster!  This past week I managed to get in four workouts, and I plan on doing this for the next three weeks.  Another meet looms on April 1, and I want to be better prepared!

If only I could start this well in backstroke!

3) Strength training: I've been pretty religious about attending a weekly Body Pump (weight training) class and CXWORX (core class) at my new gym, Next Level.  I love love LOVE Body Pump, and I'm so happy to be back at a gym that offers it!  I went in for a massage from my massage guy, Brian, after a two month hiatus.  He commented on how even though I hadn't been running, I appeared more toned than I was just a couple of months ago.  I told him, that's strength training for you!  I adore feeling stronger and hope that this will help me stay injury-free in the future as well.

4) Spinning:  Oh, the class that I love to loathe!  Seriously, I have tried so very hard to enjoy spinning.  The only thing that makes it tolerable is the best spin instructor ever, Crystal at Next Level.  She's so freaking inspiring!  I still have to count down the minutes of each class.  Dare I say, though, that this past week I actually started to feel... strong?!!  I know that spinning can only help me on the bike come tri season, so I will continue to endure it.

These people look SO much happier than I ever do on the bike!

Needless to say, all running goals (marathon included) are on the back-burner for now.  I have three triathlons planned so far this summer, and may add in a fourth depending on how things go.  I also recently saw a 5K open water swim advertised for September that definitely has me interested!  

Meanwhile, I shall continue persisting.  I know no other way of life! 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The lemon tree

Everyone knows the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  I've gotta say, I have gotten pretty damn good at making lemonade over the past few years.  The injuries and setbacks that I have had to endure as a runner have been plentiful.  However, I like to think that with each one, I have learned something new.  When I first started to run, I "just" ran. No cross-training or anything.  I soon learned that my body needed more in order to function at the level that I was aiming to be at, and added in core work, lifting, etc.  When I found out that my glutes weren't firing correctly, I added in physical therapy.  I also entered the world of triathlon, which allowed me to use swimming and biking as a means to continue to strengthen my body without the impact of running.  

Yep, lots of lemonade.  But the more I think about it, life didn't give me lemons.  It gave me a freaking lemon TREE.  

Isn't she pretty?  The thing about my lemon tree, though, is that it is really, REALLY fertile.  No matter how often I pick the lemons and mix up some lemonade, more lemons keep on growing back. 

I've been a bit quiet about my newest crop of lemons, mostly because it has been a long road in figuring out exactly what was going on.  After my half-Ironman in August, I rested and then eased back into running.  Things felt good in the fall.  I adopted heart-rate training, and started slowing my runs down a bit.  I decided to try a 5K race in early December that went better than I thought it would.  I had actually started to consider training for a spring marathon. I hired a new coach to help guide me in heart-rate training and hopefully get me to the starting line healthy.  

After my 5K, I was amazed at how well I felt.  Typically my muscles hate me after I race (even a shorter distance like a 5K).  But this time, there was zero soreness. I was super-excited!  I had a teeny niggling area in my left hip area that concerned me a little bit, but it was there before the race, and I just figured I'd monitor it.  However, about 10 days after my race, my quads started to bother me.  Just a general soreness, not really pain.  The way I explained it to my friends was that it felt like I had ran a marathon.  Every day, my legs were sore, maybe a 2 or 3 on a 1-10 scale.  I couldn't understand it.  The soreness typically went away after a couple of miles of running, so I would push it away.  

After a week or so, I had to take ibuprofen to get the pain to go away.  But it worked, so I continued to run (again, nice and easy, nothing too hard).  I did call my doctor to make an appointment.  The niggling pain in my hip had turned into a bilateral pain present in both legs.  I was happy that it likely wasn't another stress fracture (it would be reallllllly odd to have bilateral stress fractures), but I was very confused as to what was wrong with me.  

I saw my doctor on December 21.  She was concerned more about my hip than anything, thinking maybe it was a stress reaction at the same site as my fracture had been.  She said my upper legs were super-tight, and recommended getting a massage.  X-rays on my hip taken that day were of course negative, so I got an MRI a few days after Christmas.  Meanwhile, after the next week or so, the pain in my legs started to increase exponentially, to more like a 5-6 pain constantly.  I started to take more ibuprofen, just to get through the day without pain.  The ibuprofen would make the pain almost disappear, which was nice.  I got a massage and it was incredibly painful.  Still thinking it was soreness, I welcomed that pain and hoped it would get my legs back to normal.  Nope.

The MRI on 12/27 showed no fracture, but some signs of moderate degenerative disc disease in my lower back, and a small tear in the labrum of my left hip. My doctor, PT and chiropractor all were convinced the pain in my legs was due to what was going on in my back.  This made no sense at all to me, but they all said that bilateral pain = back issue.   My chiropractor did x-rays that showed spondylolisthesis--a slippage of the vertebrae. We saw this on my initial x-rays with him almost 2 years ago, but it wasn't bothering me then.

Meanwhile, running was getting worse and worse.  I ran on Wednesday, January 4th and sobbed afterwards.  Ibuprofen no longer worked.  The pain no longer went away after a couple of miles. I couldn't push it away like I had been doing.  I promised my body that I would stop as long as I could get through the indoor triathlon that weekend.  I rested the next three days and then competed in the triathlon.   The run was one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and in the days that followed, even walking elicited a level 7-8 on the pain scale.  This was the last time that I ran. 

I saw my doctor again on January 11.  She ordered an MRI of my back, which took AGES to get approved.  I finally was able to have it done on January 24.  The results: pretty much what my chiropractor thought. I have anterolisthesis at L5/S1 (lowest vertebrae by the pelvis). Anterolisthesis is basically the same as spondylolisthesis--a "forward slippage of one vertebra on another".  There is also a few other things (bulging disc, foraminal narrowing--which means that the spinal nerve root is being compressed) that aren't great.  

I am lucky to have a super team treating me.  Between my brilliant chiropractor, my doctor who is totally willing to listen to me and get me through this, and my PT who knows a ton about my body and what it needs, I am in the best of hands.  My doctor would like to have me get an epidural steroid injection in my back at the site of the anterolisthesis.  This would help with the pain, and hopefully allow me to be able to run again.  Both my chiro and PT are on board, so I am just waiting for a referral to see a doctor who can do the injection.  No real time frame on this.

Meanwhile, I am allowed to do anything that DOESN'T hurt me.  Fortunately, that includes swimming, biking, spinning, lifting, and even walking.  So I am keeping very active still.  In fact, I am feeling awesome in the pool--my speed is coming back since I am in the water a few times a week now.  My back still doesn't hurt at all. I mean, AT ALL.  It's all in the legs (groin/quads on both sides)... and only when I try to run.  So, I've tried to run once since the triathlon, after about 2.5 weeks of not running.  Same pain, level 7-8, and I only ran 100 yards.  Needless to say, I'm not going to try again anytime soon.  I am really good at pushing pain, but this isn't something I feel I can safely push.

I truly hope the next time that I write this blog, it will be to say that I got the injection and that it worked, that I can run.  I miss running. I miss the endorphins that it brings like no other sport for me. I miss my running friends more than I can say right now.  This is tough.  This lemon tree... it's relentless.   But I AM NOT GIVING UP.  

Lemonade, anyone?