Friday, October 4, 2013

Our Ego is Not Our Amigo

I hate going to the doctor. I will avoid it all costs. I would much rather embrace everything the flu has to offer than to get a shot. As a distance runner, we are able to endure quite a lot of pain. There is always a feeling of a twinge, a tweak somewhere in our my bodies. Perhaps a dull ache from yesterday's workout. In fact, I have a shmorgishborg of remedies in my medicine cabinet: Tylenol, Aleeve, Advil, Solanpas, Aspercream, Bandaids, and a number of out-of-date hot & cold pain relief patches. I have used them all. I had the answers right there in my medical treasure box. Our confidence in our abilities is able to get us very far. But as far as our confidence takes us, our ego can take us somewhere completely different. I mean, I have been running for a number of years, and I knew everything, right? Or, so I thought.

Recently, I had been suffering from hip discomfort. As usual, I dipped into my treasure box and tried to do a self-help cure. Even rolling myself on the foam roller for a brief time. Not much was helping. Throughout my running career, I have been lucky in that I have not suffered any severe injuries. So why would anything change now? It was obvious I was in pain denial and my ego was doing a happy dance. With the Chicago Marathon just three weeks away, I went ahead and continued with my training. This included bootcamp, as well as, "The Ready to Run 20 Miler." A very organized training run hosted by Chicago's local running group, CARA. This was a wonderful event, and approximately 9000 runners joined in the fun. Other than feeling a dull ache in my back, everything was going along primarily well. That is, up until mile 17 when I felt a 'sha-wobble.' Yes, I just made that word up. You know the feeling, you're running along well, your cadence has a wonderful rhythm, and the air is just so sweet. Then suddenly, your feet are turning over, turning over, turning over, turning... 'SHA-WOBBLE!' OW! What the freak was that?! That really, really, hurt. My cadence had a misstep and the dull ache in my back turned to a pinch! Many explicatives follow! My mind quickly went to a dark, dark place. This is not a door where I usually venture, yet here it was. My mind spoke to me in its death-eater's voice, "What is going on?! Really? Can I run the marathon? Will I ever run again. Is it bone degenerative disease? Am I too old for this? Is it a tear? A fracture? Do I have cancer?" Oh, yes I went there. It does seem a bit dramatic, however, when you are unaware of the situation and don't have immediate answers, your mind seems to wander, I don't know... EVERYWHERE!  Including and not limiting to fear, dread, and doom. A death eater's joy. 

I like running stronger the second half of a run. This did not happen today. I was very happy I finished, but of course, would have liked it to have gone better. I realized at this point I needed to call...dare I say it... a doctor. It is hard to ask for help. In fact, I believe it's a very ineffective word. People rarely respond to help. It's much more effective to cry out, "FIRE!" This is the situation I was now in. Yelling "FIRE! FIRE!" My new friend, Breisa, came to the rescue and referred me to Chicago Primary Sports Medicine, and it is also where I met Dr. Sarah Brown.

I was very much looking forward to meeting Dr. Brown as I had previously read her bio, and this is what her philosophy said: "Physical activity is the fountain of youth and it allows people to remain healthy and happy. It is my goal to keep people active and doing what they love."  I liked her immediately. Suddenly, I was hopeful. 

When I scheduled the appointment,  I was prepared for the usual paperwork questions: name, medical coverage, time of appointment, and so on. I did get those questions, however, I also was asked: "Runner?"  I respond,"Yes."  "Okay. Running Chicago?" I respond, "Yes...I hope." "Okay. Please, bring your running shoes with you and wear your running gear." I respond, "Running shoes? Okay!"  This wasn't the usual doctor visit I am used to seeing, but I knew this is where I needed to be and it felt very comforting.  After Dr. Brown's assistant gave her my brief history of injury, she proceeded to do a series of tests.  She asked me to jump up on one leg, twists my body, touch my toes, get on the table and push your thigh this way and that way.  She also evaluated my shoes and then said, "Well, I see nothing serious. No tears. No fractures. Possibly bursitis. I don't think it's your shoes but let's schedule a gait analysis session and time with a physical therapist." Well, of course this was all very good news, but here's the big question that every runner really wants to know. I mean let's just get down to the nitty gritty here, "CAN I RUN THE MARATHON?" In her 'I want you to run forever' voice she said, "I don't see why not." "Fantastic," I cried out. That closed door is now ajar. I can work with this! Death eaters be gone! 

Dr. Brown referred me to my next stop which was Nova Care Rehabilitation. Wearing my running shoes and apparel, I arrived early with eagerness and anticipation to get better.  I met with the physical therapist, Therese. Her demeanor was calming, compassionate, patient, and she is a very good listener. I confided in her with tears of how the pain was not the issue but my lack of range of motion. I told her that I was more interested in running Boston well than Chicago injured. So if I needed to forego this marathon, I was willing to do that. "Well, let's see what's going on before we make any decisions," she said. I like a person who has a positive plan of action. She had me do some of the same series of tests as Dr. Brown, as well as, additional exercises with more intensity. After we did a low lunge hip stretch, I felt an ah-ha moment! Actually, it was more like an "AH-OW" moment. I was elated for the pain because now we had some sort of answer. 

As I ran on the treadmill -gait analysis test-, she took pictures and a video from several different angles. We sat afterwards and discussed the outcome. "The marathon will not cause more stress or injury," she said. "Basically, it's severe tightness in the hip flexors. Massage and hip flexor exercises will due wonders. Just know, Cynthia, that this marathon will not be your best. If you are aware of that going into it, you will be fine. The goal here is to get you strong for Boston and to keep you running for the future, correct?" "YES," I concurred. She continued,"If you are going to continue running these distances, you MUST stretch and maintain these movements." So there it was. Reminding me once again how my ego is not my amigo. 

The Chicago Marathon is one of the greatest marathons out there. However nervous, I am also excited to run with new friends and see the beauty of this city. Running has always been my best friend. I want to continue to have this friendship in my life. So, I have made a conscience decision it is time I must now readjust my goal from a hopeful pr marathon to merely another training run. In order for me to be competitive for future marathons, such as Boston, I will not be racing Chicago, but I will be running Chicago. Perhaps, even walking. My ego and I are happy to say, we are okay with that. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

99 Days: Thanks Jen

Winter is "in our face" here!  I can't remember it ever being this cold.  But it is cold and it sometimes makes it very difficult to go outside. All I want are my pjs, a warm fire, and a hot cup of tea.  However, I also want to run Boston well, so off to train I go.  I really am unable to sit for too long anyway.

I found that there are a few ways that help me get out on difficult days like this one: looking forward to a big hot breakfast after a long run, creative logging-I get to color, and making and running with new friends.  Which was the case for me today.  I met Jen briefly on a group run a few weeks back, but we never had a moment to really talk.  After posting a request for anyone to tag along with me for my Saturday long run, Jen accepted the casual invite.  I was delighted.

Saturday turned out to be bitterly cold as it had been all week.  The temperature was 5 degrees but reported: Feels like -4 degrees.  They weren't kidding. I actually, in some perverse way, was excited to run.  It was, I guess, a challenge. We bundled up the best we could for 5 degrees.  I mean, how do you bundle up for 5 degrees?  I have in my mind dressing like little Randy in "A Christmas Story," will I put my arms down? How many layers are we talking here?  I had on at least four: my sports bra with it's modesty pads included. I don't usually wear the modesty pads, but they did add additional warmth to my petite friends.  Then, my Under Armour top, a fleece wicking turtle neck, and finally, my funky kelly green North Face jacket. I have always been fond of the kelly green color, addtionally, the jacket has been a treasure and, it has kept me warm many winter runs.  It is also very visible for traffic on those cloudy snow days. I had on my "Sports Hill made to wear under 35 degrees" running pants and an additional very thin running leggings underneath.  I have read that if you are warm in your running apparel before starting out, you are dressed too warmly. I wasn't. It was COLD! We reluctantly headed outside, did a few warm ups which didn't warm us up, and started up the hill chattering and shivering all along the way.  The tips of my fingers were unmovable, and our lungs were scratching for air.  At about two an half miles, we were finally gaining a higher core temperature. Or, we were just too numb to notice. I personally think it was the latter.

After settling into a groove, and except for the huffing grunts up the big Antelope hill, we talked the whole way. We talked of family, running shoes, injuries, girl business, and running in general.  Basically, we got to know each other. I found that I genuinely liked her. All that talking made us forget about the cold. Well, for a little bit. At one point, we realized we had frost on our faces.  Yep, it was cold!

It has been said many times before, that if you are not a runner, you just don't get it.  I do and will always believe that to be true. How can you explain to someone who doesn't run about running with pain, or the exhilaration you feel before, during, or after a run, or that we will brave the weather and head out no matter the conditions just because we want to run.  That no matter all the wind, snow, rain, or pain we will do this day in and day out. I can't explain it, and if you want to know, just run. All I know is that I love it, and I can't wait to do it again, and again, and again.

This was a challenging run. Not only because of the cold, but because of the very steep hills. After we finished, it felt like such an accomplishment.  This was one of my best running days to date!  I appreciated the accomplishment of the weather challenge -- I now have a new weather PR: 5 degrees --, I appreciated that Jen drove out my way to brave the cold with me, and I appreciated her kindness, and now, her friendship. We did it! Was there a doubt? Not as long as we have the support of friends.  Friends who just get it!  Eight hilly cold miles! Thanks Jen.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A 100 Days! Train & Create!

My new creative daily training log! 

I've been training so long it's hard to believe that the 2013 Boston Marathon is down to just 100 days!  So, to celebrate the occasion, I thought I would be a bit more creative journaling and logging my daily training.  It seemed like a perfect day to start. 

Hmmm..who does that lil' stick figure remind me of?

The creative bug has not hit me in a long time, and I am a bit rusty but very excited to log this way. I think it's a great motivator as well; train and create. Just like a marathon, it takes a few miles to warm up, so I'm hoping as the days go along, I will show more creativity. The ideas are already bubbling in my mind. 

XS please!

AND, I am excited at the fact to go to Michaels and buy more colorful ink pens. 
All put together in a convenient inexpensive binder.