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of remedies in my medicine cabinet: Tylenol, Aleeve, Advil, Solanpas, Aspercream, Bandaids, and a number of out-of-date hot & cold pain relief patches.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.