Saturday, May 23, 2015

Getting Back in the Game

Hello and happy Memorial Day!  Since it’s been awhile since my last update, I’m sure everyone has been dying to know what I’ve been up to! ;)  Last you heard I was hobbling around and trying to make the most of being on crutches after a nasty femoral neck stress fracture decided show up.  After 5 (yes, 5!) extremely long months, I was able to throw the crutches to the curb and start returning to running and back to ‘normal’.  I considered titling this post ‘How to (and Not to) Return to Sport from Injury’, as there have been many successful and many not-so-successful experiences along the way.  I’ll give you a brief low-down and then we can move on to what exciting things are next on the horizon for this girl!

Things that have gone well:
  1. AlterG:  I’ve been extremely fortunate enough to utilize Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine’s AlterG treadmill throughout my rehab.  If you’re not familiar with this amazing piece of equipment and are a runner - check it out!  The AlterG unweights you and basically allows you to run at as little as 20% of your body weight (aka letting you feel like you are flying!).  Here’s some info from their website:

The Peak of Performance
For injured athletes, it isn’t enough to just get back on their feet. The goal is to get back to their pre-injury peak condition. Incorporating an AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill® into an existing sports injury rehabilitation program will help your athletes:
  • Gain the confidence to push themselves harder during the recovery process, and see specific and quantifiable gains as they progress.
  • Maintain and develop cardiovascular conditioning without stressing injured areas
  • Train with their natural gait, and avoid developing compensatory habits
  • Achieve higher level training sooner than otherwise possible
  • Reduce the risk of re-injury after returning to the field, court, or track
As soon as I was given the ok, I started run/walk-ing on the AlterG at 60% of my body weight.  I slowly increased run time and body weight percentages until I was up to a 30 minute run at 95%.  After about 8-12 weeks of this painful and frustrating non-linear progression, this was huge!  My first outdoor run was with TerraLoco where I’ve been helping out as a coach for their ‘TNT’ Learn to Run program.  It consisted of 5 - 4 minute run/1 minute walk intervals.  I’d love to say it felt like heaven on earth, but in reality, it hurt like a son of a b...  My hip still had plenty of lingering/‘healing’ pain and I was so uneasy that I would re-injury something, I could not relax or enjoy a single moment.  However, in true Dani-fashion, my first thought upon finishing was - 12 weeks until the Med City Half Marathon, perfect amount of time to train!  
I’ve continued to use the AlterG once a week at 90% of my body weight and since this is what the famous Alberto Salazar uses for his (healthy) Olympic athletes to get in extra miles at less impact, I’m beyond grateful to have access to it as long as I need!  
Here is a video of me on it for your viewing pleasure.  (Also, can someone please submit this to a sad looking hair contest? I’d win without question.)

  1. Biking: Turns out if you don’t let a runner run, they will do anything to find an endorphin replacement.  I am so fortunate to have the world’s best triathlon coach working on getting my bike in some sort of competitive state.  This is still a big work in progress (runner’s legs do not equal biker’s legs), but after I was able to bike pain-free, I’ve been provided with enough work on the bike to keep my appetite more than satisfied.  There have been multiple times during VO2max intervals I thought I was committing suicide for sure (not exaggerating) and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen myself sweat so much in my life.  One indoor ride consisted of 2 wardrobe changes to stay even halfway dry...
    New splurge: "The Heartbreaker"
  2. Swimming: This girl has also turned part fish!  I plan to do another post of the world of swimming and how much fun I’ve been having in the pool, but apparently the 2 years of the highly competitive Cresco Community Swim Team (cough-skipping all of the practices for softball games-cough) has provided me with enough skill to almost keep up with some pretty fun, inspiring, and fast swimmers!

Things that could have gone better:
  1. Painnnnn…  As I mentioned, it look a while -about 2 months of outdoor running- to feel like I had some sort of groove back.  Most of the early runs felt forced and like there was a lot of gunk to be worked out of the gears!  
  2. Cresco Brew and Stew 5k: Although some would consider my first race back a success, but it was probably one of riskiest things I could have done.  After my 3rd outdoor run, I decided it would be a great idea to sign up for this classy little race in my hometown.  The new route passed my parent’s house and who could refuse some good costume watching and spending time with the cutest nephews in the world?  Well, my plan to ‘take it easy’ turned into not checking my watch and running a much faster of a pace plan (I’m sure my coach was a little less than impressed… :/).  However, there were also many tears of joy as I ran my little heart out past my parents house and as I crossed the finish line in first place.  And who doesn’t like winning a beer mug?  
    The gang joining the fun!

    Tears of joy.
  3. Impatience: This brings me to the last point and up to this weekend.  It has taken me a long time to even feel like a runner again.  Losing this identity has been one of the hardest things I’ve gone through with this injury and as much as I like biking and swimming, there is something about the run that just cannot be replaced.  Legs like logs and stiff joints don’t always contribute to feelings of euphoria and have led to many doubts and questioning God's plan.  Regardless of the fact that I have been just able to run (seriously, how big of gift is that?), staying positive and hopeful have been a challenge.  However, the past few weeks of running has finally felt fantastic and I’ve completely fallen in love all over again.  Despite the hard work, there is nothing that compares to prancing around in running shoes -- especially on some of the most beautiful trails in town that just happen to be less than a half a mile from my house (#suckerforprettyflowers).  

Those bluebells... *sigh*

Numerous recovery tools necessary.
With the Med-City Half-Marathon just one day away and me in nowhere near ‘race-ready’ shape and using it as more of a training run, it could be easy to feel negative and frustrated that I won’t run anywhere near my fastest time or where I’d like to get to some day.  However, I was snapped out of this mindset when I was asked by a very wise person last week - ”Dani, is that what it’s really about?”  
And the answer to that is a resounding “NO!”  Not. even. close. Another alternate title to this post could have easily been ‘A Declaration of My Love of Running’.  Why do I run and why am I running the race tomorrow?  Because I love it!  Pure and simple.  Whether it’s painful or boring, fast or slow, alone or with friends… Most days, I couldn’t ask for doing anything more.  So even though it may not be in first place, you better believe I will be running with all of my heart tomorrow.  It might rain, it might hurt, it might be miserable as I attempt to do something my body has not done in a longgg time, but I cannot wait.  Seriously, what’s more fun that running into your stomping grounds with hundreds of friends and family?  It means so much to me just have the ability to join my sister, my cousin, my friends from home, and some of my amazing Rochester friends doing one of my most favorite things in the world.  So if you see some tears running down this sentimental (probably pained) crazy face, you know it means my heart is bursting with gratitude and I’m only feeling like I am living the dream.  (Cue images of rainbows and butterflies.)
Whew… hope I didn’t lose anyone with an extreme amount of mush, but look forward to some more posts about my journey to becoming a triathlete and some fun races on the schedule!   Stay tuned... I promise they won’t involve nearly as much sap! :)