Monday, June 8, 2015

New Post from D: When Life Throws You (Another) Curveball

She believed         SHE COULD               So she did
Yep. I've got a good curveball for you. I’m not sure exactly where to begin, but I was planning on doing a race recap post of the Med City Half-Marathon and a preview of my upcoming triathlon season.  I'll start with the first, but the second might go a little different than initially planned.
Let’s start with the good news.  The Med City Half-Marathon was a fantastic race!  As I mentioned in my previous post, I was ecstatic to be returning to the race scene after a long hiatus.  Race day morning was filled with excited jumping up and down and squeals ("It's race day!!!") and nervous energy ("Sorry, I can't answer any questions right now, I'm deciding if I need arm warmers.") . This was especially appreciated by my chauffeur (thanks Mom!) and fellow runners who spent the night (sister H and cousin L), since it was also 5am and well before we probably needed to be awake. I'm a real peach sometimes. Leading to more excitement was a text the night before from Ruth Brennan Morrey.  Without too much gushing, Ruth is one of the most inspiring women I know and an amazing professional triathlete who lives right here in Rochester.  She would be using the race's 20-mile training run option as a run for herself to get in some faster paced intervals and was wondering if we could start together.  Even though her 'training' run pace would likely be faster than my race pace, this was probably my only opportunity to keep up with RBM on the run!!!  I couldn’t pass it up!  I also hooked up with another TerraLoco coach at the expo the night before who was planning around my pace as well, so the race was shaping up to include some good company.  And good it was!  The first 3-4 miles were filled with friendly chatter with fellow runners on the course and seeing some awesome fans on the way. (Huge thanks to Lynette who came out with the best sign ever! Thank you!!)
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My plan to start conservative though the rolling hills the first half and pick it up toward the end if I felt good worked well. I stayed smooth and controlled at the start and then fed off the crowd’s energy and surprisingly found myself leading the women's race around mile 6.  After that, Ruth and I had a lot of fun confusing the lead women’s race bikers and spectators alike. With Ruth’s faster intervals and recoveries, there were more than a few ‘lead changes’ between her and I. The lead bikers (who are tasked with staying with the lead woman) had a hard time keeping track!  We eventually clued them in that Ruth was not actually competing in the half marathon, but when she remained ahead of me for miles 6-11, it appeared the lead bikers were actually with the second place woman!  Then, in true Ruth fashion, when her intervals were done with a few miles to go, she looped around back a few blocks to run with me the remainder of the race.  At this point my legs were a bit fatigued, but I was in delirious disbelief I was holding a decent pace and was staying in the lead. We ran the last few miles in and I crossed the finish line feeling strong, powered by the cheers from my mom, aunt and uncle, and lots of friends.  

More importantly, I was able to watch so many friends (and family) finish too!  We had a great group from my hometown run the race and I couldn’t have been more proud of my sister, H, for not only finishing, but beating her time goal!  Training is difficult enough as it is, but add in a double runner stroller, two adorable (but a handful) boys ages 1 and 2, a full-time job, a husband, and a filled to the brim (but impeccably organized ☺) weekly planner, and you have a lot of work to do!  She is an inspiration! (Word has it she has a race recap of her own to share soon, so stay tuned!)

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Now for the not-so-good news.  Following the race, I had some serious tightness in the bottom of my left foot. Thinking is was a tight plantar fascia, I stayed on top of stretching, rolling, and icing the rest of the day and tried to take it really easy. It thankfully felt started felling much better and I was able to get through a few short runs during the week with only minor discomfort.  I had my faithful physical therapist take a look on it Friday. He did some work on it and ok’d me to run as long as my stride wasn’t altered.  Feeling fairly confident, I headed out for my planned run that Sunday. However, about halfway through the run, the pain returned until I was sure a knife had become stuck in the bottom of my foot.  Ouch...  After limping around my house that night with major swelling, I called Mayo Sports Medicine first thing the next morning and got in for an appointment.  By the end of the day, I was fitted for a boot for a stress reaction in the navicular bone of my foot and was headed to my parents’ home in Iowa for some TLC and nephew hugs and kisses (turns out my self-diagnosis of a tight plantar fascia was a little off).  Prognosis: follow-up after 3 weeks in the boot and obviously no running... for a while.   
Someone's shoes are cuter than others...
Here's where the next piece starts. Unfortunately, I won't be able to complete my planned upcoming races and I'm heartbroken not knowing when I'll be able to run again, but that doesn't leave me without a plan. Getting through another injury will require nothing less than a well thought out strategy. If there is one thing I know about myself is that having goals and a planned path to reach them calms me and gets me through the toughest of times. And let's be honest, 3 weeks in a boot seems likes cake compared to the 3 months I spent on crutches this winter! (Having full use of your hands while walking should never taken for granted!) Going through more difficult times has also given me the knowledge that I will persevere. My plan is to take one day at a time, avoid getting caught up in the what-if's? and why agains?, and to focus on the controllables. Just what are these controllables? While I can't control the fact that this happened or the amount of time needed for healing, there are a few things that I can do to help.
1. Nutrition: To give my foot every chance of healing quickly, my focus will be on maintaining a nutrient dense and whole food intake along with a positive energy balance! Calcium, Vitamin D, protein/carbs/fat: check! Building strong bones requires optimal nutrition and a few treats! Ice cream (with a dose of Lactaid) is a good source of calcium, right?

2. Cross training: Thankfully I am able to continue to bike and swim with no pain. Active recovery is good for blood flow and for the brain! Outdoor swim season has started here in Rochester and I could not be more thankful for the Rochester ORCA's masters group who have welcomed me into their 5:30am weekday practices. Minus the brief experience with mild hypothermia one day last week when the pool heater was down, these are a blast! (Note to self: bring a wetsuit just in case this happens again -- delirium and uncontrollable shivering are not pretty...)  I really love being in the water and this group always promises a lot of laughter and fun to start my day. I'll continue swimming with some of my usual friends indoors once in a while as well -- I would miss these people way too much to give it up and plus, this gives me a chance to be spoiled with the luxury of an indoor, individual shower stall and towel I don't have to wash and carry around myself! Thankfully my co-workers haven't mentioned anything yet about my less-than-stellar appearance when I roll into work with wet hair and wrinkled pants from getting ready in a super fancy outdoor locker room.
Biking is allowing me to continue to enjoy the fresh air and the beautiful Minnesota outdoors and my coach has agreed to keep providing me some bike workouts to maintain and hopefully build upon my (meager) bike fitness. I'll also be hitting up the local YMCA for some deep water running. It'll be a little while until I'm able to utilize the AlterG treadmill, so this will keep some of my work running specific. Being able to continue to set goals in these other disciplines is a huge blessing!! It provides direction and an outlet for my frustrations.  
3. Physical therapy exercises: Yep... therabands, core work, and strength exercises will become even more of a focus. Jane Fonda, watch out. You have nothing on my mat and band routine.  All I need is a thigh master and I could be the next super star.
Just look at that enthusiasm!

4. Mindset: This is the most important factor of all. I am a firm believer in the power of positivity and practicing gratitude in every situation. Negative energy not only slows recovery, but also makes me a miserable person! Keeping a positive outlook during my running hiatus will allow me to continue to push forward until I'm eventually able to get back to training. As a true research nerd, I have found a wealth of studies that show athletes who use positive self-talk and set goals for their rehab experience "exceptional recovery".  In one study, recovery rates were found to be significantly related to a number of mental activities. It found that "fast-healers" were more likely to practice goal setting, healing mental imagery, and positive self-talk than "slow-healers"(1). Mental activities?? Sign me up! I've already downloaded a meditation app and hope to make this a regular part of my day along with as much praying as I can fit in. Setting mini rehab goals and celebrating small successes will also be key. And you better believe I'll be rewarding myself with at least a celebratory coffee when I'm able to complete the ridiculously difficult ground-to-plank pushup my physical therapist has assigned. 
For every setback, God has a major comeback. (large poster)
This doesn't mean I won't also allow myself to be angry or sad. Expressing these emotions will be essential too, but after doing so I will move on and avoid wallowing. I've read that an injury is the runner’s ultimate test in mental toughness. I'm up for the challenge and truly believe I will get through this with grace trusting that it's part of a bigger plan. God's ideas don't always seem like they make sense, but I know this is a minor blip in the big picture. Here's where gratitude comes into play. Overall, I live a pretty incredible life. I have an amazing and supportive family, great friends, a cozy home, a cute dog, and a good job. I may be down, but I am definitely not out. I intend to keep having fun and working hard through this and, just like my navicular bone, I'll come out stronger than ever.
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     Blogueira on Line
1. Ievleva L, Orlick T. Mental paths to enhanced recovery from a sport injury. In: D Pargman (Ed.), Psychological Bases of Sport Injuries. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology; 1999:199-220.