Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ironman: Not For The Faint Of Heart (Or The Unfit)

A week ago, I raced Ironman Lake Placid.  About 80 miles into the bike I knew I was in for a long day.  Whether it was mental durability or physical durability, that I was lacking, I'm not quite sure.  Either way, I eventually went into "one foot in front of the other" mode.  Luckily, in Ironman, you can be rewarded for perseverance alone.  The pro women's field got VERY spread out and I knew, barring any major catastrophe, I was probably going to hold onto the place I was in (4th).  Indeed, I did.  I was very happy to see the finish line.  

I walked away feeling pretty disappointed.  I did swim well (hello 2nd loop with AGers - I didn't even have to move my arms and I just got sucked around the lake!), but my bike was poor and that resulted in a rough run.  But as is usually the case, with some time and reflection, I saw the positives of the day.  And there were many:

1) Lake Placid is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen and one of the most iconic courses on the Ironman circuit.  And I *finally* got to do the race and be a part of it's history.  When I first started into triathlon, Placid was one of the only Ironmans in the US!  Little known fact: Kim Schwabenbauer and I actually signed up for the race in 2006, together.  Then we realized we had no idea what we were doing and riding 112 miles might be a problem.  Neither of us ended up racing that year but she went on to race Placid a few years later (and then a few times after that).  I always meant to do the race but just never got there.  Now it's going to be hard NOT to do the race every year!

See, told you it was beautiful.
2) I'm healthy.  In January my back hurt so badly I cringed at even the thought of having to get up and walk to the refrigerator.  In February it wasn't much better.  In March I still wasn't running.  It's pretty amazing to me that just a few months later I was running 26.2 miles.  I have learned over the span of 25 years of racing, to never take a healthy, able body for granted.  And I will say, even in my darkest moments last Sunday, I was still able to have a bit of perspective and be thankful that I was DOING THIS and that, as rough as it might be, it's lightyears ahead of sitting on the couch.

3) So much support.  On the course and from afar.  I am so thankful for all the people that took time to cheer, encourage and lift me up when I needed it!  I know it's cliche beyond belief, but it's also very, very true - it takes a village and my village is awesome.

So onward to Ironman Wisconsin we go!  Because, why not?  :)  Wisconsin is one of my FAVORITE races.  And I like cheese.  #nobrainer

The run from the water to transition is long.  But it's all downhill and lots of people cheer for you and you kinda feel like a rockstar.
IMLP bike course: not for the faint of heart.
IMLP run course: also not for the faint of heart.  :)
Luckily there was a lot of on course encouragement to KEEP MOVING FORWARD SHUTT!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

So...I RACED! And Then I Went To Placid To Ride Up Hills.

Yup.  The title pretty much says it all.

My friend Joe and I made the 7.5 (or 9.5, okay, it took us like 12) hour drive from Boston to Cambridge, MD for Eaglman 70.3.  Joe is about 134 years younger than me so he didn't know any of the songs on the 80s pop Pandora station.  I found this to be quite alarming.  We solved this problem by listening to the Justin Timberlake station for many, many, MANY hours straight.  This station happens to play a lot of 'N Sync.  We heard the song Girlfriend so many times that it's permanently burned into my memory.  This makes me sad.  The George Washington Bridge in NYC also makes me sad.

ANYWAY, we had a great time.  We got to Maryland and it was hot, humid and windy.  That pretty much sums up Eagleman.  I hadn't raced in 9 months.  I was afraid of all sorts of things.  Like that I forgot how to race.  That I forgot how to hurt.  That I forgot how to go hard.  And most importantly, that I forgot what order the sports go in.  It would be a shame to mess that one up.

But then the gun went off and I just knew.  Maybe my fitness isn't quite there yet but my heart and head were!  That's the more important piece of the puzzle, in my opinion.  I got out of the water 9th.  Got off the bike 4th.  And then ran into 2nd.  I was pleased as punch.  For a good result, for sure.  But also just because I GOT TO RACE.  And because it felt good.  And because I still loved it like I always have.

If it looks like I'm melting, it's because I am.

So that was that.

We drove the 10,000 hours home.  I MIGHT have had to pull over to sleep at a rest stop for 20 minutes in Connecticut at 2 am.  #powernap  But we made it.  Barely.

A few days later my roommate Marie and I loaded up the little red car and headed north (north?  or west?  I'm not good with directions...) to Lake Placid.  We are both doing IMLP and she was doing a QT2 camp while I (and another friend Lauren) did our own little training camp.  

Lake Placid is beautiful.  Absolutely breathtaking.  

Not a bad place to swim.

Also not a bad place to do work.

Annnnnd not a bad place to have fun either.

I swam the course twice, biked the course twice and ran the course as well.  It was a motivating and awesome place to train.  The weather was beautiful.  We had fun.  We stayed on top of a huge hill and I biked up that dang hill every day.  #ouch 

And now, I'm back home and back to training and regular life.  Feels good to be home.  #lifeatthe441

Friday, March 25, 2016

Anatomy Of A Sacral Stress Fracture

The last few blogs I've written have been about the emotional turmoil of injury.  Probably important to write about but enough about feelings for now!  In THIS blog, I thought I'd talk instead about the actual injury and how I've progressed thus far with it.

As soon as the doctor told me I had a sacral stress fracture, the first thing I did (obviously) was google it.  (seriously, I DID live in a time where google didn't exist, but I'm not really certain how...)  What I wanted to know was things like how long until I can run (even though the doctor gave me guidelines, I wanted to know what Dr. Google said)?  Should it hurt when I start back?  Is some pain okay?  What supplements should I take?  Do I REALLY have to stop caffeine intake for my bone to heal?

I scoured the interwebs for blogs, literature reviews, etc... for any and all information I could about having a sacral stress fracture.  Of course everyone's experience is different, but I figured if I told mine, it might help someone who, like me, is looking for information about how this all turns out.

So first, actual anatomy:

On my MRI you could see, clear as day, a fracture line down the holes on the left side.  "Holes" is the technical term, by the way.  :)  
My fracture apparently presented somewhat rare.  I didn't have any pain and then one day I went out on a run and my lower left back started to hurt.  By the end of the run it REALLY hurt.  And then for the next several weeks I couldn't walk without grimacing.  I didn't "do" anything on that run - step in a pothole or jar my back in any way.  It just started hurting.  Or did it hurt before and I ignored it?  Strong possibility.  We are conditioned, as athletes, to deal with pain and so, perhaps it was there and I just didn't "feel" it.  Regardless, on January 5th, I felt it all right!  And it hurt like @$V#@$!!

For the next couple weeks I went to PT, a chiro, I swam and biked, and I took Motrin like it was going out of style.  The pain was pretty bad.  On January 21st, the doctor called and told me that my sacrum was most definitely busted.  Boo.

Starting January 21 through Feb 8 I did nothing.  Like absolutely nothing.  I sat on the couch and tried not to gouge out my eyes or crawl up the walls.  I was successful at these things only.  But barely.

By Feb 8 (5 weeks in), I no longer had pain walking around.  This was amazing.  Stopping all activity together for 2.5 weeks is when the pain finally started to go away.  I stopped taking the Motrin on January 21 when when I found out about the stress fracture (can inhibit healing) and was also glad to get off this medication so it didn't burn a hole through the lining of my stomach.  Progress!

Feb 8 I spun easy on the bike.  I also started to swim again but all pull as kicking seemed to bother my back.  I would try a little kick in the pool and my back would get sore.  So we'd hold off for a while.  I'd try again and it would get sore again.  So we'd wait a while again.  This was somewhat baffling to me because swimming is obviously no impact and walking/biking didn't hurt so range of motion should have been there to kick.  Who knows though.  My body said no so I tried to listen.

All the while, I was doing PT exercises every day.  Weak hips are the root of all evil.  All triathletes have weak hips.  So strong hips were my goal.  As an aside, the labral tear I had/have in my left hip 2 years ago is the primary suspect in this sacral stress fracture.  (at least in my own uneducated opinion - stupid hips!)

I saw the doctor in mid February again and she gave me the go ahead to try running.  So on Feb 23 (7 weeks in), I tried a 20 minute (VERY EASY) run.  The run itself was fine but afterwards, not so much.  My back ached and got sore and hurt sitting and I got scared that I did a bad thing.  By a day or two later it was back to it's normal self but it's reaction to the run scared me enough that I didn't try running again for 2 weeks.

At the same time, I started to do a little elliptical at PT with the thought that it could break up some scar tissue and give me some range of motion back without the impact.  I didn't do much - 15-20 minutes a few times a week.

I tried running again March 9 (9 weeks in) for 15 minutes.  This time better.  It still got a little sore afterwards but not scary sore.  It was around this time that I also started a little kicking in the pool without my back getting too sore.  I went back to masters (where I NEVER pull and I swim HARD) for the first time on March 11.  Back hung in there.

I haven't talked much about riding.  It, all along, was good.  Even in the very worst stages of my back pain early on, riding felt okay.  Once I started working out again in February, riding was always something that I could do and my back wouldn't react negatively.  Even in aero position.  I got a new road bike built up during this time and I'm in LOVE with it so I rode that sucker outside about 4 times a week from late Feb up until the current time - 2-3.5 hours at a time.

Which sort of brings us to the current.  At this point, I'd say swimming and biking are pretty much back to normal.  This was the first week (12 weeks in) that I would say I didn't have any pain swimming or biking and my back didn't get sore after either.  I almost "forget" about the fracture when I'm swimming and biking.

Running at 12 weeks in, is a bit of a different story.  For the past 3 weeks, I've run 3 times a week for 15-25 minutes each.  Each time my back feels pretty good running but afterwards gets a touch sore.  My hip (labral tear hip) is also a bit grumpy right now when running, but that is not out of the ordinary.  My running mechanics feel quite off, although that's to be expected after close to 3 months of no running/very little running.  Each run feels a bit better but I would say that, even if all goes really well and smoothly, I'm looking at another month before I can actually run "train", which would be 16 weeks in.

Moral of the story, a sacral stress fracture, at least in my experience, is not the fastest healing injury around!  And as I come back, it's not without some pain and ache still in the bone and surrounding areas.  Patience is most certainly, key.  (oh goodie, my strong point!)

I hope this helps someone dealing with the same type of thing.  If you got here by googling sacral stress fracture, take heart!  You will get better!  But when in doubt, play it conservative.  And know that it's going to be a while.  But just like with all things, time heals.

Now, for some pictures.

I have to brag on one of my athletes a little.  He dealt with his own injury in the fall but still came back to run a 20 minute PR and Boston Qualifying time in his marathon a few weeks ago.  I enjoy coaching immensely because when you see hard work pay off, well, that's just a darn good feeling.

Rode the train to NYC and caught a rainbow on my way there.

Once in NYC, I got to meet and cheer on some of the amazing Smile Train athletes that were racing in the NYC half marathon.  They raise tons of money for a great cause all the while working and training and living their busy lives.  Honored to work with this great group!

Also, you should know that New Bedford, Mass has a zoo.  And that zoo has river otters.  #boom

This here is Wandar.  He's a shelter cat and he wants to be adopted!!

Masters workout the other day.  Reverse IM is the devil.  #truestory

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Healing A Cracked Sacrum, A Fractured Heart, And A Broken Head

Someone once told me that God speaks to us in two ways.  He either yells loudly (often with pain), or He softly whispers.  And that He prefers to whisper because that means we are leaning in close to Him.  If He has to yell, we've gotten pretty far off track.  You may or may not believe in that but it makes perfect sense to me.  My sacral fracture?  I was most definitely getting yelled at.  Like "you need to do some work on yourself and fix what's broken and until then, I'm taking away all your crutches."  Dang.  Guess I better get to work.

So for the past 8 weeks I've been on a little bit of a mission.  Actually, for the past FIVE-ish weeks I've been on a mission.  For the 3 weeks before that I was busy digging a hole to one of my deepest, darkest places.  I don't want to gloss over that fact.  Because I think it's good to be honest and tell it like it is.  Every time I'm injured, I go to a dark place.  Some injuries, the places are darker than others.  This injury the place was particularly dark.  Part of me feels a little ridiculous for talking about going to a dark place over a silly sports injury.  I mean come on, PERSPECTIVE!  But then part of me thinks "nope, you do not apologize for how you feel and for what is reality to you."  And then the last part of me reminds me that there's probably someone reading this that wants to know that they aren't the ONLY one that struggles and gets pretty down.  So yes, for 3-ish weeks I tried not to slip down into the muddy pit, but I did.  Then, as usual, something snapped me out of it (this time around it was some close friends - love you girls!) and I set some goals and made a plan and got motivated to fix myself.  REALLY fix myself.  As my friend told me, might as well fix your heart and your head while you're waiting for your back to heal.

I've never really spent time on improving myself (outside of swimming, biking, and running faster...I've spent COPIOUS amounts of time on that).  Finding what makes me happy, learning how to let go of the rest, learning to forgive myself (hard for anyone, let alone someone who has thrived on being extremely hard on themselves), learning to tune out all the "noise" and hone in on the still small voice inside of me.  That's hard stuff (so hard in fact, that I needed to bring in some professional help).  And it's not really fun stuff.  But, I will say, it's worthwhile stuff.  And so although I really wished I never cracked my sacrum, I guess it's good that I did.  Otherwise I wouldn't be doing this important stuff now.  It's a work in progress for sure, but I dove in head first this time.  Because I had to.  The dark places were getting darker and darker, and I didn't want to get to the point where it was so dark that I couldn't find my way back out.  It is my hope that I can make myself a whole person again, in addition to making my sacral bone fracture-free.  It's going to take a while but luckily I'm annoyingly persistent.  Here's to stubbornness like none other!

But enough of that "deep" talk!  Now I shall post pictures that will hopefully make you laugh and smile.  Because that is an important part of the healing process too.

Thankful for awesome friends who send me goodies when I'm down, including color books and nail polish and pictures and slippers and ICE CREAM (you know, for the calcium, obviously...).

And ALSO thankful for friends who invite me over and play Settler's of Catan with me!  One of my favorites.

Then there was the time we tried to play trivia & failed miserably.  I'm a JV trivia player at best.  But we laughed a lot?  :) 

House of Blues near Fenway Park.  Awesome venue.

You know it's going to be a good day when your roommate's toast smiles at you!  

Hockey game at Harvard.  Did you know that Harvard's "mascot" is a color (crimson)?  I can't get behind that.

This past weekend it was 55 degrees in February in New England.  So naturally I rode my bike.

And then the next day it was still (kinda) warm so I rode my  jazzy new road bike outside!  #goodforthesoul

Except it wasn't really THAT warm when I rode my new road bike so I was glad to have the Coeur winter cycling jacket.  Get it.  It's awesome.  And when you have it, you can ride outside in 30 degree temps no problem!

When flowers show up with your name on them, just cause.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That!

ONE of these days, I'm going to have this awesome blog post about how everything is great in life and all is moving in the right direction.  Training will be going well.  Personal life even better.  Work life also on par.

Today, however, is not that awesome blog post.


I believe where I last left off, I had just gotten back into training after bailing on IMAZ.  The holidays happened.  Lots of fun, family and food was had.  I got my workouts in every day but was largely unfocused.  I worried I didn't really want to be training this year.  I had a major heart to heart with my coach about possibly not racing pro anymore.  New Years came.  I started to get really excited for QT2 pro camp in Florida in February.  Training started to come around.  And then it seemed like GAME ON.  My head felt screwed on right for the first time in ages, and although I was still pretty unfit, my mind was firing on all cylinders.  If you can get the head right, the body will eventually come.

And then, when I was on a run about 2.5 weeks ago, my back really started to hurt.  I finished the run (which was an easy 5 miler - nothing out of the ordinary) and my back REALLY hurt.  Like knives stabbing me in my back.  Like really limping around.  Grrrrr....

I spent the next 2 weeks going to PT, ART, a chiropractor, getting Graston, etc... all with absolutely no improvement.  In fact it was starting to feel worse.  I was still doing a bit of swimming and riding as these activities didn't seem to bother it much, but running was absolutely out of the question.  Walking without LOTS of Motrin on board was also pretty much out of the question.

I started to become concerned that I might need something like a cortisone shot (cortisone is like GOLD in my book) so I went to see a sports medicine/ortho doctor (whom I randomly picked but who ended up being AWESOME).  Her first words after she examined me were "I think you have a stress fracture in your sacrum."  To which I thought "NOPE!!"  I've never had a stress fracture.  I was BARELY running (max of 35 miles a week).  BARELY training (maybe 16 or 17 hours a week).  Stress fracture not a possibility.  But of course I agreed to a MRI, which I had this past Tuesday.

Yesterday my doctor called me on my way home from the pool and informed me that, I do indeed, have a stress fracture in my sacrum.  Was clear as day on the MRI.

She continued to talk about crutches and calcium and vitamin D and bone stimulators and all sorts of things but I couldn't really listen.  All I could think is:

Big thanks to Meg and Brad Strater for introducing me to this gem.

Seriously, ain't nobody got time for that!  A stress fracture was most certainly not part of my plan.  2016 was the year that things were going to start going RIGHT.  And already, just a few weeks into the year, I was veering off course.


Am I bummed?  Absolutely.  Really bummed.  Especially because now I can't go to camp in Florida and I have to spend the entire winter in Boston (it's cold here, people!).  I absolutely hate just sitting around on the couch and that's what I have to do for the next 4 weeks while my bone knits itself back together.  I think what bums me out the MOST though is this feeling like I just can't get my act together.  SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, WHY CAN'T I GET MY SH$#$T TOGETHER?!  All moving parts going FORWARD.  That's all I ask.  But I haven't been able to achieve that for a while and I'm starting to feel major frustration.  That's just my honest, raw feeling.

I feel like this blog entry, and all my entries from the past year, are yelling quite loudly "woe is me."  Which is really the last thing I want.  I've been seriously struggling in SOME portion of my life for the past 12-13 months, this is most definitely true.  And I don't want to make it sound like it HASN'T been a struggle or paint a rosy picture like social media tends to do.  Life ain't perfect and it ain't pretty sometimes.  I'm no exception.  There have been A LOT of tears over the last year (at one point I couldn't get past 3 or 4 days in a row without tears!) and that's the honest truth.

But the honest truth is also that I haven't lost perspective, of which I'm very thankful.  I coach an awesome woman who is an ER physician, and just the other day we had a wonderful conversation about perspective.  You gain a lot of perspective working in a hospital.  Perspective is a POWERFUL, powerful thing.

I have a very small fracture (that I will admit to being EXTREMELY painful, darnit!) in my back.  I don't have cancer.  Nobody died.  The sun still rose this morning.  I have amazing friends, bosses, roommates, and family and I think they still like me (one more crying episode though and I might be voted off the island).  I still have a roof over my head and food to eat.  I have a job that I absolutely love.  I can VERY much see this picture of a very happy and fulfilling life and I'm very much headed in that direction.  Every single day.  I really am light years ahead of where I was even just 6 months ago.  The key for me, is to keep perspective and to "enjoy" the bumps/hills/mountains, on my way there.  Very cliche, but it isn't really about the end goal, it's about the journey to get there.  And to keep laughing.  I MUST keep laughing.  As powerful as perspective is, laugher is just as powerful.  So when Linsey asked me if I knew how to properly attach a coffee mug to my crutches and John asked me if this stress fracture meant snow tubing was off the list, I laughed.  Really hard.  And smiled.  It's amazing what smiling can do.

So if you need me, I'll be on the couch.  Knitting bones and writing training plans and thinking up ways to make my athletes faster.  I'll probably be watching some Netflix.  Who knows, maybe I'll even read a book (gasp!).  I promised myself I won't push this thing.  I'm REALLY going to let it heal.  I'm REALLY going to give my beaten up, stressed body a chance to REALLY fix itself.  I'll probably take a nap or 20 and get back to sleeping a lot each night...  2016, you and I aren't through just yet!

And now for some pictures.  If you actually read all the gibberish up above, you deserve at least a picture or two...

I got a SNAZZY new bike for Christmas!  AND IT'S PURPLE!  Can't wait until it warms up some and I can cruise around on this puppy.

Who, me?  

I went to the library!  Admittedly for the free wi-fi though.  Next time I go back, perhaps I'll get a book too.  :)

Clayton sandwich!  My sister and bro-in-law, at Christmas.

And my parents.  When I think of all the ups and downs we've been through.  Amazing what parents do for you.  Love you both to the ends of the earth.

Also quite amazing what friends do for you!  These ladies are simply priceless.
In other news, I thought it would be fun to get a pet otter.  My roommate did not agree.

So instead I asked for a weasel.  This was also met with disdain.

FYI, I had THE worst case scenario for this most recent MRI: closed machine WITH my head in first.  Holy claustrophobia, Batman!  I had to go to my happy place.  And promise myself M&Ms.

Hmm...train wreck?  Okay, yea...that sounds about right.  But at least I can laugh about it!  :)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

And So It Goes

So yea, turns out I didn't race Ironman Arizona.  Oops.  What happened is this: after my not-so-awesome race at Ironman Chattanooga, I was pretty pumped to get an opportunity in Arizona to redeem myself and put some of my fitness to use.  But then my body just didn't come around.  Or maybe it was my mind?  Training wasn't great but I hung in there.  Then training still wasn't great but I hung in there.  And then training STILL wasn't great and I found myself sitting outside the YMCA one morning in tears because I REALLY didn't want to swim.  Wow, not sure how I got there.

So I took a step back and bailed on Arizona and got off season off to an early start.  Not how I had it planned but this entire year hasn't exactly gone to plan, so, yea.  What I've learned is, you have to roll with the punches.

I recently watched a documentary about Team Foxcatcher (disturbing story of John DuPont's team of wrestlers) and in it, Mark Schultz comments about how, to reach your potential as an athlete, your life has to be extremely stable.  That resonated with me quite loudly.  My life has been anything BUT that for the past year.  And I think what happened in Chattanooga and following the race is, it finally all caught up with me.

I will admit that I worried that the fire to train and race wouldn't come back and that my body wouldn't ever come around again.  I spent a few weeks doing absolutely nothing.  Then a few weeks doing what I felt like and then last week, I decided to actually try to "train".  It went well.  I do indeed still love to swim, bike and run.  That's a relief!  But still, just taking it one step, one day at a time.  So far, so good.

In the mean time, I've been doing other stuff:

I met #mavicthedog.

This thing is evil and makes you really sore.

Turbo?  Yes please.

Great little spot.  To ride a bike or to watch other people ride bikes.

Fall in New England is really pretty.

Don't have to twist my arm!

There was a girls night (or two or three...).

I rode a mountain bike.

Like for real!  On hard trails!  Turns out, I'm not too good.

I went to the zoo in Greenville.  They have a giant anteater.  He is awesome.

Wait, another picture of coffee?  Patriots win, Dunks gives out free coffee.  Go Pats.  Maybe one of these days, you'll have one for the thumb, too.  

Seriously?  Heartbreaking.

I've been swimming with a great masters group and the day after Thanksgiving they did 100x100.  I did 50x100 which seemed like enough.  

I was trying to hold out to get to the cheap gas station (gas for $1.97/gallon!).  I was only sweating bullets for 15 or 20 minutes.

A nice little reminder.  I will need this.