On December 28, Alan left me for what would be almost 6 weeks. At that point I was going on over 11 months of the same injury and scared at making it that long alone with a baby and not having my one outlet which brings instant sanity. You guessed it running. I could only take so many walks with the jogging stroller or short bike rides in the apartment while my daughter took her rare hour + long naps. I was completely unsure if I’d ever get back on the ground running and started to dream without any hope about possibly doing my first race sometime this spring. This vision included racing times that would likely be minutes off my former PRs but I would be happy. Fast forward to now, I have real hopes at putting my PRs behind me before the summer hits. How did I arrive here? Am I dreaming? Has it really ended!?
From the time my hip pain started in the pregnancy and my stubborn lack of sense kicked in, it was early January in 2011 and I had over 5 months left before giving birth. Once I realized this wasn’t any old injury such as a sore hamstring that i could “run through” while a baby was putting added pressure on my ligaments as they expanded, it was too late. About 4 weeks I continued to run ignoring my coaches and drs advice, tuning into some greedy part of my brain that said it could somehow outsmart this injury by ignoring it and worst case, I’d have to sit out until giving birth and once the baby’s here I’d be back to normal. WRONG!
Well our good friend Ahrlin Bauman stepped up when he knew Alan would be gone and offered to come run with Joanie on January 1st. He didn’t realize that I was going on another 8 week cycle of minimal activity – a few mile jogs here and there with pain- and assumed I was going to run with him. He offered to push the stroller and said, Let’s get going.. I didn’t think it would be smart as this was attempt to return to running #15, but for some reason decided to just do it.
My lack of treatment definitely added to the length of the injury as I didn’t justify going to see a professional when all my time was spent with our daughter who went from a sweet little 0-3 month old to a 3.5-6 month old baby with a VERY sensitive tummy who challenged and fought every opportunity she was suppose to sleep. And let me add when you’re that little you need lots of it so just imagine how often we ran into problems. (Gun shot sound with hand motion pointed at my head). I had forgotten about running, lost my hope, and focused on mommy bootcamp training to try to mold our stubborn baby into the kind I’d read about on websites and baby books. (For the record by 7 months she has been molding into that sweet baby you read about!! Still not perfect but no current complaints!!)
It had been so long and I could still feel hip soreness. I knew at some point in time this hip thing was going to heal. It had to. That’s what bodies usually do if you let them rest and rest up I had let it! The diagnosis was unknown but likely a torn ligament attaching to my quad. I had never got an MRI because my needs were on the back burner. I knew pain from the scar tissue would be an issue but I didn’t know the difference in the feeling. All i knew is that I could never get comfortable in any position sleeping at night – always a dull throbbing pain in my hip and pubic bone. And that to me meant it was likely still very injured.
I guess I just had to wait til 2013- the first of the year when I took the risk and ran 4 miles with Ahrlin. I couldn’t believe I was really doing it! I tried to soak it up because I figured this would cost me another 10 weeks of sitting around being a person who used to be able to run. Some how the pain did not get worse when I got back.
Well fast forward to a few weeks later, I had been doing a few 3 mile runs here and there, still the same pains, but nothing worse. We arrived in Colorado to visit Alan and my body began to miraculously accept more running. I planned to meet with Kara Goucher one day for an easy run and told her “5 is my limit” and she had no idea how long I had been injured. I broke through the barrier of 5 and made it 6 miles! We lamented about the pains your body goes through for months as your hips go back to normal. Joanie was now almost 6 months and my pants were all fitting like I had never gotten pregnant. Maybe this was the time when finally everything had returned to the right place! Either way, I ended up feeling even better coming off of that 6 mile run and continued to run a record 5 days in a row (at altitude!). From there I never looked back.
I came home, and decided why not race? Many of the miles coming back were much quicker than the base stuff I had done in the past, one reason being that I wanted to feel like I was getting in a workout and I only had a mile or 3 to do it. Why not go hard from the start. With the injury I felt faster running felt actually better anyway. I signed up for Tuesday Night at the Races which our great friend Legendary Jon Marcus puts on. I ended up running a mile in 5:24 which was amazing to me at the time. The next week I split that thru the mile and ran a 6:41 2k. Next I joined my old pal Kristen Rohde on the track and Mr. Marcus (our coach) recommended a little band you put on your ankles and do some stepping around exercises before any run to get all your muscles firing so you use them the right way. It was genius and I immediately found my pain post run was reduced even further. Now I do this before any workouts.
Next I took a big step in making an appointment to see a specialist! I had seen DJ DeAustria a handful of times – he’s our family’s go-to massage guru of Portland – but he didn’t address the injury causes – just helped me with my incredibly achy muscles (which mainly was my poor poor back! It has been wrecked ever since Joanie required me to hold her which has been since her birth) . The person I can’t thank enough is PT Dr John Howell in finally burying this injury with ART, stim, and adjustments. Why did I wait so long? Well if you read this you’re thinking everything you are doing is not what any coach would recommend so obviously your mindset with returning to running and rehabbing from injury are not really the brightest. I have been adding some rehab “Myrtl” routine which is suppose to strengthen all my weak hip flexors and it may be helping but mostly just makes me really sore. If I ever want to steeple again I better get used to this stuff. Oh wait. I don’t really need to “steeple” my legs are abnormally long so it doesn’t require real hurdle form. Just a little bit bigger than normal step.
So yes its only been 3 months and 9 days since my real return to running and today marks my first run in the double digits!! Yes I made it 10.5 miles which is completely backwards knowing all the speed work and races I’ve been doing. I could not be more grateful for every opportunity I have to run without pain (which is GONE now!!!!!!) and to be able to jump back into races and workouts so quickly.
I know after you are pregnant you get like 15 months of some sort of magic in your blood volume that helps you perform better, but you also get the perspective of what “real” hard work is and that is labor and taking care of a baby every day since. Especially if your baby decides to rebel against its own good and you have to steer them back and their only response is nonstop crying. Constantly pushing a stroller while, living at altitude with good iron stores, a better mindset, months of cross training, quick weight loss due to stress of moving and a complete diet change while nursing to help a colicky baby are also things that have helped me come back strong. Yes, I am still continuing to nurse- a note to all you mamas out there wondering.. and yes its like burning the calories of another 6 mile run without moving!! So yes, I eat nonstop even though it might not look like it (even I feel skinny for me so I know I need to stay on top of this!)
I realize this entry is all over the place and I may have mentioned a bunch of this stuff on earlier blogs, but I wanted to share how I got back into becoming a healthy runner and encourage anyone who has suffered a long term injury that it will end! (I’d rather spend the time napping to recover than proofread SORRY!) When you are in the middle of it and can’t see a light in the tunnel, don’t give up hope because unless you lost a limb you will be back (And if you did lose limbs consider wheel chair racing). Just take my advice and stop going through injury denial at the onset, take a few down weeks and if you’re already so far in like I was get some treatment! By any means possible!! I also would recommend doing mental training anytime you are going out of your mind on a bike or pool running. Imagine yourself running your best race or going over a hurdle. Then when you do come back it won’t feel like you missed out.
I also have come up with a list of things that give me strength in races or workouts when I start to feel sorry for myself or want to back off on the pace. Here’s an example: Your race will be over in less than 15 minutes.. Labor lasted over 1,000 minutes and at the end you had to push a head out!
Those thoughts can be a real wake up call and normally result in me picking up the pace wincing about the latter part I mentioned. Mostly I know that every chance I can get out to test my fitness through running is a great day. I wouldn’t trade that burning in my legs or lungs for anything!