Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?


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Motivation is hard to find sometimes

I am no closer to not resembling a couch potato than I was when I last posted after a 5k in March. I did do the 5k I’d signed up for on April 2. Despite the BLOWING SNOW through the whole race, I actually made my best time yet, but it was also my first road race (read there were no real hills). Regardless, my current strategy of running exactly once a month–at a race–is clearly working.

Not really.

But sort of.

Seriously, who does this? Not smart people, that’s for sure. A friend of mine was incredulous after I told her about the last race, “How do you even do that? Just go out and run  5k?” I think it may simply be my stubborn streak.

I decided after the last race (yes, if you’ve been reading, it’s like the fifth time I decided) that I need a plan. For a variety of reasons, I’ve stopped doing pretty much anything active for the last four months (aforementioned one race a month doesn’t count), and I know I need to get back to it. I feel the need to get back to my PT exercises now more than ever because the knee is aching on days when I do nothing. I think the down time was good for the knee for a while, but even it has had its fill.

I made it my goal this year to do one race per month–12 total. I’ve managed to do the first four by the skin of my teeth. Now, I’m going to plan a bit better. I have the next two races planned–a 5k in May and a quarter marathon trail run in June. I’ve done both distances already this year, so I’m not worried about finishing. I am, however, worried about finishing with an intact knee. I can’t blow it now after all the blood, sweat and tears that I’ve expended rehabbing it over the course of five years.

So… I spent time this past weekend putting together a plan to get back to doing my PT exercises. I also ordered a Bosu ball and helped a friend make me a slant board so that I can do some of my most important exercises at home. Not completely sure why, but actually getting to the gym feels like such a burden right now. But it doesn’t (read shouldn’t) matter because I can do nearly everything from home. I also found a good online yoga practice, so I can start doing yoga at home, too. I’ve done it twice already, and, um… I’ll be easing back in to that. I’ve lost an awful lot of strength while sitting on my butt.

I also ordered a new pair of running shoes. I tried them on in the local running store, and they felt like I was seriously walking on clouds. I couldn’t stop smiling while I was wearing them around the store. But the price was a bit steep for me, especially for a pair of shoes that might not get all that much mileage. I had to leave them in the store. But then I found them online for nearly $50 less. I ordered them immediately, but I have yet to receive them, so we’ll see if that deal was too good to be true…

I hope I’m headed in the right direction. I certainly feel more motivated than I have in a long time. Maybe it’s because spring feels like it might actually arrive this week, and that has me feeling pretty happy.

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I literally cannot help myself

I posted a week ago that I couldn’t do another race until I actually prepped for it. I’d signed up for one in June, and I thought that was plenty of time to get ready (since it’s another quarter marathon, and I’ve done two this year with no prep).

Then the very next day, I signed up for a race that happened last Saturday. I can’t help myself!

This one was only a 5k, so I felt ok about it (since it’s less than half the distance of the one I did in February), even though I haven’t run at all. It was at a state park less than an hour away from me, but I’d never been there before, so the course/terrain was unknown. I asked a friend who grew up in the area if it was hilly, and she reassured me that it was definitely not hilly. I was feeling pretty good about it the night before.

I text her after the race. “What the hell?! No effing hills? The entire park is made of hills!!” Seriously, there were more ups and downs than in the HUFF, which was more than three times as long. Up and down and up and down and up and up. It ended with a never-ending flight of stairs.

This one was rough for me. I think part of it was that the course was so unfamiliar. The others have been at a park I frequent, so I know the course very well. It was also very hilly (let’s be real, they weren’t major hills, but they felt like it to me). I was near the back of the pack for most of the race. It was only in the last mile that I was able to pass anyone. I was super happy to pass the 9-year-old running with his dad and the guy who power walked the whole thing. When I managed that, I wasn’t going to let them pass me back. No sir. I was going to finish with some dignity.

This one didn’t hurt the knee too much, but it sure made me realize I need to actually work out to get in shape. Right now, I generally resemble the shape of a couch potato.

Oh, and I signed up for another 5k the first weekend in April. I can’t be trusted.

 


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Skiing on a hill of mud

I can’t believe how quickly this year is going. It’s not starting off any slower than the last one, that’s for sure.

I did another race near the end of February. Another quarter marathon. Thanks to the melted snow and a day of rain two days before the race, most of the trail was mud. Some places were easier to run on than others. At one point, I found myself sliding down hill of mud, arms flailing, screaming/laughing and cursing just a bit. Two good things about that were 1) I didn’t fall and 2) I passed someone on my way down the hill who tried to circumvent the mud.

Woman racing through the woods.

I asked my race buddy if I could post one of her pictures, and she graciously said ok. I can’t post mine because it looks like I lost my puppy. I’m not sure I could make the same face the photographer managed to capture if I tried.

At another point during the run, we had to cross a small (read super tiny) creek that usually has only a minimal amount of water in it during the summer. This time, it had about a foot of water or so, and I didn’t want wet feet for the rest of the race (I’m not hardcore like some of the people who were actually running the race as a race). A kind, older man gallantly stood in the middle of the creek and offered me his arm to help me across. He was willing to do it because he’d already lost his shoe in the mud and was a right mess. But super nice of him. There was a woman on the other side of me who held my other hand to help. I still ended up with one wet foot. Thank goodness that was almost five miles in; I had only about 1.5 miles left.

I did better with this race than I deserved. In fact, I finished in a faster time than the last one (shaved 12 minutes off!), so I did better than I even dreamed. Due to work obligations and a lingering desire to do nothing more than curl up and watch Netflix when I get home from work, I’ve managed to run exactly four times in the last 2.5 months, including the two races. This is way off the mark for my goal to run 365 miles this year. Way off. It’s also a little dumb to be running races with no prep, especially when you’re like me and have a bum appendage to consider.

To make matters worse, not only have I not run, I have not kept up with my PT exercises or… simply going to the gym at all. This is exactly the opposite of what most people do at the advent of a new year. I guess I’m not most people. I think I needed a bit of a break from doing daily exercises just to keep my knee in check. The less I do, the less the knee hurts. That’s always been the case, but I don’t want to be a couch potato for the rest of my life. Except being a couch potato for the last two months seems to have helped. So much so, I’m considering making it my new race prep strategy.

I kid.

I realized that I cannot do another race unless I spend the time properly preparing. It’s not just because my PT sent me a dire warning in the form of an email that said, “As your PT, I feel compelled to remind you that you are putting miles on an odometer that can’t be turned back (see Ferris Bueller). So think of the long term…” It’s because I am thinking about the long term. While it was fine during the race this time, my knee hurt more than it’s hurt in a very long time for two days following the race.

Two things come to mind. One is proper planning, prep and conditioning. The other is that it would likely be a better scenario for my knee if I wasn’t packing so much extra weight. Part of the problem with taking two, almost three, months off is that you might gain weight if you don’t also alter your eating habits. Or if you stress eat. So… there’s quite a bit of work to do before June. Why June? Because that’s the next quarter marathon…


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I fell only once

This past Saturday, I completed the Winter Night Trail Marathon–Quarter Marathon (6.55 miles). And earned my first legit medal! I did get a belt buckle at the Huff, but this one was a medal. With a ribbon to hang around my neck. Now I’m wondering why I’ve done any race that doesn’t provide a medal at the end (that’s three so far with no medal: two tri’s and a Thanksgiving dash).

I think I found a new favorite hobby. To be clear, it’s collecting bling.

Medal from the Winter Night Trail Marathon 2016.

Pretty awesome addition to the (newly started) bling collection.

I had been looking forward to this race since I signed up two months ago. And it didn’t disappoint. I had a ton of fun. I think my race partner did, too, because we were already discussing the next race(s) to put on our calendars as we were running this one.

The race was at a city park that has a lot of nice trails in it, and it was close enough that I was able to scout out the trail beforehand. I ran it the wrong way during my scouting mission, though, so I was pleasantly surprised to know the hardest part wasn’t at the end like I thought.

I think the part that made me most excited was that it was at night. I had to buy a headlamp! (Then I decided I needed to practice having the headlamp as my only light, so I walked around my home with all the lights off a few times.)

The race started at 6p. Winter finally came to Indiana, so it was a cool 24 degrees during the race (way better than the following day when the high was 17). But there was very little wind, so the conditions were pretty good. The only bad part was that it had rained all day Friday, so when the freezing temps hit on Saturday, sections of the trail froze.

Some of it was frozen mud. Some of it was a layer of ice on top of the dirt. Both were slick. At one point, we came to a long downhill slope, and I heard someone up ahead of us say that it was slippery. I turned to tell my race partner that it was slippery, and I promptly fell on my ass. I had trouble getting back up because it was slick, and it was downhill. I’m glad it was at night because there were a number of other people who saw me go down. There was a chorus of, “Oh my gosh! Are you ok?!”

I was fine (except that I don’t usually do the splits, so that was kind of uncomfortable). Even if I wasn’t fine, I would have said I was fine. Color me embarrassed.

The rest of it was fairly uneventful. There were spots we had to slow waaay down to keep from slipping on the ice, and there were a few others we had to walk slowly because the trail was full of downed trees and roots.

At one point, the trail narrowed to where we weren’t comfortable passing the folks in front of us, but it turned out fine because they gave us the down low on some races with cool bling.

The hashtag for this race was #BrutallyAwesome. I think it fit for the most part. I don’t know that it was what I would call really brutal this year, but I’m not complaining!

I have a race scheduled for the end of February, and I’m looking at two for March. But now I’m quite excited because, thanks to the trio on the trail, I heard about Run the Bluegrass. Runners weave through thoroughbred farms in Lexington. How cool is that? Throw in some after-party Kentucky bourbon, and it sounds awesome!


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365 miles a year

This morning, I read that Mark Zuckerberg (aka the inventor of my biggest waste of time) had posed a physical challenge for 2016. He’s calling it “A Year of Running.” The premise is simple. Run 1 mile for every day in the year. Never mind that it’s a leap year, so there are 366 days in 2016.

I’d seen other challenges issued as the new year approached for 1,000 miles, 2,016 miles and more. Those all seemed unattainable to me.

This seems like a perfectly reasonable proposition. Not too much. Certainly something a beginner could aspire to do.

I don’t think that you have to run 1 mile every day. Or at least I can’t. I need several rest days between runs no matter the distance because I don’t want to completely anger my knee.

I like this idea. I’m going to give it a shot. Starting tomorrow.


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Whisky Tango Foxtrot

We needed a team name when we signed up to do the HUFF 50k relay, so I suggested Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Because WTF am I doing running any kind of race, especially in the middle of winter… on the trails.

If you’re in a hurry and need to get to the point of this post, the point is… I finished. Done! The final tally was just over 11 miles for each of the relay team members (which, if you do the conversion and math, is actually more than 50k) on a course that was pretty hilly (I felt like most of it was uphill) on a day that saw a high of 27 degrees (thanks, Mother Nature, for being cold for the first/last time in December).

Huff 50k relay finisher medal.

See the flame in the back? That was one of the many heaters they had trying to keep the runners warm. This medal means I totally made one of my goals this year–earning a finisher medal.

I’ve been attempting to train for this race for about 10 weeks. Even as a newbie, I knew that it wasn’t near enough time to actually train, but I also knew at some point that I would be able to finish. It was simply a matter of how long it would take me to complete the course.

Training has been tougher than I imagined. But then, I’ve never done this before, so I don’t know what I imagined it would be like to train for a race. At the same time, it’s been very exciting. I’ve been having quite a lot of fun out on the trails. I’d never really walked/hiked the trails at my favorite park; I’d only ever ridden my bike out there. So it’s all new to me. I discovered I rather like it.

The race itself was pretty fun. The day–though super cold–was sunny and beautiful. The trails were very well marked and not too muddy (I’d read about a few years where runners struggled with the mud… and the waist-deep water). I’d heard about the aid stations on this run, and they definitely did NOT disappoint. They had water (with a light frosting of ice), Gatorade, peanut butter sandwiches, M&M’s, gummy bears, pretzels and several other things I didn’t take the time to explore. At the end, they had at least 15 different kinds of homemade soups (I think; I didn’t count) and all the goodies you could want. There were homemade cookies at the finish line that were the best I’ve ever tasted (I think; I don’t usually run 11 miles before I eat cookies).

I made it the first five miles with no problems whatsoever, and I was excited to note that I was within my goal time (which was completely arbitrarily set). About mile 6.5, I realized I was getting a bit tired. OK, a lot tired. And it came on suddenly. I walked. Then I started to run again. Then, around mile 9, I glanced behind me because I could hear someone coming up to pass, but I couldn’t tell how far away they were. As I looked back over my shoulder, I had a slight misstep that made my right knee hyper extend. It wasn’t too bad–just enough that it felt like someone jabbed a stick behind my kneecap (so kind of bad). Instant swelling. And a mental, “Oh, shit. I should never have done this in the first place.” I had to walk a lot after that. I still had a decent pace, and I finished only three minutes over my goal time.

The knee was pretty sore that night and the next day, but it was back to the new normal by day two. Surprisingly (at least to me), my left quad was what hurt the most in the aftermath. I’d had a bit of trouble with the left calf during the race because I over compensate with my left leg to make up for my right, but it was the quad that hurt for days after the race. It’s cleared up now, but it made me very aware that I have a lot of learning to do as I move forward.

By forward, I mean forward to my next trail race later this month. This time, it’s only a quarter marathon (6.55 miles), but it’s at night. No worries, though. I bought a headlamp!


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Slogging (my version of running)

Slogging. Short for “slow jogging.” It’s what I actually do when I tell people I’m going on a run. I never go fast enough to legitimately call it a run, but I do go slightly faster than a fast walk.

As soon as I crossed the finish line at the Little Miami Triathlon, my tri partner and I started making plans to do the HUFF 50k trail run in December. Not sure why since I barely made it across that particular finish line… It’s fine. You can say it. I’m nuts.

I’m not going to defend myself. I tell myself I’m nuts every time I step out on to a trail to start a training run. But I’m not totally insane! I will be doing the relay version of the race. It’s 50k split three ways, so I only have to do roughly 10.8 miles. Since I did basically half that in the triathlon, I figured I could work my way up to be ready by mid-December.

I am not now nor have I ever been a runner. I don’t really know that I enjoy running all that much, but I do enjoy the feeling I get when I get to the end of a training slog. I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Not sure what, exactly, because I have nothing tangible to say I did anything at all (MapMyRun app stats aside). The only thing motivating me at this point is the finisher medal that comes with completing the race. I made it a goal to earn a finisher’s medal this year, and this is my chance to make my goal. Yes, I could have picked something a bit easier (read shorter), but that’s not really how I roll.

The tricky part to training for an actual race is how to do it without angering the knee. I sat down and hobbled together a training plan that incorporates sage wisdom (don’t start by running 5 miles at a time 5 times a week), my PT exercises (keep doing those leg presses and deadlifts) and cross-training (just keep swimming, just keep swimming). I’ve never had a training plan for running before, and I don’t have a coach now. It’s on me to figure this out, and it’s been a little rocky so far. Lots of stretching, rolling and icing that I don’t regularly do anymore. Until now anyway.

The one problem I didn’t foresee was the pain I experience in my “good” leg. Pain right down the shin and to the outside of the ankle into the foot. Problem is, you see, I don’t have a perfectly even gait when I’m walking, much less when I’m running. I put a lot (a LOT) of pressure on that leg when I’m going up/down hills, so I’m currently working on how to even out the load and not cause any real damage to my one good leg. It’s a work in progress. But it’s forward progress! I managed to do four miles on hills in under an hour last weekend. It’s not record-breaking pace, but all I’m hoping to do is complete the race. I think I can. I will.