Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?


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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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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.


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Goals are generally good

I frequently overestimate my ability to do anything that requires two healthy knees. It’s like, if my surgeon or PT gives me a glimmer of hope or a confirmation of a small progression, I’ll take that small thing and turn it into a giant RAINBOW OF OPTIMISM. I don’t necessarily know that it’s a bad thing. Sure, I’ve overdone it before with PT exercises or physical activity because I don’t always pay attention to my own limits, but on the other hand, this optimism is largely what’s kept me going.

Now that I’ve had three weeks of positive progress, I can’t help but begin to think about all the possibilities. I’m trying to temper that with what’s realistic, but it’s so hard. Because rock climbing and snow skiing. And biking and competition.

I’m setting goals to have something meaningful to work toward. Below are some of the ideas rolling around in my head. I’ve no clue whether any of these are possible because I have a hard time visualizing my progress past the week in front of me. Meaning that I don’t exactly know what it’s going to take to reach any of these goals. I also haven’t breathed a word of these to anyone on my healthcare team because I suspect most of them are unrealistic. Nevertheless, I’m spending my time making grand plans.

Physical Therapy/Rehab Goals

Not completely sure what I can accomplish here, but I’ve been told from the get go that strength is the key to successfully rehabbing my knee. It follows, then, that the rehab goals are largely strength related.

1. Single leg press 180 lbs. Why? Because that’s the number I tested at when I did the machine test, but there’s no way that I can do that without pain right now. I’m working on just the eccentric single leg press, and I’m only at 105 lbs.

2. Single leg extension with 70 lbs. Again, that’s the test number, but I can’t get there without pain. My goal on these first two is to be able to do the full movement (full ROM) with no pain at the level I tested at in early September.

3. Use the elliptical for 30 consecutive minutes. Right now, I’ll use the elliptical for about 10 minutes to warm up, but no more. If I fully engage my quad, I’ll get a nasty spike of pain right through the middle of my knee, so I’m still compensating with my left leg. I want to be able to increase my time on the elliptical and be able to use it without pain.

4. Do 3 sets of 10 full squats. I could do these now, if I simply used my left leg. The goal is to be able to do them with my body weight equally settled through both legs. Squats are an important exercise, and one that I’ve struggled with for a long time.

5. Do a Bulgarian split squat. Just because.

6. Find some more rehab goals. These don’t seem like all that much…

Cycling Goals

I’ve admittedly not been on the bike in months. While I’m still willfully ignoring that my absence from the bike might play into improving on the rehab, I’ve made some goals for this next year.

Tour de Lou (Louisville, KY; in conjunction with Kentucky Derby) on April 26; choice of 20- or 35-mile routes
April might be a little ambitious for much more than simply getting out on my bike. But… one can hope.

Tour de Cure (Indianapolis, IN) on June 20; choice of 50k, 75k or a century
While 50k translates into only 31.0686 miles, it falls well within what I used to be able to do without even thinking about it. But I’m no longer at that level, so we’ll see. The end of June seems more realistic than the end of April. Plus, I have friends who have done this ride, and that makes me more inclined to join them.

Tour de Upland (Nashville, IN) on August 14-16; choice of 50- or 100-mile relays
This has the best description. “30 hours of cycling (road and mountain bike routes), beer, camping, and music in Nashville, IN. Plus the toughest Century in Indiana.” This one is a relay, so I could crap out and still have fun because beer.

Little Miami Triathlon (Cincinnati, OH) on October 4; 6 mi of kayaking, 5.5 mi of running and 18 mi of cycling
The running here might be the issue. Plus, the biking is mostly hills, and I don’t know how well I’ll be able to handle those. But the kayaking? I can do that! I’ve done this “triathlon” before, so I think I can do it again.

Hilly Hundred (Ellettsville, IN) on October 9-11; two days of riding approximately 50 miles each day
The description makes me nervous: “The challenging terrain is a wonderful mix of gently rolling country roads and breathtaking hills (literally).” Again, it’s the hills that might mean I can’t do this, but I should certainly be able to pedal 100 miles in a weekend by October.

Life Goals

Indoor rock climbing
Apparently, indoor rock climbing is a thing. I knew that there were places where you could go and climb walls, but I don’t think I ever realized that there are places dedicated to indoor rock climbing. A friend of mine told me about Climb Time Indy where you can get private lessons and day passes. My real goal is to go climbing “out west,” but I think this is the best first step.

Hiking at Red River Gorge
I love this place. I must go back.

Finisher’s medal
Basically, I just want to do something to earn a finisher’s medal. I’m all about the competition, but for now, I just want to finish something. I’m going to try to do this as part of a relay for the Muncie Ironman 70.3. I found two willing teammates (a swimmer and a runner) last year, but we’re kind of waiting to register until I figure out if I can actually ride. I guess this could go under the cycling goals, too.

I don’t want to set any goals that pertain to riding because I’ll be brutally disappointed if I don’t make those. I think I need to be happy with whatever I’m able to do with the horses.

That’s about it. I’ll need to work on those PT/rehab goals in order to make the others happen, but I’m very much looking forward to 2015. This year is nothing but possibility right now.


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Gypsy portrait

This is Stryker. He’s a seven-year-old Gypsy Vanner stallion. We joke about changing his name to Ferdinand because he is extremely (sometimes infuriatingly) laid back. Just like Ferdinand from the children’s story–the bull that would rather smell flowers than engage in the bull fights.

Gypsy Vanner stallion.

Someone should have scrubbed the mud off his face before snapping his picture.

I spent some quality time with Ferdinand this past weekend. We’re working on his ground training. He’s a big baby about, oh, pretty much everything. He likes to pretend that he’s not bigger than anything else on the farm and gets scared when he sees inanimate objects. It’s not his fault. He hasn’t gotten all the proper training. He’s been professionally trained under saddle and in a cart, but he hasn’t really gone too many places off the farm to learn that the world is not a scary place. It’s the lack of experience that shows up from time to time, and we’re working on that.

I tied three pie pans together with some twine–makes an awesome racket. The neighbors were probably, like, what the hell?! The lesson was brief, but it was a good lesson. It ended when I could rattle the pans on either side without him moving his feet and when he’d walk with me while I was rattling the pans. He was still tense, but it was his first lesson with the pans, so I think it went very well. He has no idea what’s coming because this was just the first in a long line of lessons I have planned for him. He’ll be “bomb-proof” eventually whether he knows it or not.

This ground work gives me something to do while I build strength and confidence in my ability to ride again.


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O summer, where art thou?

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? -Dr. Seuss

The days are getting shorter. It’s already the ninth of September. Labor Day came and went. The chill is back in the morning air. The cicadas are buzzing. All signs that summer is not long for this world. Fall will officially be upon us in less than two weeks.

Summer came and went this year like a flash flood. I’ve barely had time to enjoy the longer days, the sunshine and the general wonderful-ness of summer.

Mowgli.

Mowgli and I share the same opinion when it comes to the suggestion that winter is on its way.

Winter was so brutal this year, summer was slow to make an appearance. It was March/April before I was outside on the bike; last year, I was riding outside in January. I’ve cut back quite a bit on the cycling for the last two months as I’ve done more swimming, and now I’m desperate to fit in more rides before it’s too cold or it’s dark before I get off work. I need more time!

Don’t get me wrong. Fall is, was and will likely always be my favorite season of the year. Just the smells of fall make it the best season, but then if you acknowledge the bonfires, the hayrides, long rides through trees of red and gold, football, the pumpkins and the crispness in the air, there is just no other season that comes close to Autumn. But this year, I don’t want it to come quite so soon.