Friday, May 30, 2014

And so it goes...

Today was supposed to be THE DAY. The day that I had my follow up xray, that I get good news, the fracture has healed, and I get to leave the boot behind. I was so looking forward to my run tomorrow. I had already planned my weekend. 3-4 miles both days, and a bike ride on Sunday. In my mind, I imagined the photos I'd snap for the blog and my facebook page! Me in my running shoes, me running! Throwing away the boot!

Well, of course, none of that happened. Except that I did get my xray. This morning, I was all optimistic. I put the boot on and slipped my left shoe into my bag when I left for work. My first patient wasn't scheduled until 840am, so I headed up to the radiology department and joked with the tech that I would be the oldest patient she saw all day. Since I work in pediatrics, my joke wasn't a stretch. After she took the films, I ran into the radiologist, who offered to review my pictures with me. I was thrilled. I gave him a brief history of my injury, my chronic pain in the big toe, and he looked at the images.

He turned to me, and told me he didn't have good news for me. Even I before he told me, I looked at the view of my big toe joint and could see that the fracture hadn't healed. I frowned. He looked more closely at the joint, and pointed out what he said was also an old fracture or a bony cyst. He also found a fracture in one of the sesamoid bones--he wasn't sure how old the fracture was, but that really explained a lot of the pain I've been having. Basically, there were lots of bad things going on with my foot. We talked for a while, and he gave me his recommendations. The boot was going nowhere. He suggested I see an orthopedic surgeon to discuss my options. He also recommended a bone density study. Later, when the sports med doc called me, he concurred with everything the radiologist told me.

I went back down to my clinic and told everyone the news. I do work with the nicest people, and I got lots of sympathy. I felt really sad. But I still had my job to do, patients to see. I went in to see my first patient of the day. And another. And another. All of them asked about my foot. The kids made me laugh.

The best part about working in pediatrics is that you can't feel too bad about your problems for very long. The kids, by and large, will make you smile. And really, to keep it in perspective, a broken foot? While for me, a runner, it sucks, I see kids with so many serious health problems that being with them helps me minimize my pain. It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are surrounded by sick kids. Who mostly have the best attitudes. Because they're kids, and they don't know any better!

At lunch, one of my partners stopped by my office to talk with me about my foot. He told me the radiologist came by to drop off a CD of my xrays to take to the orthopedic surgeon. "Let's see that xray", he told me.

I love this guy. He's in his mid 60s, an old hippy with a gray ponytail and a heart of gold. He loves to bike and camp, and often stops me in the hall to have some deep, philosophical discussion about the state of medicine or about some odd situation he or I encountered that day in the clinic. We opened up the xray, and he was much more optimistic about the fracture than the radiologist.

"It's healing," he said. "It just needs more time." Those words warmed my heart. We talked a lot about cycling, and he recommended that I get cycling shoes and clips. He told me it would help my mechanics and take some of the load off my feet. We talked about me seeing the orthopod, and he thought he knew him, thought he would be a good guy for me to see.

He also gave me a backhanded compliment. "I don't know if it is stubborness or what", he said, "but that you ran on that foot for so long without getting it checked...well, it shows a lot of toughness. You're no wimp," he said.

Guts or glory? You know what? Running did this to me, but it did this for me. It made me strong. I'm really grateful for that. Will this strength sustain me through yet another injury and recovery period? Let's see what I'm made of. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Getting back to nature in the suburbs

It's no secret that living in suburbia isn't pretty. We live here for our jobs, quality schools, and other amenities. But most suburbs were built for cars, not for fitness minded people. Newer suburban areas are more conscious of this, and have begun building more "green space" with fitness paths. But even those fitness paths are limited to short routes, and you often have to drive to get there. Kind of defeats the purpose of a "fitness path" if you have to take a car to get there! Finding a safe place to run or bike can be a big challenge. What's a runner or cycler to do?

It's hard to believe at the end of this beautiful trail is a busy suburban road!

In the area where I live, the county forest preserve district has set aside land for public use. There are quite a few forest preserves and they are beautiful, truly an oasis in a very congested area. Luckily for me, I can access some of these preserves riding my bike from my house. I do have to travel on suburban roads to get there, but once there I take in the beauty of the unspoiled green space. I spend a lot of time on those paths, mostly cycling. Running in the forest preserve has inherent danger because along with the beauty and getting back to nature, they are a bit isolated. When running there, I find myself looking over my shoulder constantly, worrying about someone chasing me. It isn't the most relaxing experience. Even this morning, on my bike, I passed a creepy guy walking on the path, giving me the once over. Ewww! Really, dude, do you think I'm interested in you? It reminds me of a commercial back in the 80s for a gadget called "Mr Microphone", where these guys in a car call out to a girl: "hey good lookin', we'll be back to pick you up later". I know I'm dating myself here, but guys will never get it--honking, smirking, winking--it just doesn't work for us gals. Even us old gals.

Anyways, at the point in which I enter one particular forest preserve there is a parking lot. Sometimes there are cars parked there; either head first or backed in. Our local forest preserves have a reputation for being a place for where you can find one of 2 things, if you are looking for it: drugs and/or for men, an "encounter" with a member of the same sex. The way you park your car in certain parking lots indicates what you are looking for. Pull your car straight in and supposedly you can buy drugs. Back your car in, and just wait for your date to take you to the woods. I'm not making this up. One time I was riding down the path near this parking lot and a middle aged sweaty man came out of the woods, alone, smiling and whistling to himself. I thought it was a little weird at the time, until I learned about the parking lot rules. It's more than suburban legend. There are plenty of threads on the internet discussing this, and it isn't isolated to this particular forest preserve. I guess the good thing for me, as a woman and someone who doesn't use drugs, is that neither situation concerns me. I just breeze through the parking lot on my bicycle, looking straight ahead, no eye contact with anyone sitting in their cars.

The forest preserve district has been doing a better job with our tax dollars over the past couple of years. At the various preserves that I ride through, they've upgraded the paths and cleaned out the woods, getting rid of the underbrush. Signage has improved too. One thing that hasn't changed seems to be the uselessness of the forest preserve police. I was riding on the path a few weeks ago, when a patrol car came up behind me, honked for me to get out of the way, and passed me. A car on the path. Really? And then after he passed me and approached the intersection, he turned on his lights to enter the intersection. Really? I rolled my eyes and shook my head. And what a lucky break for me, just this morning, another forest preserve cop driving on the path! As soon as I pulled out my phone to snap this picture, he hit the gas and drove away. I want that job! But I hear you have to know someone high up in the the county government to land one of these positions...good old fashioned patronage.

If there was anything I could ask for from my forest preserve: safety. I'd love the freedom to run the paths and trails without worrying about creepers. Maybe these Barney Fifes could actually get on a bike and ride the paths, monitoring their use. Patrolling them would be a challenge, but any kind of patrolling at all would be a start. I'd also request safer passage crossing the very busy streets to enter into the forest preserves. Even though the drivers are well aware that there is a bike path and crossing at these intersections, there is no courtesy to runners and riders. I cannot count how many times drivers have ignored me in the crosswalk and almost run me down. It is truly frightening at times.

But in spite of all that, there is the beauty and nature that these preserves offer. In the middle of our busy lives, it really is nice to have a place to go and breathe.

Even though the deer population is over abundant, do we ever get tired of seeing them in the woods? Saw this guy this morning...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Running vs. Cycling and other odd thoughts

We came home early today from our extended Memorial Day weekend. I'm not sure why...if my husband wanted to beat the holiday traffic or if he just wanted to come home, but we were home by noon. We were at my father-in-law's lake house, where we have spent many, many years making memories, spending most of our time on the water: boating, fishing, waterskiing, tubing, and swimming. I always pack my running shoes and have run many miles on the roads there. In my younger years, I was a little more adventurous, running on the country roads, but as time has passed, I've become more safety conscious, and stick a little closer to home. There are 4 channels off the lake, and I'll run those, adding in a little winding along the lake to make it a 6 miler. When I trained for the Chicago Marathon, I ran much farther along the lake for my long runs. It is pretty populated (aka safe) and the view is not bad, if you enjoy looking at water. I do.

This weekend was the first time in my 20+ years of running that I didn't pack my running shoes. My suitcase felt light and I had the unsettling feeling that I was forgetting something. When I woke up in Wisconsin yesterday morning, I felt aimless, not going for my usual run. My husband must have sensed it, and asked if I wanted to go fishing with him and my oldest son. So I did. I caught a few little fish, and it was really relaxing sitting in the boat, the sun warming us all. A wise person once told me that it is impossible to worry and fish at the same time, and I believe she was right.

In the afternoon, we took the boys wakeboarding. The water was really cold, and part of me was glad I had an excuse not to go...but part of me longed to be the one at the end of the rope, being pulled around the lake. Waterskiing is something else I've done for years...even longer than running! Thinking back, there were only 2 summers that I haven't skied...both when I was pregnant with these two:

When we got home from the lake this morning, I had lunch and decided to go for a bike ride. Maybe missing my run made me feel the need to move. I'm normally a morning exerciser, but something about the bike seems a little easier, more flexible. I struggle with running in the afternoon! I'm not sure why...if it has something to do with my fueling, or what. Or could it be my brain?

As I rode this afternoon, in the 87 degree heat and high humidity, I felt pretty lucky to be on the bike. I reflected on the differences between cycling and running. And tried to decide which activity has the advantage:

  • Portability: Running wins out here. All you need are your shoes and the road. If I want to cycle away from home, I have to bring my bike. And since I don't have a hitch on my Jeep...ok, poor excuse...that is on my to do list! BUT, and to me this is a huge plus, you can carry drinks and snacks on the bike. A definite advantage for a gal who hates the fuel belt. That would be me.
  • Weather conditions: Over the years, I've become a weather junkie, checking the conditions and forecast multiple times before heading out for a run or a bike. Before today's bike ride, I carefully checked the radar because with heat and humidity, thunderstorms can pop up out of nowhere. The last place I want to be in a storm is on my bike. I saw a guy today, on his bike, caught in a thunderstorm. I really felt badly for the guy! But in the heat and humidity, cycling can't be beat. As you ride, you create your own breeze. In the cold, in the wind, in the rain...running has the edge.  Running is much more bad weather friendly. Not that I enjoy it. But today, cycling won, hands down.  Don't get me wrong, I was HOT and sweaty, but there is no way I could have run for 2 hours today. I probably couldn't have run 3 miles today. 
  • Scenery: This is a tough call. Either way, you can really enjoy nature. With the bike, you can go farther, but you are going faster, so there is the chance of missing out on something cool. When I run, I listen to music, so that can distract me from just taking in my surroundings too. 
  • Cost: Runners joke about how expensive running is, with race entry fees what they are, but come on! Have you priced a road bike lately? Even an entry level road bike is going to cost you close to $1000. And if you add accessories, like shoes and pegs, a helmet, bike rack for the car, maintenance...running is much cheaper. Running clothes are much cooler than cycling clothes though. IMHO. And that can add up to $$.
  • Calorie burner: Running has the edge here: but not as much as you'd think! I read a couple of articles on this topic, and I was surprised to find out that a runner who runs at a 10min/mile pace burns as many calories as a cycler pedalling at a 14-15mph rate (about 600/hour). Not bad! And here I am riding for hours, trying to keep my metabolism fired up. Not that I'm complaining...endorphinaholic here!
  • Injuries: cycling definitely has the edge here. Unless you wipe out or god forbid, get hit by a car. Running is hard on the body because it is an impact sport. Hello, broken foot! Because cycling is non-impact, there are a lot less stress related injuries. But sitting on the saddle for a couple of hours can make you pretty sore in the nether regions. Even with padded shorts. Even with a padded seat. But I guess a sore bottom doesn't really count as an injury, right?
  • Safety: I feel much less vulnerable to creepers when I'm zipping along on my bike. Although today I saw a guy wielding a fishing pole, and I had the fleeting thought that he could have whipped me with it and knocked me off my bike. Luckily, he was more interested in catching fish. I've had a few weird incidents while running that makes me much more cautious. The forest preserve seems to attract weirdos. And that is a whole other post--stay tuned. For me, the biggest hazard are cars, whether running or cycling. Even more so, while cycling, I think. Today I had yet another near miss by a driver who thinks that turning right on red means "no cop, no stop". Meanwhile, I was in the crosswalk. He waved me on--hey thanks, mister! It's the law! 

But even after reading this, I guess for me, the bottom line is that I enjoy both...but even after all the biking I've been doing this summer, I still like running better.

What I've been thinking though, is that I need more balance in my training. I'm doing yoga once/week and crossfit too...running 4 days/week. I need to try to squeeze in at least 1 or 2 rides/week too. Too bad I have to work!

How do you feel about cross training? Do you like the bike? Or are you a die hard runner?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mood swinging

I've been doing pretty well, dealing with my injury, for the most part. I've been trying to stay positive, finding activities that I can do within the restrictions of no weight bearing on that foot, even spectating at the race I was forced to DNS. My foot has been feeling better. With the holiday weekend bearing down on us, I called my sports med doctor to see if I could get my xray this Friday, hoping to get out of the boot by the weekend. I have been entertaining thoughts of waterskiing, wakeboarding, and yes...running.

Dr. Sport came to see me in my office. When I told him my thoughts, he frowned. "Are you still having pain?", he asked. I admitted to a small amount of pain on occasion. He shook his head and told me no chance of getting out of the boot this week. "Maybe next Friday", he said, "if you are having no pain". He reminded me that I needed to let it heal sufficiently, blah, blah, blah, you ran on it while it was broken, blah, blah, blah, don't you want to get better, blah, blah, blah.

My face got all hot and flushed, and I felt tears rush into my eyes. I started fanning my face, to prevent the waterfall of tears that were threatening to overflow. Dr. Sport asked me if I was ok, and I shook my head. We talked a little more, I tried to joke about needing prozac, and about being a difficult patient. The tears never came, and made plans for me to see him next week. 

That smile I had been wearing earlier in the day, the good mood...poof! Gone in an instant. Replaced by sadness and a dark mood. It's always shocking how quickly things can turn around, isn't it? And I couldn't shake it off, although seeing some funny kids for their annual physicals and laughing at some of the stuff they said to me definitely helped me to feel better.

Last night, after watching my son score a touchdown in his final 7-on-7 football game (which they won), I finally laid in bed and stretched out. My hip is starting to hurt from wearing the boot, and it felt good to lay flat. I commented to my husband that it was funny how all the men at the football game kept asking me if I broke my foot on my "husband's ass" (sorry for the crudeness, but that is the word they used). I asked him what they meant by that. He responded by saying he wasn't sure but next time I should tell them I broke it "kicking him in the nuts".  OMG. I cracked up. I won't describe the mental image I had after that comment! Sometimes my husband says the most random, funniest things.

I woke up this morning, feeling a little better, and looking forward to the long bike ride I had planned. It rained overnight, I waited a little for the pavement to dry. No need to chance another injury. My youngest son, who is normally a ray of sunshine, came down from his bedroom in a foul mood. He was wearing his older brother's pants, and when I asked him why, he bit my head off. He said none of his pants fit, he has to wear pants today because he's in the finals for the graduation speech, and he missed the bus. 

As if all of this were my fault, right? So much for feeling sorry for myself this morning! Now I have to boost him up! Last night he was on top of the world! How quickly things change. I got him to school, told him to turn his frown upside down, and to do his best at the speech finals. Man, I hope he shakes it off! And I hope he gets picked to give the graduation speech.

I reflected on this as I prepared for my bike ride, hoping that I could shake it off too. The sky was overcast as I left the house, but after a couple of miles, the sky started to clear and the sun came out. I headed to my forest preserve path. My goal was 20 miles this morning. My legs felt good and the miles flew by. There is a point on the path, a 3 mile circle, which I can travel around as many times as I want to get the miles in. I found myself doing what I do when I run...calculating time and miles in my head, and I decided to do an extra loop for time today, because I wanted to ride for 90 minutes. I've found that with cycling, you have to go longer and farther to get that feeling you get from a good run. 

Not bad! I'm so close to 15 mph. Always the competitor. I'm thinking about getting real bike shoes and pedal clips. I hear that makes you a faster rider.

I feel the need, the need for speed!

But what about the mood? I don't feel euphoric, as I have after my rides last week. I do feel better. 

Just trying to stay positive.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chicago Spring Half Marathon recap--sort of....

I need to start this recap off by stating the obvious: I did not run this race. Due to a broken foot, I have been sidelined from running. I was forced to DNS, a first for this seasoned runner.

But instead of skipping the race entirely, I decided to take Marcia AKA Marcia's Healthy Slice up on her offer to drive me down to the race. I didn't know if she was just being nice or if the offer was real, but I took a chance and said yes. Before today, I had never met Marcia, but we've been corresponding back and forth for almost a year. So really, I felt like I knew her.

True to her word, Marcia picked me up at 515 am. While I was getting ready, I was kicking myself for agreeing to get up so early and go to the race. The forecast was for a beautiful day, and I could have gotten a long bike ride in. This is how I think. Goofball. I promptly kicked myself in the butt (with my boot) and got my head on straight. I had also promised Penny from 26.yikes and Michelle from This Momma Runs that I'd be there to cheer them on, cowbell in hand. As a runner, I know how much it helps to have people cheering you on from the sidelines. And I didn't want to let them down. Plus I really wanted to meet Marcia and Penny! After being "virtual running buddies", it was time to meet face to face. Marcia and I talked the entire way down--it was like we were old friends! We have quite a bit in common and so it was really great to finally meet her.

Marcia and me. 

After we parked near the race, we walked a short distance through Lakeshore East Park and under Lake Shore Drive to the start line at DuSable Harbor. I had never been here before, and was amazed at the beautiful little park and the large yachts moored in the harbor. To the south of the harbor lies the Chicago Museum campus, which is comprised of the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field, which is the home of the Chicago Bears. The entire race is and out and back, along the the lakefront path, taking runners down to 47th street and back. If you have never run along the Chicago lakefront, I highly recommend it. It is simply beautiful.

For this race, runners were assigned corrals A-I. Mine was E, which was the 2:00 corral. Marcia was in D. The start times were staggered, every 4 minutes. The national anthem was sung, beautifully, and the runners were off. As corral C ran by, I rang my cowbell, and saw Penny, Michelle, Michelle's husband Nemo, and Amanda (Too Tall Fritz). I got a hug from Michelle and away they went.

After Marcia's corral crossed the starting line, I made my way to the starting area and began ringing my cowbell for each wave. It was interesting to see each group move through...towards final few corrals, there were a lot of newbie runners. The announcer asked how many first timers there were and a lot of them raised their hands. There was a lot of excitement in the last few corrals. Some of the final runners were actually walkers.

While I was cheering for the half participants, a girl stood next to me. She told me she was running the 10K, her second race and longest distance she had ever run. She talked to me about how nervous she was. I reassured her and told her she'd be fine. Her plan was to run and walk. I told her to do whatever it took to cross that finish line. While she talked to me, I thought about how far I've come as a runner, that a half marathon is "routine" for me! But no one forgets those first run jitters! I watched the first wave of the 10K runners cross the starting line and then headed back to the finish area.

The finish line was back in Lakeshore East Park, which is surrounded by tall buildings. It felt like a valley, an urban oasis of sorts! I found a nice vantage point along the final stretch of the race course, just ahead of the finish chutes and plopped myself down on the curb. A woman sat down next to me. She was wearing running gear and was tearful. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that she was supposed to run the half, had trained for it with her mom, but started to have trouble with her IT Band. She asked about my foot. I shared my story with her, and she asked me if I was upset that I couldn't run the race. I admitted that I would have loved to run it but that I had other races planned for this year, and that I was just happy to be there to cheer my friends on. Because that is the truth. I'm actually shocked that I feel this way, but there it is.

After that, we sat in silence and waited for the runners to pass. Meanwhile, a firetruck came down the narrow road and parked in front of an apartment building just before the final turn to the finish line. I hoped they wouldn't block the runners, and about 5 minutes later, they pulled away. That would have been a first! Soon after that, the first runners began to arrive...the mens 10K champion, the mens' half marathon champion, another male half marathon runner and then...wait? A woman, wearing a 10K bib, moving very slowly--shuffling, actually came around the corner and headed towards the finish line. Clearly not the 1st place woman, I wonder what happened? Did she get lost? Take a wrong turn? Decide to throw in the towel but cross the finish line anyways? Rosie Ruiz? I'm pretty sure that she was DQ'd.

My sign and my cowbell

More runners started to come in, and I rang my cowbell furiously! Because as Christopher Walken said on the immortal SNL skit, you always need more cowbell! I also held up my sign. So far, no one took me up on the free hugs. I was wearing my wicking gear, so I was prepared for anyone sweaty. I started to look for my friends. Finally, I saw Penny and Michelle running together. I shouted out to them! A few minutes later, Marcia came around the corner. I met up with all of them in the picnic area. They were wearing their bling, which was quite nice! Simple and understated, but quality. That's what I like.

We sat and talked, they recapped their runs, which sounded uneventful. And I will say that it was a great experience for me. Do I wish I could have run it? Of course. But if you have never spectated a race, I think it is a worthwhile experience for a runner. I was able to see the anticipation on all the runners' faces while they waited to cross the starting line. No matter what corral they were in, most of the runners looked very serious! And then at the finish line, again watching their faces as they saw the banner. The elite runners were serious, focused. As more runners came in, some sprinted to the finish line. It was impressive to see a big kick like that after knowing they ran 13 miles! As even more runners came in, it was fun to see them smile as they came around the corner and saw the banner. I saw more than a few pumped fists and thumbs ups from the 1:45 and up group. Those are the runners I cheered for the most, the ones that made me smile. Because those runners are me.

L-R: Penny, Michelle, Marcia, and me

Have you ever spectated at a race? If so, what did you take away from your experience? Have you ever volunteered?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The kindness of runners

I continue to be amazed at how good I feel, mentally, in spite of the fact that I haven't run in over 10 days. When I first got the news about my broken foot, I was shocked and sad. If you follow me, you know that I was determined to keep moving and hit the road on my bike. Then the rains came...and the cold weather. On a cold, blustery day this week, I went biking anyways and turned my mood around. Mind over matter. That positive feeling has stayed with me since that ride, through a horrendously busy day at work yesterday, into today, a beautiful yet cool spring day. Perfect for a run, right? Actually, I'll be pedalling later, once it warms up a bit. It did snow yesterday! Oh, the horror!

Tomorrow, the day of my race, the weather forecast looks even better. One might even say perfect! But guess who won't be running? I will be there though! As a spectator. My first ever DNS. Ever. I don't know how many races I've actually run in my life...but it is a lot. My perfect attendance record--poof! I guess it's true--there is a first time for everything.

I'm actually mostly ok with not running the race. Last night, I saw pictures of the race shirt online (it is really cute, one I'll actually wear because yes, I could have run this thing) and felt a little tug inside. Later on, I received an email from Marcia, who blogs at Marcia's Healthy Slice. Earlier in the week she offered to drive me down to the race--I hope she was serious, because I took her up on that offer! Last night, she told me she picked up my packet and would be here at 515am to pick me up.

I've never met Marcia before, but I've been following her blog and we've corresponded back and forth for a while. I feel like I know her already. All I have to say is wow! What a nice thing she's done for me! It's not that I couldn't have driven myself down there. But the fact that we'll get to spend time together, really get to know each other, makes going to the race as a spectator that much easier for me, mentally. I mean, let's face it. Who would feel excited about hobbling up to the starting line at a race you were supposed to run--alone?! I am...gimpy runner...I don't know that I would have gone.

Anyways, since her offer, I've felt really good and positive in spite of my injury. It is amazing what the kindness of one person can do for another who is having a rough time.

Others have been equally as kind. The support and love shown by fellow runner bloggers and Facebook followers has really lifted me up. I've always said that runners are good people. When I'm out for a run, and I see another runner, I almost always get a wave or "the nod". When I'm out for a bike ride and see other cyclers, not so much. Isn't that interesting?

In spite of the fact that I've been a runner for almost 25 years (my poor feet!), I've never been part of a running group. I never felt like I was a real "runner", believe it or not. I know the saying is that if you run, you are a runner. But I thought the people in those groups were hardcore, running races all the time. I was intimidated by the idea of joining a running group and meeting other runners. When I started following various bloggers and meeting some of them, I realized how silly my fears were. And kicked myself for not becoming part of the running community sooner. I love the virtual running community, tho, because I have connected with runners from all over the world. How cool is that?

So this is a big thank you--a virtual Marcia, to my local running "posse", to everyone who's reached out and lifted me up. Yes, I'm getting tired of the boot (already!) but I've learned a lot about my fellow runners in this short time I've been injured. You might not realize how small gestures mean a lot, how little words of encouragement can make a difference. We pick each other up when we're down. It's a big deal.

Group hug! And GO HAWKS!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Chasing away the blues

This morning I woke up in a dark mood. The sky was gray and overcast, and the temperature was 51 degrees. If I could run, it would be a perfect day for running. But because I have a broken foot, I can't run. Waaa! I've always been a fair weather biker. 51 degrees just seemed so...cold for cycling. My mood got darker and I began to feel sorry for myself, stewing about all the bad things that have happened this week...

Yesterday, I was stuck working with a moody medical assistant. Who was giving me attitude. As the day went on, I started to fear asking her to do anything! When I asked if I did anything to offend her, she told me she had "a lot on her mind". My regular medical assistant in on vacation in Disney World with her kids. So far she has posted 300 pictures on FB. They are having the trip of their lives. Good for her. Bad for me...

Monday night, at my son's 7 on 7 football game, I sat next to one of my good friends, who hasn't been so good to me for a while. We met through our sons when they were in kindergarden together. Now in 8th grade, there have been some rocky times for the boys and she's taking it out on me. Like I have any control over that...

Yesterday, my oldest son went to the dentist for a cleaning. Since he recently got his braces off, they did xrays and he has 6 cavities that need to be filled. Of course, it isn't his fault. So he tells me. But guess who gets to pay for that...

Ok, enough of the pity party. I knew I needed a fix and I needed it bad. I looked at the forecast for the next 3 days:

....and I knew it was now or never. Running was out, so it was time to get on the bike. I mulled over my wardrobe possibilities. What do cyclists wear in the cold weather? I thought back to last winter and pulled out my CW-X compression tights, figuring they'd keep my legs warm and maybe even help with the sore quads. I looked through my running tops and pulled out my lululemon purple scuba zip top that one of my students gave me last year for a thank you gift. Certainly over the top generous, every time I wear it, I think of her! And that made me smile. I put a long bra top on underneath that, pulled on some smartwool socks, switched out my dark lenses on my sunglasses for clear, and hopped on the bike. 

As I began to pedal, the cool breeze blew right through me. "I can't do this," I thought to myself. But as I smoothly moved forward down the road, I reminded myself of all those runs I did this past winter in the bitter cold, horrible weather. Lots of miles! I also knew that I would warm up as my heart rate increased. I headed towards the bike path.

The sky actually brightened up a little bit, and I could see a little circle of sun through the heavy cloud cover. The foliage along the bike path had really filled in since my last ride just 2 days ago, and I even noticed something green on my tires, probably from the pollen. The creek that runs along the path was really high from all the recent rains, and I wondered if it had overflown its banks. Some canadian geese were in the path walking their little ones, and one of them came after me, hissing and wagging its tongue at me. I've never had a goose come after me when I was running, for sure never while I was on my bike, and I screamed and pedaled a little faster. Yikes!

I started laughing to myself. I saw a few other bikers and some runners on the path, and everyone was super friendly, greeting me as I passed. Maybe it was my smiling face? The frogs were singing in the ponds as I rode by. Golfers were on the course. I saw a lot of birds, and some white cranes in one of the forest preserve ponds. 

The other thing I noticed is that my legs were not one bit tired. Was it the foam rolling and the yoga I did this week? Or was it my CW-X compression tights? Should I get some compression shorts? I've never really been a believer in compression gear, but now I began to consider the possibility that maybe compression really was helpful. I plowed up those hills like nothing (although my heart was beating pretty hard!). Hmmm.

I crossed that busy intersection where I've so many near death experiences without incident both coming and going. As I headed home, I realized that I turned my mood around. What if I didn't go for a ride? What if I just sat around, feeling sorry for myself? How easy that would have been. I'm so happy that I have something like running, like cycling, that I can fall back on to lift my mood. This is why I run!

As runners, we know the mental benefits of movement. When we become injured, it can really take a toll on our mental state. I've been here before, and I'll most likely be here again. But I know one thing: I have to keep moving. Whether it is on my bike or on my feet, exercise is my therapy. 

Just do it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A good alternative #bestfoot

Today, for Mother's Day, instead of my usual long slow distance run, I went for a bike ride. Of course, you are all well aware that I'm not able to run for a couple of weeks due to the fracture in my left foot. But I did get the green light for cycling. Two years ago, when I developed a stress fracture in my right foot (do you detect a pattern here?), I hobbled over to the local bike shop, where they were having a tent sale, and bought myself this beauty:

The Trek Lexa. A GREAT entry level road bike. I just love it!

Yep, I even took it for a test ride in the boot. I brought it home and my husband wouldn't speak to me for about 24 hours. After all, his logic was that I had a perfectly good mom bike (a hybrid) in the garage. But I wanted something sleek and fast. After my first long bike ride, I knew I made a good decision. My oldest son also took it for a spin and proclaimed it as "awesome". Which meant more to my husband than my opinion. I rode that bike at least 3x/week for most of the summer, as I eased back into running. It was a lifesaver and almost as good as running. It was that good. My only complaints about the bike are the hard seat and that my hands fall asleep when I'm on a long ride.

Anyways, this morning, I headed out to the 30-ish mile route that I adopted 2 years ago. The beginning of my route takes me through some very bumpy roads and "fitness paths" in the very congested NW "burbs of Chicago, where I live. I'll just say that my road bike is not made for rough conditions, and after a while, the jarring really starts to take a toll! If I did a lot of my riding on these local streets, I'd buy a mountain bike with fat tires and shock absorbers. Seriously!

As I started out, I headed south towards the Arlington Park Racetrack. In the past, I actually found a "hidden" road that runs along the Metra tracks and the stables at the race track. The road itself has no name and you have to ride through the train station parking lot to get to it. It's a little creepy and secluded but I like riding by the stables because in the early morning, the workers are prepping the horses for the day's races. There's a practice track where they ride, too. It is pretty cool to watch! The price you pay for this hidden gem is the poor road conditions and so I have to pay close attention to where I'm going. There is usually a lot of weaving around potholes and broken pavement. Fortunately this year, the road is under construction so I'm expecting smooth sailing once it is complete! At the end of this road, which goes under a highway, there is one of those "super churches". It is at this point that the official bike path begins. The church has police directing traffic, and they always wave me through. Sadly, these churchgoers aren't very courteous drivers, and I've had a few near misses, even with the police waving me through. 

For the next few miles, I weaved through suburban streets on the path that runs along the road and cautiously crossed at the lights. Much more so than running, you really have to be alert and watch the cars. Most drivers do not stop on a red light to turn right. They do not move over to pass, essentially running you off the road. For this reason, I don't listen to music when I ride. I need to be alert at all times. I'm thinking about adding a rear view mirror to my cycling equipment. I don't care how nerdy I look. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder.

After about 5 miles, I came to the local community college. This is where the path gets really wide, smooth, and nice. I started to pick up cruising speed. I noticed three police cars surrounding a car on the busy street. I saw the police talking to the driver on the side of the road, and I wondered what the heck she did to merit a police chase? Oh, the possibilities! I crossed the very busy street at the light, nearly missed being hit by a car, and headed up the path into the forest preserve. On the path, I saw a guy riding a weird bike. He was wearing a helmet and cycling clothing, but as I passed him, it occurred to me that he was riding a unicycle. I laughed to myself because: a) it took me a minute to realize that he was riding a unicycle and: b) there was a guy was riding a unicycle on the bike path! Apparently it is a thing, because I googled it and found lots of images of serious cyclers riding unicycles. Who knew? Truly, you learn something every day! Guess I'm the weird one...

I passed a few more runners and cyclers and headed to my very favorite part of the path. This section isn't pretty or anything, as it runs right up against the busy 4 lane road, but it is a straight out fasssssst stretch! I love it because I feel like Lance Armstrong (without the performance enhancing drugs) as I sprint forward in high gear. I passed a couple on a tandem, recumbent bike. Guess I'm not the weird one. I said hello to them but they ignored me as I passed them. Whatever. 

I continued to push forward after heading down and up a fairly steep hill,  and came to another one of those "super churches", Willow Creek, which looks like a college campus. Being that it was Mother's Day, the line to turn left into the church drive stretched for about a half mile. I waited for the light, and saw my friend, Mike sitting in the bushes, manning the traffic controls. Mike is a retired cop, who has this side job of controlling traffic in and out of the church on Sundays. The first time I saw him, I didn't realize who it was until I passed him! That time I stopped to say hi on my way back. Now we look for each other when I ride on Sundays. I hadn't seem him for a while, since it was my first bike ride of the season, and I stopped for a hug and a hello. He asked about my family and filled me in on his. He told me how rude the drivers are to him! Flipping him off and honking at him. I can only imagine what they were thinking as they saw us chitchatting! Hah! I said goodbye and got back on my bike. He clicked the button and the light turned green for me. There's nothing better than that!

This is one of the prettiest parts of my route, a nature preserve. I have seen deer while riding through here. Today there were a ton of birds singing and flying through. At the end of this portion of the path, I stop to refuel and turn around. This was mile 13. I looped back, waved to Mike as he changed the light for me again and headed forward. I didn't head directly home, but took a 5 mile detour through another portion of the forest preserve. Most of this part is downhill, which was great because the wind started to pick up and I was riding into it. I passed quite a few bikers heading into the other direction. You know the ones--wearing their professional jerseys, riding their Cervelos or whatever $$$ bikes, refusing to acknowledge me--amateur! Whatever.

I rode back towards the community college, watched the baseball game that was going on there, and headed towards home. My quads were starting to talk to me, as were my "sitz bones". After about 20 miles, the padded bike shorts don't help all that much. I adjusted my position a few times. I pushed on and came back to the race track, which was now causing a huge traffic jam as all the Mother's Day celebrators were heading into the park. A few miles later, I was home. It wasn't fast, but it sure was enjoyable!

What do you like to do for an alternative activity? Have you ever been injured? How did you cope?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Runner down

If you've been following me for any amount of time, either here or on Facebook, you know that I've been having significant left foot pain for quite some time. About a month ago, I was out for a 6 mile training run and must have landed funny on that foot, and experienced excruciating pain. I had to stop running and hobble home. At that point, I thought maybe I broke my big toe. But after icing and resting, the pain subsided to a dull ache. I was worried about an upcoming race that week, and decided to consult the sports medicine doctor at work. We talked about my history with that big toe, that I knew there was a bone spur in the 1st MPJ and maybe some arthritis. He cautioned me about running the race and gave me a prescription for Voltaren topical gel (an NSAID, much like ibuprofen) to apply to the joint as needed for pain.

As the week went on, I was able to run again, with minimal discomfort. There was some throbbing after I ran, so I used the Voltaren gel. But what actually hurt was walking. I found that odd, but continued to plan for my upcoming race. To my happiness and amazement, the race was a success, I actually ran a PR, and had no toe pain. I figured the joint was inflamed but since I was running so well, nothing serious was going on, and continued to train and plan for my upcoming half marathon, scheduled for May 18.

This runner isn't experiencing any pain!

The sports med doc stopped by my office after the race and asked how it went. When I told him, he shook his head in disbelief. He offered to inject the joint with a steroid the week before my half, but told me he wanted to do an xray, just to make sure nothing else was going on in the foot. I scheduled my appointment. During that visit, he took a history, did an exam, and reviewed the xray with me. He saw the bone spur and a mild effusion in the joint. Using ultrasound, he injected a steroid into the joint and sent me home.

A few hours later, he called me. Feeling that there was something unusual about my xray, he had reviewed the xray with the radiologist and found a healing fracture on the corner of the 1st MPJ. They figured the fracture was about a month old, which makes sense, considering when I had that painful run. He was kicking himself for giving me the injection without reviewing the xray more closely. We talked for a while, and he said that the steroid might prolong the healing process. Maybe not, he said, since the fracture was already healing. But he got strict with me and told me that he really wanted me to avoid weight bearing exercise for 2-3 weeks, at which point he would do another xray.

While the news didn't surprise me, I felt like I was going to cry. I went to my closet and pulled out the boot, which I had used 2 years ago for my previous stress fracture. I called my husband, who was much more surprised than me.

The fracture

The next day at work, the sports med doc came to see me. He pulled up my xray, and showed me the fracture. The bone spur was also there, and he thinks that may have led to the fracture. I called it a stress fracture and he emphasized that it was not a stress fracture. "This is a fracture," he said. Much more serious than a stress fracture. He outlined activities I could participate in to maintain fitness. No weight bearing exercise. I could bike and swim. I can do weight lifting and yoga, as long as it doesn't put pressure on the joint. I asked about bone density and he doesn't think that is an issue. We also talked about how odd it was that I was able to run pain free but experienced significant pain while walking. Mechanics, I guess. That heel striking finally paid off! I told him he would probably have to prescribe Prozac for me, and he laughed.

Think I'll take a pass on these babies!

While I'm trying to keep a sense of humor, I'm pretty sad about all this. I wonder why this is happening. I've been running for almost 25 years. Could it be the wear and tear of all the pounding on my feet? When minimalist running and Vibram Five Fingers became the thing a few years ago, I looked the other way. Stuck with my super-cushy Asics Gel Nimbus, which I have worn for years. I have had major issues with my feet ever since I ran the Chicago Marathon 3 years ago. At this point I seriously doubt that I have a marathon in my future. But what about the halfs I have planned for this year? Obviously, the one next week is out. But I have Zooma in August and was planning on the Naperville half for November. Since they are both a good couple of months away and apart, that may be ok. My goal of 4 for this year may not be achievable.

I've never been one to sit back and accept my limitations. In fact, I've been much more apt to push them. For the next 3 weeks, I'll have plenty of time to think about all this.

Have you ever been sidelined by a serious injury? What did you do to maintain your sanity?

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Finally, a sunny day! I decided to do my longish run this morning to take advantage of the great weather conditions. There was a small glitch though...

That's right, my friend the wind is back. It seems that we in the midwest cannot catch a break from Mother Nature...we get cold, rainy, and windy all week or warm, sunny, and windy today. Still, I'll take the sunshine any day. Actually, it is pretty windy here most of the year. I did a little research and found out that Chicago is the 2d windiest city in the US. The dubious honor of the most windy city is held by Boston. Once again, we are the "second city". By the way, Chicago earned the nickname "The Windy City" back in the 1800's, not because of our weather conditions, but because of our long-winded politicians. 

Anyways, after viewing the weather conditions and the direction of the wind, I headed to the fitness trail, which is west of me. It is an out and back trail, an 11 mile round trip total from my home. I figured I could run into the wind for the first half of the run and then head home with the wind at my back. I planned on 8 miles for today. 

My legs felt heavy as I headed out. This week at my crossfit training session, Becky had me do a ton of squats, lunges, and slam balls. My quads and adductors really got a workout, and I was fairly sore yesterday. Last night I did some foam rolling, but apparently not enough, because I was still feeling the effects of that workout this morning. Between my sore quads and the wind, those first 3 miles were tough. My splits of 9:10 reflect it! I actually thought about turning around and heading home, but decided to press on. The path gets prettier as I head on, and I wanted to keep going. Plus I knew the trip home would be a breeze (literally!).

At the 3 mile mark, I either cross a busy street or head under it via a tunnel. This tunnel really creeps me out. There is always a ton of graffiti on the walls, and I've encountered a few creepers either in it or around it. I don't know if it is because it is close to the library or what, but I usually don't run through it except on the weekends when there is a fair amount of traffic on the path. I picked up the pace as I headed through.

Once I pass through the tunnel, I run along the creek and through a fairly forested area. It's actually really pretty, and somewhat of an oasis in the middle of the overbuilt northwest suburbs of Chicago. The path crosses over the creek several times. When my kids were little, I'd take them on bike rides through here and riding over the bridges was a highlight for them. I thought about this as I crossed over the first bridge. As I exited the wooded area, I saw something they would have loved--I came to this structure: 

Clearly, somebody has been busy this spring! This little hut had small benches inside. I wondered who built it--probably some kids, right? Although the construction was pretty clever...I stopped to take the picture but then kept moving and thought about it for a while. I see a lot of weird stuff in the particular section of the path, and I think a lot of kids go there for mischief. My husband thought maybe the homeless people built it. Seems like a lot of work went into it. No one was around today, though.

I kept heading west, but the wind wasn't as much of a factor and my legs loosened up quite a bit. I decided go a little bit further, and turn around at the golf course, which would be about 9 miles total. I looked for water at this point but there was none! As I headed back, the wind pretty much pushed me down the path and it was so much more pleasant. There are quite a few ponds along the path, which makes for some nice scenery. There were a lot of geese (and their droppings) and ducks as well. 

I retraced my steps towards home. The wind blew me up a steep hill, which helped, and I headed back into the wooded section along the creek. I found a drinking fountain near a park. The song "Happy" was playing on my playlist and then I saw this: 

As I headed towards home, I stopped to take one more photo. It was where I had taken one of my selfies in January, on a very cold, blustery but sunny day.

What a difference 5 months makes. This was a good run. And I was happy.