February 29, 2012

Exercise is dangerous for your health

Some moron actually said those words to me today, right after he asked me why I was on crutches. I laughed, thinking surely he was being sarcastic. But nope. Dead serious.

Lately, every conversation goes something like this:

"Oh no, you're on crutches? What happened?"
"I have a stress fracture in my hip. It's an overuse injury from running really long miles."
"So you got this from running that marathon? Wow. I told you all that running was crazy."

But it isn't crazy! So stop saying that. People run marathons all the time and don't get injured. People run ultras and come out unscathed. As soon as I ditch my crutches, I'm starting a couch to 5K plan, just like I did in the beginning.

This injury doesn't mean I should stop running; it means I should train smarter. Because, see...the thing is, I should have seen this coming. And when people ask me how I got a stress fracture, I feel like a giant idiot every time I explain it.

Here are the facts:

1. The first rule of running is that you shouldn't JUST run. You should cross train and strength train to make sure your muscles are strong enough to withstand the impact of running 26.2 miles.

But all I did was run.

2. I knew rule No.1 so I tried following a marathon training plan that incorporated cross training with running - Run Less, Run Faster - but I couldn't do it all. I couldn't keep up with the prescribed paces for each run, and I got sick every time I tried to do all the workouts. It was too intense for my fitness level, so I dropped the cross training and just tried to get in the miles I was supposed to run.

I wasn't ready, and I should have backed off. I had set a goal of running a marathon, signed up for the race, booked a hotel, and shouted from the rooftops that I was doing this thing. Even though every time I ramped up my mileage, I got sick. Even though I couldn't keep up with my training group and should have run my own pace. I just kept going.

3. Proper nutrition, getting enough protein, taking multivitamins and taking calcium supplements are all things I knew I should have been doing.

But I ate garbage and never bothered with vitamins or supplements. Would this have made a difference? There's no way to know, but it couldn't have hurt.

4. I've had problems with my right hip for a long time. Remember when that crazy chiropractor hurt my knee? The reason I went to him was because I was having hip problems - in December 2010! The same hip problems that finally got so bad that I stopped running two months ago.

I should've seen a real doctor. A really long time ago. I don't know if it's medically possible to run on a stress fracture for a year, but I have to wonder just how long I've had this problem and didn't know it. My hip always hurt after a run, but never enough that it prevented me from doing anything...until this year.

So...I knew all the things I should have been doing to try to stay healthy. But all I did was run.

I know all this regret doesn't make any difference now, but when you go from marathon training to not even being able to walk, it's impossible not to question every single decision you've made about training. Hindsight is always 20/20, and there's no way I would have ever dreamed I'd end up with a stress fracture. But here I am.

I've learned a valuable lesson to listen to my body, no matter what everyone else is doing and no matter whether I've registered for a race. I have to do what's right for me. And I know that no matter how much I hate these crutches and I'm mad about what has happened, running is still what's right for me. Just running smarter.

February 23, 2012

The Worst News Ever

Today, my doctor said the words every runner prays they'll never hear.

I have a stress fracture.

He followed that up by telling me I have to use crutches for at least 4 weeks. I am now completely useless around the house and I have no idea how I'm going to manage the monstrous campus of parking lots and buildings where I work.

The doc also said I should focus on the short-term and recovery, and pursue running goals "later in life." What is that supposed to mean? He said fractures like this typically heal in 6-12 weeks, but everyone's experience is different. 

I saw my MRI and he showed me the tiny hairline going across the top of my femur where it enters the hip socket. He didn't give it a name, but the Google tells me it's a compression stress fracture of the hip, which is the least complicated of stress fractures that occur in this area, and usually doesn't require surgery like some fractures could.

My MRI looked like the top image in this group. But not all red and nasty like that.
It was a tiny white line that you can barely see. 
I'm upset and freaking out, but I have been having hip problems for a while now, so I have barely run in 2 months. Sadly, I'm almost a little bit used to not running. My biggest problem is that I can hardly do anything, especially now that we know what the problem is. The doctor says I can use the recumbent bike on the lowest setting with no resistance, and not to pedal quickly enough to break a sweat. (Then what's the point?) He also said I can swim, but I can't kick. Um, what? So basically that leaves me doing nothing for AT LEAST 4 weeks. After that, we'll do another MRI, but not another arthrogram, thank God, and see if it's getting any better. 

Until then, I just wait. 

Thanks so much to all of you who have called, texted, tweeted and commented. Your words of encouragement mean more than you know. I'm trying not to throw myself too many pity parties because I know things could be much worse, and in the grand scheme of things, this isn't that serious. It's not like I was training for Boston or anything. I'm trying to keep a healthy perspective, but thanks for indulging me and letting me be sad for a while. This just sucks, and it's going to get harder before it gets easier. 

February 19, 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Last week started with a romantic gesture and hopeful optimism about my hip injury, but it ended with a hospital and excruciating pain.

Let's start with the good part, shall we?

In my last post, I whined about not being able to figure out what's going on with my hip until March, but then I got great news! The hospital called and said I could get in on Feb. 15 for my hip arthrogram and MRI -- two weeks earlier than scheduled! At that moment, I should've Googled "hip arthrogram." But I didn't. (This is called foreshadowing, y'all.) I was so excited to finally be on my way to finding out what it's going to take for me to run again.

Meanwhile, I was busy plotting a sweet surprise for Trea's Valentine's Day present. He loves to cook and bake, and he's always complaining that we don't have a KitchenAid stand mixer. I always say we don't have enough counter space, they're too expensive, stirring is a good workout, etc. Just so I could surprise him with a shiny red mixer for Valentine's Day! I had big plans to wake up early, put a pretty bow on it and leave it on the counter for him to see first thing that morning.

And when I came home from work Monday to finalize my plans -- the day before Valentine's Day -- I was greeted by this:

He got me a piano?! What the WHAT? Needless to say, I'm in love, both with Trea and the piano. It's gorgeous. It's a spinet grand, which I've never even seen before, and it's a shiny black finish that's perfect for our house. Not only does he know me better than anyone, but he can also decorate better than most girls. I've played the piano since I was 4 years old, but I haven't played regularly since college. I've forgotten a lot, and I'm having to relearn everything I once knew, but it's been so nice to play again, especially since I can't do much else.

On the actual day of Valentine's Day, I surprised Trea that morning...

...just as planned, but my splurge wasn't exactly a splurge in comparison to my perfect gift. The piano, without a doubt the sweetest, most thoughtful gift I've ever received. I am beyond lucky.

And after all this fabulousness, it was time for my hip arthrogram. When I saw my new doctor a couple of weeks ago, he did tell me that I needed to have a dye injection before my MRI. He said it as though he was breaking bad news. I should've followed my instinct and asked more questions based on his tone, but I didn't. He said, "You're gonna want to go home afterward and rest." OK. Cool. Sign me up. I just have to get a shot? No problem. But then when the hospital called to move up my appointment, they "reminded" me to eat a light breakfast and bring a driver. "Why? Is the dye going to make me feel bad or something?" Response: "Um, let me check." After holding for 5 minutes, I'm told that the dye sometimes makes people feel queasy. OK, well, whatever. I just want to find out what's wrong. If I have to get a big shot, I'll just have to be a big girl.


When I arrived at the hospital and had to wear a hospital ID bracelet, like a real patient, I started getting a teensy bit nervous.

I was taken back to a room that looked like a cluttered operating room. I had to lie down on a table with an x-ray thing above me. They positioned the x-ray thing over my hip, and I could see the picture on a panel next to me. This was to help them guide the needles. Needles, plural. A team of three people hovered over me and started giving me injections of a local anesthetic. OW. This was painful, but was kind of like a bad trip to the dentist. I'm still OK.

Then they brought out the big guns. This entire time, I either had my eyes closed or trained on the ceiling directly over my head. No looking at the x-ray panel; no looking down at the parade of syringes. So I don't think I was freaking out over the idea of what was happening, but the pain of the dye injection was more than I ever prepared for. There was no warning of, "You might feel a pinch here" or anything like that. Just BAM, massive needle entering at around my bikini line all the way into my hip socket, then filling with fluid and pressure. Stabbing pain and pressure. I started getting really hot and I felt sick -- not from the dye itself, I don't think, but from the level of pain. I still had on my street clothes and was wearing a hoodie sweatshirt. It seemed like the ginormous injection went on forever, and by the time they were done, my hair was dripping wet with sweat.

After it was over, I lay there for a minute or two catching my breath, then they were like, "Great job, now hop down off this table and walk to the MRI room." I'm sorry. You want me to WHAT? You mean we're not doing the MRI in here? Can I get a gurney?! They assured me I'd feel better if I started moving. So I got down off the table and made it about three steps before I started to black out. I've never fainted before, but I'm pretty sure I know how it happens now. My hip hurt SO incredibly bad. I was trying to get my bearings, but then everything started going dark and I thought I was going to be sick. That, my friends, will score you a wheelchair. Finally. I spent another 15 minutes back on the table, sans jacket, while two people fanned me and waited for the color to return to my face.

The MRI was cake. Like a big noisy tanning bed. No big deal. But my hip was feeling worse and worse. I could tell things in that neighborhood were numb from the anesthetic, but it still hurt. By the time I got to the car, I was dying. When we got home, I parked myself on the couch and tried to get comfortable, but nothing was comfortable. Within an hour, it felt like the locals were starting to wear off, and all I could do was cry. No matter what I did, my hip and entire right leg ached so bad I could hardly stand it. When the locals completely wore off, I had pain shooting down from my inner and outer hip area to my knee and ankle. But I remembered they said I'd be better off if I kept moving because the dye needed to get out of the joint so it could be absorbed by soft tissue. So every hour or two, I'd get up and shuffle slowly down the hall, crying all the way. The house was littered with used kleenex, and the dog was a nervous wreck.

We all had a rough day.

I learned that when I cry, Bella cries, which does nothing whatsoever to help my mood. Luckily, that only lasted for about 10 hours or so. After that, I stuck to groans and whimpers, which didn't seem to bother her as much.

That was Wednesday, and I couldn't walk normally again until Saturday. I missed work again on Thursday because I was in too much pain to walk from the parking lot and sit all day at a desk, but I made it OK for most of the day Friday.

I never expected a test to be so painful -- it was a thousand times more painful than the actual injury we're looking for. But maybe this will get us some answers. I go back for the results this Thursday, and then hopefully we'll know if there's a labral tear or something else. Wish me luck!

February 7, 2012

See Anna Mope

This little blog started as See Anna Run, but if I had been posting regularly the last few weeks, it would be more like See Anna Mope. I'm still injured, with no end in sight.

I'm not going to the Little Rock Marathon. 

I still can't run. My hip is better than it was in early January when I stopped running, but running is still painful. I took a solid 4 weeks off -- thinking that lots of rest, stretching and massage would do the trick. But nope. I tried running last weekend, and it was awful. All 1.75 miles of it. It hurt from the first step, but by the time I got back to my car, I was miserable and limping. I could barely walk the next day. So I decided to see another doctor -- someone who specializes in sports injuries and hips and who isn't a chiropractor or a massage therapist.

It took a while to get an appointment, so I just saw the doctor this morning. They took x-rays, which were normal and showed nothing. So he recommended an MRI. But because of where the pain is and because of how long it's been going on (years, but with a recent debilitating flare-up), I have to get a special MRI where they will inject dye into my hip joint. He said it's possible that the cartilage in the socket of my hip could be torn, and that wouldn't show up on a regular MRI. But he has no idea whether that's actually the issue or not. No way to know until I get the scan. Hopefully this will tell us whether anything is torn, or if things are just inflamed. And the kicker?

I can't get an appointment for my radioactive MRI until February 27! Three weeks from now! (It's done at a local hospital, not the clinic I went to, so there's nothing they can do to speed things up.) And I won't find out the results until March 1 when I meet with the doctor again. So the only diagnosis I received today is that I get to spend another month not running. Also not biking. Also no exercise that puts any impact on my hip -- which is basically ALL of it. He says I can swim, but I don't really know how. I've been trying to learn, and the only thing I know so far is the breaststroke.

BUT he said I specifically can't do the breaststroke because the frog-leggish kick will aggravate my hip. So...I'm not sure where that leaves me. Attempting freestyle and gasping for air, I suppose. I'm also allowed to use the recumbent bike at the gym. Not a regular bike and not the elliptical. A recumbent bike, with all the grandmothers.

So after all that, I spent 45 minutes crying in the parking lot of the doctor's office, feeling sorry for myself. I have worked so hard, only to have an injury shut it all down. No Little Rock Marathon. I won't even be able to run the Bentonville Half Marathon at the end of March. After the first two weeks of rest, I knew that when I wasn't better at that point, that I wouldn't have time to train for Little Rock. I accepted that a while ago. But this whole time, I've believed I could run Bentonville. But I can't. I won't even have a recovery plan until 4 weeks before the race. Something that I thought would be a setback for a couple of weeks has turned into an injury that's ruining my entire spring season. When (if?) I'm able to run again, I'll be completely starting over. Learning to run 1 mile at a time. 13.1 is going to seem outrageous by March.

I realize that in comparison to basically anything else, this isn't an actual problem. My gait has pretty much returned to normal. The pain has gone away enough that I can sleep through the night. I'm not on crutches or in a cast. I just can't run. For normal people, this doesn't matter. When I've been sad, most responses have been, "That sucks. Oh, well. Just go to the pool or go for a walk and you can do those races next year."

But it's about more than just these races.

It's what I've worked for. It's about watching celebration over running 6 miles for the first time, 10 miles, 20 miles, fly right out the window. It's about facing how hard it will be to start at 0. AGAIN. Yes, folks, I'm mourning my fitness. I know, I know, it's ridiculous. People have actual illnesses that prevent them from living normal lives, and I'm whining because I can do a million things, but I can't run. But I LOVE to run.

So tomorrow, I will deal with it. Tomorrow, I will go to the pool, try not to drown, and I will figure out a new plan to stay active and get me to March 1. But today? Today I'm just really sad.


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