Hitting the brakes

In October I was in a car accident when a lady turned left into my lane as I was going straight. Easy at fault verdict? Not really. It was the first day of snow and roads hadn’t been cleared or sanded. Instinct? I was only going 35km and thought I had time to stop, so I braked slowly. And I hit a patch of ice that left me with 0 control of my car as I slowly slid sideways into a car waiting at a red light going the complete opposite direction. It was like slow motion slide that I had no control over. It took a month to fix my car. The provincial insurance we are mandated to have only looked at who hit who – not who caused it. I was put at fault but won my appeal with the safety points taken off given back. The highway board also said “We can’t reverse the fault” but I could tell they didn’t fully agree with provincial government insurance decision for fault.

I feel like I’ve lost that same control again. Yet this time it’s my body and my former pre surgery injury symptoms. I was heading straight – progress was great, and I was following all the directions I was given by surgeon and physio. Then suddenly an unexpected obstacle in my path. My body began to slowly feel the old groin pinch. The stiffness in upper left leg. The worst it got the more my left side suffered. Swelling. Knee stiffening up. Pain into the left butt cheek and lower back. Not able to sleep on my side anymore. I feel like something is grinding in the hip joint. And a couple of familiar old pops in the joint. So I hit the brakes first on running and kettlebell training. On Monday, I received the call that my surgeon would see me February 6. All I had to do was make it through 2 weeks of work…

But each day it worsened. The more I was on my feet teaching – or even just doing mundane household chores – the worse the symptoms grew. I said I could bare it. I would be ok. My pain was evident to many of those I worked with – while I thought I was doing okay masking it. By Tuesday, someone reminded me that “just making it through the day” means I shouldn’t really be at work. I considered this and by end of the day, my body was screaming no more. I booked a sub for 2 days and made appointment with my family doctor.

Today, my family doctor put me off until I see the surgeon. I wanted to haggle for half days or something – anything that doesn’t mean time off. But my doctor said that the symptoms being so similar, it isn’t worth the risk of my health. And working in pain in my job is not safe for me. As I left, maybe because he saw the tears in my eyes or maybe because he knows how long my recovery was the first time and how diligent I worked in this recovery – he said with such force that it was like he knew I was already beating myself up: “Jess, take it easy. And be easy on yourself.”

“Be easy on yourself.” Since the first time I even let myself admit I was in serious pain, all I’ve been thinking of is others – my new students, the school I’m fallen in love teaching at, coaching basketball, falling behind on my resining goals, my partner and I finally back on track financially after the last injury and surgery, my partner and I making plans again for the future, my friends and commitments to them… I also had the “what if we have to go through this injury and surgery all over again?”

Meanwhile for those I’ve shared this news with, I’ve put up a brave front. I’ll deal with whatever comes I say. We will figure it out. Maybe it’s nothing. Yet inside I am feeling a turmoil of pain, doubts, fears.

The injury and surgery do not scare me – heck, if they said they could diagnose and fix me tomorrow I’d be game. It’s the uncertainty until we figure it out that scares me. The time lost. Losing the moments for all the opportunities I had planned this year. In Canada, a diagnosis for this type of injury takes awhile. We have to wait for tests such as MRI’s. Last time it took 3 months – my life on hold for 3 months. 1/4 of the year. Followed by 2 years of rehab that I really hadn’t fully finished.

I have goals to reach. I freaking love my job as a travel cart French teacher – as crazy as my job is. My job is a part of my “home” and a huge part of me, Being away from what I love doing takes away from who I am. And I feel so lost again.

For 2 weeks I’ve hidden these feelings. Ive beaten myself up. Like my accident – questioned whose fault is this – mine? Did I do something wrong? Did I do something to deserve this pain? I’ve put on a mask. Said I was being brave and tough. Taking on facing the unknown courageously while hiding how you feel really isn’t courageous. So here it goes – I’m freaking out. I’m losing my mind. And guess what? Even just admitting that brings me back a small sense of control. So the question is now what do I do about this? Well, I’m going to rest. I’m going to read, sleep, Netflix/Disney/Crave/Amazon Prime binge the heck out of this week. I’m going to prepare myself for how I’ll handle the worst but also hold hope that maybe an easier shorter fix is possible.

Meanwhile, life will go on. My students will miss me, basketball will likely find another coach temporarily, my workouts will go undone. But I do know that whether it takes a week or another year, there’s still so much more out there for me. And it isn’t anyone’s fault. I have to let go of blaming myself for life’s setbacks. I grew up blaming myself for family challenges that I couldn’t fix. Never did fix. It has created me to always blame myself in any situation.

I am sliding out of control. Hit the brakes. Time to rest. Minimize the damage. Let go of the guilt and blame. Accidents happen. Injuries happen. Sometimes there’s no explanations why – so you just have to deal with what life has given you.

It took my car a month to be fixed. Maybe it’ll take me just this week. Maybe it’ll take me a month. Or a year. Either way, pressing the gas going directly into the obstacle is likely only going to result in a head on collision with more significant damage and a longer recovery time.

Training and Extreme Cold Warning Day 10.

In our prairie province of Saskatchewan, in my city of Regina, we’ve been in a deep freeze for 10 days. -40 degree Celsius weather has been our daily average. Thursday we hit -49 Celsius.

With a long period of extreme cold, the challenge of my outdoor running, rucks, walks, and even today’s outdoor workout with my team become a mental battle of should I go or should I not. I really don’t like training in cold weather- even before in injury I didn’t. But I did it often before my injury and surgery. I could layer up, force out the mileage, and after a workout while thawing out – I didn’t hurt.

But now, intense cold weather makes my body stiffen, harden and flexibility and mobility are significantly reduced – so much I can’t really feel what my body is even doing, and when I do warm up, I’m hurting a lot. So for myself, it isn’t worth the pain it causes to force my body to train outside in -40 temps. Not being able to feel or have better control of my body risks injuries. And I don’t want to be on the sidelines again. I also now realize the risk in forcing myself out in the cold with my asthma and no inhaler available due to it freezing. I’d rather have a high quality workout indoors than a miserable workout outdoors where my body isn’t cooperating with me but I’m pushing it to anyway. I always felt there was shame and cowardice if I didn’t do my planned outdoor workout. Yet, more often than not, pushing through extreme weather has resulted in missing multiple workouts due to pushing my asthma and my body in elements that hurt me.

So… I’m learning to put myself first and that everyone is different. Some have no problems pushing through this weather. Others, like me, it ends up being a painful experience – such as asthma flare up or mobility issues due to an injury. So I’m learning it’s okay to choose the treadmill over an outdoor run. That the stationary bike is a great option when I can’t get my daily walks in. Or grabbing a kettlebell and doing some mobility.

It isn’t that I’m giving up by adapting my outdoor workouts to indoors. I am just doing what’s best for me today so that tomorrow’s workout and all the ones after also get the best of me.

And yes, I first did start the day with a protein tea latte, my weighted blanket, and a book. But I still plan to crush an inclined treadmill run after lunch.

I am a runner

I haven’t been running all my life. Heck, I haven’t been running even 1/2 of my life. I didn’t begin running until April 2014 – I was 29 years old. Yet, I rarely still feel comfortable calling myself a runner.

I had a challenging week with a stomach flu this week. Ever since my injury and surgery, I take even the smallest of setbacks and obstacles really to heart. I feel like I’m finally getting into a routine, sticking to my training plan – and bam, life has a different plan beyond my control.

Today I had planned to go for a long run. Yet, we had tons of snow fall and I knew a long run on many snow packed paths would definitely cause a hip flare up. If you haven’t ran on 7-8 inches of fresh snow along with many blown snow drifts, you wouldn’t get it. But it’s like constantly running in mounds of sand. It causes bad running stride – and there’s 0 chance I could do it painlessly.

So I decided I would go for a long ruck with Ginny instead. It’s getting cold so we layered up – I put on my 10lb ruck and I put on Ginny’s 2lb ruck. As we entered the nearby park with paths, only about 1km in, we encounter a dog off leash. It is city rules to have dogs leashes in city parks. Sadly Ginny was attached 5 years ago seriously enough for surgery and to leave her with anxiety. The dog prowled and jumped her – I had my dog spray and screamed loud enough to deter it. The owner, without apology, finally managed to leash his dog. Ginny and continue. Not even a full minute later, we come upon 2 off leash dogs from 1 different owners who have begun to chase other. I yell to them I have a dog who doesn’t like to be approached and they try to call their dogs. It took 3-4 minutes.

By now, Ginny is extremely stressed and anxious and I know her ruck is done. I return home defeated that we didn’t even get in 3k (did 2.67km). This was nowhere near my planned 105 minute aerobic activity.

I sat on the chair for a bit contemplating my afternoon. I have tons of school work unfinished. I feel completely off from the inpromptu flu – in training, in report cards, in lesson planning, in home chores, and just off mentally and physically too.

I don’t feel like the athlete I was before all of this. I have gained weight since the injury and surgery. I have battled numerous setbacks. I can’t seem to lose weight. I can’t perform to the extent that I used to. So I often just feel as if I’m working towards something I can’t even achieve.

I pushed these ever recurring thoughts aside and I decided I would walk on the treadmill. Not tracking it. Just walk as long as I felt like it. I also knew I’d play a movie I’ve wanted to for while off amazon prime – “Brittany Runs a Marathon”.

And just… bam. Watching Brittany’s fictional life had me reliving my own. I began running because I was told I was pre-diabetic. I started running to change my life. To change where my life was going. And while my abilities have changed a bit, and some things are more challenging than before, the reasons I run have not changed. I am a runner. I am still a runner.

We often define a runner as an extreme fit skinny long legged fast beast. I’m not extremely fit. I’m not skinny. I’m definitely not long legged (which makes running even more challenging). But I am a runner.

In the movie, someone says to Brittany “You changing your life was never about your weight, it was about taking responsibility for yourself.” This is the truth and love that I find about running. It’s a typical human habit to fall victim to not falling into the typical stereotypes of what we should be. But what is the most important about being a runner isn’t what others perceive of you, nor the medal around your neck – it’s about your own self confidence of who you are, of what you are doing, why you are doing it and where you are going with it. I am a runner. I run because I love it. I run because I want to become better. I run because I know I can. I run because it gives me quality time with Ginny – running with Ginny is an experience I can’t describe. You have to just experience your own run with a 4 legged partner. I run because I’ve taken responsibility for myself and how I live my life. I’m working also at taking responsibility at how I love myself.

I may not get back to where I was. My journey may have changed. But I am still a runner.

I. Am. A. Runner.

Oh, and you just have to watch “Brittany Runs a Marathon”. It’s priceless.

2020 – ready or not, here we go!

A blur of half of year went by and I haven’t written a single blog.

The remainder of my 2019 was spent transferring schools – I work for a school board with a transfer policy every 8-10 years – I was ready to move on to a new school but it has been a hectic start of the 2019-2020 school year. 2019 was also spent completing my thesis writing – done. Defending it in November – successfully done – Master of Education complete! Running my first big comeback 20k race since surgery in September – done. Continuing to manage post injury and post surgery flare ups. And just managing life, meal prep and nutrition goals, and training goals.

Where am I at? Well, though it often feels like not very far, I am at lot further than where I was this time last year. I survived a year of rehab, an after surgery setback of a stress fracture in my leg, multiple flare ups, and serious mental battle with myself about where to go from where I was in my training and athletic goals.

I found myself comparing myself to what others were doing and the results they were achieving. I compared myself to my old 2017 self that was crushing races and losing weight quickly. All of the comparing and degrading myself for not being where I thought I would be by end of 2019 left me exhausted and demoralized.

Then I remembered my go to – “She believed she could so she did.” One pronoun. Singular. This is my journey. Stop comparing myself to others and even to myself from previous years. There is no defined pathway for a journey. Sometimes you have to lose control to be reminded that you can’t control what has happened to you but only what you do with it. So here we go – ready or not.

In 2020, following a wise friend’s yearly tradition, I picked a theme for my year. I loved how each year she picked a theme and used that to live her life positively. I hate the idea of resolutions as for me, I am continuing the same healthy eating habits and training program as I did in 2019 with some slight changes. But an actual resolution seems pointless when I already have the tools I need for my goals. So I decided I would try this annual theme thing. I choose embrace happy.

I picked these two words and this phrase as throughout 2018 and 2019, I was constantly searching for happy in comparing myself to my past or to whom I see myself. I was searching for it by comparing myself by what I can’t do that my teammates and other athletic friends make look so easy.

But instead – I should be embracing happy. Each day. Every day. In my now. My morning routine. A cup of tea. A walk or ruck with Ginny. Supper with Brad. Each day has so much happy but I need to embrace it – to fully engage myself in it instead of monotonously going through the motions but only thinking how I can be happy in the future by losing the weight I want to be at or getting back to the running speed I was at. That isn’t going to help me be happy now.

I can also embrace happy in my challenges and any setbacks that may arise. A flare up of the hip – I’ll embrace that as it means I can focus on the tools I’ve been given to overcome it – stretching, foam rolling, mobility exercises. My car breaking down yet again (4 times in 6 weeks end of 2019 and also a car accident – oh, and a mouse in the car too)…is it possible to be happy in that? Yes it is – one, I have a car that I own fully and have the ability to pay to get fixed. And cars will break down – I can’t let that define my day or my year. So embrace happy as at least I do have a car that needs the occasional repair. Overloaded with marking, planning, and extracurricular as a teacher – yes, it’s exhausting and I have complained but I love it. I mean, who gets to be told by a student “You make me feel like I can do anything awesome in French.” Or, “I’ve never ran a real race before” for my school run/walk club. And sharing in a student’s first experience in running a real race? Priceless.

So yes. Challenges suck. Setbacks suck. I’ll likely post and share those too as they are real parts of my life. And who wants to see the perfect side only? But my goal will also be to post how that setback or challenge also brought me happiness – or if not immediately, I’ll share how I think that moment or event can lead to happiness.

So, each day, I’ll decide my own happy by being in the moment and embracing it – whatever those moments may be. I’ll decide the days, weeks, months, and year I’ll have. I will work at not comparing them to the days before or the days ahead.

Love to hear how you’ll embrace happy in 2020 for you. Happy New Year!