My Life Not Running

It’s been awhile since I wrote. I really had no new information, no spectacular recovery, no fast forward button. If you have this button, please share! Covid-19 has pressed the slow motion button, heck – some days it feels like the pause button. No matter who you are – we all feel that.

Yet, when you’re waiting for something that significantly affects your life every day, that wait feels excruciatingly long. But I finally received a phone call from the new surgeon Tuesday – the one that I would have seen before June if Covid hadn’t blown everything out of whack. It was a good initial conversation. We discussed my past lifestyle change, my weight loss, the hip labral tear injury, and my current life quality. He discussed how we could spend more time trying to strengthen my left side but after our discussion, I think we both felt like it’s unlikely to change my pain as we have spent 2 years since the labral tear surgery doing that with physio and other strengthening with my trainer.

I’m now on the list for a femoral derotional osteotomy to correct my femoral retroversion. Yeah say that 3 times fast. Here’s a link about this procedure if you wish: https://www.hss.edu/conditions_femoral-osteotomy-overview.asp The surgeon explained it to me as well. The surgery is not a piece of cake. He has to break my femur, realign, and put in a rod. It will be approximately 9 months to let it heal along with rest, recovery, rehab. I know I’ll be either non weight bearing or partial weight bearing for some time – not sure if it means crutches, walker or cane – or a mix of all 3. After approximately 9 months, he’ll remove the rod. While this isn’t a guarantee to get me back to running and kettlebell training, he said that about 90% of his patients have had significant life improvement in day to day life. I’ll take that. Right now, a shower is enough to bring me to need a good hour off of my feet.

Now that we’ve had an initial discussion and I am on the list, the next step is to meet in person on July 27 and he will examine me and confirm I’m a good candidate. I’m 35 and will be 36 in August. Typically he doesn’t do this surgery after 35 – he has but it’s rare. He has to make sure my osteoarthritis hasn’t worsened too. He doesn’t foresee any issues though and is sure we can do it. There’s a high chance that this surgery will not just reduce or eliminate my pain, but also it will reduce the chance of more hip labral tears and even possibly reduce the progression of arthritis.

Two years of work that almost feel like I’ve just gotten nowhere and back at step 1. Another surgery. Another recovery. How do I feel? It’s hard to express the emotions I am trying to wrap my head around. It’s been 2 days since the phone call and while I feel there’s more of a plan and forward progress, I’m not going to minimize or just blow off how much this sucks. Regardless of all the well intentioned good wishes you usually get when sick or injured, regardless of the high positive chance of outcome, and regardless that we finally have a plan, even if it works, that means I will have spent 4-5 years on the sidelines. Longer depending on when I can get the surgery. That’s not nothing. That’s a huge chunk of my life. I’m allowed to be angry, hurt, frustrated, anxious, nervous, upset, pissed off, confused, uncertain. I’ve done every thing that has been asked of me by the medical world and more. Yet, the medical system failed me. They missed this condition because they found the other issue first and in our province – you don’t go looking for more if you find something that may fit your symptoms. They fix the first thing they find and hope that’s it. Knowing that’s why I’m still here is discouraging. And I am mostly powerless over the decisions the medical world makes. I can’t deny I feel doubt that they will miss something or fix the wrong thing.

Yet – I have hope. I still have heart. And I sure as heck have enough courage left. I’m not giving up. I’ve spent the last couple days dealing with my emotions but also planning on how I can go into this next chapter as strong as possible. The surgeon gave me plenty of muscle strengthening exercises to do. I do also have to step back from a lot of other things I was trying to do while waiting for the surgeon but I’ll do whatever it is to have the best outcome.

And in the end, can I live a life without running? Easy answer. Yes. The more challenging answer – I don’t want to. So how do I figure out how to without letting it take a dark hold of me? Well, I’m doing it now while hurting constantly and by doing just what I’m able to day by day. So if a life without running after this also means a life without pain, I’ll learn how to do it. It will be something I have to accept day by day. I’ll learn what I can do and put my whole heart into that. Just like I always have.

One of my most favourite running books is “Let Your Mind Run” by Deena Kastor. One of her quotes is “You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.”

I’m a planner and like to know where my life is going. But the past 2.5 years, I have learned that I have 0 control over that. What I do have control over is what I do while on this journey and what I do with the uncertainties I face. That’s what makes me a runner – even if it’s just in my heart.

I’ll never have a life without running. Even if I never can run a step again, what I learned, failed, and achieved while I was able to run for an amazing 4 years will always be with me. It can’t be taken away. And I’ll take all of the experiences, moments, memories, failures, achievements, races, training, setbacks, comebacks with me as I navigate the uncertainties and challenges of this next chapter.

Thaw out and live for today

This past week I’ve felt the stress of family, friends, colleagues, parents, teachers, students, businesses government, and society in general. However, in this stress, I’ve also felt one other emotion – gratitude.

We’ve never experienced a moment where so much we take for granted for as a given to be there every day is just suddenly gone. For 8 weeks, I’ve been dependent on grocery delivery and pick up, and physio. It’s extremely challenging to get a grocery order right now and even physio is now closing next week. Likely my 2 month estimated time to see my new surgeon will be delayed. And it sure as heck is terrifying to not have the medical tools that help indefinitely or to have a timeline for seeing someone who can help me move forward.

This whole week I have felt frozen – I think we are all feeling frozen. The days feels surreal. Yet, I can’t live the next days, weeks or months like that. So, what do I do? I managed to get one last physio appt tomorrow. I am going to do my best to get as many tools I can – stretches, exercises, whatever – to help myself during this time. I have a TENS/EMS machine that while is no way comparable to what my physiotherapist can do, if I use it regularly, I think it’ll make a difference. My pool therapy is gone and I cannot swim – the one workout I could do almost pain free. I can’t change that so I’ll do my best. Surgeon is okay with short walks but to stop when it hurts. Some days this 20 minutes, some days 10, and even some days 5 minutes. Most days getting ready is a workout.

But – not all of you reading this will be that stuck. Get outside, sit on the deck or porch, go for a walk. Find an outdoor training program. If you don’t have a gym anymore, ask if anyone has any gym equipment they aren’t using and maybe you can borrow them. You can even get active by offering to do the grocery shopping for an elderly parent, grandparent or neighbour – it gets you out of the house while also helping them stay protected.

I have felt useless for 7 weeks and very alone. This week – I have felt useful and that I was needed. Nothing changed for me physically but suddenly we were forced into a world where it was acceptable to use my skills to teach online. I’ve been able to create lessons while lying in bed. I’ve helped share tools for parents while doing some physio exercises. I’ve thought of ideas to add to my i online French classroom website while icing and taking a rest or nap. This reminded me that we are all useful in some ways but sometimes our society, and even ourselves, doesn’t realize that until we are forced to.

The challenge comes with balance – I have to take care of me too. Sometimes even lying in bed with my laptop hurts and I have to know it can wait. Even if it is just making 1 document or adding 1 link. So as much as we all want to help, we also have to practice self awareness – for both physical and mental health. We are living in a time where we have to really pause and consider the physical ramifications of even just going to a grocery store. We have to consider beyond ourselves and for all of our loved ones too. So I rest and I am still putting myself first. I have naps, I do my physiotherapy exercises, I allow myself to simply do nothing especially when my pain is at its worst. I binge watch Netflix, read a book, lie in bed and look at the sunshine (or snow as event weather is wonky still.)

What I also find intriguing this week is how much we are all thinking of how our actions affect our community – and sometimes we don’t always pause to reflect on that. More often, we have lived a life where we focus on ourselves and our families first as before, typically, our choices for our lives such as going to stores, gyms, parks, school, and work didn’t possibly cause harm or risk to others. Businesses are trying to find a balance of how to keep customers/clients safe yet while trying to be available for them. People are jumping to help others with lessons for kids, online workouts, getting groceries and running errands.

Overall, amidst the stress and chaos, I have seen so much kindness. Patience for the stores struggling to keep stock in; understanding for those who struggle to shop such as seniors and those with disabilities and opening store hours just for these individuals; buying from local businesses who are struggling to survive; gratitude expressed for teachers more so than I ever have felt before. I’ve even had more people checking in and I’ll admit, via texts and social media, I’ve checked in on people more myself this week.

I don’t want to forget yesterday or not get back to that – I know we will get back to the normalcy we grew dependent on. But this is what I hope we will not forget about this week or the upcoming weeks of uncertainty: One, we can survive by working together. Two, we are so fortunate to have so much available to us. Three, communication and socialization – it really does mean so much and it’s necessary for mental health. Sending a text or message to someone even when life is busy can make a world of difference for both the sender and the receiver. Even better, when this is over, don’t forget about those who actually are isolated due to illness or disability before all of this – make an effort to visit. make efforts to pause in a grocery store to have a conversation with someone you haven’t seen. More often – and I know I’ve done this too – we say “Oh hi! Sorry, wish I could chat, but I got to run.” Before, we were so focused on the next thing on our to do list as we took for granted we could chat with our friend next time. In this same mindset, let’s not forget the time we had with our families – time that was spent without multiple activities or events happening in our schedules. Four, physical fitness – while there are ways to do it now, many are facing limitations – don’t take it for granted. When this is over, if you’ve never trained or always done it alone, I recommend joining a local gym or training group – being physical is one thing but doing it with a group or around people is so different. I encourage you to try it. Plus you’re supporting a local community business who had to shut their doors for a period of time. Five, buy local – even if it’s a bit more money. I’m not saying you have to solely buy from them but even if you just buy a package of chicken here, or a load of bread here. Get a coffee from a local shop instead of Tim’s one day a week. These businesses will be the ones that will hurt the most from this Covid19 period but I’ve seen more local businesses reach out in compassion and kindness in so many ways as they try to help their community. If all of us made an effort to buy one local something each week in our community, we will help them build up again when this ends.

For today – unfreeze. Thaw. Melt. What can you do that’s positive right now with so much frozen around you? I started Duolingo and I’m making quite a dent in my Goodreads Want to Read list. I’m trying to be outside and get some fresh air but respecting my physical limitations with it. When able, I’ll continue to add lessons to my Online French classroom website during the duration of school closures – I’m still physically unable to teach but now I’m in a world where my body isn’t needed – just my mind. My partner has to work from home now – he has set up an office but then as soon as work is done, we have had some friendly Duolingo battles but also just enjoyed watching tv or Netflix together. He seems less stressed working as he gets up, works, done. I think having no commute has helped so much with reducing stress.

We have had such amazing yesterdays and so much to be grateful for in our past but we are only really recognizing that in this new reality – in this today. While there are so many stresses with this new unknown reality we are facing, we can find so much to make it positive. Once this ends, I hope we don’t rush back into old habits – forgetting what we’ve learned we took for granted and missed when we didn’t have it. While unexpected, not exactly wanted, and still surreal, I think this time and experience can inspire more patience, kindness and compassion in each of us; show us what is truly important in our lives; bring families closer while some may learn how to support each other in a multiple home family setting; make communities stronger; and maybe this experience of disempowerment and entitlement will help our society to grow to be more accommodating, charitable, and sympathetic. Hopefully we can continue to live with what we’ve learned this time, so that it doesn’t take a virus for us or future generations to have to learn it again.

Being brave in a time of fear – realigning priorities

Amid this coronavirus crisis, it’s been an odd experience as someone already secluded from society due to an injury due to a newly diagnosed hip condition – femoral retroversion. The past 2 months I’ve focused on navigating how I can live my now with the pain until my diagnosis – waiting for tests and surgeon appointments. Now with a diagnosis, I am focusing on the tools being given to me from physiotherapy to reduce the pain I’ve been in. It’s going to take time and patience. I’ve been overwhelmed by the uncertain future of decisions we will make because of it as we await to meet with a new specialist surgeon for this condition. So amidst all of this, it has been hard to balance the emotions of my own world and the world around me.

As someone who has already cancelled most of her 2020 race season, the emotions I’ve felt as I’ve heard cancellation after cancellation along with the reactions to the cancellations has been something I couldn’t quite register the last few days. But today, I finally understand the emotions I’ve been feeling and hope these can help you realign and make this a positive experience. While I feel terrible for people who have had races, even multiple races, cancelled and my heart breaks with them as I know the effort and time we put into our training, at the same time, I’ve seen posts where some have said “everything I’ve trained for was for nothing”. I’ve also seen posts from the team I train with who are still putting in their all to train for the upcoming Montana Spartan races, even with fears it may be cancelled. My team is a great example of how to see training is for tomorrow and for life – not for just a race. Even if that tomorrow has changed.

If you’ve felt like you’re training only for sake of races, step back a moment. Reevaluate. Training is a life achievement – and what you are doing is not just valued by the events you choose to challenge yourself with. Challenging yourself each and every day to be the best you can is a value all on its own. You have a new opportunity to prove that again. Regardless whether the race you’ve planned for is cancelled or likely to be cancelled. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. You don’t know when the day will come when you can’t do any of it at all.

My races were cancelled before this virus thing all began. I was disappointed- still am but I am still focusing on the priority that training is for me – it’s a lifestyle change. It’s what gives me motivation. I can’t run or do any kettlebell training right now, barely can walk, and I just found out I can’t even do the short stationary bike rides I was doing – at least for the immediate future. And I used to hate the pool and now find myself in a position where that’s the only exercise I can do with limited pain. So I’ve embraced it and even fallen a little bit in love with it. I went from forgetting how to be able to front crawl even 5 metres and now I can do 80 metres of front crawl laps before switching to a breast stroke or back crawl for a break. While I am terrified that pools may eventually close, I’m taking it day by day. I can’t control the future or what happens – I’ve sure learned that these past 2 years. But I can control how I deal with it.

So yes. Be disappointed but don’t let that interfere with what you’re doing to change your life as it is still so worth it. Find something else to embrace the disappointment with and put your energy into the positive. Be the best you can be. This is temporary and while for some of us, it feels like it’s just starting, I know it’ll end. As someone who has experienced setback to setback for the last 2 years and still isn’t fully through it all, all I have is hope that there is still more to come.

I am awe of anyone who trains regardless if they race or not this year. All of you that keep moving forward regardless of current situations are inspiring those who are struggling whether due to lack of motivation, an injury, an illness, or physical disability. Whether it is because of the coronavirus or due to an injury like me, we can be brave in a time of fear, we can realign priorities for what is truly important today, and we can not give up just because we can’t do something. Races will be back eventually but you can’t get back the days you wasted throwing in the towel and only moaning about what you can’t control. Do something with this. Continue to be brave. Continue to be amazing.

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!