View of Stowe from the Swimming Hole. Taken on Nov. 26, 2011
Sports injuries are never fun and extremely difficult when you can’t do what you love! But I’m no stranger to this type of road block in life. Knee injuries and unsuccessful knee surgeries ended my bike racing for good back in my late twenties. It took almost a decade to get over and figure out the chronic knee pain and get back into cycling and skiing again (went vegan in 2007 and my knees got completely better). Luckily this upper leg injury which I incurred during the VT50K trail run on 9-25-11 shouldn’t take a decade to heal! My latest diagnosis is a pulled iliopsoas muscle which sometimes takes a few months to heal. It’s been almost 10 weeks of non-running and the Doc says I have to wait 3 more weeks after I tried to run too soon on Thanksgiving Day. My running coach, Jack and the Doc say that if I can start training in the beginning of January I should be able to run the Boston Marathon in April which will be marathon #2 and a dream come true. But if that is not the case, I may treat myself to the Utah Valley Marathon in the beginning of June and run Boston the following year. Who says you can’t start running marathons in your forties!!
While this has been a very tough time for me, some very good things have come out of my running injury. I like to believe that things happen for a reason so I have tried to make this a positive experience…..in between cursing, whining or feeling sorry for myself. Firstly, this injury confirms how much I love to run. It’s not something I do because it’s healthy and everyone else is doing it. I just love to run period. I love to run fast and I love to run far. Sometimes I just love to run slow and easy and enjoy the scenery. I love running on the roads and I love running on the trails in the woods. I love to run anywhere: the beach, the bike path, country roads, city streets, up a mountain, even with my running snowshoes! I love to run alone or with my husband, friends and other runners, whether it’s during a race or a social run. I feel good when I run and feel great afterward. It’s my favorite drug! So not running for almost 3 months will give me a huge appreciation for being healthy and able to run. I’ll never take it for granted again! I will always feel grateful after every single run I do in the future! A cold wet run is always better than no run!
For the month of October we did get out on our road and mountain bikes which was a ton of fun and made my situation a little easier to swallow. However, it might have slowed the healing process quite a bit as my leg sometimes felt a little irritated after a bike ride. So that is probably another reason my injury is not quite healed yet! I always learn the hard way!
Scott at the Swimming Hole in Stowe. A great pool!
October and my injury also brought us to the pool, swimming laps after a couple decades. I was never a regular swimmer but somewhere in my past I did learn the basic strokes. Luckily it came back to me within a few laps! With the help of Scott who used to be on the college swim team, I am getting a little more efficient with the free style and breast stroke. He is a great swimmer! I’m still slow but each time gets better. And I have learned to enjoy and look forward to swimming! Plus it’s a great workout! My injury could be a blessing in disguise as we are now seriously entertaining our first triathlon this summer. Up until my injury I never thought I could do a triathlon since I didn’t consider myself a swimmer by any stretch of the imagination! Well now things are different and we just might give it a shot! If I can pull off a respectable swim, the cycling and running will be so much fun! So yes, things do happen for a reason. And even when I’m back to running in January, I plan on swimming regularly all winter as cross training. We are lucky to have the Swimming Hole in Stowe close to my work and not far from our house. It’s a little crazy sometimes with all the kids but that has become my new lesson in patience!
Aqua-jogging/pool running is another activity that I have learned to enjoy and appreciate from my running injury. I like to do it before or after swimming laps. This is when you see injured athletes or elderly ladies in the deep end of the pool with a big thick belt around their waists. I didn’t really enjoy it until I did it with my friend Sarah at the Swimming Hole. She used aqua-jogging as a way to help her recover from a running injury in the past. She was so nice to keep me company that day. Thanks Sarah! Deena Kastor, one of the fastest female marathoners of all time also did a lot of aqua-jogging while rehabilitating her foot injury. It turns out that a smaller belt is better for getting a decent workout. Too much float in an aqua-jogging belt makes it hard to get the heart rate up.
Now let’s talk about sweating! A big positive that has come back into my life is Bikram Hot Yoga. This is very challenging power yoga of 26 postures done in a room heated to around 100+F degrees! Yes, that is correct! It is hotter than heck in the studio! But it’s one of the best workouts I have ever done in my entire life! I first did this yoga for 6 months straight in 2001 in Burlington, VT and then I found myself back in the studio in 2008 for another 6 months. I did well each time but I burned myself out going sometimes 6 days a week! I don’t fit into that yoga-girl mold and I’m not flexible at all. My joke is that I look like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz whenever I attempt to do yoga! Most styles of yoga don’t really agree with me. I feel nauseous in certain poses and downward facing dog makes me feel like….dog crap! I don’t have a very good history or past relationship with yoga. But Bikram’s yoga resonates with me. It’s difficult but done slowly and carefully. The sequence of postures and breathing make sense and are very healing. It’s common to see other injured athletes in a Bikram yoga class!
A photo I found on the web of my favorite Bikram yoga pose
In the beginning of this November I found myself going to the Stowe Bikram Yoga studio for the first time after work. I was shocked that my body remembered my practice from 2008! I was still stiff and very inflexible but my body seemed to remember how to do the postures correctly. I really like the studio in Stowe, VT. It’s a lot more laid-back than the Burlington studio which is a very busy and popular place. Don’t get me wrong, the Burlington studio and teachers rock! It’s a fantastic place! But if you prefer a bit more personal space while doing your yoga and a more relaxed vibe, Stowe is the place to go! The best news is that my Doc likes the idea of doing Bikram yoga as a tool to heal quicker. The heat facilitates blood flow and allows the muscles to stretch so much easier and safer. I also plan on keeping up with my Bikram yoga practice even during marathon training. It’s becoming popular with runners who are trying to stay injury-free and create a more balanced body. I feel like this yoga will be a wonderful way to recover after long runs and keep my body healthier and stronger. Give it a try! If you are an endurance athlete, you’ll especially appreciate this! It also makes excellent heat training!
Another gift I received while being injured is finally being introduced to T’ai Chi! I have always wanted to try this ancient Chinese form of moving meditation. It looks so beautiful and peaceful. I remember seeing someone practicing T’ai Chi on a beach in Ireland years ago. I knew that I would eventually do it too someday! The company I work for offers T’ai Chi classes among many other things like yoga and meditation. So I am now taking a beginner class once a week on Thursdays with a great instructor. It’s fun and very relaxing. I feel like this is something I’d like to keep in my life. It will definitely be helpful and balancing for my upcoming busy marathon training schedule. And from T’ai Chi I have discovered something else that seems very exciting and intriguing ! I will write about it when I learn more and see if it’s as promising as it seems! Stay tuned on this! It could be the answer to less running injuries for all of us!!
In summary I want to say something that is very cliché, but very true sometimes! “When one door closes, another one opens up”. And in my case a few doors have opened up for me: Swimming, pool running, Bikram yoga and T’ai Chi! When I had my knee problems and stopped cycling, I dove into my passion for playing Irish flute and ended up living in Ireland for a year. From this current injury I have learned how passionate I am about my running. I need it in my life and I’m so grateful this injury is only temporary! It’s the tough times like this that make us stronger and better people. Sometimes we are forced to take different roads and detours in life and that makes our adventures more interesting!
Scott is a fast swimmer! He will do well in his first triathlon this summer!
So my current plan is to try running on Christmas Day! And if it goes well and there’s no soreness, I’ll start training for the Boston Marathon in January. If it feels like I don’t have enough time to build back up, I may just do the Utah Valley Marathon in June. This is one I’ve read about and plan to do someday. Running in the canyons when the sun comes up over the mountains stays in my mind. So whether I run Boston or Utah, I will be thrilled to be out there on my own two feet! Any spring marathon will truly be a gift for me.
See you on the roads and trails soon! And we’ll definitely be skiing very soon. I got the green light! If you feel brave enough to try a Bikram yoga class or go pool running, please reach out and contact me. I’d love to hear from you!