Run for It!

It’s been a long time since I’ve loved running. Okay, well, maybe that’s not fair. I’ve always loved to be outside moving and shaking – playing soccer/basketball or other activities that involve running. I have never gotten used to running on a track or treadmill. It bores me to tears.

ACL repair has opened my eyes to new opportunities. When you’re down and out, you think, “What I wouldn’t give to do XYZ.” For me, a lot of the time, it was running. Now that I’m back I’ve been into trail running. I’m running almost everyday and I’m loving every minute of it. Okay, maybe I’m not loving the minutes when it’s chilly outside and my lungs are warming-up. But the burning sensation in my lungs, calves, and legs is amazing. It makes me feel alive.

Lost My Touch

So after being down and out for 7 months, it’s hard to get your touch back. Not being able to play with the ball, touch the ball, dribble the ball around my house made me crazy and made me bad. I’ve got a long way to go from where I am now, but there’s no where to go but up.

Man, I’ve missed playing. It was particularly bad during the world cup but is still bad regardless. I started touching the ball slowly, trying to appease my desire to play without hurting myself. I then would bring my ball into PT to get cleared on certain exercises. Man, you have to be in good shape to play soccer. I soon was able to top the ball, shuffle, and do some minor other things which made me happy for a few weeks… but then I was hooked. I don’t know how or why soccer has this power over me but I love it and I miss it and I become grouchy when I can’t play.

I tried many things to try and not think about soccer. I buried myself in work, started reading more books, played a lot of scrabble, ran, biked, swam – but nothing could take my mind off the game. Oh, the beautiful game. It is the most creative sexy sport there is – okay, telemarking is pretty sexy but not very creative and requires no cooperation.

Then something happened. I got cleared!

So, I took the ball and my terrible twin out to the field today. It was good. We did some passing. Played some long balls and managed to trip over ourselves only a little bit. Yes, I lost my touch. Yes, I feel a bit silly. Yes, my body isn’t doing what I’m asking it to. Yes, my knee is a little slow to react and I’m taking it easy. But YES it was a great day. And YES I will find my touch again. I got to play. We got to play. I tested my knee and my knee held up.

I was a little swollen afterward – nothing some ice and compression can’t handle.

It was a great day.

My First Run

October 1, 2010 I was given a partially used ACL to replace my non-existent ACL. February 1, 2011 I was allowed to run for three minutes. It was the best three minutes in a long time. Of course, those three minutes weren’t all together, they were separated by 4 minutes of walking – but running on my new to me ACL for the first time was awesome.

Since then, I’ve built my running up to 15 minutes (total) with less walking in between. It’s been good. It’s been amazing. A mere 5 months post surgery I am running. The unfortunate thing is that now my hopes are up. Does this mean I’ll be back to the pitch in 8 months? Can I start cutting and jumping? Can I play with the ball?

I continuously have to remind myself not to push it. I’m no longer a collegiate athlete. I’m not playing for money – I’m just playing for fun – there is no reason to try and get back sooner and risk injury. So, everyday I’m working out my knee. Building muscles by doing leg press and hamstring curls, balancing, and pushing my knee everyday to try and better myself in the hopes that the next time I see the Doc, she’ll tell me that I’m fine. She’ll tell me that I can play.

I’m being fitted for a brace this week – a brace that I will wear when I’m playing soccer. This means that I’m getting close. That I’m going to be back in the game soon and I can’t wait. Just keep getting stronger, faster, fitter in the time being, so that when I do get back, I wont have to start from scratch.

Surgery

October 1, 2010 I went into St. Francis Medical in SF, CA to have an allograft (a cadaver) of my right ACL. My Doc is young and awesome. They gave me a local and then a small general anesthetic to put me under (they don’t let you stay awake because of the disturbing sound that cutting through bone makes). I was bummed that they weren’t going to let me watch. Oh well.

After I checked in, they had this sweet blanket that allowed heat to be pumped underneath it. It was warm and nice. The Doc came in and signed my leg (per my request) to make sure she operated on the correct one. My anesthesiologist came in and it turned out that he went to UNC, Duke’s biggest rival. After some friendly banter, he drugged me. We went into the operating room, I moved myself onto the operating table, and he gave me the general. He asked me to name Duke basketball players instead of counting back from 100. Because my brain wasn’t fully functional, I could only think of a few… he said, okay, fine then just say “Go Tarheels!” I remember vehemently shaking my head as I passed out…

When I woke, he was still standing there, okay how about “Go Tarheels! now?”
“Hell no.” I replied. Awesome, I was awake. It was over.

Because the general anesthetic was light I was able to remember everything that happened as soon as I woke up. I got out of there as quickly as I could put my shorts on over my newly swollen peg of a useless leg.

Mom took care of me while I was recuperating. I wasn’t interested in taking drugs. I took a few for swelling at the beginning and then stopped on day 3. I started putting pressure on my leg on Oct. 3 2010 and went back to work on Oct. 4, 2010. Yeah, maybe not the smartest idea but I worked from home for the first week. My brain was definitely cloudy.

October 7, 2010, I was walking again. Back in the game baby.

The thing that I never remember when I’m facing surgery is that it isn’t the pain of the operation that kills you. It’s post surgery when you’re feeling well enough to start walking, start biking, start running, start something and you’re not allowed to. Yesterday, I was running, today, I’m on crutches. Meh. Rest, recoup, try not to gain too much weight so that when you’re allowed to start into it again, you don’t hurt yourself.

Surgery is amazing. I had an ACL reconstruction on my left knee 7 years ago. This past surgery was easy. Seriously easy. I didn’t feel too sick post surgery and I was able to walk a week later. The coolest thing – I’m on the road to playing soccer again, soon.

My First Half

I ran my first half marathon on a whim. I started with 8 weeks to train. I definitely do not recommend this.

6 weeks before the race, I was playing soccer and tweaked my knee. At that point, I thought it best to heal my knee, not train, and that my sheer willpower would take me through to the finish line. Yeah, right.

I was able to run 3 times before the race. The first two times, me knee popped out of place and I had to stop. It was very painful. At this point, I realized that I must have torn a ligament. My training partner was insisting that I was being a “girl” and that I was fine. This girl got angry. At that point, I made it my goal to run/jog slowly, the whole way. Screw him. I could do this half without training.

The half was gorgeous. We ran along the Embarcadero to the Golden Gate Bridge, across and back (which is actually quite long), to the park where the finish line was. It was a great course. My whole body was aching at the end: knee, what knee?

After my half, I recovered and then went back to playing soccer. My knee popped out again. Serious pain. Okay, fine. Finally giving in, I went to the Doc. I was pretty sure it was my PCL. Instantly when she did the test, she knew it was my ACL. Fail. It was really hard to hear that I was going to have to recover for another year before being able to return to the beautiful game.

If You’re Not First, You’re Last

Ricky Bobby said it best. If you’re not first you’re last. I’m not counting on coming in first in any of my races so I focus on fun. This focus, in turn, helps me do better – helps me to not concentrate on the winning aspect or the passing aspect but helps me focus on my surroundings. The Triathlon at Pacific Grove in California was gorgeous. I remember running and biking up and down the coastline and talking to my fellow triathletes. I will never forget the girl who I rode past… and along the way she said “way to go, keep it up” – wow, as I was passing her, she was cheering me on. Insane. But she has become the definition of “if you’re not first, you’re last.” She was just happy to be there.
It’s the same when I’m playing soccer. If I’m goofing around and having a good time, I’m a much better player than if I’m taking things seriously and trying to win.

Do it for the fun of it.

The Dock in the Distance

Running has never been a challenge for me. It’s always been one of those things that I can just “do.” I may not run particularly fast but I can run forever. I remember this one run I went on – down Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. I saw a dock off in the distance and decided to run there.

I don’t know what it is with my body. It’s hard to get going but once I get going, I can keep a good pace until… well… until I get bored. I know that sounds strange.

Note to self: when you pick a dock off in the distance, it is significantly further than what you think.

I ran for a long while when I realized I was only about half way to the dock. I thought about turning back. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to make it. It took me another hour to make it to the dock.

I was stoked when I finally made it.

I then turned around to go back. I was running for a long time when I realized I didn’t recognize my surroundings. I figured running past the hotel was impossible. There is no way that I wouldn’t get tired by the time that I got back to the hotel. Yet, somehow, I had run past the hotel. I was lost. I realized that there was no way I could recognize the hotel from the beach side because they had taken the umbrellas down. It was dark. I had to find my way to the streets to be able to find my way back to the hotel. When I found the streets, I found that I was in the ghetto. In the ghetto in spandex. Not cool. Luckily my adrenalin was still pumping and I began running back up towards the hotel. After a couple of miles I found it. Phew. That night I went out dancing until 4 in the morning. It was a great day.

I have no idea how long I was running or how long I ran but it was an awesome run. One I will always remember.

A five weeks ago, I dislocated my knee. Then I decided to run the San Francisco half marathon (a week and a half ago). Yes, there must have been a disconnect in my brain somewhere. I made it. I ran for 13.1 miles. I didn’t stop. And I hadn’t trained in 10 weeks – I know maybe not the smartest thing to do – but I finished. It reminded me of the day I ran to the dock. Determination and adrenaline got me through. Booyacasha!

Independence Day

My grandmother was born on the 4th of July – traditionally, she has thrown a party on Carmel beach. Carmel beach is about a block from her house and is right next to Pebble Beach. This year, Dee Dee (named by me) turned 80. Thusly, it was the biggest bash yet.

In the morning all the young-ins bring supplies down to the beach for a day of barbecuing, volleyball, sand, sun, and fun.

Traditionally my aunt, Amie, and I have gone in the water. If you’ve never experienced Northern California oceans, you don’t quite understand the insanity of this tradition. Most people are wearing wetsuits (when I’m training for an open-water event, I train in my wetsuit). For this particular situation, I have never worn a wetsuit and never will. A couple of times the police have asked us to get out of the water for fear of hypothermia… we obliged, while they were looking, then hop back in the water.

This year, we followed the tradition of hopping in the water but managed to get most of the family (and significant others) into the frigid water.

With everything red, white, blue, and spangled – how can you not have a good time! Happy Birthday America!

Relaxed Swimming

When you’re training for a triathon, you don’t really understand what you’ll experience when you’re in the water with hundreds of other people. So yeah, maybe you train with 20 people, maybe 40, maybe in a pool, or maybe in a lake. Regardless, it is different when you’re in competition. Everyone feels the frantic need to hurry; run and jump off the dock, jump off the boat, or run down the beach into the water. Even when I tell myself not to run into the water with everyone else – it’s very hard to help myself.

Think, the timing chip around your ankle starts when you cross the line. So if I stand there for 10 minutes or go with the next group, my time starts then. Although you have to pass people in the water – this is no where as challenging as getting kicked and hit. People don’t intentionally hit each other but when you’re swimming you don’t totally look where you’re going – so swimming into someone’s feet and having their toenails scratch your face (gross!!!) is ordinary. Just think, if that happens to you, you slow up, and consequently, it happens to the person behind you. The same thing happens with arms. When you’re being hit or kicked, you’re much more alert and you naturally expend more energy – energy defending yourself, trying to avoid the threats.

So I say, why fight the populous – relax. Start a couple of minutes after your group starts and avoid the toenail scratches to the face. ☺

Smooth Transitions

Trisuits are amazing. Again, when I first started, I would wear big, baggy clothes… I quickly learned that spandex is king (at least for me). Although the thin liner (in tri-shorts) isn’t enough for long rides, it’s great for short rides or for event day. Okay, so maybe it isn’t thick enough for me personally for event day but when you get out of the water, you’re dry by the time you change your shoes. And not jumping on your bike with a wet sham between your legs is priceless.

So, when I reach my first transition, I already have half of my wetsuit off (the top half), I’ve already caught my breath. I quickly take my wetsuit off, put on a biking top (pre-fitted with unwrapped bars and other must haves), sit down, dry my feet, put on my socks and biking shoes and I’m ready.

I am not a Pro. I wear a full wetsuit – this takes some extra time to take off. I also wear socks in my biking shoes. Most of the Pro’s don’t wear socks and their shoes are already attached to the pedals of the bike – they jump on and pull their shoes on as they’re peddling. One thing that I do take a bit more time on is drying my feet. Think, this is only the second leg of the race (you’ve got two more to go), do you want to have to finish this race with wet feet/socks? No, I think not. You’ll be uncomfortable and chaffing. Not cool. So make sure you’re going to be happy going into the remaining legs of the race – set yourself up for success. This way you can think about the scenery around you instead of the pain in your feet (or your wet crotch).