Sunday, January 29, 2017

Stuck in the Mud: The Injury Series 1.0

My First Big Sports Injury

Have you ever been injured? Me, too. Back in 6th Grade during gymnastics, one of my attempts at a full twist left me with a broken thumb after a bad landing. And it hurt.

(I'm in the third row far right)

With a cast and a promise of healing within six weeks (and learning to write left-handed in school), I discovered that I was ready to move on to other sports. Gymnastics was fun, but I wanted to do track and volleyball (which meant quitting gym), so the time of reflection helped firm up my decision. It's one I've never regretted.

Centralia High School Track Freshman Year
4X100 Relay (Me, Molly Parker, Sarah Hahn, April Schilt)

St. Pete High School Varsity Volleyball
Senior Year (me front and center)

I've had no major injuries since then. Little things here and there, but I've always bounced back pretty quickly. That time I ran into sliding glass door and most likely broke my nose stands out because it was really painful, and led to a lot of headaches afterward, but otherwise I've managed to avoid the need for hospital visits.

For about 14 years, I've considered myself a distance runner. Not a fast one, but a runner just the same. Four marathons, about a dozen halfs, and tons of 5Ks, 10Ks, and a few 15Ks later, no major injuries to report.

PRETENDING to be injured for the Halloween Halfathon...never again

Until now...


About three months ago, I felt a niggle in my right heel. So I did what a usually do when I notice something feeling just a little bit off while I'm running...I ignored it.

My thinking goes something like this:

Surely it will go away...eventually...it will stop...any time now...go ahead and leave me alone...okay, it's not funny now...I'm limping a little bit...so I'll just run 10 miles and that will make my heel realize that it's fine and stop being a pain...

Heel pain is a really big pain in the butt, in every sense. My right high hamstring and lower right glute have been suffering and weakening in the midst of all this limping around.

Enter Podiatrist Brian Fullem, MD. He rules out major problems and I'm left with some possible nerve inflammation. Enter Premier Physical Therapy. They want to know my pain levels. Let's see...like a 5 or 6, I guess. I'm not really sure how to quantify it. One visit down, seven more to go...ready to be healed!

And then I learn what a 5 or 6 level of pain really means...

Out of a dead sleep, my back spasms (thoracic spine) and I cannot move to turn left or right or to sit up. Grunting through the LEVEL 9 PAIN, I struggle out of bed wondering what the heck just happened. It's difficult to describe the fear that accompanied that moment. I couldn't take a full, deep breath. I think I now understand why people have panic attacks. It scared me how bad my back hurt.

My usual plan of action was set into motion. A few Ibuprofen*, stretching, rest, and relaxation for the day. Unfortunately I had to call in to work (which I NEVER have to do). But I expected to be back to normal after 24 hours. The next night, however, it was actually worse.

I woke up in a cold sweat. The shooting pain in my back had returned. I asked my husband to come into the bathroom to help me undress because I couldn't take my damp clothes off. Seated on the toilet, I lifted my arms as he took off my shirt and the pain spiked again. Suddenly, everything went hazy gray. I told my husband, "I can't see."

When I went unconscious in my husband's arms, I didn't have to tell him I had reached LEVEL 10 PAIN. He just knew.

I woke up on the nice, cold tile floor facing the ceiling. And I actually felt better. There was ringing in my ears, but my back didn't hurt too bad anymore. Soon I realized that I couldn't get up, and the pain was returning. My husband was on the phone for an ambulance, but when he realized I had woken up almost immediately, he told them that he would drive me.

To the ER we went. EKG, X-rays, testing, and a lot of groaning on my part. The doctors decided that I had a muscle spasm possibly due to a pinched nerve. They sent me home on Valium (yeah...) and Ibuprofen. And yes, I had actually passed out from pain (it's called vasovagal).

My Back and Heel Injuries


I've gone from rarely ever dealing with injuries to two debilitating injuries that not only prevent me from running, but that seem to be FIGHTING each other.

When I first had back pain, the heel pain vanished! It was a miracle! One that I welcomed. However, as time went on, and as my back improved, the heel pain returned. But then my back would revert, the pain would increase in my thoracic spine, and the heel pain would decrease.

This back and forth fight for pain dominance has been going on for about a month now.

I've been stuck in the mud for longer than I expected and I don't like it. Injury sucks. Physical therapy has become like a job now where I'm doing stretching and exercises morning and night just to survive. And I've simply wanted nothing more than to be done with it all.


Lessons in Patience

Psalm 40: "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

I believe in the power of prayer, and I've spent a lot of time not only praying to Jesus, but yelling at Him, too. Thankfully, He can handle it. And He's been gently teaching me as I whine and complain and sob like a child.

I also believe that God has allowed this pain in my life for a reason. I'm learning a lot about patience, about the ability to sit (or lay flat as the case may be) without distraction, devices, or even the ability to hold a book to read. Not because that's what I wanted to do, but that's what my injuries required.

Having this much down time has given me a fresh perspective on this fast-pace existence that I speed through without stopping to look around.

In this phase of learning to be more patient, I'm trying to be more attune to what other people deal with as well. Sharing my pain has led to others sharing their pain. And the pain that other people deal with puts my pain to shame.

For me, it's ONLY been a month.

That's not a very long time. But I didn't really have anyone explaining that to me. That, no, I shouldn't try to go back to my full normal activity right away, because that will cause a relapse. One step forward will become ten steps backwards.

My expectations have been extremely skewed. Only when I've commiserated with other people who also deal with back and/or heel pain have I understand that these things take TIME to heal. For some, several months. For others, years.

And for some of us, the damage is irreversible, so it will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

The MRI results have revealed bulging and protruding discs in my cervical spine (neck), which is referring pain to the thoracic area in my back.

At this point, I am improving on a very slow but steady incline of progress. Rather than two steps forward, five steps back (which has been the method of my progress until a few days ago), I'm actually taking baby steps forward without any noticeable back-peddling.

As a part-time employee at St. Pete Running Company, I've been striving to do my best while not overdoing it. At times, I need breaks, and thankfully I have very understanding employers.


I'm up to a 30-minute walk every other day with slow jogging for a few of those 30 minutes. It feels really good to get moving, even if it's nowhere near the half-marathon training plan that I would've been following had I been spared these injuries.

The truth is I MISS running.

And I'm hoping that soon, I'll be able to run for all of those 30 minutes again. For now, I'm hedging my expectations and putting everything into perspective as best as I can.

I'm able to walk, even jog slowly to an extent. That is a gift, and I won't take it for granted. My fight is not over, and I'll let you know how it's going.





*In general, I do not take medication for pain, unless the severity is great. This was one of those instances where the pain was bad enough to make me feel the need to take something.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Running Girls: A Novelette

The Running Girls

A New Novelette Now Available


Two girls with nothing in common except the 500-Mile Summer of '89 Challenge

Buy Now

Autography Signed eBook Edition

Amazon Kindle Edition


Clara is an average student and below-average athlete. With some inspiration from her cross country coach, Clara decides to take on a summer running challenge: complete 500 miles in three months. The problem? Her parents don't want her jogging all those miles alone, but Clara doesn't want to run with the girl they suggest. Joan is weird, and something seems to be mentally wrong with her. Except none of Clara's other friends run. Will she complete the challenge, or does being stuck with Joan mean she's destined to fail?


Book Signing Hosted by St. Pete Running Company


RSVP ON FACEBOOK
When: Friday, 9/23/16 from 6-8 PM
Where: St. Pete Running Company
6986 22nd Ave N, St. Pete, FL 33710


I'll be signing and personalizing copies of The Running Girls through an app called Autography.

Books available in print and ebook:
Lance & Ringo Tails
Little Angel Helper
The Prometheus Saga


What is a novelette?

A novelette is longer than a short story, shorter than a novella. The Running Girls is about 12K words.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Writing About Girls Who Run

The Running Girls

Novelette Launch Date 9/17/16


What's the story about?


Here's the tagline: Two girls with nothing in common except the 500-Mile Summer of '89 Challenge.

Clara is an average student and below-average athlete. With some inspiration from her cross country coach, Clara decides to take on a summer running challenge: complete 500 miles in three months. The problem? Her parents don't want her jogging all those miles alone, but Clara doesn't want to run with the girl they suggest. Joan is weird, and something seems to be mentally wrong with her. Except none of Clara's other friends run. Will she complete the challenge, or does being stuck with Joan mean she's destined to fail?

Where did this story originate?


A couple of weeks ago, my running partner, Terry, and I had just conquered a six-mile run through Clearwater that included the Sand Key bridge. Needless to say, we felt strong and fabulous.

On the drive home, my phone rang. The bluetooth in the car told me that Janna Angell (owner of St. Pete Running Company--and my boss) was calling. Unable to sift through the backseat for my phone as I drove, I apologized to Terry and proceeded to answer with the bluetooth, informing Janna that she was on speakerphone.

During the brief chat, Janna invited me to participate in a book signing that she and Cody were hosting at the store for Dr. Brian Fullem and his new book, The Runner's Guide to Healthy Feet and Ankles.

I was so honored to be asked. But once I hung up the phone, I realized that my only available books had nothing to do with running. My novel, Sprinter, is still under consideration by an agent and is not yet published.

When I mentioned this to Terry, she suggested that I write a story for this book signing about a runner.

Brilliant! Why hadn't I thought of that?

Running Legend Alyssa Bowers



I talk about my amazing cousin, Alyssa, quite a lot on this blog. She's the one who ran a crazy Trans-Alpine race about a year ago. Eight days, about a marathon a day in the Alps. And she FINISHED! Unlike a third of the other competitors. That's just one of the reasons she's a legend.

She's also the person behind my love/hate relationship with running. She got me started back in college when I had no intention of running more than a few miles at a time.

When I started jotting down ideas for a story about a runner, I immediately thought of Alyssa and her best friend, Jenni. Back in high school, they completed a 500-mile summer running challenge. That gave me the premise for the story.

The Florida Heritage Book Festival



When: Saturday, 9/17/16 from 7 AM-5 PM
Where: Flagler College (Ringhaver Student Center)
50 Sevilla Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084


Giveaway: Come by my table and enter the drawing to win a free copy of Lance & Ringo Tails. Find out instantly if you are the winner.


The Running Girls will be released as an ebook at this event. I'll be signing and personalizing copies through an app called Autography.


Book Signing Hosted by St. Pete Running Company




When: Friday, 9/23/16 from 5-7 PM
Where: St. Pete Running Company

6986 22nd Ave N, St. Pete, FL 33710

I'll be signing and personalizing copies of The Running Girls through an app called Autography.

Books available in print and ebook:
Lance & Ringo Tails
Little Angel Helper
The Prometheus Saga


What is a novelette?


A novelette is longer than a short story, shorter than a novella. The Running Girls is about 12K words.



Monday, June 27, 2016

My First Age Group Award (and before turning 60, too!)

SPRR Beach Series 5K

An Award For Me?

"What?!"

That was my reaction when I heard my name announced for the 2nd Place Female Age 30-34. At the first 5K race in the St. Pete Road Runners Beach Series on June 24th, I accepted the award: a most welcome St. Pete Running Company Gift Card.

(Yes, I work there, and YES I cashed that thing in!)

I was totally shocked, not only because my time was not quite what I'd hoped for, but because the race had been so challenging (read: running ON the beach). The LAST thing I expected was that elusive Age Group award!

My dear friend, Sydney, took a video of me finishing the race.

video


It's no joke. I really expected to turn at least 50 before the running crowds filtered enough for me to earn any Age Group awards. The closest I've ever gotten is 4th place in my age group at a smaller race where no awards beyond top three overall finishers were given. More and more people are running than ever. Especially women. And I LOVE that and could never begrudge that fact. I just thought it meant I'd be in my 50's or 60's before winning an Age Group award.

I'm pretty excited to have done it at 34!

Making Use of the Award


I've always wanted to try Yankz! laces. Thank you, SPRC Gift Card! Once installed, you never have to tie them. Any pair of shoes can become slip-ons. With pink laces, will my pink Newtons become TOO pink, you think? I may pick another pair of shoes.


When's the next SPRR Beach Series 5K?

So glad you asked! The next two 5Ks are on July 22nd and August 19th (both races start at 7PM). Register for one or both HERE. The races take place on Pass-A-Grille Beach with the start right in front of the Hurricane Restaurant.

So are you up for the challenge? A beach race is tougher than a road race. My Race #1 chip time was 30:53, and even though I was hoping to break 30 minutes (which I can usually do on the road), I'm still really pleased because of that AG award.

What About You?

Have you ever placed top three in your Age Group at a race? Were you expecting it, or did it come as a pleasant surprise? Is that a goal of yours if you haven't yet earned an Age Group award?