Spoiler alert: the paramedic was right.
I was rushed into the hospital ER, whisked off to X Ray not that long after I explained my totally implausible story (“I hurt myself running a 5K”. “Did you fall?” “No.” “A marathon?” “No, a 5K.”). It was probably less than an hour after I arrived that the attending doctor confirmed the paramedic’s speculation about a broken hip.
Even now, eight weeks later, I can’t even believe it. It made absolutely no sense. Over and over, the nurse, the doctor, the x ray techs: “Did you fall?” “That must have been a nasty fall.” “What did you hit when you fell?” But I didn’t. I just ran. A very normal distance on a very easy course. I lay on the table in disbelief.
More blood, more tests before I was admitted and put on the wait list for surgery the following day. The break, at the very top of my femur where it meets the hip, was clear across the whole top of the bone, and the top piece was “unstable”, meaning it had separated from the rest of the femur. It would need to be surgically put back together with a rod and multiple screws.
I asked if I had injured the bone more by walking on it for three days, ready to beat myself up severely for my irresponsible medical decisions. The doctor told me that while I had definitely displaced the bone and made the injury more significant by doing so, I would have needed surgery regardless, even if I’d gone to the doctor on Sunday. The diagnosis would have been the same as would have the surgery. Just my pain and recovery time were now going to be much greater. Awesome.
It took nearly 24 hours before they found a surgical opening for me, and a surgeon. There was some back and forth with my husband about who to choose from the available options (“I don’t really want a hand surgeon operating on my wife’s hip”). I was given an internal reduction (closing the wide open fracture) and fixation (holding it together with screws until it heals itself back together). Apparently my surgery was “tricky” and “more complicated” than the surgeon realized just from looking at the scans. Again, the disbelief. How did I get such a tricky injury, such a severe fracture, just by running (and then walking on it for three days).
But disbelief had become reality. It was all true, and each moment that the dream didn’t dissolve meant this was real, and it was happening.
I spent four days in the hospital. I was given a walker to use. It was a major challenge just to get out of bed and into the bedside chair. Everything that you take for granted about living your life: walking, showering, dressing, using the bathroom: all of it was taken from me. I needed help with absolutely every single personal care task. I could feed myself but needed the food close enough to me to reach it.
The final day I was in the hospital was the day of the 5K I organize. The previous year, I’d run it triumphantly, savoring every moment out on the course. Watching people enjoy everything I’d helped pull together. This time, I sat in my hospital bed, furiously checking my phone for updates. Everything went off brilliantly. I was proud and overwhelmingly sad. My race has always represented how far I’d come: someone who had never run, never been athletic, never felt like I’d fit in with those types of people had learned how to run, despite its challenges, despite my challenges, and learned to love it. Learned to love it so much that I decided to take on the task of organizing a race. And along the way I’d met wonderful, amazing people who loved running too.
And now here I was, missing it because I couldn’t even walk. Couldn’t even get out of bed without help. I had no idea how long the recovery would take, how painful it would be, how much my life would be altered. I wanted to be one of those people that would see this moment as a wake up call, to take back my health, to claw my way back, to return stronger and braver and healthier than ever. But in that moment, all I could feel was overwhelming loss and sadness.
That was eight weeks ago. Eight weeks that feel like a lifetime and then some.
I sat there, shaking and sweating, in my car, realizing that something was terribly wrong with me. I couldn’t talk myself out of it any longer. I couldn’t will it away or rest it away, I needed help and I needed it now. My mind raced. I needed a plan. I called my husband and told him he’d need to take me to a doctor, or maybe the ER later that day. I called my friends so they could run my bag stuffing party without me. OK. Plan in place. I waited a few more minutes until my kids came out to the car and readied to drive home.
The kids got in the car, and I went to put the car in reverse. I felt a strong pull as I moved my leg first over to the brake. I gasped. Holy shit. I eased my leg up off of the break and screamed in pain. “OK guys, we’re not going to be able to drive.” I pulled back into the parking spot, shaking and sweating again. I was officially scared. I couldn’t even drive. I asked my daughter to call my husband to come get us while I made a few more phone calls to get my obligations taken care of for the evening.
The principal and guidance counselor saw me in the car as they finished getting students on the buses and came over to me. Did I need help? I of course said no, as is my way. I would be fine. I couldn’t drive, but no worries, my husband was coming to get me and the kids. They looked at me like I was crazy and summoned the nurse. But I still was thinking that somehow I had this. I would be OK. I would just get a boot or something on my leg and I’d be fine.
The nurse looked very concerned as I explained that I couldn’t walk, and couldn’t move my foot to operate the car. She opened the door and examined my leg and foot to be sure I was still able to move them and had circulation. I was mortified. These were my coworkers, and I was sitting in my car, with my children, unable to move. I felt weak and stupid. Why hadn’t I gone to the doctor sooner? What was wrong with me? Why was I in so much pain?
My husband arrived with crutches. OK. I would get out, get in the other car, and get on my way. The nurse put the crutches in front of me and the counselor crouched down to help me move my leg. I started to shift in the seat to leave the car and realized that now I couldn’t even move the leg. The counselor offered to help me.
When he moved my leg, I screamed. I had never felt pain like that, not even while giving birth. Tears streamed down my face.
OK they told me, the worst is over. I was standing now on the crutches. All I had to do was hop over to the other car and then I could sit again. I put my hands in place and readied myself. And tried.
Again I screamed. “I can’t do it,” I sobbed. The pain was so agonizing I could not move an inch. “I think I need an ambulance.”
Everyone was very calm. I don’t know who called the ambulance, I think maybe the nurse. The principal came out (my boss, also a friend). Two more coworkers came out. I wavered between crying and being absolutely embarrassed to have such a scene at my expense. They helped keep me calm, they eased me down a bit so I wasn’t resting on just one leg, and after several long minutes, I heard the sirens from far away approaching.
When the paramedics arrived, the school nurse took the lead with them and went through my symptoms, my story and the duration. They did a quick examination while I stood on the crutches before getting me onto the gurney (another scream from me, but at least no expletives). I said good bye to everyone as calmly as I could with tears streaming down my face, in between gulps of air. “I don’t think I’ll be at work tomorrow,” I tried to joke to my boss. My husband said he would take the kids home and meet me at the hospital.
I watched the concerned faces of everyone as the ambulance pulled away, listening carefully as the paramedic called in my vitals and situation to the hospital. He rattled off my respirations, blood pressure, dosage of the pain medication he’d just given me, and then his assessment of my problem.
“Possible fractured hip.” WTF?
So obviously this post is a bit late in coming. Two months to the day, actually. I can’t believe it has been only two months since everything in my world shifted so dramatically. I have wanted to write this post for so long, and it is certainly not for a lack of time. I’ve had nothing but time for the last two months.
This was me the morning of May 29. A sunny, hot morning. I had been doing my best to train for this race, the Barnum Festival 5K, for the previous eight weeks. After running several dismal 5K times, in early April I fired up my Couch to 5K apps and started again from scratch.
Everything was harder this time. I’d gained weight again. I was working so there was less time to run. The weather had grown warm, so running in the afternoons meant running in 75-85 degree heat. But I still doggedly logged in the miles, doing some interval training, doing treadmill runs, adding in yoga and some strength training to help gain back some of the fitness I’ve lost over the last twelve months.
The day before the race, I did a practice run on our shaded trail while my daughter was at dance class. In retrospect it probably wasn’t the best idea. Normally I try to have a rest day before a race, so that I am fresh. But this was just a 5K, and since I hadn’t gotten all of my training runs in on my plan, I really wanted to get in every mile I could before running what I hoped to be my come back race. Last year, I set my PR on this course, so I hoped it meant I could at least better my race times thus far this year by at least a little.
As I drove to the site that morning, I tried to do my ABC goal setting. I read this on a blog somewhere once. Goal A is your most realistic goal. Goal B is a reach but still potentially doable. Goal C would be pie in the sky not likely but technically possible. Race day had dawned hot, so I knew that this would slow me down. I finally settled on Goal A being 40 minutes, Goal B being 38 minutes and Goal C being anything below 38. These felt like crazy slow times, but after the year I had, plus the weight, plus the heat, I figured that was where I was at. I was looking forward to the flat pretty course, seeing a few friends, and finishing on the bases at our local minor league ball park.
I felt a little tightness in my right leg as I walked around the race site waiting for the race to start. I thought about getting in line for the massage guy, but the line was too long. I figured it might be some muscle cramping due to the warmth, so I drank more water than I normally do before a race (who wants to use a porta potty more than necessary?). I stretched here and there and walked around a bit. I wasn’t sure what the tightness was, but I figured it would go away as I warmed up out on the course.
We lined up under the I 95 overpass, near the big American Flag being displayed from the fire truck. I went to the back of the pack, readied my RunKeeper app, and headed out.
The first mile felt good. I was firmly in the back, but feeling strong. I was ahead of my pace necessary to hit Goal A and B so I was excited. It was all coming together. The rough year, the hard training, the loss of fitness…I was finally on the come back trail. Mile 1: 12:28 pace.
The second mile was where things started to go off the rails. We were just entering Seaside Park which borders Long Island sound when the tightness in my leg started to become a bigger issue. It wasn’t going away. In fact, it was actually becoming more painful. I took a walk break to see if it would help ease the soreness. I stopped at the water stop hoping hydration would help. I started back up again, hoping to salvage my time, but the pain continued. I started to alternate running and walking, and for a bit, that seemed to help. It wasn’t getting any better, though. I could see my time goals start to slip through my fingers. I pushed myself to continue with more running than walking. Mile 2: 13:03 pace.
The third mile was when I realized something was very wrong. This wasn’t just a sore muscle or a tightness. What had started out as just a bit of a tweak had turned into out and out pain with every step. As I rounded the final bend in the park, I realized that I just couldn’t run any more. Every time I tried to pick up the pace I was having truly excruciating pain in my right leg. I finally gave up my goals and slowed to a walk, angrily watching all of the people who I’d been keeping pace with (or had passed) amble past me.
But even with walking, the pain got worse. There was a moment when I realized I was in serious trouble. I was having trouble just walking at this point. If anyone had been watching me, they would have seen me grimace and grit my teeth as I struggled just to put one foot in front of the other. I thought about finding someone to tell, talk to, get help from, but everyone was in their own heads trying to get to the finish line. I pushed on, leaving the park and telling myself I was in the homestretch. Mile 3: 17:18 pace.
I finally hit the three mile mark, just outside of the ballpark. There was a race volunteer there. I should have probably asked her to help me but I was so close. I was determined to finish. I had never not finished a race, and I certainly wasn’t going to do it on a flat 5K. I tried to run but couldn’t. I finally pushed into the ballpark. I made myself trot the last fifty feet or so through the finish line at home plate. Last .1 mile: 16:53 pace.
Final time: 45:28. My slowest 5K ever, and I was just grateful to have made it through the finish line.
I walked through the chute and made my way to get water. Hydration had to help. I got the water and then (because I am probably the stupidest person in the world) headed to the beer tent. I earned that damn thing! I got a raspberry pale ale from a local brewery and stood there to savor it. Now that I wasn’t moving, I would be fine, right?
After the beer was done and I went to walk out of the beer tent, I realized I was having trouble walking. I could barely put any weight on my right leg. I chatted up the few friends I knew at the race, trying all the while to hide my limp, and finally excused myself to go home.
As I walked gingerly to my car, I passed the ambulance crew. I thought briefly about flagging them down to ask them to take a look at me, but then decided against it. I would just go home, put my leg up and ice it. I would be fine. I was sure of it.
By the time I got home, I could barely put any weight on the leg. I got out my iPad and started to frantically Google my symptoms. Obvious deformity? No. Blunt trauma? No. Redness or swelling? No. I told myself that the injury couldn’t possibly be that bad because it met none of those criteria. The most obvious one, not being able to put weight on the limb, I was sure would improve over time.
Stay tuned for Part Two. Spoiler alert: it didn’t improve over time.
I literally feel like I am crawling back up the mountain that was my attained fitness and weight loss. I am so wanting to get back to where I was, and so discouraged by how far I have slipped off the cliff.
I used to run right onto my blog and post race recaps after running my races. I have actually done four races so far this year, and I haven’t posted about a single one yet. Why? I’m embarassed and horrified as to how far I have let everything slide.
Plus I hate reading those blogs, you know? The ones where the person writing makes the same mistakes over and over and over, disappears for a while, and then magically thinks they have it figured out This. Time. You just kind of want to smack them and tell them, duh, stop eating so much crap and maybe move around a little more.
Yeah. Except I keep telling that shit to myself these days and somehow, some way, I’ve managed to gain 5 MORE pounds since Christmas, to bring my tally up to about 17 pounds gained in the last year. On my five foot tall frame, that’s a boat load of weight (or a wide load, as the case may be…). It’s two clothing sizes. It’s certainly some bra sizes but I haven’t honestly checked (I had some old “fat” bras I never got rid of in the bottom of the drawer).
I am so far gone I don’t even really care that much any more about the whole thing. Sure, I know I’m fat. Sure, I hate how I look in the mirror. I really hate that even my underwear doesn’t fit these days. But I honestly don’t seem to hate it enough to really do what it takes.
The running thing. The running thing, which I honestly really do love, is really pissing me off these days.
I have always been a slow runner. Even when I was at my fittest I never cracked a sub 35 minute 5K. I never dipped below a 11:00 min/mile for more than a minute or two, tops.
But these days? Those 36 minute 5Ks that used to frustrate me so much seem like the holy grail. Kind of like when you were a teenager and you thought you were fat, but you really weren’t, and then you look back and you’re like….damn…..I had no idea how awesome I was back then? Yeah, kind of like that.
I ran my first 5K of the year on March 13. It took me over 41 minutes to complete. Granted, it was a hilly, not fun course, but still. 41 minutes.
I ran my second 5K six days later. That one I did with a friend, and we agreed to go together. We walked a lot. It was a time of 43 and change (on a flat course!). Ugh.
The third one I ran on April 2. It was a big race, and the start was slow. It was also cold and rainy. I had hoped for below 40 minutes, but that shit doesn’t happen by magic. I hadn’t been running and it showed. I clocked in again over 41 minutes.
That day I set up my RunKeeper Beginning 5K program, ready to start all over again. I know that when I have a plan running, it kind of pushes me to get those runs in. So I am on week three of that now, obviously not done with the plan by any stretch.
Today’s 5K was a bit better. I don’t have an official time, and my app didn’t start right at the gun, but I am reasonably sure I ran somewhere around 39 and changed based on the timing clock as I crossed. Definitely an improvement, and a lesson too: you have to do the training if you want to run the race.
So here I am, trying to claw my way back. I don’t have any races coming up as of yet, although I would like to get back to my “one race a month” during running season. My girlfriend is trying to get me to commit to another triathlon this summer, and I would love to do it. I just don’t know if I can get from here to there by then. I think I can. Maybe I can.
For now, I’m literally putting one foot in front of the other, and hoping to turn this big assed ship around.
What a contradiction 2015 was for me. In many ways, it was a huge year for me and my journey through health and fitness. In other ways, it was a year that saw terrible habits reemerge and a loss of so much that I had worked for.
NYC Half Marathon….this was a huge accomplishment for me. Not only was it my second half marathon ever, but hello, NYC! It was a tough race to train for, in the dead of a winter that saw snow and cold so often that I ran 11 miles once on my treadmill. The race is huge and winds through Central Park, Times Square and down to World Trade/Battery Park. I felt on top of the world finishing that race in March.
First Triathlon…I trained for and competed in my first (and second, a few weeks later) sprint triathlon this year. It was an amazing and terrifying thing to do. I learned to love biking and swimming in addition to the running I was doing. I gained new and wonderful friends as a result of the training. It was another thing that I never would have thought I could do just a few years ago, but I did it.
5K PR...I gained a shiny new 5K PR this year at the Bridgeport Harbor Yard 5K in May. Granted it was only one second but hey, it was still a new PR. I was so proud!
My posts have fallen off the last three months because I have totally fallen out of my good habits. I had started to put on a few pounds during triathlon training this summer, eating like food was my job to fuel my body. I never did figure out how to adjust back down after training was over, and the pounds have slowly been creeping on.
Add to that a new job. I started full time substitute teaching this year, which meant the end of my bootcamp classes (they only run during the days and a few rare evenings when I always seemed to have something going on). I had a hard time finding time to get runs in, although I was getting them in here and there until October.
In October our family suffered a major personal crisis. One that was so all consuming and all encompassing that my training completely stopped to manage the schedule and care of it. In addition to the lack of training, I coped with the difficulty by….you guessed it, eating and drinking. Since October I have gained seven pounds, on top of the six I had gained from June to then.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, I fell after donating blood last month and cracked my tailbone. I was flat on my back for several days and could barely walk for two weeks. It is just in the last week that I have been able to walk or attempt any sort of running and even then, I can only run pace for a minute or two at the most.
So I find myself now at the end of what should have been the best year of my fitness journey about thirteen pounds heavier and out of shape. I am angry and disappointed with myself on this day of resolutions. It feels like everything I have done, everything I have accomplished has disappeared into the wind. I just let it slip through my fingers in a matter of just a few short months….four years of hard, hard work.
Today, I will start again. What is that slogan for quitting smoking? Never quit quitting. But I’m in the reverse. Never stop starting. So I am starting again, this morning with my beloved yoga teacher. I will track my food in My Fitness Pal. And I will make steps in the right direction. It’s not like I don’t know how to do this. It’s all in the choosing to do it, or not.
And right now, I’m choosing me. My health, my wellness, my sanity. I choose me in 2016.
So after my last tri, which I did not finish with a smile and pretty much hated once I sat on my very wrong bike, I was determined to find redemption. It came in the form of another sprint triathlon that another girlfriend was doing just two weeks later (yesterday).
The distances were much shorter, and a girlfriend offered me the loan of her much better bike, and I just knew I had to do it. The only downside was the swim: it was the same distance in the much more worrisome Long Island Sound. Which has waves. And salt.
I asked my girlfriends if anyone wanted to join me, and wouldn’t you know, the woman who inspired us all to do the first triathlon, offered to do it. My friend Rebecca, whose fierce will to overcome the death of her son at Sandy Hook by creating healthy living programs for kids, was in. Mostly. Actually she mostly agreed that she was just trying to help me out, but I know somewhere in there she wanted to do a second tri as well. I reasoned that since we were already trained from our tri two weeks ago we really didn’t need to do much to prepare for this one.
Except maybe try to swim in the Sound. We went out last Saturday and were shocked at how much harder it was than the lakes we were used to. The waves and current made it much more challenging. I asked her if she wanted to back out. She doesn’t do that. She said we had to do it.
So we showed up at Compo Beach in Westport, CT yesterday morning at 6am. We pulled up and were greeted by crazy wind that had kicked up from overnight showers and storms. The weather forecast was for the rain to stop, and it wasn’t currently raining, but the skies were ominous. We started worrying about the waves that were higher than anything we’d even imagined. My girlfriend who clued me into the race started nervously texting me: this was her first race and she was ready to get back in her car and go back home. Together Rebecca and I convinced her to at least set up her stuff in transition (it closed at 7) so that she could make that decision herself rather than have it made for her.
We purposely put our stuff close to the bike out of transition. These racks weren’t numbered like our last tri, so I tied one of the purple ribbons I brought to the end of our rack. I brought a garbage bag in case it rained, but it didn’t look like it was going to, so I put it under my towel to keep it clean and dry. Tracy finally agreed to do the race, a few more people we knew surprised us and showed up, and finally it was time to go down to the beach.
The waves were incredible. We walked slowly down to the one end of the beach to the race start. We were in the second wave (only three waves at this tri) so we watched the first wave wander into the water, out to where it was deep enough to swim (but also not too deep so they could stand if they got in trouble) and the race began.
We were into the water next and followed the same procedure. We heard them call us to swim and off we went.
The waves were insane. Buffeting and pushing and crashing around us. I veered out a little more so they wouldn’t crash on me but soon found the energy to keep up and move forward draining. I backstroked like it was my job and looked behind me: men were actually walking through the water. Big men! I wasn’t going to whiff my tri like that, but I did go to where it felt like I could touch in case I needed to. A big wave crashed over me while I was backstroking and after that I did walk the water a bit. Breast stroke, my rest stroke, was totally impossible in the waves. I just did what I could to keep moving forward, and finally we reached the final buoy. I went around it and headed for the shore.
1/2 mile swim: 18:29
To be honest, I can’t quite believe that’s a full half mile. I did the last half mile swim a full ten minutes longer. Everyone’s times are significantly less than I would expect. But no matter.
Into transition. I spotted Rebecca and Tracy both in there, so I wasn’t too far behind, which made me happy. I rinsed my feet, mopped off as much as I could, pulled on my socks and shoes, then my shirt and race belt. I paused to take a big swig of water and get some gum for the salty taste in my mouth. Finally put on the helmet and got the bike down (so much lighter than my bike) and it was go time.
The bike was a dream. The bike was so much easier to move than my other one. I took the opportunity to catch my breath and just enjoyed the ride. There were hills but they weren’t the challenge at all that they had been in my last tri. I happily passed people on lesser bikes. It was the best feeling. We entered the golf course where I knew was the end of the course and before I knew it we were back at the beach.
5.5 mile bike: 20:47
Back into transition, I again had trouble figuring out how to get the bike back on the rack between the ones already there, but I figured it out. I was out of breath from pushing it on the bike. I took off the helmet and grabbed my water bottle. I didn’t feel like I did much else, so most of my transition time was walking my bike in, I guess.
Onto the run. I slowly headed out for the run, and I knew it wasn’t going to be a fast one. I was passed by my friend Tracy and marveled at how fast she was. She finishes a 5K ten minutes before me so I knew that was where she’d smoke me.
No matter. I wasn’t wrecked, and this was a flatter, shorter course. I alternated running and walking and did what Rebecca calls “smile pace”. It totally worked. I was loving the run. OK maybe not loving, but not hating either. We rounded back towards the beach faster than I expected and I was grateful. But then the guy shouted out to me: 3/4 of a mile left! What? We were already back there!
Yeah, it was a major tease. We ran next to the finish, down the parking lot, and then rather than turn there toward the finish, you made a right and did another whole leg down the parking lot before turning around. Cruel! Still I saw most of my crew here, high fived them and found the juice to make the final dash in the sand toward the finish.
2.2 mile run: 25:20
We did it. And I was so much happier than the first time!
Finish time: 1:10:01
We were all kind of delirious with the endorphins at the end. I got a little teary eyed, actually. I never in my life would have thought I could do something like a triathlon. And because I am doing this, I have crossed paths with some amazing people that are bringing so much energy and light into my life. These woman are kind, inspiring and beautiful inside and out. They push you but also pump you up. I’ve always had girlfriends but this somehow feels different. The level of affirmation and enthusiasm everyone has and shares with everyone is really astounding.
So my second triathlon is done. A few of the girls are ALREADY looking at a third, although it is a much bigger one than this. I’m not sure I’m up for it (it is next weekend and I’m already signed up for a 5K the day before) but I love the spirit. Who knows. That’s the beauty of it. I really don’t know what I’m capable of. And I’m loving that.
Tri training is nearly over and I can’t even believe it. Then again, yes I can. It feels like I’ve been training for this thing forever, and it in reality was the entire summer. I will have trained for 11 weeks officially for this event, just about as long as I’ve ever trained for any of the halfs I’ve done (you know, all two of them).
Week 9 was done in Spain and while I think I did a pretty darn good job staying active there, it still was extremely difficult to stay on top of training while on vacation. I swam four times in a super cooled pool (because it is so hot there in the summer, they cool their pools the way we heat ours to keep them warmer when it is cool outside. I rode a bike once for half an hour before I popped the tire; we never were able to get it fixed. I walked nearly every day but only ran once (between the weird later schedule we kept there and the heat it was hard). What threw me off more than the lack of training however was the food and drink that got way out of control.
Week 10 has been alright but I’ve been battling jet lag and just generally feeling over the whole training cycle. We did another mini triathlon training session last Saturday with my girlfriends, including a half an hour in a pool, 8.7 miles on the bike and a 2 mile run/walk. It was longer than our previous tri run through, and considering I’d just gotten home from Spain, I thought we did well. I’ve done a long walk, two very slow runs and this morning, a 8.25 mile bike ride.
I feel at this point that I’m as ready as I can be. I’ve done a lot of “bricking” in the last three weeks and so I think I know how my body will respond on Sunday when the time comes. I’m wondering what the swim will be like with everyone all around me, but I know I’ll get through it. I know I start out tired on the bike but I loosen up around Mile 4 so I will keep telling myself that. I know the first mile after getting off of the bike is going to suck, but I will slog through.
A few weeks ago I had time goals but at this point I have set all of that aside. I just want to enjoy the experience and get through it without hating it. It helps that I have a big group of women doing this with me; I am not sure I would have ever tried this on my own.
At this time on Sunday I should be nearly done with my race. Wish me luck!