Six Months Later

Last week marked the six month anniversary of my hip surgery. I was going to make some quip about “anniversary” not being an appropriate term for something as not-awesome as hip surgery, but then I remembered that people acknowledge the anniversaries of deaths, and natural disasters, and other horrific tragedies so…game over.

This…

is what I was doing for fun six months ago.

And today?

I’m happy to be running again, but damn, that night in the motorized cart at Target was a blast! Those things have the turning radius of a Smart Car, the reverse notification horn of a Mack Truck, and the battery life of a Motorola Razr.

But enough about my wild nights at the store.  Let’s talk about the marginally bionic hip’s progress, shall we?

The Good:

  • I’ve comfortably moved up to four running days per week.
  • Minimal pain and tightness during runs.
  • The shin splints that started about a month ago have subsided.

The Bad:

  • Some stiffness and mild pain after runs, especially in my piriformis and hamstring.
  • Lifting my leg to put on shoes is still the worst part of my day, which means that my hip flexor (iliopsoas) is still super weak.
  • If I don’t foam roll after every run I’m pretty much guaranteed to be sore and uncomfortable. This sucks because I’m a lazy asshole runner who just wants to run and do nothing else to take care of myself.
  • Recovery from long runs or hard efforts still takes longer than expected.

Things To Work On:

  • Consistent foam rolling, icing, and PT routine. Again, me=lazy asshole runner, but I’ve  been lacking in these areas for a while now and it’s starting to show.
  • Building in one day of speed work. The track kind of terrifies me at this point. All that sprinting and turning, my hip hurts just thinking about it. But I’m cleared to do track workouts and I’m not getting faster just running straight miles so…the return of track time has arrived.
  • My crappy diet. I gained some weight post-surgery and it’s, apparently, not in any rush to GTFO. I need to get serious about dropping a few pounds, by which I mean I need to stop eating like I’m running 50 MPW, when I’m clearly only running 25-30. Also, I’m going to guess that the cookie dough and craft beer binges aren’t helping. Then again, I’m not a nutritionist, so I could be wrong…
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Mantra Devolution: The Chicago Spring Half Marathon

Let’s just say, things didn’t start out the way I expected.

I spent the entire day before the race feeling like I had mild E. coli. While I like to be nice and empty come race morning, this level of voiding was a bit extreme for my tastes.

By the time we got to the race, I felt ok. I was kind of apathetic about the whole thing at that point. This was not how I imagined my first race back going, so I was just kind of meh.

Meh.

Also…this.

More meh.

The race director kept announcing that the storms were going to stay south of us. The race director was a liar.

My race strategy was to just run however I was feeling, and to not panic too much about pace.

That’s actually a complete lie. I sounded really sane and realistic there for a moment though, didn’t I? I secretly wanted to run somewhere around 8:30’s and I was going to throw myself in the lake if I dropped below 8:50. And we’re right back to the crazy…

The first mile was rough. My stomach hurt, my hip felt creaky, I wanted my bed and perhaps a ginger ale.

Mile 1-8:36

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of racing, it’s that a shitty attitude will eat you alive. You hate your life at mile one? Just wait for mile 12. You’ll want to kick puppies. So I dropped the ‘tude and the first mantra was born.

Mantra 1 (miles 1.5-8): “I’m thankful to be out here.”

It’s true. I was. Back in November, I had no idea how long it would take me to recover. I had no idea if running would ever be the same. Yet here I was, and I was thankful.

Mile 2-7:37 (a touch short)

Mile 3-7:30 (even shorter)

Mile 4-8:20

Cue the lightning, and my fear that, now that I was excited to run this race, it was going to be black-flagged.

Mile 5-8:27

Mile 6-8:24

I made the turnaround and so did the weather. Rain, wind, and a cold front, to be exact. I had ditched my long sleeve at mile one, so I was all short sleeves and capris, this girl is ready for spring! 

Mile 7-10:20 (Garmin clocked this at 1.22 miles. I agree, it took forever).

Mile 8-8:36

Was I running a half marathon? Training for a career as a commercial fisherman? Filming a scene for the new release of The Perfect Storm? I wasn’t really sure. All I knew was that I was totally weather-beaten and that, “I’m thankful to be out here,” no longer applied. Mantra numero dos, anyone?

Mantra 2 (miles 9-11): “Get out of your fuckin’ head.”

I got lost in there for a hot second, and it was ugly. This actually happens to me a lot just past the mid-point of a race. I can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel and my life becomes so sad; so miserable.

Mile 9-8:43

I gave up wasting energy on avoiding puddles. Everything was going to be soaked. Very soaked.

Mile 10-8:34

Look! A midfoot strike! (Thanks, Brightroom!)

Totally kidding! HSFL (heel-strikers for life)!

Mile 11-8:47

The rain stopped for the most post, but the wind really picked up. Miles 11-12.5 were right along the lake, which didn’t help. Every time I would bear down to fight against the wind, it would stand me straight up. It was really just laughable. Also, I had been running in driving rain and 40-ish degrees for over an hour. I was uncomfortably cold, which prompted my final race mantra.

Mantra 3 (Miles 11-13.1): “I THINK I HAVE HYPOTHERMIA!!”

I actually shouted this to John and superfan/best friend Erin when I passed them at mile 11.5 (my sense of humor really takes a nosedive during endurance sports). The woman trotting along in front of me whipped around and looked at me like I was insane. Sorry, lady wearing shorts and a tank top, I’m sure you were much closer to hypothermia than I was.

Mile 12-9:07

Mile 13.1-9:31 

I finished in 1:52:38, an average pace of 8:35, and only 1:30 slower than my half marathon PR. Despite my lofty goals, I had expected my first race back to be much slower-during a brief moment of sanity, I told myself that I would be happy with anything sub-2 hours-so obviously I was thrilled. You know what was even more thrilling? Changing out of my soaking wet capris and underwear in the parking garage and putting on my fluffy sweatpants.

I’m back and I’m ready to race, so bring on the next one. Preferably with more sunshine.

Nowhere Else I’d Rather Be

When I was in high school, I had a club softball coach who started every pre-game pep talk with the statement, “Ladies, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than right here, with all of you, today.”

At the time, I didn’t get it. Like, come on dude. We’re about to play a hugely important game and you’re giving us this?

As I’ve gotten older, it’s made a lot more sense. Enjoying an adult beverage on a patio during an unseasonably warm day? Nowhere else I’d rather be. Cuddling with puppies? Nowhere else I’d rather be. Eating burgers and getting cheap-date-drunk with John every Saturday? Nowhere else I’d rather be.

But what about standing at the start line for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, only hours after battling the tail end of a stomach bug, and while watching the storms roll in? As crappy as I felt, and as ominous as those clouds looked, there really was nowhere else I would have rather been.

What distinguishes those of us at the starting line from those of us on the couch is that we learn through running to take what the day gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will can tolerate.” -John “the Penguin” Bingham

Full race recap and a return to regularly scheduled, unadulterated snarkiness coming soon!

It Wouldn’t Be Race Week…

…without one ego-deflating, soul-crushing, awful run.

Seriously. In my eight-ish year of racing, I haven’t gone through a single “taper” week without one workout that makes me question my ability to run from the parking lot to the starting line on race day. Two days prior to the Flying Pig Half in 2011 I ran four miles that seemed to foreshadow me either passing out or shitting myself well before the halfway point. And the day before the Carmel Marathon last June, I ran two completely horrifying miles on the hotel treadmill and subsequently resigned myself to being forcibly removed from the course by the sag wagon.

So, after Monday’s perfectly comfortable six miler and Tuesday’s painful-yet-respectable track workout, it came as no surprise that today’s run was just miserable.

I wanted to do six or seven, but flamed out somewhere around 5.3. Whatever. This is the way things are supposed to go. Love taper, hate racing. Love racing, hate taper. It’s basically a Bible verse.

And, if all else fails, at least I can look back at how far I’ve come and say…it’s all my stupid hip’s fault.

Listen to Your Body and Other “Lies” My Doctor Told Me

Between pre and post-surgery physical therapy, I spent over 20 weeks attending regular PT sessions. I learned a lot of fun things over those 20 weeks, like how to use Lamaze breathing to get through manual piriformis release without crying, and that the anchors that are holding my labrum together will not set off metal detectors, and, perhaps most importantly, that I’m going to have to listen to my body if I want to run for the rest of my life.

So. Much. Fun. Want to do this forever (or until I bonk at mile 9).

That last one is kind of tricky because, well, I think the whole “listening to my body” thing is the biggest cop out ever. It’s become this perfect, not-to-be-argued-with excuse. “Listening to my body! Taking another rest day!” “Yoga > tempo run. Listening to my body.” To you it might sound all namaste, at-peace with my physical being, but all I hear is, “I’m lazy! Going home to eat Doritos!”

Eating a giant cheeseburger at 2 a.m.! Listening to my body!

And then race day comes and the body whisperers are all pissed because they missed their PR, and it’s like, really? Perhaps if you spent half as much time, you know, running, as you did, listening to your body, you’d have some sort of kick. So yes, when I was told by my physical therapist, and my surgeon, and several PA’s that I would need to listen to my body as I started back to running after surgery, I was just kind of like…

But, much to my surprise, returning to running with a marginally bionic hip is totally different than returning to running with an unadulterated skeletal system. Sure, the pain and soreness I felt when I started a new running plan after several months of laying on the couch inhaling cheesy garlic bread sucked, but this kind of pain and soreness? Suuucks.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but it just feels more serious than pre-surgery running soreness. It’s as if my hip is saying, “You push me to run another day this week and I swear I will bust into four pieces and make you drag me home.” Not to mention that no matter how much I foam roll, and stretch, and wear spandex shorts lined with ice packs, there are some days that I just cannot seem to recover. It’s frustrating. It’s foreign. And the only way that it can be effectively dealt with? Listening to my body. Not running when I’m excessively sore. Taking an extra non-impact day when I can’t seem to recover. Cutting runs short when I experience that excruciating, yanking sensation that runs from the bottom of my butt cheek to the back of my knee (thankfully, this has subsided the longer I’ve been running, but for a while there, it was a delightful, routine occurrence). It’s slightly ego-crushing–you’re lying if you’re a competitive human being who says they don’t get a thrill from gutting it out, no matter what–but it’s working. I am getting stronger and adding mileage without hip pain, which is basically the whole point of paying $79,000 for the surgery, in the first place.

You thought I was hyperbolizing. I was not. Yes, I have insurance.

So rest assured, when I say, “I’m listening to my body,” I’m not just trading my miles for cool ranch flavored corn chips and fat pants. Although, I do really like fat pants. Comment-baiting question: Do you listen to your body, or “listen to your body?”

Take Out Your Syallbus

I hate firsts.

The first day of a new semester.

Every first day I’ve ever had at a new job.

The first run after a long hiatus.

They all suck. I’d so much rather be in that comfortable, middle stage where the routine is set, where everyone knows one another, where running three miles doesn’t feel like sheer Hell.

So, obviously, I hate this post. Because it’s my first.

I feel like I’m back in Psychology 357 just waiting for my turn to do some ridiculous icebreaker speech. Hi, my name is Kristen. I have two dogs. I love running. I own a hot dog stand. Two truths and a lie, because…what else is there?

So let’s not make this anymore painful than it has to be, k?

My name is Kristen, I do own two dogs.

Fez

Buttercup

do love running, I do not own a hot dog stand (sadly). I had a blog once before, but that ship has sailed, so like the unfortunate rebound guy I “dated” in high school? Let’s not relive the past.

I got married almost two years ago, which means that I have a husband. His name is John.

He’s the one wearing the suit.

As I said, I do love running, sadly, my left hip does not love running nearly as much. I had an abnormally-shaped femoral head (aka, hip ball), hence the torn labrum I suffered last summer, hence my DNS-ing the 2011 Chicago Marathon, hence the arthroscopic hip surgery the day before Thanksgiving 2011, hence me happily/exasperatedly/angrily/joyfully trying to get back into running shape, hence the, aptly titled, blog. (You can read a more exhaustive recap of my hip being a total ass in the About section).

I’ve come a long way since I started to “run” in January. I’m running the Chicago Spring Half Marathon this weekend and I ran 14 miles this past Saturday, so, barring any major catastrophes, finishing shouldn’t be a problem.

Well, I feel like we’re all caught up, which is nice. Now we can settle into a cute little routine where I indulge my closet narcissism by posting about my every minor athletic accomplishment, and you read while rolling your eyes in exasperation. Stick around, it’s bound to be a good time.

Welcome to The Unnatural Runner!