I’ve been struggling lately. Yes, I just moved and really, feel like I’m still recovering from that. Yes, I’m in week three of a new job with a killer commute and am perpetually exhausted as soon as I get home every evening. I can look forward to a few weeks from now where my work schedule will not start until 11 am, so I have mornings to run and gym and do things as I please.
However, I cannot appreciate the struggle without having looked back at other past struggles and things I have had to move past and work through to realize that is just another one of those bumps in the road. And it happens.
I mention it on my About Me, but realized that I’ve never talked about my knee surgeries and the hurdles they caused. I didn’t run (at least not regularly, and certainly not the way I do now) when I had my first surgery, nor my second, and it wasn’t until after the second that I took up this running thing for semi-serious. I played soccer from second grade through high school, and even intramurals in college, but I never really ran for the sake of running.
July 9, 2007: My roommate and I decided we were going to train over the summer (in San Diego, so really, summer is awesome) for the America’s Finest City half marathon in August. She even got as far as
registering; I didn’t. I was also playing in a women’s recreational soccer
league once a week as a way to get back into the game I missed so much. On July
4, we ran the Coronado Independence 15K (my first road race ever, mind you), and
then spent the day consuming all the fattiness we could to make up for that
9.3-mile torture. On July 9, I returned to my soccer league, and ten minutes
into the game, the ball was passed to me, I stopped it, and my knee went POP! I will never forget that sound, nor
will the dozen people around me. Long story short… November 15 was the magical
(and terrifying) day that I was finally getting ‘fixed.’ After four long months
of paperwork, doctors, pre-surgery therapy and lots of tears, my partially torn meniscus and partially torn
ACL were both being repaired! Hooray! I spent Thanksgiving on crutches, and
the next three weeks, but after the New Year, I was cleared for physical
therapy. By sheer luck (okay, and being enrolled in graduate school), I had free access to a physical trainer
through my student insurance on campus – which, by the way, at our Division I
institution, meant our Athletic Trainer. Uh, yes. I worked out in the football
players’ weight room! I felt like a bad ass, won’t lie. She had me jogging on a
treadmill about 4 months out of surgery. I don’t know when my first real,
outdoors, sidewalk run was, but the first outdoor run I remember was June, on
the beach, the morning I moved away from San Diego.
My doctor (the genius man he was) said I could go back to doing what I was doing. I took the invitation happily, missing soccer, and needing to find an outlet. I had moved to Texas, wasn’t digging this whole humidity thing, and happily joined my students’ intramural soccer team.
April 14, 2009: It was a play-off game, I remember that. And I remember wearing my knee brace (as instructed), and being as careful as I could be (in paranoia). I don’t remember when, or where, but I remember stepping and stepping wrong. And knew something was not right. The next morning, when my knee was as large as my face and I could hardly bend it, I knew I was in trouble. Confirmed: complete
ACL tear. I was a mess – another surgery? Another one? You betcha
– July 7, nearly two years to the day of my first injury, I was back in the
hospital, in the OR, albeit with a new doctor who I loved and certainly seemed
to know what he was doing. With a (really creepy sounding) cadaver ACL, I was
good to go a few hours later and spent the next four weeks in a Central Texas
summer on a hilly, hilly campus, on crutches. I had a great therapist who
started me in mostly doing swimming pool workouts, but eventually worked our
way into a gym, and eventually… I could run. My first run post-surgery was
Christmas Day, 2009. I had intentionally waited to that point (even though I’d
been cleared about two weeks prior) because I’d be home in California, and what
better Christmas present to myself than the freedom of running down the road
again? I was terrified. Something
around a mile and a half, just enough to feel accomplished, certainly enough to
be exhausted. But invigorated.
|Monica's wedding, July 2009.|
The following spring, I started running more casually, and decided, even though the doctor again said I could “go back to doing what I was doing,” I knew better. I turned to running – I figured I would still get the same stress relief, motivation, and accomplishment as I did through a great soccer game, but running in a straight line down the road was certainly safer than running, jumping and pivoting all over the place.
And here I am. Just over four years since Surgery #2 and people are always shocked when I say I’ve run a marathon and had two ACL repairs/replacements and that I still go hard the way I do. The major lesson? Listen to your body – when it tells you no, it means no. There have been plenty of days I should have backed off, of course, but I know for the most part that when there’s a twinge of pain, I listen and chill.
So there’s been a hurdle or two. While they weren’t necessarily hurdles at the same, they still proved that a little tenacity, stubbornness, and determination can pay off.
I’ll find my groove here again. Just like I did in 2007. And again in 2009. It’ll come – there are plans coming up that I will not settle for less-than-best with!
What hurdles have you worked through while in training? How did you work past them?