Wednesday, February 22, 2023

HIPS and BACK, oh my.... 2023


WOW. The body keeps the score.

So, I had my MRI followup today with the orthopedic dr. that specializes in hips. Fun times.  I actually couldn’t wait to go in.  First- I couldn’t wait for last weeks “nap” in the MRI tube.  Then today, I couldn’t wait to kind of hear my future.

After my MRI, I received the report online and saw that it wasn’t great.  Gosh- there were tears in all hamstring tendons, labral tears, bone marrow edema, the structure of my actual bones in hip is not within the degrees it’s supposed to be sitting in, blah blah blah.  I was a little shocked, but also not shocked at all- there was a reason I had gone in- there was bad stuff going on- hip giving out and MASSIVE PAIN when it goes out.  On top of this, although I can “run” sometimes, my entire leg like doesn’t FIRE right- all the way through my calf/shin/ankle/foot.  It is just not firing cohesively and it feels like my calf/shin/ankle are going to explode with pressure.  It’s just strange.  I knew the MRI wasn’t good, but I got to this odd place of almost kind of like laughing it off like “geez, everything is torn, whoa”… knowing I had to wait until today to get more details anyway, so why get too much in my own head about it.

Well, today happened.  When I arrived, I kind of made up a story to myself that maybe I was reading the MRI wrong- that maybe the ortho wouldn’t really think these tears were too bad.. or all the other things too troubling!  And… off I could go, back to the open roads…  Obviously, that was a story.

He walked in and just kind of looked at me, like whhhhhheeeew, and said, well, “there’s a lot going on in your hip and back, isn’t there.”  And so with that, I knew my fake story was not going to hold.

So, we reviewed the tears, both hips now, (one hip full thickness tear of the tendon), a bunch of other fun things, grade 3 arthritis (over 50% cartilage gone), but he said my back is almost as troublesome as my hips (not surprising to me, my back is my real fear in life because when that goes out, I’ve never experienced greater pain). I have herniations L3 and below down to S1 with the bottom one pressing on a nerve root (which I FEEL daily, so again not a surprise to me, almost a nice confirmation). No surgery now because we are going to prioritize problem solving and finding out what is causing maybe the most pain.  I’ll have an injection in the hamstring tendon first.  Then a few weeks later, maybe one in the hip joint to see if that dissipates symptoms.  Maybe one in back.  It’s ok, we don’t need to solve it today.  He said what needed to be said- that this isn’t surprising for someone as active as I am, but I am now at a place that I need to make some decisions because I will not be able to continue doing what I’m doing and he realizes it is also my profession/passion, and I need to come to some thoughts on where I may be headed.  (well, isn’t that an understatement, ahem).

Anyway, so I got a little dizzy and numb and spaced out (and maybe some tears trying to contain in my eyes) and maybe for the first time realized where I am in my life.  I’m not a spring chicken, even though I love to play one by day.  My time is limited, my body only has so much that it can hold up for, I am not superhuman.  And this is obviously a big deal to my heart.  My life since I can remember it has been in sports and active.  I knew from when I was so darn small that moving, pushing myself, playing physically, spoke to my soul.  I somehow get a RUSH from being physical.  Even now, when I hang on my pullup bar to get some traction on my back, if it feels better, I start swinging, and SWINGING reminds me of being a gymnast and somehow the joy of playful moving just lights up my heart.  I’ll be the first to admit, most nights, either as I’m falling asleep or in the middle of night if I’m trying to fall back asleep, I am visualizing myself doing bar or beam routines (of course never vault!!).  I picture myself doing routines and movements I’ve never even done- way above my level, but it is still just this weird OBSESSION.  I often think there is something majorly wrong with me that I am this old, still doing routines in my head, but other times just am having fun with my fake routines in my head that I don’t mind!  It is what I’ve always loved, who I am.

This past December, after I went surfing in Hawaii, I couldn’t believe that for about 2 weeks after, my night time “visualization” routine went to SURFING- was so odd- I just kept repeating this EXHILARATION feeling that I got a few times when the speed of the wave caught me at just the right time and there was this HUGE FORCE just pulling me on the board.  It was this perfect mix of a bit scary and just pure DELIGHT.  This just reinforced to me what I already know- MOVEMENT just speaks to me.

For whatever reason, the exhilaration of pushing, the frustration of the struggles, the exhaustion of the grind, the perseverance in the goal are in the fibers of my being, my true essence.  I love racing, but it is the daily/weekly/monthly training that gives me pure joy in the journey.  I’ve literally never known life without this daily chasing of a goal, and so there it is- I definitely feel this gut punch.  This reality of needing to set some shift in priorities and long term thoughts, this recognition that my time is limited to achieve some of my running and triathlon goals is not what I wanted.  But it is what it is, I’ve done literally every single thing I could to stay healthy and strong, and this is where the cards fell with my body.

Do I have a pang of pissed off ness?  Yes.  I have a little pity party for myself thinking that my body has ALWAYS felt against me, specifically of course when it mattered most when I was a young gymnast.  Now, I feel like I’m just in an alternate fight against my insides which feel red, raw and occasionally now give out on me.  Frustrating.

But I also realize, I’ve sure had a really good run at all this that I’ve loved.  I’ve put on these old bones thousands of miles.  I’ve run through desserts, along oceans, through mountains.  I’ve connected with cities and towns that I’ve traveled to for races by being literally IN THEM- in the streets.  In grinding out the last 10K of marathon, I always feel like you get “connected” to the earth you are in the midst of.  I’ve seen sunrises, run in the dark, my first marathon and Ironman were in the pouring rain. What a FULL RIDE it has been.  I’ve ran in Oregon, California, Arizona, Vermont, Alabama, Wisconsin, and all over the east coast.  I’ve run in closed off streets in DC (swam in the filthy Potomac River), but just am thrilled to have had the capacity to do all that I have done.  It has been an honor to get as far as I did:  remember, I was the girl who got mocked by her high school gym coach when I couldn’t finish the mile without walking and she screamed across the track, “Sharon Anderson, the GYMNAST- cannot run a mile”. (horrifying… but as always, don’t ever doubt me).  I began doing these races because I wasn’t sure I could.  I was running FROM stuff, and ended up running into the dream of a lifetime. 

I’m not done completely.  I am thinking, strategizing, prioritizing.  I’ll have to be choosey with my training and my goals.  I’ve done Big Sur marathon, which was a huge bucket list item.  But I do have  more, and now I have to see how I can manage to do what I can with whatever my cartilage/bones/tendons have left.  And who knows, I’ve committed to myself that I WILL live in Hawaii someday, so maybe daily surfing is in my future…. I mean…. Less stress on the joints, right?!

So there it is.  Thanks to so many of my friends for caring and knowing this is something I’m really working to process and put together right now.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

PRUNING.... making the way for health.



Yesterday, Mother Earth gave us a respite and the afternoon temperatures reached the 60’s and the SUN was out, so I went out to do 20 min of clearing out the winter gardens, which is always good for my soul.  When the hydrangeas are in their winter stage, it is easy to see what needs to be cleared and pruned out, but I haven’t honestly been as good over the years at this as I’ve needed to, because I hate being out in the cold weather, as many of you know.  So, this is a task that gets forgotten and overlooked historically over the years.  When I do it, it isn’t usually done completely or well.

As I was getting into some of my beloved hydrangeas, I was noticing so many dead shoots.  They were actually overwhelming; it almost seemed the whole bush might be looking dead. I had to keep getting rid of so much dead that I didn’t even know had died.  I realized that all of this overgrowth- of not getting rid of the dead stuff over the years (or at least not completely) ended up killing off other branches because of overcrowding.  There was no room for healthy growth because the dead wood was essentially suffocating out any potential for the whole hydrangea to be healthy.

It struck me so harsh and apparent…. How timely…. To realize that not doing the maintenance needed limits full potential of growth.  Limits full flourishing.  Continuing to do things that aren’t productive and healthy and positive smother the space for joy.  Our lives have only a certain amount of space in each day, and if we are choosing, even if that choosing is in a passive way of choosing to not act, we are choosing to smother ourselves.  We are choosing to not live fully.

Sometimes it is brave to prune.  It’s like acknowledging the death of a dream, the need to clear away, the acknowledging the end.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

January Wrap up 2023



How freaking fast did THAT go??!!

Seriously. (or actually was it LONG, haha!) I love January- the new-ness- new goals and intentions, and I also DETEST January- the grey and cold.  It’s been a month. 

So, I’m asking myself to kind of come back here, to myself, to my honest place- this little space of writing which is really just enjoyment and accountability to myself.  I’m coming back here to ask myself- “DID YOU RISE?”

RISE is my “intention of the year/word of the year”. And so I should ask myself this once in awhile and readjust when necessary, be honest enough with myself to hold myself accountable.  I mean, if it matters to me, I should be able to be honest with myself.

Was it my best month?  NO.  I was down and frustrated.  My hip gave me trouble basically after the first week into January seemed to get worse.  My mood went right along with that and the weather and rain and cold and dreary air that looked like sad air to me.

Here is what I did.

For my hip:  I did not give up.  I kept going for chiro/went to my PT/ made an appointment now with ortho and I am sure after that I will get an MRI.  So the plan is in action for me to dive deeper and see where things are really standing with my hip.  I listened to it and did my best. I did all I could do.  I literally am unable to power through when my hip is not letting my leg work (often when I cannot run, I know it is TRIGGERED by what is going on in the hip, but the pain that makes me stop/ that I cannot push through has been in my calf/shin/ankle with some sort of pressure that flares and literally I think my leg will explode.  I cannot run through it).  2 weeks ago, my hip started giving out/ I couldn’t stand on it for a few days.  Then I couldn’t go UP the stairs.  Funny enough I could jog a little but just not go upstairs. And I would gasp doing little small steps randomly.  That week hurt so bad, and had my nervous system just ON FIRE with pain, so ….. there were tears.  I really hate being in nerve pain.  Luckily that seems to have dissipated to a great degree and probably as I write this it is about 5x/day maybe where my hip seems to “go out” and I catch myself with my other leg (yes, as I gasp… which I Really hate, but the searing pain just takes my breath away, does anyone else have this?)  That being said, I’ve now had a few days where I can run again?  I have no idea when I head out if I will be gone for 90 seconds or an hour.  So, I have mentally gotten myself to this place where I am just trying to roll with it and if I have to come back after 5 minutes, then I have to just get on my bike, do other stuff- drills, strength, movement that I CAN do.  This is not my favorite option, but it is reality.  So I’m just trying to both accept it, but not grow stagnant and let myself waddle into pitiful shape. I have been successful at daily doing the things I’ve asked myself to commit to that I know helps my hips:  rolling, trigger point, daily yoga and mobility.  I am doing all that I can.

Now, turning to my lack of love for this season:  I have an actual spreadsheet, guys.  And on my spreadsheet are my “tools” that I Use to keep me healthy and happy.  I’ve of course added drinking water to this because I just cannot do it without giving myself the pleasure of checking off a box at the end of the day… but- I have about 8 other tools that I have identified and I commit to as many of those things each day as I can to serve my mental health, joy, and prioritize staying on track.  I do these things knowing that they are little moments that I can claim for ME- that I am taking care of myself with being intentional. The day will GO BY without them, so I OWN that they are part of “my work”!  And yes, I call this RISING to take care of myself fully. 

A trick that I have used for years that I continue to use daily is the “Today, I GET TO” question.  Every morning, I ask myself 1-2-3 things that “I GET TO” do.  So often, I realize- the things that were weighing me down on my shoulders as things that I “have to” do….. are actually GET TO do things- I find that I really can see them as a privilege to do, a joy, an opportunity.  For me personally, this little reframing each morning can be the difference between a gloomy mindset and the start of a great day.

I am here at the end of January…. Not where I want to be yet, but on my way daily😊