Spartan Shape-Up, Day 482:
Well! It's a relatively optimistic day in Get-My-Spartan-Ass-Back-On-Track land. I went to physical therapy this morning to see what they had to say about the latest in the saga of ouchiness....
First, there was an intern. Poor guy. They assigned him to shadow with my PT for my case, because it sounded like it should be "simple" shin splints, typical presentation and then all would be well, giving me some standard exercises and sending me on my way. In true Aja-fashion, NOTHING is simple.
They poked. They prodded. They stretched, they manipulated, they twisted, turned and generally did all sorts of craziness to my legs. Only to figure out the "problem" is actually like a perfect storm of 20 problems in one. Poor, poor Intern.
The cool thing about this visit was that, because of the intern, the PT thought outloud and went through her reasoning trains and what not so that he could see how she was making conclusions, etc. Very cool, because with a pretty extensive anatomy/science background, etc. I was able to keep up and understand what was going on.
Funny Moment of the Day: As part of the testing/evaluation phase, the intern is having me move my leg this way and that, and push against his hand. "Don't let me push your leg down," he says, in one instance. "Okay....." I think to myself. This is where I should tell you that "Intern" was a 6'4" athletic looking dude, who despite hearing me say that I had finished 10+ Spartan Races, including the recent 14 mile Beast, and a half marathon, apparently wildly underestimated me. I held my leg up. He pushed down.
He leaned into his hands, to get his body weight over his shoulders and push down.
I held my leg up.
His arms began to shake (I couldn't make this up!) with the exertion, before HE gave up and told me to put my leg down.
His reaction: "Okay. Wow. So. There is no problem with leg strength.... HOW do you train!??!"
(... didn't I tell him I was a Spartan? ;-) )
Anyway, the conclusion is this... I'm going to live to race another day!
I have had many, many ankle rolls over the course of my life, and one particularly bad one around age 19, where I was pretty sure I knew better than the doctors and didn't follow directions on how to let it heal. I didn't stay off it, I didn't ice it, etc. and it healed.... but with a significant loss of mobility. Since then, I've rolled in once or twice more and most recently, at the Amesbury Spartan Race (resulting in my First DNF...). So, here we have very limited ankle mobility, a (relatively) recent injury that I was again compensating for in my gait (on top of the compensation I already did for a weaker, less mobile ankle), continued training, chronically tight leg/calf muscles that I don't stretch enough, and a recent half marathon... All was fine (my body is a beast, sometimes!) for a couple of weeks... But I did a lot of sitting at my desk at work, and not a lot of stretching and foam rolling and appropriate recovery. Then, we had the trigger: I needed a pair of shoes to wear, and dug an old, worn out pair out of the closet. Went shopping and running errands. 6-8 hours later, my shin threw up it's hands in despair and seized, giving into shooting shin splints for the next 4 weeks.
FOUR (four plus, actually) weeks of nothing lower body. As you may have been reading along, I haven't been in the most awesome frame of mind. But hey, set backs, cancelling races and feeling limited will do that to you.
That said, after some awesome deep-heating and inflammation reducing (and scar tissue breaking?) ultrasound therapy, a crazy awesome shin/calf massage and a hearty lecture about stretching more (yoga, what?), the PT cleared me to run.
Yes. Run. While my ankle mobility still needs a lot of work, I haven't been in pain the last few days and it's time to test it out a bit. More importantly, PT said that her determination on my ability to do Fenway is directly related to how my leg handles an easy 5k jog.
Wasting no time, I got my running buddy on the line and scheduled an "easy 5k" (man, everything I say that, I am suddenly reminded of the days that 5K was the Big Goal... not a wee test run. Perspective.) for this evening.
I'm not going to lie, BlogLand, I was scared. Yep, scared to go for a run. I was considering things like, What if it flares up again? What if I can't run more than a block? Will I have to cancel Fenway? If it's not better after 4 weeks, will it ever get better? Am I going to be out of activity for the winter? Will I need to cut my leg off? Learn to walk on my hands? ... you know, the absolutely nonsensical worse-case scenario stuff.
Suited up in my spandex, including some hot pink calf compression sleeves to remind my shins to keep themselves in check, I headed out the door like I've done a thousand times... after stretching (did I mention I'm supposed to be doing a crazy amount of stretching 1200 times a day? Hold on. I'll tell you about that, right after I finish stretching...).
I won't bore you with a play by play of tonight's 5K, but here's the important stuff:
There was no pain.
Granted, my ankle/leg felt a little fatigued from all the manipulation they did today, but there were absolutely no shooting/stabbing pains in the shin. YES.
I pretty much wanted to die. While I was totally psyched I was running with no pain, being completely off for 4 weeks (despite your GT giving you LOTs of other options that you could be doing and not aggravating your shin, while you just choose to wallow in your self-pity...) really takes it toll. First, I'm pretty sure I've put on a chunk of weight in the last month or month and a half. More weight does not make running any easier. Second, I was huffing and puffing like an effing asthmatic. Seriously, it was ridiculous. Third, my legs were like lead, as if we'd never run before.
Where a 5K is usually a warm up for me, this one - my "triumphant" return to training - was anything but. This was ugly, heavy, hard and not a ton of fun (thank god for running buddies!). As I pushed through the last quarter mile, I tried to reflect on all the things I'd done this year.... this was certainly not the hardest, even though it felt like it, at that moment.
Sitting home and stretching (yep. stretching.), I got a little moody. Feeling the pulling in my legs as I forced my calves to stretch, reminded me of how much make-up work has to be done. My conditioning has suffered a back slide a bit. Running was hard. My breathing was all wrong. I gained weight.
I won't tell you I have a completely sunshiny outlook on this situation, but I think that's actually a good thing. Old Me might've accepted the status quo and become complacent again, satisfied with the "good enough." Aja 2.0 is pissed that I've lost ground and is refocused, having had a hard slap in the face with reality in a sweating, huffing and puffing evening run. Aja 2.0 is NOT satisfied with the good enough, because I have big goals to meet going forward, and I won't meet them standing still, here, where it is comfortable.
Time to get down to business and get back to doing work.
So, here I am BlogLand, drinking my water and doing the alphabet with my toes (great for ankle mobility!) while I type. I've stretched some more, soaked in a hot bath, then iced the leg. Tomorrow, I'll be walking on my breaks at work, eating like I should and logging whatever goes into my mouth.
No matter how tiny the steps, remember, just keep moving.
With that, and the ever so distinctive aroma of Tiger Balm filling my nose (and tingling on my leg!), I leave you with some words of wisdom, recently passed on by my Yoda-like GT: