Clicked “Register”

It’s been over a month now and I’m happy to report that things are coming along runningly. I graduated to my first 5K on July 4th and have gradually phased out the walk intervals since then. There was something about that first continuous 5K run that made me feel like, “Yeah, this is really happening.”

Sweaty SelfiesI stuck with 5K 3x for a couple of weeks before deciding that it was time to build… slowly. I started by adding a 4th run (and thus my first back-to-back), keeping it short at 3K. Last weekend I also started increasing my distance with a 6K “long” run. There’s only one way to go from here!

I had a gait assessment done by my physiotherapist and got some good feedback along with additional exercises to work on problem areas. The biggest thing I am working on now is increasing my cadence. I’ve always had a longer stride (160 steps per minute, when it should be closer to 180) but didn’t pay much attention to it since I wasn’t having any issues. Shortening my stride/increasing my cadence should help reduce forces through the knee on landing, so I have been running with a metronome app at 170 bpm for now (160 to 180 would be too much of a sudden increase). I started using it for only a few minutes at a time, and have gradually built up to the entire run. Yup, listening to “beep beep beep beep beep beep” in my ear the whole time. It is finally starting to feel less forced, although it is far from natural at this point.

photoI’ve been so lucky to have friends willing eager to run with me again, despite my slower pace. I’ve been getting back into the habit of meeting the 5am crew, even though I don’t necessarily need to be up that early for the shorter distance. I have missed it so much – even the 4:30 wake-ups. My good friend P has also been meeting me for a run at lunch once a week. It’s so good to be back!

photo 23Hubs has been running with me, too, and we have even been able to take both pups out to run for the very first time as a family of four. Mark tried to run with Marlowe a few times previously, but she wanted none of it. He’s too fast and she likes to dawdle! I decided to try bringing her with me when I was only going out for very short and slow run/walks to ease her into it, and it seems to have worked. 5K is about all she will tolerate right now and she still tends to drag behind, but we are getting there.

photo 21Aaaand with all of that being said, my most recent exciting news is that I just clicked “Register” for the very first time this year. I will be tackling Lakeside Sprint Triathlon on September 13th. I have never been so excited to see a confirmation email in my inbox. (Except maybe this one…)

RegisteredI decided not to target a 5K or 10K in case it led me to overdo it on the running build; I am treading very carefully because I do not want to risk a set-back. This way I can focus more on cross-training with cycling and swimming and approach the run without any goals except to finish pain-free. And I’ve already gotten started…

tri trainLet the fun begin!

Our first CSA experience

This summer hubs and I decided to sign up for our very first CSA with Round the Bend Farm. This is our third week and I have been thrilled so far.

photoHeading to the farm on Saturday morning (adorable nephew in tow) has become a highlight of our weekends. We walk the grounds, visit the animals, browse the market, often picking up some fresh turkey products as well.

IMG_9035We leave with our basket over-flowing with fresh farm produce – and we have been told there will be more and more to take home as the season progresses!

IMG_9036IMG_9271IMG_9376The quantity and selection of vegetables (plus some fruit) has been even better than I hoped. It is honestly a challenge for hubs and I to get through our haul (which is the half-size share) every week. But I am always up for this kind of challenge! :)

The best part is being “forced” into creativity in the kitchen. For a long time I have been stuck in a rut of buying the same veggies every week from the grocery store. With the CSA, I get all kinds of selection that I probably would not have picked myself. Bonus that I know it’s all fresh and locally grown. I had never purchased some of these foods myself (radish, swiss chard and rhubarb, for example) or even heard of them in some cases (kohlrabi or rapini). It’s opened up my eyes taste buds to a whole new world of nutritious, tasty foods and different ways of eating them.

Side note: am I the only one who didn’t know lettuce will stay crisp and fresh for a week or more when stored in a container with damp towels? Life-changing.

I’ll leave you with a sampling of just how much I have been enjoying the goods…

quinoa with asparagus, lemon and feta

quinoa with asparagus, lemon and feta

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giant mixed salad – shredded beets and carrots are a new fave salad accessory

farm turkey burger with raw carrots + cukes and steamed beet greens with garlic

farm turkey burger with raw carrots + cukes and steamed beet greens with garlic

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very-veggie pasta salad flavoured simply with olive oil, salt and feta

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swiss chard with tomatoes, chickpeas and lemon

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ginger-sesame stirfry (sauce from Minimalist Baker) with green beans, carrots and kohlrabi

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scrambled eggs with green onions over quinoa & asparagus

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strawberry salad with shredded beets & carrots plus grilled chicken topped with greek yogurt ranch sauce from Why Food Works

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egg salad lettuce wraps made with greek yogurt ranch in place of mayo + chopped carrots and onions

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more strawberries, shredded carrots, shredded beets and goat cheese

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chicken with greek yogurt ranch, asparagus, sweet potato and beet greens + beets with tomato and lemon

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Summer Quinoa Salad inspired by How Sweet Eats

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more strawberry/goat cheese/chicken salad with delish homemade strawberry poppy seed dressing from Creme de la Crumb

(Although I don’t always mention it, there are green onions/scallions lurking in almost every dish. I have yet to use up the entire bunch in a week despite my efforts.)

I’m so glad we decided to try this out and definitely plan to continue our subscription for years to come.

Have you ever tried a CSA? How was your experience?

Off and running

After my last post, I thankfully only added 4 more days to my “still counting” tally. Now, instead of counting days since my last run, I am counting runs since my way-too-long hiatus. And I couldn’t have been happier to finally switch my Garmin to “Run” mode.

10462767_10154317395400454_1023125116817154155_nThat being said, I was terrified on my first test run (June 8th) and probably would have held off much longer without a lot of urging from my physio. In fact, I didn’t even snap this picture until my second run, since I was so worried my knee would hurt and that I would somehow jinx myself by being too optimistic. (The runner’s brain – it works in mysterious ways!)

There is a fine line between being cautious/smart and being overly paranoid, and I needed the push.  I needed the reassurance that if my knee bothered me, it would be okay. It would not mean that the progress we had made was meaningless and, if anything, it could help us fine-tune my treatment. We had come to a point where the best way to proceed was to try a run and see how it felt. I’ve never had a long-term injury before – in the past, it has been a few days or a couple of weeks at the most, in which case I was itching to run prematurely and needed to be reminded to be patient. This time, the injury became so imbedded in my brain that it has become just as much a mental obstacle as a physical one. My hero physio described it breaking the injury (mental) barrier and it was time to try.

I started with 2.5K of 1&1 intervals (1 minute run, 1 minute walk) that morning, which went by too quickly but also seemed to take forever. I wanted to just keep running, but at the same time I was so hyper-alert and paranoid that part of me wanted to finish the planned run just to breathe a sigh of relief and say: “I did it! And it was okay!”

And I did just that!

photo 2My knee held up and continued to feel fine as the day went on, and I have had 6 more runs since. I’ve since progressed to 5&1 run:walk intervals and plan to maintain it for a couple more weeks. I’m on a conservative 4-week plan building up to 5K. Assuming there are no setbacks along the way, I will start phasing out the walk intervals once I get there.

I’m keeping my knee taped up for all runs right now, since it encourages correct alignment/tracking of the patella, reducing stress on the knee. Apparently it can also help with improving activation of the VMO muscle, which my physio identified as a possible cause of the issue. See: McConnell Patella Taping Method.

photo 1I also have a roster of PT exercises, which has continued to grow. The current routine includes: weighted abductor side leg lifts, weighted adductor side leg lifts, clams with resistance band, bridges with resistance band, monster walks with RB, squats, wall sits, VMO dips and some balance work that is hard to describe. I would stand on my head and sing a show tune is somebody told me it would help!

It’s not 100% and I still have some work to do, but we are making good progress and HALLELUJAH HAVE I MENTIONED I CAN RUN AGAIN?! It’s going to be a long road, but for now I am so grateful every time I get to lace up my running shoes.

In the mean time, my running group has started up again for the summer session and I tagged along on my bike for their first workout. It’s important for someone to have a camera handy during the dynamic warm-up. :)

photoOf course I wish I was running with them, but it’s much less painful being on the sidelines now that I have some hope, a plan and even a few miles under my belt.

Thank you so much for all the support over the past several months. Hopefully we will be on our way to another comeback in the near future. Stay tuned!

138 days and still counting

It’s time for a long overdue update. I didn’t mean to disappear for so long, but have not been able to bring myself to admit that yes, I am still injured.

At last count, it had been 26 days without running thanks to my pesky patellofemoral pain syndrome. I have since gone from counting days to weeks to months. My last run, except for one very short test run on an anti-gravity treadmill, was January 16th. I’ve been benched through nearly two whole seasons, staring longingly out the window at runners wearing decreasing amounts of clothing as the weeks go by. I remember trying to look on the bright side and telling myself that I picked a good winter to be injured, certain that I would be running again by spring. And yet, here we are…

I have done everything I can think of (or that anyone has suggested) to beat this thing: countless sessions with 3 physiotherapists, a chiropractor, 2 osteopaths, an acupuncturist (next up, podiatrist); a fistful of supplements recommended for joint/cartilage issues; an x-ray, an ultrasound and an MRI; 3 separate sports doctors to discuss and review the results. Each and every practitioner has agreed on the diagnosis of PFPS and yet each one remains stumped that it is just not getting better, despite extensive treatments and rest. I have a roster of PT exercises which I have done diligently at times and neglected at other times (thank you Miss Zippy for this reminder – I needed it).

PTOver the past few months I have gone through all levels of optimism and discouragement. There are days where I have been very positive, reminding myself that this too will pass and confident that I can come back stronger than ever, eventually. Other days I have been so depressed that nothing could motivate me beyond a bowl of popcorn on the couch. Hubs has done his best to drag me out of the trenches when I’ve been feeling really down and out, and promised me that it will get better “soon” (even if I don’t believe him anymore since he’s been saying that since January). I’m grateful to my running friends who have checked in on me frequently, kept me in the loop and offered so much support. I’m especially grateful to friends like Kelly who have gone the extra mile in encouraging me to get to the pool, the gym or out on my bike (and kept me company doing so).

bikeI’ve stayed connected to my running group family as much as possible – providing aid stations on their long runs, tagging along on a couple of runs on my bike, cheering them on at races. On one hand it feels good to stay connected and feel in the loop, but it’s also extremely difficult to see everyone out there doing what I love so much while I am stuck on the sidelines.

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Our gang at the Toronto Marathon – spot me in the M&M suit

Thankfully, there is a dose of positive news after all of that doom and gloom. I saw a different physio (at my usual clinic) last week and she had a couple of new ideas, trying a few different things. In particular, she suggested that my VMO (vastus medialis oblique) may not be activating properly, causing an imbalance and preventing the kneecap from tracking correctly. She hooked me up with electrical stimulator directly on that muscle (and cranked it – yowzas!) while I did short intervals of squatting. What a a bizarre sensation. She also did some suction in and around the knee, and tried a new tape job.

photoAfter five months of absolutely no relief or improvement, my knee felt amazing the next day. And the next day. And the day after that. Something that she did actually helped. I was in such disbelief and so paranoid that I would “jinx” it, I didn’t even admit to anyone that it was feeling better until 24 hours later. It is clearly still not 100% and has regressed slightly over the last couple of days, but hopefully this means I am finally on my way to long-term improvement and relief. After five months of absolutely no relief or improvement despite everything I have tried, there is a glimmer of hope and maybe even a light at the end of this tunnel. I will see my new knight in shining armour again on Thursday, and we’ll go from there.

Thanks so much to everyone who has continued to check in on me through this ordeal. I hope to have another more positive update soon.

26 days and counting

untitledThe wandering mind of an injured runner…

Watching with envy as my friends tackle their runs, whether slugging it out on the treadmill or trudging through the ice and snow.

Thinking back on all those runs either missed or cut short because I was tired, sore, busy, etc. … vowing to never take a run for granted again!

Remembering times when I felt on top of the world, worrying that I will never feel the endorphin rush of an amazing run once again.

Scratching one race after the other off my calendar and wondering when I will get to toe the line again.

Fantasizing of a day beyond this injury… but consumed by the fear that it (or another) will return.

Driving along my usual running routes and wanting nothing more than to pound the pavement again.

As I mentioned briefly in my last update, sadly I find myself on the injured list again. What the eff! After years of years of barely missing a run here or there due to running injuries or issues, I’ve been handed a big ol’ slice of humble pie over the last few months. This time it seems to be a case of patellorfemoral pain syndrome, aka runner’s knee. We suspect weak/imbalanced quad and hip muscles are to blame in conjunction with all of the uneven surfaces I had been running on. I’ve been off almost 4 weeks now (with the exception of a 10-minute failure of a test run last Monday) and I’m really hoping to be on the other side of this sooner rather than later.

photo 3I’ve been getting as many treatments as possible, icing and doing my rehap/strengthening exercises like it’s my job: weighted straight leg lifts; adductor and abductor side leg lifts; clam leg raises; single- and double-legged bridge. I’ve also been keeping busy, and hopefully fit, by returning to the pool (swimming 2000m 3x per week) and doing as much Body Pump and Spinning as I can. I think I’ve been at the gym more in the last month than all of 2013.

photo 2Needless to say, I am beyond disappointed and frustrated that I pretty much have to kiss my spring racing plans goodbye. At this point, I will just be happy to be running again by then. Doing my best to fix myself up and stay positive in the mean time.

Last two weeks of activity… not bad for no running. Let’s see if I can top it this week.

Untitled2UntitledUntil next time… hopefully with better news.