What My Injury Has Taught Me

I’ve been meaning to write a post for a couple weeks now. And since I have a paper to write, presentation to start, and studying for an exam to do, I figured today would be the perfect time to write one (insert laughing emoji with tears here). Let’s face it, I focus better under stress, and always find writing posts as means of procrastination to benefit me in the long run. At least, that is what I hope.

Please bear with me while reading this post…It has been awhile since I have written and thoughts may or may not have a coherent flow.

At the beginning of the fall, I was riding high with excitement that I was one of the lucky few to register for Survival of the Shawangunks. After completing IMLP in July, I was finally getting my running speed back, and started trail running again for the first time in years. I met with a new coach, finalized the races I would be doing in preparation for SOS, and took full advantage of amazing fall weather.

But, as mentioned in my last post, I was sidelined due to an injury. Thus began misdiagnoses, money spent on physical therapy and other therapies in attempt to heal “whatever was wrong with me.” After two months, no relief, and instructions to “refrain from doing any activity whatsoever and keep off your foot,” I decided to get a second opinion on my injury and found a doctor who was sympathetic and understanding of my desires to heal and return to triathlon training. (As a side note, if you are injured, it definitely helps to go to a physician who understands your lifestyle AND has experience treating athletes). Other than understanding my pain (literally and figuratively), he was able to figure out what my injury was due to. If you followed this blog when I first started it, I did not believe in training for anything. My first three marathons were done without any training. In fact, I remember three days before the Boston Marathon that I would run it. What the hell, right? Well, as my new MD put it, I am now paying the price of my bad decisions in my youth. Honestly, I knew I would injure myself eventually, but I did not think it would happen before I turned 30.

I guess my body is paying for all my poor athletic decisions in my youth. That, and a bony coalition in my foot that I inherited which is ultimately the cause of my problems.

So, here I am. The last time I ran was November 4th. The good news is, after four months of refraining from cycling and only swimming with a buoy, I am allowed to swim (and kick!) and cycle again (well, only on a trainer for now).

Some might say that everything in life happens for a reason, to include injuries. I actually think that is true. About a year  ago this time I was in the hospital, trying to see if I could possibly put off appendix surgery until after my ironman, because I was scared about losing training time. (Haha, yeah, I actually wondered if surgery could be postponed). In the end, that time I lost from my training did not negatively affect my performance at all. In fact, it gave me an opportunity to sit back and take a hard look at my life and what I wanted to do in the future, which lead to applying to graduate school.

After months of feeling depressed that I could not run, and scared that the pain I felt would never go away, I finally realize that this injury, just like my appendix deciding it did not want to be a part of my anatomy anymore, is teaching me a lesson.

When I first began partaking in races, I did them just to get out and do something.Getting a t-shirt was an added bonus, not to mention a medal for completion– now that was just so cool. I did races because I was able to. I ran the Boston Marathon, not for the medal at the end, but because I wanted the chance to run up Heartbreak Hill, high-five my friends at Boston College, and complete a prestegious marathon. Yes, I remember thinking it would have been cool to receive a medal at the end, but it wasn’t the most important aspect of the race. The fact I finished it was an accomplishment (especially since I never trained for it). I continued to do other races because for me to finish any race was an accomplishment. They were fun ways to get exercise, and basically that was it.

Once I started duathlons and won my first award, I think my views of races changed. Yes, they were still fun ways to get exercise. But, the more times I won something, increased race stress/ anxiety came into play. I did a race because I wanted to get something else out of it other than just a t-shirt. I wanted to place. Since i am still somewhat new to triathlons, this mentality of “having to beat other people” dealt more with running races. Growing up, I never thought I was really good at anything. In fact, those negative voices in my head (which still show up, unfortunately) saying I would always be a failure, intensified when I didn’t finish my first triathlon. However, in future races each time I placed, it meant I was finally good at something in my life, that those negative voices were wrong.

At the end of the summer after IMLP was finished,  I wanted to focus on getting faster at shorter distance triathlons.My sights for 2016 were to place in triathlons, something which is still somewhat new to me, and I wanted to do whatever it would take to be able to get that extra recognition. I remember pouring over race results for the races I planned on competing in this spring/summer and trying to figure out the times I would need in order to place. All my focus had shifted to determining races that fit around my work schedule.

How had I turned into someone who once completed races just for the sake of doing them, into someone who sulked if she did not win an award, had severe race anxiety, and studied past race results to make sure she would finish at the top of her age group? Someone who felt like a failure finishing a 5k, when once upon a time, felt on top of the world for simply showing up at the event?

Not being able to run has taught me that there is more to life than winning. It has taught me that even if I *may* not be able to run again, there are still other things I can do, like swim and cycle. It’s given me the opportunity to focus on my relationships with family and friends. I’ve focused on bettering myself. Let’s face it, competitive people do have an element of greed. They need to succeed. And before my injury, I was greedy. I wholeheartedly admit it. I am not saying it is a bad thing– to go after something you really want. But, when it takes your focus on everything else in your life, that is when it isn’t a good thing. These past couple years, instead of focusing on the free time I would have to spend time with Kevin, my free weekends during the spring and summer were spent racing, doing the activities that I wanted to do, not what we wanted to do. What type of partner is that?

One that I do not want to be.

Yes, I did sign up for an Aquabike event this summer, and I still have my sights (and hopes) to complete SOS in the fall. But, this time around I will be doing these activities with a different mindset.

The mindset that simply attempting them are accomplishments, and that my finish time does not define the person or athlete that I am.

You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be. 

On the Sidelines

Training for IMLP took me away from speed training; I know a lot of ironman training programs do incorporate speed sessions. But my goal was simple: to finish the race within the 17 hour time limit. So I wasn’t focused on speed. Late summer/ early fall I decided it was time to gain my speed back. I’m not going to lie, running hard and fast is tough. But, I was able to get back to my sub-8minute miles, and was estatic. I made sure I was able to have Thanksgiving off in order to take part in our local Turkey Trot; I had a goal to beat my previous 5k time.

I failed to mention during this time, I switched shoes brands (and shoe type). From my first run in the shoes, there was pain in my left foot. But I figured it was just my foot getting accustomed to the new shoe. (I am “profoundly” flat footed and decided to try a minimalist shoe). There continued to be pain as I ran, but we all know that runners are pros at running through pain.

Then, one day, I started out on a run and it was too painful to run. I decided to take a couple days off from running, focusing on biking instead. A week later I attempted to run again, and found the pain was extreme. After working a busy shift, the pain was not only present when I walked but all the time.

Enter peroneal tendonitis.

Long story short, this is my second week in a CAM boot, out of work, in hopes the tendons will forgive me for being so cruel to them. I was unable to take part in that Turkey Trot, and haven’t run for almost a month.

I have been sidelined before (i.e. my appendix), but this injury has been a lot harder, emotionally. I still have the occasional pain when I walk without the boot, and I haven’t been able to bike for over a week, and kicking when I swim even aggravates the foot. The impatient person in me wants this to heal quickly–even though the damage I did was probably over a couple months. I’ve tried to do other activities, but nothing has “felt” the same way as a tough run or good bike ride feels. Truth be told, deep down I fear I may be unable to run again. The goals I had for next year’s races seem to be disappearing before my eyes. It’s lead to feelings of depression and sadness that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Yes, you might say I am being dramatic right now, but the fear of being unable to do the things I love, is real.

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. A friend of mine reminded me that things happen at the times they were meant to happen in our lives. But right now I cannot seem to figure out what the reason is behind this injury…

Has anyone else been sidelined by an injury? How did you cope?

I’m Not Allowed to What?

There comes a time in every athlete’s life–hell, in everybody’s life–where they get injured. And no matter what the injury, there is usually some annoyance associated with it. The injury may be a paper cut. Small little slice, but you are always aware it’s on the top of the finger because there is a slight burning sensation whenever you wash your hands. Forget attempting to clean tools in any type of paint thinner or putting your hands in corrosive liquids–not that you might attempt such a task. (I have no idea where the cleaning of tools came from, either. I don’t clean power tools.) The injury might be a broken arm, or torn ACL. Most injuries though, happen as accidents. And, boy, can they really mess up your planned schedule.

I’m someone who plans. I enjoy spontaneity–it brings excitement to life–but I also feel more comfortable being able to look at a week and know what will (or should) happen everyday. I’m someone of a nut and have this fascination (that’s a more sane word for obsession) with calendars. I think I have four for 2011. All calendars have very similar tasks/ events marked in the boxes. Next to the events are smaller boxes, where I can tick off that I finished the task/event (you really need to read my friend’s blog–she shares some of my compulsive attributes–it’s like reading my own thoughts). My need for structure and somewhat overly detailed daily lists could be a post of their own.

I do not like when my schedule is disrupted and changes are made. Although, I am much better at dealing with changes now. I’ve learned to be adaptable to most situations and not freak out when something different happens. I guess that’s what happens when you work in a controlled chaotic work environment and things are constantly changing. And, as long as I am the one doing the modifications to my schedule, everything is a-okay.

This past week’s schedule, on the other hand, was modified by external factors, which I don’t like. On that note, the rest of the month’s schedule has had some changes made to it as well due to an accident. No, I was not biking, running, or swimming when this happened either. I was shoveling my stairs. S-h-o-v-e-l-i-n-g.  The act of moving snow from one place to another to get it out of your way. Due to the act of shoveling, I had an insult to my head causing some mild degree of loss of consciousness. In lay person terms, it means I slipped on the f-ing ice, hit my head against the stairs, and passed out.

Might I add, this happened the day after my scheduled yearly physical (which I strongly suggest everyone have–most insurances cover a free physical a year–definitely take advantage of that) where my doctor, who might be one of the rare physicians I can tolerate and admire, told me I was in fantastic shape, and wished his other patients could be more like me (come on, who does not want to be me?!?).

Less than twenty-four hours later, I had my non-scheduled visit to Northern Dutchess’ Emergency Department, all because of a little knock to the head.

This story does have a point, and I am getting to it slowly but surely.

I’m not a fan of hospitals. Scratch that. I’m not a fan of being a patient in a hospital. Furthermore, I’m not a fan of people telling me what I am and am not allowed to do. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer having people tell me what to do in work/ follow directions. But not when people tell me what to do with my life.

After hours in a painful neck brace (as the medical professionals were unsure of if I did any damage to my cervical spine when I fell, and I have no recollection of the first couple minutes after I hit my head), CT scans, an MRI, unexperienced nurses trying to start multiple IV’s (I prefer to keep my blood to myself, so make it hard for nurses/phlebolomists to access it…In the healthcare  field, I’m known as a “hard stick”), I found myself waiting anxiously behind a closed curtain in a cold emergency room, staring at the normal saline running into my AC. There was some disbelief in the fact that I was (1) it took three different nurses to start the IV after five attempts, even when I kept telling them to just go for my left arm because that’s where the veins are (they didn’t listen), (2) I was spending a day off work in a hospital and (3) that I had an injury while not training.

Finally, the ohsoverykind ED doctor decided to return and say hello and let me out of the incredibly uncomfortable C/S collar. Have I mentioned I worked in an ER and know what happens “behind the scenes,” making me somewhat impatient as a patient?

“Well, Molly. Good and bad news.Good news, scans are negative. No bleeding. Just a bump on the side of your head. With any head injury, it’s always more concerning when there is loss of some memory around the event, loss of consciousness, and vomiting–all which you had.”

I knew what news was coming before he continued to speak.

“Bad news is, you said you are training for a couple big races.”


“That would explain why you have a resting heart rate of 52, which is good. Means your heart is in great shape.” Somehow I think he was veering off topic. This non-scheduled visit was because of my head, not my resting heart rate. I was annoyed.

“My medical advice is that you abstain from any physical activity for a while. We don’t know the extent of the damage, but after I what i just said, you did have some sort of brain injury, even if there was no evidence on the scans. Which means, no swimming, no biking. No running.”

“You’re telling me I’m not allowed to do those things? For how long?”

“I cannot stop you from doing what you do, but my advice is just to take it easy for a couple of weeks. You are a nurse, what would you tell your patients to do?”

Sigh, I hate when people say that, because I’m great at giving great advice that I never do myself. “You know, this really messes up my schedule.”

“I’m sorry.”

You get the point. He continued for another couple of minutes with discharge instructions and then finally stopped talking.

So, for four days, I’ve refrained from any physical activity, besides work. And, it’s driving me mad.

If you are an athlete who has been injured, you know how painful it is not to be able to do something you love. I’m antsy to get out and go for a run in this beautiful weather. Yes, I know it is freezing out. My bike misses me, I know it. I’m beginning to miss the taste of chlorinated water.

Long long story short (well, somewhat short), all will be well. But my training schedule must be modified. And  we’ll just have to see if I’ll be able to tolerate this lack of activity for much longer. Come visit my house, and you’ll notice it’s unusually clean, that all my clothes are now color coordinated (I noticed the majority of my jackets are orange, a blinding reflective color, or green–not weird at all), and I’ve baked more food than the inhabitants of Luxembourg could consume.

Little Tumble

Every cyclist has a time where he/she comes into very close, personal contact with the surface they are riding on. I’ve had a couple of falls as of late–all of which I blame on my cycling shoes–but as much as I would like to blame my fall yesterday on my shoes, they were not at fault. This time it was completely due to a silly driver, my poor coordination and clumsiness…And a tree branch.

After a horrible couple of weeks, I decided my bike needed some love and attention, so I went for a bike ride. What better way to spend a Friday afternoon, especially when you’ve been trapped inside for what seems to have been years? I figured, short spin through Dutchess County, never hurt anyone.

Contrary to what other people I cycle with think–I err on the side of being indecisive on where go, as I’m riding–I do go out with a vague idea of where I want to when I head out. My route may change about twenty times on that ride, but I generally end up where I planned. Yesterday though, my indecisiveness had taken over and I could not decide where I wanted to go. I made it to Red Hook but then was at a loss of which direction to take — do I go over to Bard? I was just over that way last week. Maybe head north? No, it’ll be dark soon.

Since I could not decide, I ended up doing a couple of circles around the quaint little town. As I was approaching the main intersection on my second loop, a car door opened–which I was not expecting. I steered out of the way quickly in time to avoid a collision with the driver, only to lose my balance and fall over after trying to avoid a large branch-one I swear was not there before.

I know every cyclist needs to be aware of drivers opening doors. And since I’ve been riding I have never had the issue of near-collisions.

Alas, I guess every cyclist also needs to have near-misses with door-opening fools in a high traffic areas on Friday afternoons.

Falls happen when you are least expecting them to happen. It’s a whirlwind experience–you are on your bike one second, clipped in, and then next, boom, are on the ground. I must say, I’ve never unclipped from my pedals with such ease and speed before. Why couldn’t I do that during my last race?

Of course, the first thing I think of after falling is, “Ohh crap is my bike damaged?” Not, “Ohh, thank God I didn’t fall into on-coming traffic and die.” Yes, you know what my priorities are.

It just so happened that a Dutchess County Sheriff I passed (twice, might I add) was parked on the other side of the street and came to my rescue.

“Are you okay ma’am?”

I gazed up at the officer after making sure my bike was intact (again, a normal person might make sure their limbs are intact). Am I old enough to be called ma’am?

I’m not sure if it was the startle from falling, or the fact that I realized he was somewhat good-looking, made my usual mute-self even more speechless.

“I’m going to call–”

“No, no, I’m fine.” I interrupted him.

“You’re bleeding.” Now nick-named ‘Mr-Really-Attractive-Officer’  pointed to my leg. I glanced at my shin which had a stream of blood trickling down. Damn you, chainrings! Why must you be so sharp?!?


I picked up my bike and hobbled over to the curb where I crouched down, leaning my bike up against my knees (no one is allowed to lean my bike against the pavement) and took a closer look at my pathetic wound. Mr. Attractive actually stopped traffic, and picked up my water bottle. He also took my bike and leaned it against a tree before kneeling in front of me to take a better look at my leg.

There I was sitting on the curb: sweaty, bloody, greasy, exhausted, sporting a jersey and spandex cycling shorts, and becoming more and more aware of my appearance. Is this really happening to me?

Why wouldn’t it?My life is a comedy, remember?

“I’m okay,” I muttered and took a used tissue from my jersey pocket and started wiping away the blood.

“Hold on–” he held up his finger and then ran back to his car.  I could feel my cheeks becoming flushed and warm with embarrassment. As he left for a minute, I poured some water out of my bottle, wet the tissue a little, and went to work on my leg, thinking, all I wanted to do was go for a ride.

The officer came back from across the street and handed me tape and gauze,”Here, use this.”

“Who has gauze and tape?” I was not blessed with the ability to make small talk with attractive people, can you tell?

“First Aid kit, and I was a paramedic.”

Ohh Lord, Mr. Really Attractive fights crime and has dabbled in the medical field? I was crying inside.

“Thanks.” I took the supplies from his hand, ripped a piece of tape, slapped the gauze on and stood up, still silently hoping this was all a dream.

“Are you sure you are okay?”

“I’m fine. Thank you for your help.”

“You’re welcome,” he took my bike and handed it to me.

And so, I was off again–all fixed, having attracted the attention of the drivers in a small town, being saved by a kind D.Co Sheriff, and learning the lesson that you are never fully prepared to fall off your bike.

When was the last crazy post written?

April 2023

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