After my dramatic post of a few days ago, I’m not sure what to say next. I felt that filling in some of the gory details of what helped make me so resilient was important. Maybe not to you, but it was to me — blogging is a therapeutic exercise, and typically feels self-centered. I know that sharing my story is helpful, but let’s be honest — it’s purpose is also to remind me of where I’ve been, where I’m at, and where I’m going.
I alluded to foot problems in the last post – here’s a quick summary as I remember it –
Folks who have high pain tolerance, who run snow marathons on shattered heels and just deal with the pain because isn’t distance running supposed to hurt?!, don’t often make convincing cases to their doctors when they say “something hurts”
I ran too much too soon after a lethargic youth. I ran my first 5K on my son’s first birthday in 2010, and in 2011 and early 2012 ran 3 marathons. Running was an outlet ad a way to think through a dissolving marriage. I ran so much with no athletic base, no gradual conditioning of tendons, muscles, and joints that I gave myself a serious left heel stress fracture. The doctor actually used the word “shattered” when discussing my injury. 12 weeks in a boot didn’t fix it, so I was put in a hard cast and on crutches for another 10-12 weeks. I was put in a cast just a day or two before my ex-husband moved out. I walked for rehab and started running off and on into the fall.
Running now hurt terribly, so I stopped but still had immense pain in my right foot. Found out from a doctor that I had an extra bone / cartiledge in my foot (accessory navicular) and my posterior tibial tendon was attached to that instead of the primary navicular. Overuse had caused it to flare up – I’m guessing all the running, poor form, poor conditioning, heel striking, plus being on crutches and forcing that foot to do all the work took it out. I had surgery to lengthen the “post tib tendon”, remove the extra parts, and reattach the tendon to the proper place. I was a single mother who couldn’t drive for weeks with an almost 4 year old. Life was HARD.
During recovery as I was walking, something was wrong. I could feel it deep down, but the surgeon wasn’t particularly receptive. Folks who have high pain tolerance, who run snow marathons on shattered heels and just deal with the pain because isn’t distance running supposed to hurt?!, don’t often make convincing cases to their doctors when they say “something hurts”. I had no ability to go from standing flat on my right foot to standing on the ball of my foot. The posterior tibial tendon is what connects the calf to the mid-foot and allows this action to work. I have a vivid memory of standing in my surgeons office and her asking me to stand on just my right foot and raise up, and I was shaking, trembling, flexing my calf with all my might to try and lift off of the ground, and nothing happened. That’s when it was decided that the surgery didn’t take, and I needed to go through hell all over again.
I could write a whole series of epic poetry to that handbike. I loved her with all my heart. I went from barely riding around the block to completing two metric centuries (62 mile rides). I trained diligently, riding alone despite my fear of the old girl suffering a breakdown (her OR me) …
I remember walking back through the waiting room, barely looking at my long-distance boyfriend and just shaking my head when he asked how the appointment went. I held it together until we got into the car, and that’s when I exploded into a sobbing, shaking ball who couldn’t speak. I had just endured one of the hardest periods of my life, and I had been told it was happening all again just a few months later. The surgery would be repeated, this time more aggressively and using stronger hardware. Recovery would be longer, I once again wouldn’t be able to drive, had to figure out how to corral, occupy, transport, and feed a preschooler on my own, had an ex husband who was becoming less receptive to special accomodations as my life was an ever evolving train wreck, and a long distance boyfriend who did everything he could to spend time with me, but he had a job and obligations in his own state.
In the weeks between surgeries, I made the decision that probably saved my life. And no, I’m not just being dramatic. Deep depression leads to suicidal thoughts, and things were bad. I barely survived the first go-round of surgery, and here we were, diving back in for round 2 shortly after round 1. My boyfriend had asked a simple question, which was “What do people do who can’t walk? How do they exercise?” and that’s when the search for a handbike began.
I don’t know how it happened because handcycles are almost NEVER on sale for a price I woud have considered (retail price usually starts at $2500), but lo and behond there was one listed for sale on Craigslist in the metro area for a price I could afford. I snatched it up, sight unseen, and made my maiden voyage around the block. I could barely make it, huffing and puffing for the mile, but I had traveled OUTDOORS under my own power!
I could write a whole series of epic poetry to that handbike. I loved her with all my heart. I went from barely riding around the block to completing two metric centuries (62 mile rides). I trained diligently, riding alone despite my fear of the old girl suffering a breakdown (her OR me), with my crutches strapped to the back in a duct tape sling I fashioned. I had a bottle of “fix a flat”, a few simple tools, water, cash, and my cell phone should I suffer a break-down. I honestly had no idea what I would do if I DID become incapacitated on a ride, as the giant handbike wouldn’t fit in most regular vehicles. She and I never had a major breakdown on ride that I couldn’t fix, and I learned a lot about my resiliency, determination, and inner strength that summer.
The fall of 2013 led to two-wheeled cycling, pavement and gravel rides that pushed me to tears, and a growing love of two wheeled transportation. I had to love it, as it was at this time that I was told that long distance running was likely never to happen for me again without risking wrecking something else. I embraed biking because I had to — I biked through the winter, riding my cyclocross bike on icy gravel roads and generally losing my shit on most rides. Ha!
2014 was when I started group rides, learned about pacelines and drafting, and expanded my cycling world greatly. 2015 was my “fast year”, the year I didn’t know I was kinda good at this shit, and surprised myself by getting on a few podiums against some serious competitors. 2016 the wheels started to fall off and I didn’t know why. Pushing really hard seemed impossible (in hindsight – was it my numb and painful leg giving out?!) and by the spring of 2017 I was dead in the water and headed into surgery.
There you have it, the long boring history of how I got from the big tragedy of 2012 to now-ish. If you’ve made it to the end of this saga, I owe you a Coke or a coffee on a future group ride that I lead. Because dammit, I’m convinced I’ll be back to leading group rides although it’s unclear when. “They” took running away from me, and they are not taking cycling too.