Five weeks post injury, Three-ish weeks post surgery

Last Thursday and Friday, I had to speak at a two-day, out-of-town conference.  I thought my biggest obstacles would be (1) getting there and (2) getting dressed.  I was able to solve those pretty easily.  But I didn’t appreciate just how tough it would be to sit in a normal chair, carry binders around and generally have to be “on” for so many hours at a stretch.  And of course, to answer the “what happened?” question about a zillion times.  Although I’m glad I toughed it out, I was completely destroyed when it was over.  Fortunately a quiet weekend at home helped me get back on track.

I am still getting out for walks almost every day.  I took my girls with me on a couple of walks this weekend.  My weekend mornings have been a lot more relaxed now that I don’t have to fit in long runs, and I’m really enjoying that.  I slept until almost 8 am on Sunday morning, which is practically lunchtime when compared to my normal schedule.

I still feel sad when I see my friends posting their long runs on Facebook and Strava.  But I think I’m more sad about missing out on the sense of accomplishment, the “look what I just did!” aspect, than the act of running itself.  I’m not sure how much of that is actually true and how much of it is a lie I tell myself to get through this layoff.  But I’ll go with it.

At this point I’m also a little afraid of running.  How much will my collarbone hurt?  How much fitness have I lost?  Will I be lopsided from weeks in the sling, and will that set me up for more injuries?  Will I be able to ramp up my training in time to run my half marathon?  Will all of my friends leave me in the dust?  (Many of them were leaving me in the dust even before this injury!)

On a more positive, less navel-gazing note, this Friday I can finally ditch the sling.   And more importantly, I can drive!  Which means my month of houseboundedness will be over.   I don’t know what I will do with all of my newfound freedom!

My Next Marathon . . . Maybe

I have been going for walks nearly every morning.  I need to get out and move, so I go. It has been so oppressively hot and disgusting outside that I’ve been sort of glad that I was walking and not running.  Until today.  When I headed out at 7 am, it was still “only” about 70 degrees.  And it was beautiful.  Much less humid, with a light breeze.  So of course I started thinking about my next marathon.  As one does.

Any marathon is definitely out for this year.  In theory I might be able to find a race in December and have just enough time to train for it.  But why?  I decided to do another marathon largely to enjoy the experience of training with my friends.  Grinding out those long miles on my own doesn’t sound fun at all.

So then I thought about switching my registration for the Shamrock Marathon from the half to the full.  Other Liz and Rainey are running the full, so I would have training buddies.  But I’ve said many, many times that marathon training in the winter is not for me.  I’m not a baby about running in cold weather, but logging all of those miles in the dark and having to coordinate runs around snowstorms and icy conditions doesn’t sound like fun at all.  And there is nothing I hate more than the treadmill.  Plus, I really want to stick to my plan to work on speed this winter and spring.  I had a big PR at the Shamrock Half this year, and I would love to take another chunk of time off in 2018.  So Shamrock Full 2018, and probably any full in spring 2018, is out.

The local marathon training team, which preps runners for the Richmond Marathon in November, agreed to let me defer my registration from this year to next.  They typically don’t allow deferrals, but made an exception for me since I was injured so badly and so early on in the season.  But this essentially committed me to running a marathon in fall 2018, and automatically entered me in the Richmond Marathon.

It’s tough for me to get excited about running Richmond again.  I’ve run most sections of that course several times now.  It’s not an especially challenging course, but it isn’t easy either.  Miles 16-20ish are a long, gradual uphill, and that’s where I completely fell apart last year.

I might feel differently after seeing many of my friends run it this fall, but I’m not that jazzed about the idea of running Marine Corps.  It’s partially the negative association from having to miss it this year.   And it’s partially that the logistics frighten me a bit.  I like the idea of doing a smaller race that’s not in the middle of a major city.

Which brings me to my likely choice for a 2018 Marathon: the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pennsylvania.   Pros for Steamtown:

  • Point-to-point course with a net elevation of about -900 feet!  Looks beautiful in the pictures too.
  • On the smaller side, but not tiny.  As far as I can tell they typically have about 2000-3000 runners.  And the crowd support is supposed to be awesome.
  • Definitely not close to home, but reasonable driving distance.
  • Relatively inexpensive, at least as compared to New York or Marine Corps.
  • I think I can talk several friends into doing it with me.  🙂

Negatives for Steamtown:

  • A little farther drive than is ideal, especially after running 26.2.  Will definitely need to stay up there the night of the marathon to recover.
  • More than a month before the Richmond Marathon, which means my training schedule won’t be at all synced with the local marathon training team schedule.  Again, doable, but not ideal.

That’s my plan, for now.  It makes me feel better to have one, even if I don’t end up sticking to it.

Healing

The scar is healing really nicely.  It turns out that most of the grossness that I shared previously was actually from the surgical tape holding some of the crud against it.  The surgeon told me to go ahead and take off the tape, and after I did it looked MUCH better.

scar.jpg
Scar?  What scar?

Life has generally gotten a little easier since my follow-up three days ago.  I can take normal showers now.  I don’t have to fuss around with bandages on my shoulder anymore, and I don’t worry as much about a little sweat.  And this may sound strange, but now that I’ve seen the hardware and how solid it all looks I feel a little less paranoid about somehow messing it up.

I still have random painful moments, where I need to take some Tylenol and go sit by myself for a bit.  They seem to happen mostly in the evenings.  I have never been a touchy-feely person but now I REALLY need my personal space, even when others are nowhere near my shoulder.  I can deal with it (I’m not beating people off with sticks or anything)  but it makes me pretty anxious.

Mentally I’m doing a lot better.  The walks are still helping a lot.  Definitely not the same as running, but I can’t overstate the importance for me of movement, fresh air and a change of scenery.  Getting dressed and making myself presentable has gotten a bit easier too.  The other day some family members and friends worked together so that I could get a blowout.  After not being able to style my hair properly for a month, it helped tremendously.

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First Post-Surgery Follow-Up

At today’s appointment I finally got to see how the surgeon put me back together again.

Before and after
Before and after

 

I’ve shown these pictures to a bunch of people, and the universal reaction is both “ouch!” and “that’s pretty cool!”  I tend to agree with both.  It does look like the surgeon did a really nice job.

Other than the reveal of my new hardware, there wasn’t much to the appointment.  The incision is healing well.  I don’t have to keep it covered anymore, which is great because the various bandages were itchy and annoying.  I can take a normal shower now (yay!), but I still can’t go swimming or get in a hot tub or the ocean for at least another two weeks.   And I still need to wear the sling 100% of the time for at least two more weeks.  Which means no driving for two weeks.

I was a bit surprised that the  doctor said he won’t send me to physical therapy until my next appointment, which will be six weeks post-surgery.  I had thought that I would start PT a few weeks earlier.   He also seemed to question whether I would even need PT, which really surprised me.  I have become such a believer in it that I might insist on it.

Otherwise, the recovery timeline is still what I was told before the surgery.  Four more weeks until I can run again.  I pressed the doctor a bit on the running timeline.  I think my exact words were, “If, in a moment of weakness, I decide to go out for a run, what’s the risk?”  His answer wasn’t terribly specific.  He said that I would “probably” be fine if I started running after four weeks or even now, but that waiting six weeks was much safer.  He said that he didn’t want to subject the bone and hardware to the amount of jostling that running would impose until they had six weeks to heal.  And as frustrating as it is, I’m going to do the safe thing.  The very last thing I want is to have to go through all of this again, or to prolong my overall recovery.  So I will keep walking as much as I can and, once I’m cleared to drive, head to the  gym for some stationary biking and elliptical-ing.

A Bit Better

My last post was kind of despondent, but I’m glad I put it out there.  Most of the time I try to present a cheery front.  But not running sucks.  It just does.  And sometimes I let the  suckage get to me more than I probably should.

But I’m glad to report that I’m feeling better.  A big part of that is that the weather has improved enough and I’m feeling good enough that I’ve gotten out for a few short walks.   It’s amazing how much that small amount of physical activity improved my mood.

The pain is better too.  I haven’t even had to take any over-the-counter meds for the last couple of days.  I’m still wearing the sling full-time and that’s often uncomfortable and annoying, but it doesn’t hurt.  And after three pretty painful weeks, not hurting isn’t a bad place to be.

My follow-up appointment is Thursday.  I’m harboring a secret (or perhaps not-so-secret now) hope that the doctor will tell me that everything looks awesome and I can start taking the sling off to drive.   Logically I know that’s unlikely.  But I am so very ready to get more of my independence back, and in the suburbia in which I live, that means driving.

Perhaps the best indicator that I’m feeling better is I’m starting to give more thought to my comeback.  Assuming I am cleared to run six weeks post-surgery, I will then have 13 weeks to train for the Norfolk Harbor Half Marathon.  I am signed up for the challenge, which is a 5K on Saturday morning and a half marathon on Sunday morning.  These are flat, fast courses and I had hoped to PR the half marathon.

I’m having trouble finding much guidance on getting started again.  In 2015, I had a metatarsal stress fracture and had to take about 10 weeks off (two waiting for an official diagnosis, six weeks in the boot, two more weeks until physical therapy cleared me to run).  When I finally got to run again, I had to do run/walk intervals for a bit and build back very, very slowly.  I’m hoping that I can accelerate it a bit more this time because running won’t stress my collarbone the way it did my foot.  But I don’t want to run myself into another injury by trying to build up too much mileage too quickly.

I’ve googled “running after collarbone surgery” about 100 times, of course.  The results aren’t terribly helpful.  Lots of people posting in forums about doing really dumb things, like doing an Ironman three weeks after breaking their collarbones.  Until a few days ago the idea of running wasn’t even conceivable to me.  But this morning I had to jog across a busy road to beat traffic and noticed that I felt okay.

Not going to make any plans right now, because I’ve once again been reminded that when we plan, G-d laughs.  But a general idea of what to expect sure would be nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time

Today marks three weeks since my last run.  At least it was a good one.   8 easy miles around a lake on our first full day of vacation.  I rarely post my runs to Facebook anymore (that’s what Strava is for) but I posted that one, along with a picture of the sun coming up over the lake.

I miss it more than I can say.  I’ve realized these last few weeks just how much I structure my life around running.   Negotiating with my husband to make sure we can both fit our workouts in.  Planning my distance, route and start time.   Laying out all my clothes and gear so I can grab and go when it’s go time.  Rushing through the evening routines so I can get to bed at a decent hour.  Getting up at zero dark thirty.  Checking in with all of my training buddies.  Uploading my data to my phone and obsessing over whatever number I’ve chosen to obsess over at the time.   Figuring out how many calories I burned during my workout and how that affects what I will eat that day.

I miss the structure.  I miss my running friends, and the types of conversations that you can only have when out for a run.  I miss that worn-out-but-badass feeling I get after a tough workout,  I miss feeling like I’ve “earned” a good meal or a quiet afternoon.  I miss collapsing into bed in exhaustion at the end of the day.

As I type this, I recognize that I sound, and probably am, a bit disordered.  Running is great, but it’s just a hobby.  It’s not even a hobby that I’m particularly good at.  I’m a mid-packer on my best day.

I also know that I’m being a bit dramatic.  In another week, I’ll be able to go for walks again.  And two weeks after that, I should be free from the damn sling.  Even though I won’t be able to run for at least another two weeks after that, I will at least get my car and much of my freedom back.

But right now, I’m struggling.  I’m sad and lonely and bored and restless, and the weeks ahead feel like they might as well be years.

Housebound

As I’ve mentioned, I can’t drive for at least four weeks after my surgery.  Even if I could drive, it’s pretty tough to make myself presentable.  I can’t do my own hair.  I can get myself dressed but only in very stretchy, forgiving clothing (i.e. not work clothing).   I’m feeling crappy and cranky a lot of the time.  I’m a real treat.  😉

Although I’ve been basically living in pajamas, I do venture off of the couch fairly frequently.  My work allowed me to work from home, so I’m working my regular hours.  But not commuting has given me about 1.5 hours extra per day.  Not running has given me another hour (more on the weekends).  I probably gain another hour per day just by not going anywhere.  So I feel like I have all kinds of time.

So what have I been doing with all of this “extra” time?

  • Sleeping.  Now that I’m not running there’s no need for 4 am wakeups.  I have been going to bed later, but even with the later bedtime I’m still getting 1-2 hours a night more sleep than I got before.   I am better rested than I have been in years.
  • Binge-watching TV shows.  Got all caught up on Scandal, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jane the Virgin and Orange is the New Black.
  • Reading.  Not as much as I’d like, because it’s hard for me to focus on a book while I’m hurting.  But I did finally read Big Little Lies (I might be the actual last person to read that book).
  • Feeling sorry for myself.   I’m really trying not to wallow in this very much.  But I had worked really, really hard to get my current fitness level and it is super tough to feel that all slipping away because of a stupid accident.