Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm back!

Well, it's been a while!

And there are reasons.

But, let me say first that I did, in fact, run the Boston Run to Remember Half Marathon 2010. My time wasn't great. But while running it I didn't really care. 2:37 or something like that. I'd thought I'd do 2:15. But, alas, heat and bathroom breaks (more about that below) made that a non-reality. And I was more concerned with finishing and making sure my family saw me at the finish line (I actually stopped at one point and called my husband when I was a mile away just so I could make sure they saw me and he was able to take a picture!) than I was about my time. It was a good, albeit tiring, experience. I was so happy to have done it. I felt so strong afterward. And, importantly, I was ready for another one!

But, like I said above, it's been awhile!

The first reason is that after half a year of fall and winter running, it was hard to run during the summer. I had kid obligations. It was hot. We traveled. It was hot. Did I mention it was hot? I had a really, really hard time running in the heat! Then, the second reason happened: I got a nasty calf strain in the fall. That just blew everything to hell. I had signed up for a fall half marathon, but with the calf strain there was no way I could get the miles in to accomplish that. It sort of sucked. But, I got over it and maintained my base (about 10 or so miles a week) throughout the winter. I even did speed work at the track. I like running in the cold so that wasn't too bad. But I didn't have a goal, just the determination to maintain that base. And I did.

But then we come to reason three for my hiatus. I needed to have surgery. I'd been putting it off for about a year because it was the kind of surgery that disrupts your life in a fairly significant way.

And here is where I give the big warning to those who don't want to read about female problems.

So...warning! Discussion about childbirth related injuries to follow and the accompanying surgery to correct said problems below!

Have we cleared the room of children and weak-bellied folks? Yes? Good.

So, let's back up. About 10 years. It's a story that many mother runners with understand. While giving birth to my first son, Ryan, 10 years ago I suffered a fairly significant vaginal tear and damage to the sphincter which controls the bladder. I was stitched up, encouraged to do kegels and eventually "healed." But my "new normal" had issues. Leaking bladder. Swollen hoo-ha. And things that just didn't feel *right*. There was no easily-accessible literature about this type of injury at the time. Think about "googling" in 2001. Not alot of published medical journals, but lots of message boards with women asking "what the hell?!" The consumer-oriented postpartum books were shockingly unhelpful. And I say shockingly because if you can't get the straight shit from other women, who the hell can you get it from. I was at a loss. Even my OB/GYN was less than forthcoming. He only said "You might need to get that 'resurgerized' sometime later." Okay, dude. Thanks for that amazing medical advice.

So, two children later let's just say my nether-regions were in need of help. Add running as a sport into the mix and you can see why I decided surgery was a valid option.

I realized that surgery was a possibility because, thankfully, my new OB/GYN was no longer a guy, but a woman my age (in her 40s). She's the kind of person that, if she weren't charged with the care and upkeep of my vagina on a yearly basis, she'd be my friend. I told her about my issues. She knew exactly what I was talking about. She gave me names of "uro-gynecological surgeons" and sex therapists and told me that there was definitely something I could do about this.

I did my research. I interviewed two different surgeons and went through both of their battery of tests to make sure that the diagnosis was the same. Both said *exactly* the same thing to me. Stress Incontinence and Posterior Rectocele. Recommendation: surgery. And the surgery was explained to me in great detail. It's invasive, although now considered to be state-of-the-art. Because I'm a runner, both recommend what's called a TVT-Sling that's a bit sturdier and involves two incisions to the abdomen. Both said they wouldn't touch the rectocle unless they were going in to do the sling. Clearly, I was doing the right surgery. I signed on for January (post fall half marathon. BTW, one of the surgeons said to me "You can run 10 miles? At once?" That was slightly gratifying).

Although originally I thought January would be a good time to do it, family obligations got in the way. We decided to rent a ski house for the winter (first time) and that meant not only that I wouldn't be able to ski, but that I wouldn't be able to even help carry the kids' skis! The recovery for this surgery is pretty strict. For 6 weeks I was not allowed to do the following: run or lift more than 5lbs. That means, I couldn't pick up a gallon of milk, go grocery shopping, lift laundry baskets, children, cats, boiling pots of water...etc. You get the picture. I would be like an old lady for 6 weeks. It was hard. We had a messy house and I bought milk by the half gallon and not the gallon. No laundry was put away. It's been almost 3 weeks since my final "6 week check up" and I'm still trying to get this house back to where it should be. But, I have happy news to report.

I can sneeze and laugh without wetting my pants. And, most importantly, I can run. I can run without wearing a freaking Depends in my compression shorts. Holy moly. It's true. I might *feel* like I have to pee. But I DON'T WET MY FREAKING SHORTS. It's amazing. And so worth it. My very first run was at the gym on a treadmill. I did a slow mile. 10 minutes later I stopped and went to the bathroom. Dry as a freaking bone! Can you believe it??

And it continues like that. Like I said, it's been almost 3 weeks since my final check up and since I've been given the "all clear" with activities. I no longer leak. My new normal is NORMAL. And I'm so ready to get back to where I was a year ago.

Of course, when one takes time off, there are limitations. And unfortunately, I found a limitation yesterday. I've been slowly introducing hill work into my routine these past three weeks. Yesterday I did a fairly steep incline after a 2 mile run and did it for probably about a mile. I came home and within the hour realized that I had another calf strain--same leg that had it last fall. Ugh.

But it's always something and I just need to accept it, incorporate it into my training and move on. I may even get a coach this time around. I'm determined to find a way to make this part of my life and not just "wing it" anymore.

So, I'm here! I'm ready....but, like everyone, there are always issues.

I've signed up for and am excited to do the Chilly Half Marathon in Newton, MA this November 13th. Lots of big hills around miles 8, 9 and 10. So I'll need to figure out how to train for them without hurting my freaking calves again.

Wish me luck. I'm back!!