I can’t Tri if I can’t Run

It’s taken me a while to get to this point. It’s not a point of no return, but a point of acceptance.

I can’t run.

I may not run for a while. Worse yet, I need to really pull back on cycling, too.

My ankle is just not cooperating. Any impact, even just walking around a sculpture garden and the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City with my mother, sets it off. I get a shooting pain up the side of my leg. My frustration was abated a little when I saw my surgeon three weeks ago. It’s nothing I’ve done post-op; my peroneal tendon just hasn’t healed and I have tendinitis right where the tendon wraps around the ankle bone.

The more I fight this, the worse it will be. It just needs rest and TLC. My physical therapist, who may be my emotional therapist if this continues much longer, suggested a new treatment. It is a topical application of steroids through a patch, which is applied on the hot spot. Another patch with no medicine on it is stuck higher up on my calf muscle. Electrodes are attached to both patches and a little blue box runs a current of 40 dpi (?) generates little waves that help the medicine penetrate. The treatment only lasts 10 minutes and I’ve been going 3 times a week. I’ve noticed immediate relief, even though the pain quickly comes back if I do something to aggravate the tendon. It sounds like we’ll do at least 6 more sessions.

The first treatment was suggested by and administrated by the PT man I’ve been working with since my operation. He always makes me feel optimistic and has something funny to say. He told me that this is such a weak steroid that I could go to London to compete in the Olympics and still use it. It’s much safer than cortisone injections that eventually weaken muscle tissues and create long term damage. I asked if the guys in the Tour de France had that treatment every night, and he said, “They have this on their breakfast cereal.”

Unfortunately, he is not always free and I’ve been seeing another woman. She is not as cheery. She is more like an admonishing grandmother. She made it seem like I was crazy to have done a triathlon when I knew I was having surgery 3 months later. She told me to cut back on my workouts. She’s probably right, but I don’t think she feels the pain of not running or biking, as she doesn’t care much for all those things.She just sees the physical reality of a tendon under duress.

I have cut way back and am only swimming 20 laps, and have not even biked this week. I would rather see this treatment really work. I did bike once last week and got caught up in a local group ride. I felt kind of bad when I chicked the head of the pack. They really didn’t like that and caught up with me to show me who was boss. Then, I passed them as they were waiting for the rest of the ride to catch up. They thought that was really rude and yelled at me to wait up. I informed them I wasn’t with the group, and they yelled back that I should join them. Then they let me know they were going 40 miles so I politely told them I was doing a shorter out and back and would join them another day. I pushed off but they eventually caught up. Persistent 50+ somethings that they were, they told me they didn’t bite and kept at me to join them. It’s kind of hard to explain the whole ankle thing so I told them I had planned a brick workout to swim that day (which was absolutely true) and wasn’t going too far. They eventually quit, but I found that I couldn’t help but try to keep up with their pace for a while which is faster than my normal one.

This is why eventually it will be great for me to do group rides. My naturally competitive side will flourish and I will get faster out of sheer pride.

Right now, however, it’s the worst thing for me to do . I need to go slow, scale back and accept that this is all necessary and temporary.

This may be one of the hardest things for me. It’s torture. I feel lazy. I feel fat. I feel like I’m making excuses. Fortunately, I have two therapists to blame it on; one who’s telling me to keep up my exercise IN MODERATION, whatever that means, and the other who has made it clear that I am a stupid idiot to be doing anything but walking my dog, even if that means kicking around a swimming pool.

I’m counting my blessings. I can still do push ups. I am envisaging getting back on my old skool exercise bike with my post-op boot on. I can do planks. I need to do LOTS of planks. I can walk my dog more, but it starts to ache when I hit about 1.5 miles and it really hurts my psyche when I realize I am doing 20 min miles.

I have a new job scoring for Pearson that keeps my brain busy and helps squelch any financial stress that may crop up. I’m occasionally babysitting my friend’s awesome kids and did some pool walking while watching them play which is always fun and easy to do. I’ve done a lot of home improvements, had a great 2.5 days with my son before he left for France to see his dad, and am trying to cultivate the things I love in my life like Scrabble, reading, and taking care of my garden.

I’ll need my friends to be supportive and understanding. The worst thing I can hear right now is, “When will you run?” There is no easy answer until I’ve healed. I don’t think the physical therapists or the surgeon anticipated my recovering being this slow. There is no way, also, to know I’ve gone too far stretching or doing exercise, until it actually hurts. I always pull back when this happens, but sometimes it is a delayed reaction and hard to gauge.

The important factor is that I WANT to feel better. I want to run, I want to cycle, and one day I want to tri again. But right now I need to just heal. I have really tried to listen to my physical therapist, surgeon, and most importantly to my own body, but it’s really a game of hit and miss.

Cross your fingers and send some good karma this way. I’ll be back at it one of these days. Right now I have a date with an elastic band and an ice pack.

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