Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sometimes you have to look back to look forward

June 15, 2014
It has been seven weeks since my femur fracture and I continue to progress in leaps and bounds.
The most rewarding advancement has been the return to my daily routine. Initially after Jonathan's parents left, it took nearly an entire day to do the work I did in addition to my training. "Simple" house-hold jobs like laundry, cleaning, cooking, and tidying up for a family of five were quite difficult to accomplish with crutches, on my own. But I managed to find ways to function safely around the house to get it done and it began to get easier as my leg got stronger. Of course, I had help from Team DuChene. Now I am back to getting the kids ready in the morning, heading to the gym, lunch and quiet time with 3 yr old Leah, those house-hold jobs, after-school activities, dinner, and bed-time routines.
My spirits remain high but I am human and there are times I've felt a bit bummed. Missing planned races, not seeing my name on the Canadian team for the Commonwealth Games, and the occasional, "You should be careful" from people I hardly know has sometimes bothered me but has been short-lived. I look at where I've come from and where I'm going and expect it to be one serious come-back!
I've had many people contact me with their stories and the one thing I continue to believe and apply, in many areas of life, is to remain positive and not compare myself to others. Although possibly similar, every situation is unique. I choose to disregard the negatives and focus on the greater steps to come.
Initially, there seemed to be so many things I couldn't do - stairs, walking, driving, standing on the broken leg and the obvious, running. But now running is about the only thing I can't do. Every few days I am able to do something new, which is both encouraging and exciting. A few days ago I was able to take 5 or 6 steps, without limping and without my cane. Two days later, I completed 3x5 minutes of walking on the treadmill, hands-free! This morning I did my longest walk (with the cane) of 1 hour, followed by 30 minutes of cycling, which felt great. Every day the soft tissues are getting stronger and stronger.
I think I will be able to wean myself off the cane by 8 weeks, which will give me 4 weeks of steady and solid walking before I attempt jogging. In my mind I will take about 3 months to progress from jogging to running. I've often compared this injury to that of a pregnancy come-back but to be honest, I think this will be easier. Because I was back to my gym, physio and massage routines, less than 3 weeks after my surgery, I did not lose too much strength or endurance. Before the fracture, my resting heart rate (RHR) was 36, and when in my best shape it's been as low as 29. For me, tracking this is a good fitness indicator. After my fracture, my RHR was up to 48 and now it's down to 41. Getting there.
As for pain, I continue to be without it. The odd time I may experience some is when I quickly catch my balance on the fractured leg, usually to prevent a trip over one of the kids or dog. Ten legs around your two can sometimes do that! I guess I could say I've had some pain in the soft tissue in the left leg, as it has been built, but it is certainly nowhere near the bone pain from the fracture.
In terms of set-backs, I have also been very blessed in this area. I did however, get a second infection in the same area as before. For those of you who know anything about surgery, particularly involving bones, you do not mess around with this. I notified Dr. Dill right away and we gave it a few days but it was not getting better as I likely had a dissolvable stitch that did not dissolve. So, off to the fracture clinic I went. Weak stomach? Stop reading here. As a parent, I've always believed in taking kids with you to appointments. They need to learn how to behave appropriately in such environments. However, this was one time that I had to go solo. After freezing the area, Dr. Dill essentially cut a tunnel, 1 cm x 1 cm in diameter and 1 inch deep. Yes, 1 inch deep. So much for what I thought would be something simple like removing a sliver! His wonderful nurse, Susan, assisted him in filling it with packing tape, and covering it with various layers to keep it clean, dry and protected to heal from the inside. At one point, Dr. Dill consulted with an infectious diseases doctor and did a swab to confirm that it was a simple, bacterial external infection. If it was some other strange bacteria or infected internally, near the hardware or bone, we would have one very serious issue. I had to have the area changed 5 times in the first week. It is healing quickly, I am now finished my antibiotic, and hopefully I will be able to resume my pool work in another week or so. No rush.
I have missed the water but have still been able to get in 1.5-2 hrs of daily activity. At the gym I use the elliptical, stair-elliptical, bikes and treadmill. At home I walk outside and bike downstairs on rollers. The walking allows me to build those glute, quad and hamstring areas, necessary for running but does not create much of a cardiovascular workout as I can only get my heart rate to about 100 BPM. The other methods provide a great variety where I can usually keep my heart rate at about 150 BPM, allowing me to get back into decent form. I do some stretching and a variety of upper and lower strength training, nearly back to my original settings. Both Sherri (physio) and David (massage) think I have about 80% strength in the left leg. I am hoping that this previously weak left leg will be and stay at 100% in another 5 weeks when we expect to get the green light to run. Well, jog. In the evening, I am up to a 2:15 plank, 25 pushups, and a steadily growing variety of other exercises.
I have a bone scan, June 20 and my final ortho appointment with x-ray is July 18. I am still enjoying this break but am mentally starting to really miss running. I know I am not ready yet but believe that my mind and body will be in synch when the time is right. #KristaStrong

All smiles as I hop on the elliptical for the first time at 5 weeks.

I won't include pictures of what's underneath but post-surgical infections are something to not take lightly.

At 1 week, it took nearly 30 seconds to get my leg off the couch.

 At 7 weeks, I completed 3 x 5 minutes of treadmill walking, hands-free!

Psalm 37:4-5 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Goodbye Crutches, Hello Cane!

I can hardly believe the incredible progress I've made in such a short time. Our bodies are amazing.
In just 5 weeks, I have come from one of, if not the, most physical and emotional lows of my life after fracturing my femur with the finish in view while defending my Canadian Half Marathon title.
I think the lowest physical point was when I was bedridden after surgery, weak and weary as the anesthetic wore off, trying to lift myself off the bedpan. I did not succeed because of the pain, fatigue, and lack of strength to hold myself up, consequently spilling the liquid contents underneath me. Waiting for help with tears running down my face from pain and disppointment, while lying in my own urine, was a definite low.
And the lowest emotional point was when I knew I required surgical placement of a plate and 3 screws for a fractured femur but had to go for a CT scan first, to determine if I had tumours. With my family history and several physical signs,  bone cancer was a risk. Another definite low.
But I had peace. Incredible peace the entire time. Yes, for the first few days I think I cried more than anytime in my life. I was exhausted and overwhelmed after finishing a half-marathon, having major surgery, finally having my husband with me, processing everything that happened, and not sleeping for two nights.  I was sad with peace; not teary from anxiety or anger. There is a difference, a world of difference.
During that time, there was never a point that I said, "Why me?" or thought that it couldn't get worse. Sadly, when you are dealing with disappointment or loss, you can usually think of someone or something that makes your situation look and feel better. After my mom took her last breath, the nurse told my sister and I to take all the time we needed. When she lost both her parents at once as a teenager, she was not allowed to say goodbye. We do not know why terrible things happen but can allow ourselves to grieve, knowing we will get through it. It was very therapeutic to acknowledge my feelings, something I recently spoke to a group of local swimmers about, in my "Dealing with Disappointment - the good, the bad, and the ugly" presentation.
I've never been shy about my faith; God has been first and foremost in my successes and disappointments. And I don't believe this fractured femur thing is going to be that different. Psalm 66:17 says, "For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke". Like my disappointing World Champs Marathon where I collapsed in the extreme heat, my faith was strong. And after becoming the second fastest Canadian marathoner just two months later, I thanked God. I think it's going to be quite exciting to see how this story enfolds! In fact, just yesterday, I was contacted by the producers at 100 Huntley St. TV who are following Christian athletes heading toward competition at the 2015 PanAm Games in Toronto. I explained my situation to which they replied that if it was ok with me, they would like to follow my recovery process and journey back to running. Stay tuned.
I do know that I may not return to high-level training and racing and "I have learned how to be content with whatever I have", Philippians 4:11. But, like I said in my last post, I am following my heart and believe that with each and every day, my first marathon back is that much closer.
Now, let's get to the exciting developments.

This morning I had an x-ray and appointment with my running friend and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Dill. After getting some paperwork out of the way, he showed Coach Rick and I the development in bone growth by comparing the 2 week x-ray to today's 5 week x-ray. Looked good to me!  We then discussed how I could continue to progress in my rehab and gradually return to full-time training. I was very pleased and pleasantly surprised to:
1. hear that I could progress to full weight bearing, right away, and
2. read on the, "Athletics Canada - Notification of Injury, Illness or Pregnancy" form that I could return to full high performance training and competition, November 1!
As for walking, he watched me take a few steps, which I've been able to do this week but with a heavy limp. He asked me how I felt then explained his assessment and wrote a physio note with instructions to work on gait training, full motion, and abductor strengthening. He concluded that I would likely be walking limp-free in about 2 weeks!
As for training, he confirmed that I could continue in the pool and on the bike, and even start using the elliptical if I felt safe and ready. He did a few tests to determine my leg strength and confirmed that I should continue to gradually increase the resistance. I have been carefully adding to the volume and intensity of my various activities to about 1.5-2 hours per day. I've also been re-establishing an evening routine of stretching, new physio exercises, and pushups and such, which includes a 2 minute plank.
Lastly, he was pleased with my incision upon examination since it did get externally infected last week. Infections are something to not mess around with, after surgery. Because I finished the antibiotic more than 48 hours ago, we put that issue behind us.
I got the date and instructions for my June bone scan, and next appointment in July, which I believe will be my last. If all goes well, this is when I will get the green light to jog again. I'm sure it will take several weeks to progress from jogging to running.
Tomorrow is my last injection of Fragmin, the blood thinner, and I have been successfully using a cane all afternoon. I biked for 1/2 hr at 5:30 am, and did some easy pool running for 1/2 hr and walking for 1/2 hr at 5:30 pm.  Progress. Incredible progress.

Back on the treadmill, walking for now.

Backpacks and bras for holding things make crutches way easier.

No more needles. No more connect the dots.

I allowed myself to indulge in sweets since you need some belly fat to successfully inject the needle. Tomorrow is my last one so I've asked Dr. Dill for a repeat.
Off for some pool running at Jonathan's sister's, down the street, while the kids enjoy their first swim. New fancy cane in hand.


The Ottawa Race Weekend has always been my family favourite racing event. From the recreational joggers in the 2 km to the world's best in the marathon in our nation's capital, you can't get much better.  We went as a family in 2010 and 2012, and again this year. I decided to take the entire weekend off because of the infected incision and long periods of time I would spend sitting, on my feet at the expo, and crutching around. I had to be realistic about what I could physically handle and fit into our family's schedule. On Thursday morning, we headed out on our first road trip in our new (used) van, having lunch at the half-way point with Jonathan's cousin in Belleville. After quickly dropping our bags into our hotel room upon arriving in Ottawa, we headed to the expo to watch the Transcend movie in support of the Kenyan Kids Foundation, and spend an hour at the Saucony booth. We got back to the hotel in time to eat dinner with the Korir family and let the kids have a 15 minute swim in the pool before it closed. On Friday morning after breakfast, we walked down to board the Amphibus, a family tradition while in Ottawa for race weekend. In the past, I'd stay back to nap with the youngest but with me not running this year, and Leah out-growing naps, we made it our first ride together. You get a tour of the city on the roads as a bus, and on the water as a boat. It was quite fun. After lunch, I headed to the expo to spend some time at the iRun and Saucony booths. It was so great to say hi to people, update them on my progress, and hear about others' somewhat similar experiences. The same went for Saturday when I was there in the morning. Like many have been inspired by me, I too was encouraged when hearing the tremendous comebacks and difficulties of other athletes. By the end of my time, my leg was sore from standing and cheeks tired from smiling in so many pictures, must like our wedding day. I was honoured to have a steady stream of people, both days. Later that afternoon, the boys laced up their Saucony shoes and pinned their bibs to their new race t-shirts. Despite the several waves of hundreds of runners, and me on crutches, Leah and I were still able to see Jonathan, Micah and Seth start and finish their 5 km race. Shortly after that I headed to the Rogers booth to meet with Tim Hutchings and Mark Sutcliffe for the 10 k race commentating. We reviewed our plan and were informed of the necessary technical details before going live shortly before the start. It was a fun and relaxing evening as Mark facilitated the discussions and spoke about the course as a local, Tim added the technical details of the various international runners, and I shared some about my training and racing, and spoke to talent of the Canadian runners. I also provided insight to returning to competitive training and racing after having a baby as Mary Keitany crushed the women's field, won the gender competition (women get about a 4 min start ahead of the others), and set a new course record in her first competitive race since having her second child last year. Her last major races were a victory in the 2012 London Marathon and 4th place finish in the 2012 London Olympic Games Marathon. Quite impressive and a neat theme to my weekend as earlier that day I met with Dylan Wyke's wife, Francine, to answer some questions for a study she is doing on elite athletes and pregnancy. After the race, we headed to Jonathan's cousin's for dinner then got settled back into our hotel room. I was already pretty tired at this point yet having an amazing time, even without racing. Almost as fun. Almost. Sunday morning, Manny gave Tim and I a ride to the Rogers booth. Again, the three of us chatted within our areas of expertise and enjoyed sharing stories while providing viewers with coverage of the 42.2 km event. I was able to get two 10 minute breaks when Geoffrey Mutai and John Halvorsen were scheduled to share a few words. It was just enough time crutch my way to the porta potty and stretch my leg. Shortly after we aired the interviews with Canadian Champions, Eric Gillis and Rhiannon Johns, and provided a summary of the race before ending the show, I chatted with a few people in the media/VIP area then found Jonathan and the kids to make our way back to the hotel to check out. On the way home, we enjoyed another meal with another cousin, and safely made our way back to Brantford, just in time for bed.

Ready to drive to Ottawa.

Leah and McKayla Korir loved seeing each other again. Hoping they can to play together in Cherangani while we serve with the Kenyan Kids Foundation.

Fun at the expo.

Amphibus tour.

All smiles after the 5 km race.

Had a great time commentating the 10 km and Marathon races with Mark Sutcliffe (left) and Tim Hutchings (right).

Heading home after another family fun Ottawa Race weekend.