Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Taking Real Baby Steps

(Recovering in Bed)
                This title may be a bit misleading as Lilyana has yet to take her first steps. I am assuming it will be many months down the road, but I have been taking some baby steps of my own. On November 27th I had my one month post op appointment with my surgeon. He checked out my knee and was very pleased with the healing, so pleased in fact that he cleared me for “jogging” already! That was 6 weeks sooner than I anticipated.
                I had to make him spell out exactly what he meant by “jogging.” When my midwives told me I could do “cardio” two weeks after having Lilyana I assumed that meant running. I assumed wrong. But this time he really meant jogging. He told me to always start with a walk to warm up then jog 5 or so minutes, walk, jog, walk, jog, etc. over time gradually decreasing my walk and increasing my run time and taking 72 hours rest between jogging days. Pace is meaningless right now. It is all about minutes.
                The next day was Thanksgiving and before our first Thanksgiving as our new little family Levi, Lilyana and I ventured out to the turf fields for some exercise. I made it about 20 meters, my first “jog.” I was elated and exclaimed, “Look at me Levi! I’m running!” As I did some strange looking shuffle run at a pace Levi could easily walk next to. The people playing kickball must have thought I was nuts. Next, I tried 50 meters and made it. Then I got ambitious and told Levi I was going to jog to the end of the field and back. I made it half way and turned around and decided to call it quits for the day and we walked home. I could now justify eating my favorite Pecan Pie since I had jogged maybe a total of 200 meters.
(Lilyana gets her exercise wrestling her toys)
                Fast forward a few weeks and things are progressing. My jog is actually looking like a jog and the minutes I spend walking are decreasing. For instance today I started with a 5 minute walk. Then I jogged for 20 minutes (around a 9:20 minute mile), followed by walking for 5, jogging for 15 then a walk cool down totaling 5 miles. On the walk portions I put the treadmill at 5% incline and the jogs 0%.
My knee is feeling more and more stable every day. It is not painful but I am being careful not to push it too soon. We are leaving for Nevada tomorrow to see Levi’s family which should keep me in check as I will be busy visiting family and not thinking about exercising too much. When I start seeing gains in my healing it is hard not to want to dive head first into plotting out my training and future racing goals. I have a ways to go before I am at this point. On top of my jogging I am cross training a few days a week on the spin bike and am doing strength work 2-3 times per week. My left quad has some catching up to do with the right one as it has definitely atrophied a bit. Even before the surgery it was noticeably smaller than the right as I was unable to really use those muscles properly due to my knee pain. I am optimistic that things will heal properly and I will be back to training and racing in no time.
For the first time in awhile I actually look forward to being on the treadmill because it sure beats being laid up on the couch.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sometimes the Road to Recovery has Construction along the Way

(Luckily I was still able to do some hunting in MT despite my surgery)

                Three weeks ago I was starting to feel strong, I was slowly getting back to increasing my mileage, my strength training was going well, and then I had knee surgery.  I am now back to rehab and will slowly work my way back up to running.
                You may be wondering why I had surgery. It was not the result of a traumatic injury as you might think but rather I chose to have the surgery to try and fix an ongoing problem in my left knee. Over 2.5 years ago I remember having some knee pain during the outdoor track season. I chalked it up to being due to the steeplechase as that event will beat anyone up and figured I would rest after the season. I rested, iced, and took care of the area but the nagging pain was there. I could run through it so I did. I had other seasons to get ready for and with each passing year the pain remained. I did not just sit idly by and agree to be in pain. I tried everything I could to help alleviate the problem. I went to physical therapy at the Sports Reaction Center, I rested (even when I tore my MCL on my right leg all that time off could heal the MCL but not what was ailing my left knee), I iced, I cross trained, I strength trained, I did massage, I foam rolled. Then I started going to Doctors.
                One Doctor told me it could be chondromalacia, another said he thought I was suffering from Plica syndrome after doing an ultrasound. Both Doctors reassured me I was not doing any bone damage by continuing to run. This was reassuring to me because I do not want to have major problems when I am older. The last Doctor I saw who did the ultrasound, told me I could try cortisone injections to help alleviate the swelling in the Plica but he really did not recommend it at my age in the knee joint. It could be risky so I figured I would just deal with the pain. This was last October. Then I became pregnant and I figured the time off from racing would help my knee heal. But the pain remained. So two months after Lilyana was born when I was just starting to feel strong again I decided to seriously pursue my options of fixing my knee. I had talked to my dad and found out he had surgery years ago to remove his Plica as his was overgrown. He had been dealing with the pain for three years and it was very similar to mine. It can be genetic so I figured it was very probable that I had the same issue. It was time to find out.
                My physician referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. Within a week period I had an appointment with him, some x-rays, an MRI and then a lateral release on my left knee. After the MRI and during the procedure he told me it was not the Plica. For some reason the ligament (lateral retinacular) on the left side of my leg was overgrown, thick, and very tight. It had gotten to the point of “no return.” No matter how much stretching, massage, and foam rolling I did it was not going to get better without surgery.
(2 weeks post op)
On October 31st I had a lateral retinacular release.  The first three days were rough, especially trying to care for a baby but it really wasn’t that painful as I opted not to take any pain medicines due to having to feed Lilyana. They did a spinal during my surgery so I was able to watch the whole thing. It was kind of cool to just walk into the operating room. I have never done that before. The one other time I have been in an O.R. I was completely out.
                The healing time for this surgery is about twice as long as for a Plica extraction. The estimate is 12 weeks. However I feel optimistic based on how I am already healing. At my one week post-op visit my surgeon even said he felt that I would heal quickly as I was already ahead of most people at this point with what I could do. My strength training began with quad sets (contracting the quad muscle for 10 seconds, resting and repeating), leg lifts 4-6” off the ground, and other very basic exercises. Just over two weeks out and I am pedaling a spin bike, doing wall squats, walking, and have just incorporated in single leg squats (with one leg back on a chair). Granted this is all very basic, I am not really getting in any cardio but I am very optimistic that I will heal quickly but I am willing to be patient.  
                Some people may think the timing of this was unfortunate but I would disagree. Doing it years ago would seem logical but at the time I wanted to exhaust all other options before surgery. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it while pregnant or right after birth as I needed to give my body time to heal from that. I wasn’t exactly back in top shape so I really am only extending my comeback from pregnancy. For me, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to finally being pain free.
(On the "comeback machine." This bike helped my friend and sister-in-law Jane make a comeback after a mountaineering accident in July of 2012).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Pregnancy Journey

          I have been "working" on this video for the past year. It is pretty amazing to look back and see all the changes that led to our precious baby!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Mother in Me

(Lilyana and me. Photo By Pete Saloutos)

              Well it has been just over 2 months since Lilyana came into my world. Things have been getting “easier” in the sense that I am now getting used to my new role as a mother. Whether it ever really gets easier is probably up for debate. The biggest change for me has been her sleeping through the night. She will sleep a solid 7 hours from around midnight until 7 or 8 a.m. and I thought getting 4 hours of sleep in a row was amazing! I am now back to being an almost functioning human being.
(2 months old!)
                As far as my training goes I am taking things slow. I still am not feeling the “hunger” to start logging the miles but I get out and run almost every other day and lift at least 2 days per week. Being married to a personal trainer is great because he writes up lifting routines I can do at home so I know I will be able to get it in if I can’t get to the gym. I also am cross training by doing the elliptical or spin bike.
(Adding almost 13 pounds to my strength routine)
The farthest I have run recently is 5 miles. After two nights of Lilyana sleeping 7 hours straight I woke up to feed and change her and when we were done, had an hour before Levi had to be at work so I decided to go for a run. One thing I learned is the importance of fueling when you are breastfeeding. I ate half a PowerBar and drank some water before heading out the door, which prior to pregnancy I would be fine doing this first thing in the morning. My legs felt very heavy at the end of the run, the way they would feel at the end of a very long run when your body is running out of glycogen. This happened on my 5 miler. It also was the earliest I have worked out yet so that may have had something to do with it as well. Breastfeeding takes energy so I need to make sure to stay well hydrated and fueled when I work out.
(In the BOB stroller)
I have been getting better at running with my BOB stroller. It is wonderful to have and works great on runs. I just lock the front wheel (so it doesn’t swivel) and I’m off. In the cooler months I am now putting on the weather shield to keep Lilyana warm. It hasn’t rained on me yet but the weather shield protects against rain and wind so it is great. Running with the stroller did take some getting used to. I try to make sure to keep good form, stand nice and tall, and keep my shoulders relaxed. I noticed a tendency to shrug my shoulders and tense up so am doing better with keeping my upper body relaxed. It is hard for me to over stride with the stroller so that is a plus. I also make sure not to collapse my core when I am running and stay nice and tall. Yes I have pushed the stroller out in front, letting it glide a few steps before I catch it again, but I assure you I am not letting her get out of my control or go careening into the lake, lol.
Running with a stroller is a great way to get you back in shape as it is definitely harder than running without especially on hills! The infant car seat I have is not compatible with my BOB stroller but that has not been a problem. The manufacturer recommends using an infant car seat in the BOB until the baby is 6 months old with good head control. Lilyana already has great head control and I can drop the seat back so she is in a position just like her car seat. I also have another car seat for when she gets older (a convertible seat from infant to 70+ pounds). I took out the padding used for the infant setting and put the insert in the BOB so it really is just like her being in a car seat. However, I only run with her on smooth pavement as I do not feel comfortable with her bouncing along over gravel since I am going against “manufactured recommendations.” This is definitely the first time mom genes coming out. I usually walk to Greenlake then run with her on the paved path. It works out nicely because then I have a warm up and cool down of walking after my run.
(Already putting her to work sorting laundry)
(Keys please.)
 When Lilyana gets in the stroller and we start running she usually just falls right asleep. The only downside to this is when we get home I sometimes want a nap but she is well rested and ready to interact with me and she has a face I can’t say no to. I love “playing” with her and watching her learn new things every day. Something as small as her discovering her own thumb or smiling at me makes me cheer in delight.
I just feel so blessed to have her in my life. I know this has been said before but I now know it to be true, it seems the things I once held as “important” in my life before having Lilyana, now seem so frivolous and unimportant. That is not to say I regret or am taking away from any of my accomplishments from my past, it’s just that I am opening a new chapter in my life and I couldn’t be more excited about what is in store.  I do plan to continue competing if I am able and I still have goals outside of being a mother but if for some reason that part of my life is over I am completely fine with it. I have no regrets and feel very at ease with the changes in my life. Perhaps this new perspective will help me in my competitions and make me stronger than ever. I was never defined by being just a runner, athlete, worker, etc. so it does not feel like I am losing any part of me. In fact it feels the opposite. I have discovered this other amazing side of me that I never knew existed. It didn’t take any work or soul searching on my part and I can name the day I felt the change. It happened on August 21st, 2013 at 2:31a.m.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Baby Steps

                 It has been almost 4 weeks since the birth of my baby girl and I am finally feeling ready to start back with running. However, usually when I am mentally feeling ready it is still a week before my body is physically ready so I am going to ease into my exercise routine conservatively. I was cleared to do “cardio” after 2 weeks and in my mind cardio means running. So two weeks to the day from the birth of Lilyana, I decided to go for a jog on my treadmill to feel things out. I started at roughly an 8-8:30 minute mile and ran for 200 meters. I quickly had to slow down the pace and started walking. I decided to try a walk jog but things didn’t feel quite right so I upped the incline and slowed the pace and went for a brisk walk.
                Running didn’t hurt, but it just didn’t feel quite right. Things felt loose in my core and I didn’t like it so I decided to err on the side of caution and not run. Over the next two weeks I did cardio on the elliptical machine and spin bike machine. I also incorporated some very light lifting that didn’t involve my “core” (i.e. squats, etc.) but used more of my upper body. The first day of cardio on the elliptical I went for twenty minutes and was tasting blood. By that I mean I am out of shape, I had that metallic taste in my mouth and which I have never gotten from an elliptical workout before so I definitely have some work to do.
(Doing my "cardio")
                Each cardio session did get better but I am still only doing a max of 25 minutes a few days a week and walking on the other days. After 3 weeks I emailed my midwives to see if they meant that I could do impact activities like running when they cleared me for cardio. Apparently they meant for me to just do some easy walking…around the block. I have walked five miles at a time, definitely farther than a few blocks. I guess there’s a big difference when you tell a distance runner they are cleared for “cardio.” In the past I never considered easy walking a form of cardio but this is a whole new experience for me so now walking is cardio. The midwives want me to err on the side of caution until they can check how well my abdominal muscles are healing at six weeks. They want to make sure I do not have a condition called diastasis recti or diastasis recti abdominis which basically means the abdominals have separated. During pregnancy this usually occurs during the second or third trimesters and it is seen as a bulge in the middle of the abdominal muscles. I never saw this and upon feeling my stomach they do not feel more than 1-2 finger widths apart which seems o.k. Three or more finger widths could indicate that I have the condition.

                A fellow runner friend and mother of two came to visit Lilyana and me and she cautioned me about the importance of coming back slowly to running. She told me if I come back too soon I am also at an increased risk of having a prolapsed bladder. I am letting my body be my guide. Every woman’s labor and pregnancy is different so I need to be careful not to compare myself to other runners or women who may have been able to start back with more vigorous activity earlier on. The first two weeks I honestly don’t know how anyone could be starting an exercise routine. I was so tired and my body so beat there was no way I was going to even attempt to run, let alone go to the gym for any cardio. I think that was my body’s natural way of letting me know I needed to heal.
                I did do a very slow one mile jog outside today and it felt way better than the first day I tried. It definitely felt awkward but that loose feeling in my core was gone. I will build slowly from this and continue to do other forms of non impact cardio and some weight training. It has taken a few weeks but I am starting to feel like I am getting into a better routine and getting more accustomed to my new role as a mother. As Lilyana starts to get into a better schedule and begins sleeping longer at night that will make things a little easier as well. When this starts happening it may coincide nicely with the increase in my exercise routine, how convenient.
                Lilyana is learning new things every day. The changes are small but over time they are helping to mold her into a self sufficient person. Something as small as learning to smile for the first time or scooting herself across the floor, she is building upon each little milestone. So for now I will follow in her baby steps and in no time I will look back and be amazed at how far we both have come.
(Baby Steps)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lilyana Joy Keller

(Holding Mom's hand)
          Here is a quick update. On August 21st, 2013 at 2:31a.m., we welcomed our precious baby girl into this world. A healthy Lilyana Joy Keller came into this world with a loud cry and big appetite. She weighed 7 pounds 13.8 ounces and was roughly 20 inches long. Being a mother has been a surreal experience. I find myself just staring at her in awe that she is mine. I am slowly adjusting to the new schedule and trying to sleep when the baby sleeps. This can be difficult at times since my body is not used to this yet.

(Newborn Lilyana)
(Peaceful baby)



          After we were discharged from the hospital my midwife told me no cardio. She said I am allowed to walk but blocks not miles. I guess they know me too well! But in all honesty there is no way I would feel up for a run at this point. I think the body is pretty smart when it comes to having a baby and knowing when you need to rest. After two weeks I am allowed to start light cardio. They do not want me doing any weight lifting or abdominal work until they see me at my 6 week appointment so they can assess how well my abdominal muscles are healing.
          Lilyana had her first Doctor’s appointment on Monday at 5 days old. Newborns will lose up to 10% of their body weight after birth and should gain it back by 10-14 days. Lilyana had already passed her birth weight at her appointment and the Doctor had to verify with the nurse that was her correct weight at birth. He was surprised but it is a good thing. I guess the nurses at the hospital were right when they said she was a breast feeding professional!
(Mom and baby)
          Levi is a natural father and it melts my heart seeing him care for his little girl. He is a big help around the house and tells me my job is to rest and feed the baby and he will take care of everything else. We have been very blessed by the support of friends and family as well who have been coming by with dinners for us to eat. I feel spoiled!
(Loving Father)
          It has been 8 days since she was born and I amazed at how fast she is growing already. She is still a tiny infant but looking at her I can see the changes. I have always heard that kids grow up fast and it looks like she will be no different in my eyes. I am excited to see what the future has in store for our new little family!