Thursday, April 17, 2014

Strong to Hobbled up in One Day (Part two)

(Enjoying the view)

                After my race Sunday I was definitely tired but nothing out of the ordinary as far as muscle soreness goes. The next day I felt pretty good and decided to drive to a new park to run. It was a beautiful warm sunny day. I took Lilyana with me in the BOB and we headed out on the path. My right Achilles felt slightly tight but nothing painful.
                We cruised along for about a mile, with people smiling, one older lady peaked in at Lily as we ran past and even exclaimed, “My, what an angel!” I smiled and thanked her and continued on my run. Then the path lost a lot of altitude. It got steep, really steep with switch backs. I slowed to basically a walk and maneuvered the stroller down the hill. There aren’t any handle brakes and it was hard to keep it in control just walking. When I got to the bottom I took off running and immediately felt a sharp needle like pain in my Achilles. I slowed then tried running again and it did it again, even worse. My Achilles completely locked up on me and it was quite painful to even walk. Since I was on a loop I had about two miles to get back to my car.
(Beautiful day for a stroller ride)
                It was frustrating not to be able to run but I decided to enjoy the day and walk with my daughter and take pictures. The pain in my Achilles was all too familiar and I knew better than to continue trying to run to the car. With about a half mile to the car I encountered another issue. You are familiar with the saying, “What goes up must come down?” Well what goes down the trail must also come up. I had to push the stroller up a very steep incline to get back to the car and each step sent searing pain through my Achilles. I tried as best I could to somewhat stiff leg it so as not to aggravate the injury further and even took little breaks but my Achilles was angry at me and was letting me know it. To add insult to injury I saw a parking lot at the bottom of the hill that I didn’t know about. I would never have parked at the top and ran down had I known this.
(Mom, why have we slowed down?)
                I got back to the car and headed home knowing it would be days before I can run again. I have dealt with Achilles issues in the past, always on my right side and I have learned the hard way not to run through them. Or even when the pain is gone I need to give it an extra day of rest. Before I became pregnant I constantly had pain in my right Achilles. It didn’t really bother me to run but it was always there, a nagging, constant pain. Well 6 weeks off for an MCL tear didn’t heal it but months off being pregnant and then having knee surgery did! For the first time in years when I started back training again I didn’t have Achilles pain and I am not about to start down that road of chronic pain again.
                When I first had a Doctor look at my left knee (that I eventually had surgery on) he also did an ultrasound on my Achilles and told me he was more concerned about my Achilles than my knee if that gives you any idea what I was dealing with. So it has been four days of complete rest. I haven’t even cross trained as I have had trouble finding a place to do so. The first 3 days it hurt to just move my foot but today has been the best yet. I even did some lifting today and oddly it seemed to help. I want to go out and try jogging tomorrow but as I write this I am actually thinking about heeding my own advice and give it one more day of rest.
                Obviously I am no expert when it comes to Achilles issues but here are some things that have helped me in the past:

  • At the onset of pain stop whatever it is you are doing and get off your leg
  • Initially ice the area (I like to work the area above the Achilles). 
  • Massage the calf. I try not to massage the actual tendon as I feel this can just aggravate things more. I like to use an active release technique. I will massage the soleus, so a few inches above the heel, pushing the area with my thumbs. When I feel tightness I will push my thumbs into this area, hold it, then pump my foot up and down several times. I do this technique up my entire calf.
  • If there is a lot of swelling I will take NSAIDs initially but I really try to stay away from these as I believe they can hinder the body’s natural healing response. I don’t take them for more than 24 hours. Since I am still breastfeeding and paranoid about anything like that in my system I opted to take some ibuprofen the night of my injury (since my baby sleeps at night) and that was it. 
  • Since mine was really painful just to stand I put on a pair of shoes that have a higher heel when walking around the house and that helped some. I only recommend this initially as you don't want to shorten the Achilles. It needs to be able to go through its full range of motion.
  • Then I start incorporating some Eccentric heal drops. I did about 10 over 24 hours after the injury. It was painful but I make sure to only lower the injured leg and not rise up. Basically you start standing on your toes on a step. My right leg is injured so I will lift my left leg off the step and lower my right leg down (like you are doing a calf raise but only the lowering half). Then to get back to the starting position I raise with my uninjured (left leg) back to the starting point and repeat. The next day I did two sets. Today I did 4-6 sets throughout the day of 10 reps. I do calf raises/drops twice a week but need to be more diligent about doing these exercises and massaging my calf. 
  • I really believe in massaging the calf above the Achilles. I use a foam roller, Tigers Tail, trigger point roller and even my own body parts. If I am lying in bed I will take my calf and cross it over my opposite knee and use my knee to massage up and down my leg pausing to work out any knots I feel. The massage should not be a comfortable, feel good massage. You want to get in deep and work on those areas of tightness. It will not be comfortable.   
  • And lastly the only other thing to do is to wait. Give the injury time to heal. I know this advice sucks but if you try to come back while there is still pain you may find yourself sidelined again having to take more time off, or you can be hard headed and have pain the rest of your life and possibly do some serious damage. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Racing Strong (Part One)

(Start of the SeaHawks Race)

               Saturday April 12th as I drove to pick up my race number for the SeaHawks 12k* (course description says it is 7.7 miles) I had some doubts about running the race the next day. Not because I didn’t think I could handle it but the logistics of just having moved to a new city and still learning how to do this whole race thing with a baby was a bit stressful. The fact that it was 7.7 miles did make me a little nervous not knowing how to pace myself for the distance. My longest run up to this point had been 11 miles once. I have been consistent with some 10 milers and my longest tempo type run was 4 miles which I did on Wednesday the week of the race and averaged 6:04 per mile. But I wanted the challenge. I actually was looking forward to getting myself out of my comfort zone and into the pain of grinding it out in a long race. I know this may not seem long to some but for me, where I am at in my training right now, it might as well have been a Marathon.
Saturday April 12
                The night before the race Levi and I figured out logistics. The race was sold out, thanks in part to the SeaHawks winning the Super Bowl this year, and it was advertised over 12,000 people would be in attendance. We would be driving from Lakewood, a 40 minute drive and I never count on I5 in that area to be a “fast” commute, not even early on a Sunday morning. Lucky for us it was clear and the drive was easy.
                Lilyana usually sleeps through the night but the past 2-3 weeks she has been waking up 1-3 times to nurse. After some reading online I found this is common at her age when babies become more mobile thus needing more calories, may be going through a growth spurt, and are usually teething. I went to bed far too late, I think I saw the clock say midnight and set my alarm for 6am doubtful I would actually use it. Sure enough at 5:30am Lily was up and ready to eat. I was lucky she decided to skip her 1:30am feeding. I climbed back into bed at 5:50am and laid there waiting for my alarm.
                Once I officially got up I realized I did not allot myself enough time to get everything ready. I was shooting to leave by 6:45am realistically thinking if we got out the door by 7am that would be o.k. I made breakfast, Lily’s breakfast which I packed in a cooler along with feeding supplies, and our lunches for the day. I quickly got myself dressed and ready and then got Lily changed and ready and we were out the door by 7:10am.
(Look Dad a tag!)
                The parking lots were already pretty full so we just drove to a lot about ¼ mile from the start so we didn’t have to deal with the hassle of finding a close lot. We parked and I tried to feed Lilyana but she did not want to cooperate. She was more interested in the fact that we were in the car and her Dad was sitting next to her. It must have been pretty entertaining because I would try to nurse her she would push away, look at Levi and give a huge smile. We tried covering her up but she would pull the cover down and do the same thing. There was definitely milk spraying everywhere. What a little stinker! It was 8am, my race started at 9am and by the time I was finished and would be able to feed her I knew it would probably be after 10:30am. Her last feeding was at 5:30am. I did not bring my breast pump either. I figured she would have no problem eating. Lesson learned. I managed to at least get some food in her and we had oatmeal and applesauce in the cooler if things got dire for Levi.
(Waiting for Mom to race)
(Finishing up my warmup)
                My warm up consisted of a jog to the porta potties, then some more jogging, followed by more porta potties. It was a very random warm up with lots of breaks but since the race was long for me I figured I would have plenty of time to warm up the first few miles. I am always nervous at big races about long lines to the bathrooms so I try to use them as much as possible while there aren’t any lines. This race did things right. With 10 minutes to go before the start I waited all of a couple minutes for a bathroom. Finally a race with enough porta potties!

(The start)
                It was a perfect day for a race, sunny, 45-50 degrees, and not windy. When the gun went off I settled into a relaxed pace. I told myself to stay as comfortable as possible and not go out too hard. I really had no idea what I could maintain for nearly 8 miles and didn’t want to find out the hard way half way through that I was running a pace I could not maintain. The course had rolling hills throughout and to be honest, towards the end these hills felt like mountains. I ran very even throughout the race averaging 6:04 pace and finishing fourth with a time of 46:33. During the entire race I could see the 2nd and 3rd place women ahead of me. I kept thinking I would be able to reel them in but the gap stayed the same. I tried really hard and never gave up but I never got any closer. With about .50 to go I was unable to really kick it in and let go of the idea of catching the women in front and focused on getting to the finish line. I was tired. The gap between us stretched a little more but I finished with a great effort for the day and another solid race in the books.
                It’s funny, when I first finished I was disappointed I did not get in the top 3 as I was chasing that spot the entire race. Had I ran a slower time and made it on the podium I would have been pleased with my race, being fooled into thinking a podium finish equals a great race. After seeing my time and what I averaged I had to remind myself I did better than I expected and managed to run the whole race at a pace I have only been able to hold for 4 miles during my training. It’s hard to be satisfied when you are so hungry for more and want to see results overnight. I have to be patient. Not feeling completely satisfied with my race I saw the Marines pull up challenge booth and decided I needed to see what I could do. They told me I needed 8 to win a t-shirt and I ended up doing 9. My muscles were still burning from the race but I wasn’t afraid of failing. Knowing you gave it your all, your body exhausted is a good feeling, win or lose.
(Pull Up Challenge at the Marine Booth)
                I have won races without competition and ran PR’s and not won. I could have chosen to do an “easier” race where I may have finished in the top 3 but what would be the point? In order for me to get to the racing level I want to be at I need to challenge myself, be uncomfortable, and not shy away from competition. That’s what I love about racing. That’s why it’s called a race. According to Google a race is defined as, “Competing with another or others to see who is fastest at covering a set course or achieving an objective.” On Sunday it just so happened my label for the day was 4th. I challenge you to do the same. Don’t choose a race because you are avoiding competition. I could challenge Lilyana to a race right now, or my 92 year old Grandfather and I would win. But would there really be any joy in that? If I boasted that I beat a bunch of kindergartners in a foot race would you be impressed? Or think it was just sad? Put yourself out there. Be brave. You will never know what greatness lies within if you don’t get out there and rise up to the challenge.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Exciting Announcement

                As I wrote at the end of my last blog, the Keller household is undergoing changes. I am now here to fulfill my promise and fill you in on the news. It’s been hard to get the time to write so if this blog seems fragmented it is probably because it was written at multiple sittings in short bursts of time.
                To start, the gym where Levi and I worked since moving to Seattle officially closed its doors April 1st. The owners have been in operation for over 20 years but it is time for them to retire. A software company purchased the building so there will no longer be a gym facing the canal in Fremont. Sound Mind and Body gym was like a second home to Levi and me. We met many of our good friends there. The bosses were great. We trained for our athletics and made it to the Olympic Trials while working out at this gym. It was where Levi began his own business as a personal trainer. It was my last “job” before becoming a stay at home Mother. But as cliché as the saying is, it rings true, as one door closes another opens.
(SMB goodbye party with my good friend Alexis and her baby.
I met Alexis while working at SMB)
                On March 27th, 2014 Levi accepted a job as a Tukwila City Fire Fighter. All the events leading up to his landing this job couldn’t have been more perfect and it comes at the perfect timing. Levi has always wanted to be a fire fighter. Back in Idaho he looked into applying and found there weren’t any openings and they only accept applications at certain times. Then we moved to Seattle and both focused more on our athletics and Levi building his personal training business. Last year my younger brother John came to Levi with a few fire fighter job postings. He told Levi, “You were born to be a fire fighter. You should really look into this.” Little did John know Levi has always had a desire to become one. At the time John was curious about the career too but after much thought and research concluded engineering was better suited for him. But as a result Levi started the process to becoming a fire fighter. He took some tests through Public Safety Testing, a company that administers tests for several Fire Departments.
                 After taking the test his results were then forwarded on to several different agencies. They did not necessarily have any openings but his results would be kept on file and when and if there were any openings his results would be put on an eligibility list and if he scored high enough he would be contacted to begin the interviewing process. Months went by and soon Levi saw that the Seattle Fire Department was hiring. They had a different process for hiring, a very long one with their own in house testing. Around August of 2013 he took the Seattle test. There were 5800 applicants. A few months later he was notified that he scored a 95% and made it to the 1st round of oral board interviews. In January he did his first oral board. A month later was notified he made it through to the final oral board interview scheduled for March. Now here’s where things get interesting.
                In March he received emails from the Auburn Fire Department and Tukwila Fire Department saying he scored high enough on his Public Safety Testing and was invited to interview with each department. So he began the process of interviewing with other agencies. He interviewed first with Auburn and had a great interview. But after the interview he was notified that the company who administers the results made some sort of error that may compromise the interview process and so they needed to reschedule and create a new format for their interview. I’m not exactly sure what happened but basically a company made a mistake (that had nothing to do with the candidates) and as a result they needed to redo the interviews. He was told he would be notified when they had a new date set.
                In the meantime he received an email from the Tukwila Fire Department saying he was in the top percent so was eligible for an interview. But there was a catch. Only the first 20 people to get their application that was emailed to the candidates back would receive an email. Levi filled everything out but was notified that he was not one of the first 20 to respond. He did not delay. There must have been a lot of response. He was a bit bummed but still had two possible jobs in the works. Around this time Auburn had a date set mid March to redo the interviews.
                Seattle contacted him with his second oral board interview date. He scheduled only to later be called by American Ninja Warrior saying he was accepted to compete on this season’s show but it was the same day as his interview with Seattle. He called Seattle and they were able to reschedule him to Tuesday the next week so he could do both. The week before he was set to leave for California he received an email from the Tukwila Fire Department saying they had one interview opening for Thursday. After some calls to American Ninja Warrior, he was able to change his flight from Thursday to Friday morning and still make it in time to compete. He would just miss out on interviews for the show. Thursday he did his first interview with Tukwila. By Friday they called him and told him they narrowed their search down to three candidates and he was one of them. He was scheduled for another interview, this time with the Fire Chief as well, for Monday. Levi told me every question they asked him he had a real life experience that fit perfectly with it.
                His interview went great and by Monday afternoon they offered him a position and were doing an expedited hiring process. He accepted the position. As long as his background checks went through he had a new job. Tukwila wanted to get him enrolled in the Fire Academy as soon as possible. Levi still interviewed with Seattle the next day so he didn’t reschedule last minute and baring anything crazy happening with Tukwila but their eligibility list doesn’t even come out until May.
(The newest member of the Tukwila Fire Department)
                For the past week Levi has been attending pre-Academy training and his Fire Academy Training begins April 9th at Bates Technical College in Tacoma. We took a couple trips to Tacoma to look at some apartments that offer a short term lease and found a little two bedroom that does. We are set to pick up the keys today and move in Saturday. We are trying to bring as little as possible with us to Tacoma since it is not permanent and will move back to Seattle when his schooling is done. He will go to the Academy April 9th-June 19th then will do another couple weeks for Fire Fighter 2 training at the school as well. After that it’s Post Academy Training for 6 weeks in Kent followed by 5 weeks of EMT school also in Kent. So you can see his spring and summer are pretty much booked.
                When Levi was getting shown around the Tukwila department he asked how the position opened up and was told the head Fire Chief of the department retired after 40 years. They moved everyone up, thus freeing a fire fighter position. The man who was showing Levi around said it was unheard of for them to hire like they did. Levi was confused at first and the man clarified that he has never seen them hire someone without any experience. Most people do years of volunteer work, go to the Academy, some get EMT certified, etc. Levi was as fresh as one can be without ever even having gone on a ride along. But they must have seen the same thing as my brother John. Levi was born for this. 
                We are excited to walk through this next door that God has so graciously opened for us.