Form = Everything

If you know me at all, or have been reading this blog for a little while, you know I’m obsessed with form. OBSESSED. I can’t help it. It was burned into my brain from a very young age to be militant about my form when I exercise.

Awesome form on the monkey bars. Clearly, I was meant to be a gymnast. *snort*

Awesome form on the monkey bars. Clearly, I was meant to be a gymnast. *snort*

But my form was never, ever, ever very good when I ran. Like, ever. I slouched and hung my head back for the longest time. Not sure how coaches let me run with crappy form (probably cuz I wasn’t exactly a promising athlete…), but there we are.

And it was ugly. And not helpful.

You know what changed that? Moving to New York and seeing the pros run.

Keflezighi_MebM-NYC09.JPG-280x421

Meb is one of those runners that just looks strong when he runs.
(Image courtesy of running.competitor.com)

Here in NYC, we see the pros and semi-pros training in Central Park pretty regularly. I’ve shouted out to Meb, Desi, and Kara (all very graciously acknowledged my embarrassing fan-girling) and marveled at how effortless they looked.

Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Amy Hastings, Desiree Davila

No one in this group is slouching, so I shouldn’t either.
(Image courtesy of http://www.brushnewstribune.com/ci_19742283)

Ok, so Kara kinda hangs her head back. Clearly, we are kindred spirits. But other than that, these athletes work hard on their form, knowing that in order to engage the strongest muscles in the best way, they must too be militant about their form.

So how did looking at pictures of other runners and watching the pros pass me like I was standing still help my form?

Confession: I envision myself running like them when I’m out for a run. Boobs up, belly in, legs long, arms pumping.

look-like-when-im-runningI may look more like the latter picture vs. the former, but my form has actually improved by leaps and bounds.

So tall at the end of the half! This was NOT me a decade ago...and even sometimes now.

So tall at the end of the half! This was NOT me a decade ago…and even sometimes now.

Yes, I strength train. Yes, I pay attention to my posture on the treadmill. But most of all, I picture myself running like Meb and Kara and Shalane. I’m not always successful…

Thumbs up at mile 20...but looking a little slouchy.

Thumbs up at mile 20…but looking a little slouchy.

Anyway, sometimes it’s not about strengthening and obsessing. Sometimes it’s about just standing up straight. And sometimes it’s about finding out just what the heck your form looks like, which is why you get an evaluation at Finish Line Physical Therapy.

And the winners of Peak Performance Analysis are…

Who wants to be a winner?

Who wants to be a winner?

EVERYONE!

Seriously. EVERY SINGLE PERSON who commented on the post will receive an email from me today so I can get your addresses and send you the cards so you can visit the fine people at Finish Line.

Thank you to the fine folks at Finish Line for your generosity!

Now go out and run (tall).

Untitled (and really long)

I have thought long and hard about whether or not I would actually write this post. Then I hemmed and hawed about how much detail I would get into if I did decide to write it. In short, I have spent way too much time thinking about one blog post over the past two months.

Well, I’ve decided to share the part of my own journey that I feel is pertinent to this blog. It is, in fact, called Run Stronger Every Day and I am starting from Square One on the way to running again at all. Here goes: this is my journey from surgery to marathon.

Marathon #9…when will marathon #10 happen?

One month ago, I had a planned surgical event that was medically necessary and landed me in the hospital for five days (= FOR-EV-ER). I have never had a serious surgery or any other type of major medical event in my entire life. I’ve had my wisdom teeth pulled, which produced very adorable chipmunk cheeks and my very first case of hives, and I broke my pinky toe right before I left to be a camp counselor for the summer back in college. But that’s it.

The longest I’ve been away from running is one month back in 2009 because of my stupid left gluteus medius. But I could still bike and lift and swim and, you know, WALK. This surgery was major. No, really. It’s classified as “major surgery”. Walking would be a challenge, I was told. Weird.

I like spinning, I do. But running is my 1st love.

Funny aside: I knew I was ok with my decision to go ahead with the surgery when, after my Physics final three days prior, I only felt relief as I headed into the weekend. No anxiety about the surgery. No stress about the what-ifs. Just relief that Physics was finally over. Priorities, I suppose.

Drinks. There were a lot of drinks when I found out I passed Physics.

The morning of my surgery, I tried making jokes as the nurses and doctors hooked me up and stabbed me with needles of all sizes. My Mom, angel that she is, flew in to be with me and JB during my hospitalization. I was nervous, but not as scared as I thought I’d be. Probably because when I asked about a possible complication I’d read about my surgeon responded, ” That doesn’t happen in my hands.” Exactly what I want to hear!

Off I went to the operating room (which was a lot smaller than I expected) where I met my surgical team and briefly reminded my surgeon that I am a vain woman and small, neat scars would be greatly appreciated. He assured me he’d do his best and out I went.

I “woke” up to JB and Mrs. Obi-wan by my side once again in recovery, in the most immense pain I have ever felt in my life. Thankfully, now that I was awake, they could give me the good drugs. I definitely didn’t do any recovering in the “recovery room”. I kept hearing rumors the my room was “almost ready” but, not having any concept of time due to the wonderful narcotics, I was seriously perturbed that everything seemed to be taking so long.

The view from my room. Rainy New York days were just fine by me.

Shortly after I got to my room, my nurse told I was going to walk soon. I told her she was dreaming. I was in a tremendous amount of pain. Turns out, my pain treatment had briefly gone awry and OHMYGODWHYDOESTHISHURTSOMUCH?!?!?!!!! was basically what I said to her.  She fixed the problem, God bless her, and made sure I got several boosters so I could sleep.

These bruises were the result of my least favorite daily interruption: shots. Ouch. Maybe next time we choose a different place to torture? They lasted for nearly 3 weeks!

Early Tuesday morning, she woke me and said we were going for sure taking a walk before her shift ended. Still, the idea of heaving myself out of bed and walking was akin to climbing Everest. Me, a 9-time marathoner, often 2-a-day workout girl, thought that getting out of bed and walking seemed impossible. I was attached to an IV and several drainage apparatus but with the aid of the most wonderful nurse in the entire world, I walked. It was approximately 30 yards, round-trip.

They were the hardest steps I have ever taken in my entire life.

You know how you feel exhausted after a marathon? That’s how I felt. I hadn’t had food in three days, my surgery was four hours long, I was on serious pain management drugs and was terrified I wouldn’t make it.

I did. I made it. I made it to Day 2 and was getting a handle on my new body, new gear, and new surroundings.

The morning after surgery. See, Dad? I’m ok!

Day 2 was crazy. Between flower deliveries (my favorite!), emptying my various drains, an endless stream of checking my vitals, my surgical team making the rounds, figuring out how everything worked, social workers (yes, social workers…don’t know why), and the very awesome Dr. Boz and PAK stopping by to check up on me (how awesome are they?!), it was a whirlwind of activity in my room. I dozed on and off but woke up whenever I got a flower delivery 🙂

Pretty view from my room. The flowers everyone sent brightened every moment of my stay in the hospital.

With the help of the very awesome Mrs. Obi-wan, I walked even more on Day 2. I think we went to the entryway of my wing and back twice. Mom kept chatting about this beautiful mural as you walk onto my floor that I never got to see since I was only semi-conscious when I was brought to my floor. On day 3, I finally got to see it.

The very cool “Chalk Mural” depicting the World’s Fair in Queens, NY on my floor. It wasn’t actually chalk, but we never could figure out what it was.

But in order to get that far, they had to let me EAT REAL FOOD!

French toast never tasted so good.

French toast, turkey sausage and orange juice. Food, I missed you. I was so happy that I took a picture and sent it to my family. Being allowed to eat real food is a big marker post-surgery. I blasted by the “soft foods” order that my resident prescribed in less than 24 hours and was onto “normal diet” so quickly the food delivery lady couldn’t keep up with his orders.

My recovery went about as well as you could expect. I walked more and more, further and further. And while it was never really “easy” to get out of bed, once I was up I was able to make multiple laps on my floor several times a day. I was out of the hospital by Friday afternoon and home sleeping on my couch Friday night.

My pillow fort.

In all the fuss over my surgery, I had forgotten that my birthday was just days later. By then, I was showering and getting dressed all by myself, walking the streets of New York (with a bodyguard), and eating delicious takeout.

My birthday this year was a very laid-back celebration of survival, the gift of life, modern medicine and Sprinkles Cupcakes. I have never been so happy to have a birthday come as I was this year. Not only did it mark the end of a reeeeeeally trying year for me, but it was the kickoff to a year of entirely new adventures, new body and better health.

Happy birthday!
Love,
Doggie Howser

I am still not running. I am walking lots and hoping to maybe jump on a bike sometime this week, but I’m in no rush. I am respecting the healing process and allowing my body time to recover. When I do get back to running, it will be entirely different than it was before–and that’s ok. Things will feel different. I might move differently. God knows I’ll be slow as molasses. But I’ll be back and I will learn what it is to Run Stronger Every Day as the new me.

So, here I go. Starting from Square One, I am working toward running the Marine Corps Marathon this fall in Washington, D.C. for Team Fisher House. That’s right, a marathon. Will I make it? Don’t care. I will at least show up and run a few miles at my favorite race. If I have to drop out at some point, I don’t care. I will be there. I will run (a little or a lot). I will celebrate my life and do what I love: run.

I will run…and then we will celebrate!

So far, my journey back has taught me two things.

  1. The body is the most perfect instrument every created.
  2. I can do anything if I set my mind to it.

It’s not always easy. I get frustrated sometimes and the fatigue is more annoying than anything else. The days are not always sunshine and butterflies, though there have been an awful lot of double rainbows in the city lately.

RAINBOWS!! (picture shamelessly stolen from Erica Sara, who makes really beautiful jewelry)

The thing is, it had to be done so there’s no use being all upset about it. I’m going to be healthier for it. I’m already able to do more than I could before. And one day soon, I will Run Stronger because of this surgery. And for that reason, it will always have been worth it.

Now go out and run!