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  • On Road To Recovery – Baby Steps

    Posted on June 3rd, 2013 Michele Sun No comments

    April 29th, I woke up in the middle of night from pain and felt my entire lower body was been pushed by two pieces of wooden clapboard from both side of hips, and I was frightened to sense that something was majorly wrong. Immobilized, I stared into the darkness, in pain and agony, knowing that I got myself seriously messed up this time and I needed to stop what I love doing – running.

    Runners tend to take physical pain very well, and we pride ourselves  for being not wimpy. We suck it in and tough ourselves up facing that big hills, heading into brutal storms, feeling the insane burn in our quads, and stepping into that crazy icy cold river. We look at trouble terrain as our playground and we  compare our scars over coffee like they are medals; nothing stop us from running!  And that’s why when I felt a constant sharp pain deep inside my left butt back in March between Tokyo and  Paris Marathon,  I did not stop. It had nothing to do with pride, was just simply thinking that I was not training hard enough, and I could run it off if I just ran harder.   That three long runs in March prior Paris   were troublesome and sure were warning signs; the pain came at mile 15, mile 12, and mile 8 on my last long run and I also became slower and slower. In a very puzzle way,  somehow I felt one leg was shorter than the other, and each stride was strangely painful.  I briefly told Max about these troubles,  and he advised me taking  Paris Marathon easy and not to stubbornly racing for my PR.

    Coming back from gloomy and non-stop raining Europe, I was running  shorter distance at much slower pace, and I considered that’s OK going through post race recovery that way.  Then with my GU sponsorship, I got an entry spot into Big Sur on April 28th,  and of course I would  take that sacred opportunity to run this really hard to get in, beautiful and super well organized race. I thought I could handle the 10.6 miles distance as long as I had my pace under control. Of course I had a great race experience that day, but the price to pay was waking up in the middle of the night and sucking the air between my teeth.  I remained awake in pain for the next few hours, then went to see my acupuncturist that morning. I described the shock-like and burning lower back pain to Paul, and he said that all the running I did had accumulated so much compression that it causes those pains through the buttocks, around my lower back and down my left leg .  But after couple treatments I continued to experience pain when walking, sitting and during my sleep. My lower back hurts and my hips locked up all the time. The acupuncture karma has decided to leave me?

    Next approach —  I started seeing a chiropractor a friend has recommended, but I felt the doctor treating  me was not very professional, so went twice and I stopped. I then decided to go see Dr. Payne at River Oaks Chiropractic who had treated me couple years ago when I first started running, and he scolded me right away after I described my conditions to him. “What took you so long to come in and see me?” Sorry Dr. Payne  and now I know I have wronged.

    I started my treatment with Dr. Payne twice a week, and at the same time listened to his advice not worrying about losing my strength for now, so I completely stopped running. I told myself that there are many activities I can do since I have so much free time now, and I also wanted to avoid running buddies for a while so I don’t have to answer questions that I have no answer to. Plus I can have extra hours of sleep in the morning! I also skipped the Rave Run, and decided that I am going to back out of San Francisco Marathon in June as well, neither pacing nor running.


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    During this down time, I started taking up Taiko drumming lesson which I was totally inspired when coming across them at my first Marathon in San Diego. It’s lots of fun and full of positive energy, and at the same time a very intense physical activity. I was surprised that I could pick up the drills and skills fairly easy, and learning some Japanese vocabularies while exercising is an awesome bonus.  Perhaps I would be able to pace my friend at Morgan Hill this year by drumming all the way? I also started going to gym three times a week for Pilate and Yoga class, working out with barbell and weights..etc.  I went volunteering at the Brazen Western Pacific Marathon at aid-station, and ringing cow bell to cheer walker and runners from American Heart Association.  I even joined a Google+ PhotoWalk in San Francisco with Trey and Tom, which was a total blast! While doing all these different activities, I told myself that running is OVERRATED and I don’t miss it at all.


    On May 19th, I went to Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, this 12km fun run has been my annual ritual and of course I was in costume again — this year I dressed up as Sailor Moon. I signed up this run (I am not using the word “race” anymore) back in Feb, but now I am in no condition to race at all. I was crystal clear that I was not going to run fast or trying to beat last year’s time, but just wanted to go out and see how crazy this year’s B2B would be. I did not want to sandbag the friends that I went with, and was feeling uncomfortable that they had to stop and wait for me. I stayed behind them and hid myself in the crowds, eventually they lost sight of me and I felt much more relieved to run/jog on my own. I found myself having very mixed feeling that day about doing Bay to Breakers. For one I was feeling very awkward and a bit uncomfortable  to be around someone whom I haven’t seen for a long time, and also I felt very bad that I was becoming so slow, self-pity I guess? I wondered if we would be able to recoup the somehow damaged friendship?  Now that special connection  has gone and things will never be the same.  How about running? Would I be able to regain the speed that I worked so hard to achieve last year? Can’t quite put all these emotional torments aside , but nevertheless I was feeling really good when crossing that  finish line at Golden Gate Park. I remembered how much I love this sense of accomplishment, regardless how fast or how slow the results are. I really miss the feeling of being vertically fit, being strong from head to toe, missing the feeling of my whole body moving forward while wind brushing my face  that’s covered by sweat and salt.

    On the train ride back to south bay, my lower back hurt again and I could not sit still. I had to fidget and shift my body often, and eventually I needed to lean my upper body forward to ease the tension and pain coming from sit bones. My friend rubbed my lower back as he could see I was really hurt, and with that sudden and unexpected kindness I turned my face away from him to fight the tears back. No matter what happened and why we are where we are today, I always find myself being so vulnerable when I am around him.  There is this special connection that makes me opening up and allowing him entering into my zone; I consider him a friend that I can be myself with and never fear that he will judge me, a special friend that I can confide in with complete trust. Therefore despite the amount of grief I have been feeling since Jan, I still look at him as a closest and dearest friend and I can never express enough how much I treasure everything we have shared together.

    Road to recovery is not going to be easy, so I am taking this as a quest to test my patience, discipline, confidence  and maturity.  Not necessarily a believer in that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” theory, but  I will do all the right things to better myself, i.e. cross trainings, core strength training, proper and deep stretches ..etc,  and walk this recovery path toward an opportunity to prepare myself  to become a better runner. I will not be the fastest runner, but definitely will be an injury-free happy runner.

    There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.



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