Friday, December 23, 2011

Charlie Foxtrot

Monday came and went with no call from my HMO to schedule an MRI appointment.  I pretty much sat and stared at my phone most of the day, willing it to ring.  Tuesday morning was more of the same.  Nada.  I finally called them.  I was told that the request must first go through protocol screening by a radiologist and then they could call me to schedule.  She told me there were still appointments available for next week, so I was lucky.  Yes, that made me feel really lucky.

Frustrated, I decided to take matters into my own hands and find out where I could get an MRI on the cheap.  I found a place close to my house that charges $500 for uninsured patients including the radiologist report and could get me in at 1:45 that day, no doctor's referral needed.  Music to my ears.

I asked to listen to Mumford and Sons on the headphones they gave me, though I couldn't really hear the music over the loud clunking and thudding going on inside the machine.  In about 30 minutes, I was done and received a lovely red rose from the technicians for my troubles.  Okay, that was a bit odd, but nice nonetheless.  I got a hard copy of my pictures and a CD with a viewing program on it.

Is this a slice of meat for our Christmas dinner or the inside of my right leg?  
The next two days were a bit of a blur.   I learned to read MRI images thanks to the profusion of information on the internets.  From my readings of the images, I had everything from gout to cancer to edema of the periosteum.  Oh, and of course I saw a stress fracture somewhere on there too.  I thought I had become quite savvy at reading these things and had my diagnosis ready to go waiting for the real doctor to tell me what was wrong.  The result that was supposed to come Wednesday afternoon did not.  I started to get really impatient.  I began worrying more and more, looking at the images in various levels of saturation and contrast to pick out new and unusual features that I hadn't been able to see before.  I'm pretty sure I forgot to shower for a couple of days too.

Couple all of this with the fact that I'm doing absolutely no exercise, my leg still hurts to stand on it, and I have taken the entire week off from work.  I can't concentrate on anything but this pain in my leg and the consequences of that pain.  If it is a stress fracture, should I wear a boot and still line up at the start of the race as some suggest?  Wouldn't I feel like a complete idiot hobbling over the starting line only to quit the race in the first few feet?  What if I just went for it anyway?  I had heard many remarkable stories of people with worse pain than mine showing up at the start line and running completely pain free.  Then I recalled the stories of those who didn't heed the warning signs, ran anyway and ended up with a nice full fracture.  I didn't want that.

Thursday late afternoon, I finally received the report from the radiologist letting me know that there was nothing remarkable on my images.  Nada.  Soft tissue was even "unremarkable".  I got this news after being fit for a walking cast (thanks Mike!).

I am clear to run.  Well, there's the small matter of still having pain in my leg when I walk, but staying off of the leg has reduced that quite a bit.  In celebration of the news, I rode my Elliptigo last night in the dark for an hour, pushing my heart rate up into the high 150s.  I felt awesome and was so much happier.  Exercise is indeed a great mood booster.

I could sit around and bemoan the last week of nothingness and whine about the fitness I've no doubt lost.  That's not my style.  My body was definitely telling me it needed a break.  More than anything, this last week has given my immune system a chance to fight off whatever the hell infection I have going on.  I'm 6 days into the antibiotics and just now starting to feel slightly better.

I learned one other thing that I think is worth noting for those of you who push yourselves as hard as I do.  I had started regularly measuring my resting heart rate a couple of months ago and keeping record of it.  I had never really done this before.  It's just so easy to do now that there are iPhone apps available that can take a fairly accurate reading in a matter of seconds.  And, they record the number for you too!

I was a little surprised when I started doing this that my heart rate when going to bed was about the same as when I woke in the morning.  I was also surprised that my resting heart rate was in the low 50s consistently.  I thought it was in the low 40s, but I thought maybe I was mistaken about that.

A couple of days ago, my resting heart rate plummeted: both the nighttime and morning readings and they've stayed there ever since.  My resting HR is in the low to mid 40s.  It has been elevated for the last 2-3 months.  I had dismissed those who say that resting HR is a good measure of overtraining, but I have now learned the lesson for reals.  The other lesson learned is that a baseline needs to be established during a time when you're rested and healthy!

What's next for me?  Hopefully, I'll be back to running.  I plan to start a very long and drawn out taper from here, listening to my body the whole way.  Goal 1 is to cross both the start and finish lines at the Olympic Trials.  If I can do that in a decent amount of time, then that's icing on the cake.  Given the fact that I'm still in a fair amount of pain from this injury, whatever it is, my next few weeks will be about pain management.  I'm going in for acupuncture today to see if that relieves it at all.  I'm taking Tylenol for the pain and icing as needed.  I will attempt to wrap the leg in various ways to see if that helps.  And I will keep my fingers crossed that nothing else crops up these next few weeks!

Thanks to everyone who has reached out to me throughout this ordeal.  I really appreciate all of the support and well wishes.  You have reminded me that it is truly a privilege to be invited to this race.  You inspire me to get past these setbacks and run my heart out on January 14th!

Oh, and I finally got that call from Kaiser, my HMO, yesterday afternoon to schedule my MRI.  I'll be getting that on January 5th at 10 p.m.  Great timing.

Merry Christmas, indeed!


  1. Yay, that's such great news! Of course, I'm glad you're being smart and still heeding what your body is telling you, but such a relief that it isn't some crazy fracture problem. Qualifying for the Olympic Trials is a tremendous accomplishment, and getting to run the race will be amazing - no matter how fast.

    Thanks for your comment on my jewelry - botanists are some of my favorite customers! For real, I love it when a botanist wanders by my tent at an art show and helps me identify something that I thought was pretty but don't actually have a name for (usually some obscure type of fern.) I promise, if I'd had a 4 leaf clover ring when I read your last post I'd have sent it to you!

    Best of luck -

  2. Thanks, Sumner. I'm trying to stay positive about all of this and hope for the best. I hope more botanists find your art and continue to help you identify those lovely plants!

  3. YAY YAY YAY good news!!! Merry Christmas!!! I've been reading your blog since you were in National Masters News and am majorly inpressed! Best of luck in 2012 and go kick some tail in the Trials! You have worked hard and deserve it!

  4. Thank you, runnerchick! Strange how the prospect of wearing a boot to Houston has made me appreciate even the shortest run! I appreciate your support and will give it everything I have on January 14th!