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Tough Decisions

March 15, 2010

For what is such a simple activity that requires a minimum of gear, running certainly eats up quite a bit of my bank account. And I’m not even talking shoes and sports bras, two items which definitely need to be replaced more often than I do. (O.k., maybe not so much on the bras; Lycra doesn’t stretch much holding up mini-pancakes.)

What drains my money is trying to figure out what is going on with my left hute (glute/hip) and knee. At this point–over two years into the condition–I’ve seen two PT’s; one highly renowned orthopedist whose biggest suggestion was changing my shoes (oh, so glad I waited three weeks and paid an out-of-network cost for that brilliant advice); one sports chiropractor; one biomechanist; and had multiple sessions of ART (active release technique); one set of x-rays on my lower back (after seeing my arthritic back, the tech asked me, “Have you ever been in a car accident?” Fortunately, no.) and one MRI on my knee; and more deep tissue, definitely not-relaxing massages than I care to remember.

I haven’t added up the total of all that inconclusive care for fear that it’ll cripple me more than my left side does now.

I admit, I haven’t always been the best patient with the best follow-through, but still. We can put a man on the moon. Six qualified experts and countless hours, should, one would think, be able to piece together an explanation as to why, on most days after I run, I feel like I’d be better off just cutting off my left leg than trying to untangle and soothe its ligaments and knotted muscles.

I don’t have to tell you that our country is in a scary place economically, and our family is feeling it as much as most families are around the country. We got some shockingly high insurance bills last week from the sports chiro, the one who has definitely had the biggest positive effect on my body, and my husband and I had a minor domestic over them and, consequently, my running.

To me, running isn’t just a hobby: it’s my mental lubricant, my confidence builder, and, um, as you may have guessed, a significant source of my income.

To him, also a runner, my running has mostly been a financial and emotional suck; after the half-marathon we ran together in Austin over Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t stop the tears because I was in so much pain, and I knew how much sitting for three hours on a plane would slay me even further. (Romantic, huh?) I know he’s sick of hearing me complain, which I totally get–I’m even sick of hearing me complain–and the bills, I think, were the catalyst to finally let him vent about how frustrated he is with the whole ordeal.

And his concerns are rational: I understand money that should be going to college funds (or, better yet, our retirement) is going to my body. But running for me isn’t rational. It’s more religion, and I’m at odds to reconcile the situation.

So I stumble forward. Next to-do on my diagnosis list is a costly MRI of my lower back. I do think this examination might be the one that finally unlocks a few secrets, as I have little power in my left leg and am fairly certain I’ve got some seriously blocked nerves. But will it lead to THE diagnosis? Doubtful. At this point, I don’t think there is such a thing, unless there’s a diagnosis called Dimity Not Natural Runner. And there’s a chance it may lead to a recommendation to stop running totally, which I won’t be able to stomach.

My appointment, which I’m still not sure I’ll go to, is in about 1.5 weeks. I’m taking it easy, running-wise, until then. I haven’t run since Monday, but have been strength training and PT’ing and spinning. I know two weeks of relative rest and rehab won’t cure me, but I’m hoping I feel a slight step in the right direction, and, with that progress, I can confidently cancel the MRI and stay the course. (I’m sad to report, though, that six days of R + R hasn’t produced any marked improvement.) I dropped out of the Zooma half-marathon at the end of March in Austin, which is the first time I’ve picked recovery over racing.

It wasn’t easy to say no–and I’ll still be there cheering obnoxiously on the sidelines–but enough is enough.  Time to really focus on a new, more important race with a different goal: to have both my body (and our finances) eventually be healthier, if not totally healed.

Do you have tough decisions, financial, injury or otherwise,  you have to make about running?

27 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2010 10:28 am

    Sounds mentally and physically painful – my condolences. Hmmm, really you should be swimming, too – spinning is good, but it doesn’t help loosen anything up or strengthen core muscles…

    (I kind of hate Pilates, but I have found it more beneficial than yoga in terms of countering running and cycling’s tightening effects on the body – if you are in a lot of pain with this hip/knee stuff, yoga would almost certainly be too intense, but Pilates might be worth a pop.)

    Good luck with this!

    • March 15, 2010 4:03 pm

      Hi Jenny–
      I’ve been to Pilates exactly once, and need to go back. Will look into it. And yes: the pool. Ugh, the pool. I like it once I get in the water, but so much harder to motivate than running or riding. Thanks for your helpful words…

  2. Jenny C. permalink
    March 15, 2010 11:02 am

    I’m so sorry that you are struggling with your injury. I’ve been there too and it’s so hard to just take a break. But it sounds like you are in a lot of pain. I don’t want to start giving you advice since you don’t even know me but I wanted to send you get better vibes! I can certainly relate to the expense of figuring out the source of your pain. My husband and I are both runners too and we have forked out a small fortune trying to sort out injuries and keeping us both running. Running is crucial to our sanity and I know that without it, I would be lost.

    Just a thought: could spinning be aggravating something in your back?

    • March 15, 2010 4:02 pm

      I’ll take the positive vibes, Jenny–definitely welcome! Thanks for visiting and reading. I really appreciate it. Spinning: o.k. Less pain than running, but hardly pain-free. (Which means I should stop, right? Why is it so hard? :)).

  3. March 15, 2010 11:32 am

    You’ve endured more than most, Dimity, and it’s painful for me to read how you are suffering so. I’ve been blessed (so far) to only have had a pulled calf muscle, weak running knees, and my current nemesis – a very achy back, but those I just do a ton of complaining to all around me as I don’t have the insurance anylonger! I feel the financial crunch of the economy and I will not be able to attend all the fun out-of-town marathons I’ve had the luxury of doing in the past – even Boston I will be scrimping as I share a hotel with a bunch of wonder blog woman (whom I’ve never met). I’m grateful I get to go, that’s for sure, but it’d be a lot more fun if I had the funds to buy half the expo (or just a pair of socks!). I guess we do what we have to do – cuz running is just who we are and we wouldn’t be “us” without it!

    Have a great time away this week….so jealous as I sit here at work and look at the snow. *sigh*

    • March 15, 2010 4:04 pm

      I bet you’ll have a blast with your roommates: anything running-related is always best in pairs, Jill! 🙂 Thanks for your response and nice words.

  4. March 15, 2010 12:29 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your injury. I’ve had a very similar experience with my right leg. I’ve tried EVERYTHING, much like you. About a year ago I went to a sports chiropractor and had a leg adjustment and the graston. The graston technique is very similar to the active release massage you have already done, but I wanted to recommend it anyway. The results, for me anyway, were amazing. I still struggle a bit, but it is MUCH better. Also, the treatment (which they say you will need from 1-10 times) was only about $42 per session, and I only had to go two times. It was well worth it, in comparison to my $250 five minute doctor appointment that told me nothing. Good luck!

    • March 15, 2010 4:10 pm

      Hey Michelle–
      I’m pretty sure my chiro has done some GT on me, and it provided a little relief. My problem is that it helps a bit, and I run again and I’m back to square 1. Not a long term solution. But maybe with some patience (novel idea?) and some more help from him, I can get going again. We’ll see. Thanks for sharing your story–it makes me feel better. As weird as it sounds, I like knowing that it’s better but you still struggle: I’m not the only one who can’t shake injuries.

  5. Holly permalink
    March 15, 2010 12:40 pm

    I just found your blog today, and it feels like serendipity. I am a Mom/runner who has been through many life challenges the last 3 years, and consequently have run very little. I finally bought myself a new pair of shoes and am committed to getting back out there.

    Anyway, I am an injury-prone runner myself. I have the flattest feet this side of the Rockies, and have had at least 3 confirmed stress fractures over the years, back pain, horrible blisters from the many different orthotics. Not to mention that my 9.2 lb son ruined my right hip (good thing he’s cute). So, I wanted to chime in support for weight and cross training. My body usually can’t tolerate more than 25-30 miles per week, but I can bump it up as long as I am doing core work–I force myself to cycle through 5 minutes of serious ab-work directly after the run, weights at least 2x per week–40 minutes with a video leading me through squats, lunges & upper body, and I cross train at least once–cycle on the trainer while watching a movie or something. It’s all about distraction for me, because I do not like weights or cross training. But, nothing else has ever worked.

    More than one doc or PT has told me I should take up another form of exercise. I just had to figure out how to make it work for me.

    Good luck. I hope you find some relief!

    • March 15, 2010 4:01 pm

      Hey Holly–
      I hear you on the BIG kids. Both of mine were almost 10 pounds; carrying them around on my left hip, so I could have my right hand free, for 2+ years. But I hear you on the strength training; that will be my priority as I look forward. And no more marathons for this marathon momma: that’s for sure! Thanks for reading and lending support.

  6. bowenshea permalink*
    March 15, 2010 2:43 pm

    Dim is a dear friend of mine, as well as co-author, so I want to thank you gals for your support of her. I heard Dimity telling someone about her injuries last week, and it nearly made me cry to hear the fatigue, frustration, and sadness in her voice. Thanks to you all for rallying round her. XO

  7. March 15, 2010 2:44 pm

    No personal advice as I obviously don’t run enough to injure myself! BUT you should send copies of your MRIs for Matt to read. I’m sure the radiologist who read them was great, but Matt is really good at providing all kinds of little details. Plus he specializes in musculoskeletal radiology.

    • March 15, 2010 3:54 pm

      Thanks, Kristen–I may take you up on that. I’m pretty sure the knee was fine, but if I do look into my back, I’ll let you and Dr. Matt know!

  8. Julie permalink
    March 15, 2010 2:48 pm

    So sorry you are having so much pain. I spent the last year fighting something similar in my right hip. My magic pill was a great rolfer – she was expensive at $100 per session, but a session was 2 hours long and felt great. I ran a race yesterday for the first time in over 6 months and it felt great. I was running with a slower friend and just itching to go faster – finally after 6 miles I left her and ran the last 3 1/2 in on my own. It felt so good to feel pain free – I just have my fingers crossed it will last. Hang in there and good luck!

    • March 15, 2010 3:54 pm

      Hi Julie–
      I looked into rolfing, but wasn’t sure it could help. Did you do the full 10-session package thing? Just curious.

      • Kerry permalink
        March 17, 2010 10:36 am

        I did it when I was a crazy rowing girl – damn painful, but you could feel the shift after wards and I was relatively pain free, until my bad habits and a fundamental issue rebuilt the painful situation again (see more on this below). What’s interesting is that what rolfing attacks is what acupuncture has been determined to effect too….the stroma and facia (if you want the journal articles let me know and I’ll send them) and might be a less painful route to start with.

        As I mentioned above, no matter what you find to relieve the pain initially, figuring out what led to the injury and misalignment is critical to stop it from happening again…in my case it was actually internal (a fibroid) and ever since it was removed I have been pain free.

        Good luck Dimity!

  9. March 15, 2010 4:02 pm

    Dimity–Totally stinks that you have dealt with this for so long. The frustration shouts out through your post. You’ve got lots of great suggestions here…I’d say keep trying different techniques until you find the right one. I know people who have had three-year journeys like this and they eventually, after lots of different tries, found the solution. The cost can be brutal, no doubt. But so can losing your sanity w/o being able to run like you want, so I’d say it’s worth it.

  10. Jen permalink
    March 15, 2010 4:56 pm

    I am a new reader, so of course take my suggestion with as big a grain of salt as you wish, but my sister-in-law swears by acupuncture for running and non-running related back problems. I have always been a traditional medicine type, so I offer is just as an idea that might not otherwise occur to many people. It’s hard to hear another runner in pain.

  11. March 15, 2010 5:31 pm

    Hey, Dimity! I read your post this afternoon & thought about you throughout…thank you for being so honest. I can’t imagine your struggle and had no idea you were in such pain. Bless your heart! And you’re a mom & wife! Wow. I like the idea of swimming. That’s how I cross train when the pool isn’t icy. I’m sure you are aware of the whole get up – waist belt, weird blue foot-thingys…my kids always get a great kick out of it when they see me in my stuff; oh, and the hand-weights…don’t forget those! But I’ll tell you, I can get as effective a workout as I can on land! From head to toe, I can definitely feel my workout. I hope the MRI helps.

    Here in South Louisiana, we have our ways of dealing with pain like yours – believe it or not, we can still call on one or two traiteurs (my father-in-law is one) to try to treat the pain. A traiteur is someone with a gift of healing that is usually passed down through generations. Very cool stuff.

    Anywho, I also really believe in visualization. I’m sure words are cheap when you are suffering, but in the periods of time that you are able to, probably before sleep, visualize your body in perfect balance…with absolutely no nerve obstruction.

    Do you take supplements? Do you take anything for pain? Just wondering. I will keep you in my prayers. We running moms need to be in tip-top shape for tons of reasons…

    Sidenote – as I type this, I am arguing with the 4th grader over doing her religion homework!!!!! She’s trying to negotiate since it’s not due till Thursday! gtg get ready for 2 hockey games tonight!

  12. carolyn permalink
    March 15, 2010 5:33 pm

    I can soooo realte to what you’re going through. I signed up for my first marathon this year…I have done a few half marathons and finally felt like I was ready to take on the challenge of completing a full marathon. Once I started doing longer distances, I noticed some hamstring pain and tightness. My foam roller seemed to help but as I continued to increase my mileage, things got worse and I started to feel tingling and pain up and down my entire leg. I am seeing a PT now and after 2 weeks of no running there is little improvement. Swimming helps but any other weight bearing exercise seems to aggravate my leg. I’ve put the marathon goal on hold until things improve. I am facing the MRI choice as well and may go forward with it simply because nothing is helping at this point. Running is something I cannot fathom giving up…it’s part of who I am, it helps me manage the stress of being a busy mom and it’s connected me with some wonderful training and racing partners. Plus, it keeps me healthy and feeling much younger than my forty-something self. So I guess I can justify the cost of physical therapy and a posssible MRI. Good luck to you and I hope you get back to feeling strong and healthy!

  13. March 15, 2010 9:05 pm

    Oh Dimity I’m sorry to hear this. Frustrating to say the least. I had a high hamstring/piriformis fiasco just about a year ago. Apparently it’s become a tradition of mine to get injured while training for Boston. My Sports Chiro (Dr Miracle Worker) sorted it out for me and I do pigeon pose and double pigeon pose religiously on running days. Fingers crossed, so far so good.

    I too push the household financial envelope realllly far with my running junkets, shoes, doc appts, shoes, shoes and shoes. It truly is a way of life.

    I hope you find an answer that has you feeling loads better fast. And still allows running to your heart’s desire.

  14. March 16, 2010 2:11 am

    Don’t give up on running! I have confidence there IS a solution out there and it may be simpler than you think. Here is my example, although not related to running.

    About 5 years ago I was made nauseous and ill by everything I ate. My primary doctor told me to take antacids and stop drinking coffee, eating acidic food, or drinking alcohol (I was eating none of these to begin with!?). Two weeks later they gave me Prilosec. Not better. Went to gastroenterologist…they gave me Nexium. Not better. Finally they checked my esophagus…it was fine. Meanwhile I lost about 20 lbs and even oatmeal gave me acid reflux. I was at wits end because basically they said…at your age (I was 34?) people get acid reflux and it is part of life. After 6 months I had already lost 20 lbs? This couldn’t continue! I decided to see a naturopath and based on my history they recommended a few diet changes. In 3-4 days I noticed a difference, I was better but not great. I finally went to an allergist…I was tested and found to react to more than 11 different foods (oatmeal, wheat, corn, milk, eggs, nuts, salmon, carrots, onions). A couple of weeks later after being on my new diet, I was like a new person.

    I know you probably want to give up, but the right doctor can help you – it is just a matter of finding them.

  15. March 16, 2010 8:02 am

    First–I am super excited to find out where and when you will be coming to CT. Yay! Second…I am a PT…I find it interesting that no one can hone in on the source of your pain. I would be interested in hearing more specifics (location, desription of the pain, etc…) I am assuming that the lumbar MRI is b/c they are thinking it is radiating from the back? I hope that you can find some answers and would be intrigued to hear what they are!!

  16. March 16, 2010 12:30 pm

    Here is something that your back issues could be related to your feet. Check out this website, he is a foot doctor and a runner. I have never seen him (because he is in Houston and I am in Colorado) but I would if I could. Maybe just check out his blog .

  17. March 16, 2010 9:03 pm

    Yes, lots of good suggestions. I am just weighing in again because I can’t help myself – wanted to say that it often seems to be the case that there is no magic bullet, just patience and persistence. I had a very painful stress fracture in 2 parts of the pelvic bone 3 years ago, that’s the major injury I know from experience – and the bone healed within 3 months or so, but the muscle and tendon impingement that I incurred through running while injured really took several years to diminish. Be cunning, be patient – it will get better in the end if you persist and attack the problem from many different (frugal as possible!) angles…

  18. March 16, 2010 11:23 pm

    Hi Dimity,

    Great blog. I’m really excited to read the book. I’m the Denver Running Examiner for Any chance you could do a phone interview about the book? You can reach me at I look forward to hearing from you.

    Kim Bogin
    Denver Running Examiner

  19. Courtney McGovern permalink
    March 18, 2010 3:16 pm

    This is why I don’t run….then again, I don’t look like I run either.

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