Life is a funny thing. One minute you feel strong, healthy, and ready to conquer the world as you run up and down mountains. The next minute you feel weak, pained, and confused as you’re walking your dog around the neighborhood. But let me back up a little bit and explain how I got to this point.
As you’re probably aware if you’ve read my latest blog posts, Jason and I recently got back from our three-week honeymoon in Patagonia. We hiked a cumulative of 125.6 miles and 27,868 feet of elevation gain. During one 7-day period we hiked 68.2 of those miles and climbed 19,931 feet! Although we were both a little sore after our hikes, in general we felt strong and able to conquer each hike without worrying about how our bodies would hold up. The mileage and elevation gain was higher than my recent training load, but it was all hiking and I was careful to hike softly to avoid any unnecessary strain on my body.
On April 10 we began a 45-hour travel adventure that included 18+ hours on airplanes over 4 different flights and ~27 hours wandering around airports between flights. When we finally made it home, I was tired and sore but it was to be expected after spending all that time in uncomfortable positions.
The next week I went for easy runs and easy hikes. I didn’t push the pace and purposefully took it easy since the altitude was kicking my butt. A week after we finally made it home from Patagonia, I felt a tightness in my hamstring after my run. I went home, foam rolled my hamstring, sat in the massage chair, and tried to make it better. The next morning I woke up and it was tight but nothing concerning so I went for another easy run with Moose. And trust me, runs with Moose are actually easy because he wants to sniff everything on the way up and likes to run really slow on the way downhill. Once again my hamstring was tight afterwards, but less tight than the day before. I again foam rolled, sat in the massage chair, and generally tried to loosen my hamstring.
Friday morning I went out for my normal morning walk with Moose and made it about a 1/4 mile before I took a normal step and suddenly felt a pain shooting down from my lower back, through my butt, and all the way down my hamstring. I hobbled slowly home and made an appointment with my physical therapist (Red Hammer Rehab – Heather and Michael are miracle workers). The appointment was until 12:30 pm so I sat on the couch and planned to work until I had to leave for the appointment. By 10am I was in so much pain that I was rolling on the floor crying while trying to find any position that was comfortable – spoiler: they were all uncomfortable! I called Jason and he came home to take me to the emergency room.
At the emergency room they were worried about a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that can form due to long flights and can have really serious side effects. They immediately scheduled an ultrasound for me to rule it out and we settled in for the long wait in the Hospital. Luckily the hospital was very nice and new and Jason did a good job trying to distract me from my pain. The ultrasound ruled out the DVT, which was a huge relief, but also meant the doctor in the e
mergency room couldn’t do anything to fix my problem. He wrote my prescription for a muscle relaxer and told me to make an appointment with my physical therapist (I had missed my appointment scheduled for 12:30pm by this point so I had another one scheduled for Monday afternoon).
Now, a week later and my hamstring is still really tight and my back is still in pain. I can barely walk across my apartment, much less hike 120+ miles. Walking up the stairs feels harder than those 29,000+ feet of elevation gain we hiked in Patagonia. I went from standing on top of the world, literally, to barely crawling through my days. And there isn’t anything I can do, besides the exercises the PT gave me, which I’m doing religiously, and wait for my back to relax it’s deathgrip on my sciatic nerve.
Injuries are always frustrating, but this one is particularly challenging. There is no way to pinpoint what caused my back to spasm (plane ride, lots of hiking, running, sleeping funny, a random coincidence) and thus, no way to try to prevent it in the future. Instead I’m spending my days in the fetal position on the floor (the bed is too soft for my back) in a nest of pillows that Jason made for me. And I’m dreaming of the day when I can feel strong, healthy and ready to conquer the world again. Ohh and researching core exercises that are good for people with sciatic nerve problems. I really need to step up my core workout game…