A Year Ago: A Cruise Story

On March 4th, 2017, sometime after noon, I completely ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and my medial collateral ligament (MCL) after slipping in some mud on the Warrior Dash. For my efforts, I was rewarded with an annoying physical therapist who called me “Miss Beth” constantly, a metal cane, and a disabled parking permit. I got to chant things like “heaven up, hell down” to remember which leg to use when approaching a step, and I got to wince and practice not crying out whenever my leg bent beyond 90 degrees. I also got to practice not crying out over the injustices of the world, or crying out when a relative decided to tear into me, because I was clearly too stupid to have figured out I shouldn’t have been at the Warrior Dash to begin with. Super helpful! Great conversation!

When you can’t use your legs at the gym, you’re left with doing a lot of things with your arms, but forget about how much I despise the hand bike – you’ve all heard about that. Let’s talk about the fresh humiliation that came when I fell off the weight bench  into a pile on the floor… when I couldn’t bend my knee, and I had to figure out how to roll onto my stomach and use my hands to walk towards my body so I could stand again, and try  to get back on the weight bench again. You all know the rest. I cried when I was first able to row, and then I successfully rowed my little half marathon on Christmas Eve. Basically, I got stronger, and my knee became more stable until I now where I’m up to 260 lb. on the leg press. Granted, that’s not huge, but considering where I was last year, it’s huge for me, and another small win – I can dead lift again.

I met with my orthopedic guy a few weeks prior to discuss where I was at, and what I could do. We determined I should brace my knee up whenever I was in a crowd, and on uneven ground – things I’d definitely encounter on the cruise, which meant I approached this trip with a great deal of trepidation. Only 3% of the participants on the Warrior Dash are ever injured, and I had been among the 3%. I wondered what small percent I’d manage to cover while cruising. I smiled on the outside, but I kept stuffing down the feeling that I was going to get hurt, and I was going to get hurt badly. I bought my traveler’s medical insurance, and talked myself through what would happen when they had to fly me back to the States, reminding myself it would be ok. To say I was traumatized by the ACL/MCL tear would be a huge understatement. Keep in mind the day before the cruise, I had already had a bad reaction to something – either the overwhelming Scentsy smell or the food (or both), and I saw it as an omen. (The ravens and banshees really tipped the scales. I mean, given those, who wouldn’t pause and say, “hrmm… that can’t be good, right?” Did I not mention those? Never mind. Nothing to see here.)

For all of day one, I kept my brace on, and was mindful of how I felt walking around the ship, being around people, judging how the stable the ship felt, etc. By day two, the brace was off, and it remained off while I was on the ship.

On Day 2 called “A Fun Day at Sea” I rowed 12,000 meters while watching the sun come up over the bow of the boat. (An advantage to always getting up early). Nothing centers me more, nor clears my head better than going to the gym, and there Heather took one of my favorite pictures of me on this trip. (While there are better photos of me, this makes me happy – me heading to my zone.)

Rowing the Ship to Cozumel

On Day 4 we went to a Mayan ruin called Xuantunich, 70 miles to the west of Belize City near the border of Guatemala. There I climbed the structure known as El Castillo (along with climbing a few shorter structures that don’t count for the purposes of this blog, but do count to their mother and father structures, because though they’re smaller in stature, those little guys are equally loved).

At first I was struck by how people who, at their tallest would have easily been about 7″ shorter (or more) than I, were able to scramble up the gigantic stairs.

Stairs MUCH bigger in person! The camera takes off 10″. Fact.

And then I took another moment to marvel at how, nearly a year after my injury, I was standing on this amazing structure – knee stable – looking out on the beauty that was this archaeological site, that was Belize, and how lucky I was to experience this with these people I absolutely love and adore. (Also, equally super glad to get back on the ground safely without having the helicopter evac for which I had mentally prepared.)

Xuantunich, Belize (El Castillo in Background – Where I climbed to the top, and stood between those five prongs.)

 

PS – This brought to you by Indiana Johnny who, by dropping today’s ball, guaranteed you’d get a gym-esque story instead of a “funny story from the cruise”. Proceed to cast blame.

Next Up: That time on the ship I got to talk to the cruise police. (Ok, I’m kidding. Oh, not about talking to the cruise police. I totally got a talking to. I’m just not sharing that story on my blog. I think someone should buy me a drink to celebrate my silence. Just sayin’.)

Did You Train?

The MRI results are in, and I can now proudly boast a complete rupture of both my MCL and ACL in graphic terms that involve an overuse of the word “gross”.  I say “boast,” because I was getting a certain amount of flack from the torn ACL’ers who poo-pooed my injury with a dismissive, “oh… only an MCL? In my day we tore our ACL and wore our patella’s like fine tibia necklaces and dragged the useless limb behind us. You just have a flesh wound” That may not be an exact quote. I thought having completely torn the ACL I’d finally get a certain amount of knee-props, but instead it’s more a, “well, you didn’t tear your meniscus, you must be some sort of sissy.”  I’ll take it, I suppose. Not like I can chase them down (yet).

Now most people who have seen me are a bit curious, “what did you do?” and I tell them about the Warrior Dash, the mud, the splits, Jean-Claude Van Damme, no Enya (it’s my bit), and in turn they politely wince a bit especially when I get to the word “popped”.  It’s a lovely dance repeated numerous times, and typically ending with well wishes.

Which leads me to a rant…  Hey, I’m me.  It’s what I do!

A few times I’ve ended the story and received a, “did you train for that?” usually accompanied by the up-and-down eye-balling as my body is sized up. Ummm… if you mean did I train for walking in 3.2 miles of solid slippery, shoe-sucking mud that’s had 100’s of people sludge through it previous after its rained for 7-8 hours, then no. I did not train for that. Maybe the 100’s of other people, almost all who fell multiple times, did, but you caught me.  I had no business on that course. Silly me, I just trained for obstacles. Did I mention I made it through two before being taken out on the mud?

Here’s the thing about training in today’s gyms – they lack a mud pit. I know, I know, I looked for a place that included a mud pit, but instead I was told they had pools, a basketball court, saunas, and some kind of cardio and strength training equipment. Whatever. One gym boasts an outdoor water slide, while another has “lunk alarms” and pizza – yet none of them really have the foresight to offer a really solid mud pit. Way to let your clients down, gyms! In that sense my gym and my trainer clearly failed me. She was so focused on training me for the obstacles, and trying to convince me that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I believed in myself that she dropped the ball.  Her super narrow laser focus on obstacles, cardio and strength led to her failing to train me for long hours in muddy creek beds during thunderstorms. Way to go, Jenn!  Lesson learned! Judging by the number of ambulances and more serious athletes breaking things, it’s clear their trainers let them down, too.  Whew, I’m not alone! There should be a study on this. We should all demand mud pits at our gyms! (For fun, you can Google injuries during Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder events to see all the failures of people to remain upright; they clearly should have also trained. Sad little “athletes”; they probably had it coming.)

(Note: All of the above is written in heavy sarcasm font.  Jenn is amazing. To think or say otherwise would end with me hobbling over to you, and giving you a very very stern look while thinking a host of ugly things I’d do if I got the drop on you, and had zero fear of 1) retaliation, or 2) bunking with a nice lady named Bertha who wanted to trade me for a pack of cigarettes. Bertha, you’re my #1 bitch, am I right? Fist bump? Don’t leave me hanging, Bertha. You’re my lady!)

So, let’s talk about what’s really being said, since me training for slipping in mud is ridiculous.  The subtext of what’s being said is, “you’re fat, and you hurt yourself because you shouldn’t have been out there.” Right and wrong.  Right, I’m a big girl, but I’m strong(ish) (strong-light?).  I have a decent amount of muscle under my “fluff” layer (as we lovingly call it).  Am I the strongest? No. But I’m stronger than what you think you perceive when you see me. Did I get hurt because of a lack of training? No. I got hurt because I was on really slick mud, and one leg was planted while the other got out from under me sending me into the splits where I hyper-extended my knee. A fun fact that I learned from Tae Kwon Do (I have my blue belt) – it takes approximately 10 lbs of pressure to snap someone’s ligament like the LCL (easiest to get to), which incidentally makes it a fantastic soft target if you want to drop someone. Most adults weigh more than 10 lbs., another fun fact. (You learn a lot when you visit my blog.) I could have been 100 lbs lighter, in the world’s best shape, and still torn my ACL and MCL.  Armed with that knowledge, there were really only two things I see I could have done differently that would possibly have had any effect on that day: 1) Not gone on the trail in those rainy conditions, and 2) walked on the left side of the trail where my strongest leg was on the more stable ground, and still, had I done all of that, I could have fallen in the backyard, going down the street, etc. Life doesn’t have guarantees.  Playing it safe is not a guarantee.

So, to answer the question. Yes, I trained. Thank you for your supportive question.

I recently told a friend I was pissed about the whole thing, and she said something I loved: “Beth, don’t be pissed for choosing to live your life.”

I chose to live my life. An accident happened. The sun rose the next day, and I moved forward.

Warrior Dash 2017 or That Time Beth…


That Hat :(

Lately there’s been the story I plan to write, and then there’s the story I actually end up writing. Originally, this particular story was going to be about conquering the Warrior Dash or at least my version of “conquer,” which would have likely been about me getting really messy and making it through exactly ONE obstacle – with luck, two. Ok, I actually planned to only miss one or maybe two, but apparently I’m “self deprecating” according to some people with names like “all my friends” and “all my family” pfft. I was ready. I’d looked at the course, sized up the obstacles, and said, “hey, you know what? That looks tough, but it’s not not doable. (Ok, that was a double negative, so English teachers everywhere started crying. Bah! Who am I kidding? When I started typing, they started crying.) Basically, it was doable (not not doable) – you get the idea. Of course “doable” doesn’t mean “easy” by any means; it was going to be challenging (or not not challenging – I promise I’ll knock that off now).

Up until the race, I’d been joking that the day would be forever known as “The Day Beth Went to the Hospital.” I’m one of those people who believe you ward off all the evil by thinking of the worst thing that could happen, saying it, and then charging forward. In hindsight, I think I’m a bit of an oracle. Call me Cassandra! But I see I’m skipping/limping ahead.

Our start time was later in the day – 12:45 pm – sometime after all of the serious competitors had found their way through it, and had likely gone a couple more rounds (you could pay a little extra to do it again and again). That night or maybe early that morning, the rains came, and when we arrived the skies were a dull grey and a balmy 50℉-ish (10℃-ish). The weather seemed to teeter between drizzle to light rain, but none of that brought us down. We were wet and cold and ready to get moving.

Earlier that morning, I’d sent a couple of rah rah texts to our team declaring “we got this!” Then pre-race, my trainer sent me one of those notes that make you tear up (well, it did “me” and if you wouldn’t have teared up, well you have no soul, and I just judged you; it’s how I roll). I’d share, but it’s my personal note; however, the gist was to believe in myself – that the only person who could tell me I couldn’t do something was myself.

It was then time to go, and we dashed out onto the course to find a somewhat muddy path, but still a doable one. As we progressed, the mud became thicker and slicker – the kind that can suck your shoes off or send you sprawling face first onto the ground. Everyone got stuck at some point, and everyone fell. I got through two obstacles, and I applauded myself for not slipping. Heck, I even slid down a bank (on purpose) and with the help of my team, made it up the other side. The whole time reciting my “I got this” mantra. Everyone was faster than me, but I trudged along concentrating on remaining upright. I thought I’d figured out the key – cling to the sides. There was still a little bit of grass there, and if I went slowly enough I could creep through the 5k. Hey, I knew going in I wasn’t competitive.

And then I ran out of grass coming around a downhill bend. I put my foot down, went immediately into the splits (the Jean Claude Van Damme kind though sans some semis and Enya soundtrack, not the body friendlier kind I used to be able to drop into in High School), and thanks to the angle I was at when I lost my balance and started going down, the bottom half of my leg wanted to go just a little further (always an overachiever), and that’s when the “pop” happened in my knee. Talking about this next part is the only time I’ve cried about the day. I fell in front of a medic and his friends who immediately stopped to assess my leg. He then ran up a hill, off the course, and flagged down one of the people watching the course, who in turn grabbed an all terrain vehicle, and a security guy. In the meantime, those guys got me over to the side in a grassy area and they stayed with me. “Can you stand?” No. “Are you in pain?” Not really, my knee feels unstable. When I mentioned the “pop” again, one of the medic’s friends said, “yep, I heard it, too” (which isn’t good when everything is loud, people are bustling about, and a part of your body makes a sound the rest of the world can hear). When the vehicle showed up, it was on the other side of the insanely muddy path, and that’s when I started telling them “no, no I can’t get over there – I can’t do that, no, uh uh” and the five people who were around me kept saying “we’ll get you over there, and you won’t have to put weight on your leg”. Nope! Not doing it. I’ll just stay right here, thank you. I’m enjoying my hypothermia and the adrenaline leaving my system. Mind if I go into a light amount of shock? All of that I didn’t say with words, but everyone understood from my body language that I seriously doubted five strong guys could move me across the treacherous mud without me further damaging my knee. And they did, and when they did the racers stopped, and about 4-5 other guys joined in to get me across the path – all being super supportive, and kind, and all making sure I got into that vehicle safely. I cannot express how grateful I was and am for everyone, nor how amazing they were to hold up their race, to get me across safely, and then to say a few kind words of encouragement as they headed back down the trail. I don’t know them, but I wish I could find them to thank them (and to hug that medic).

The long and short of it all is I have a grade 3 MCL tear. Finally, I won at something! Grade 3, I think, is classified as “the best tear” (don’t burst my bubble – I actually know what it means, thanks). Monday I go in for an MRI to determine if the meniscus is torn as well. I’ll find out those results towards the end of March. As of now, I do not have to have surgery. In most cases, I’m told, the MCL heals; however, if the meniscus is torn they will have to go in for a day procedure that will leave me on crutches for about three days. All of this will likely take about 3 months and involve rehab.

There’s actually a lot of people to thank. Friends and family who have gone out of their way to help me, and to be at the house to help with Sam (and with fun things like “moving” and “standing up”). Also, their families for letting me steal them briefly from their worlds. Friends and family who have sent flowers, offered support, and chocolate, and movie dates, and the best animal videos (to both distract from the MCL tear, and from a certain elected official who has made the adverb “very” great again). And Tori for getting “Everything is Awesome” stuck in my head, so now when people inquire about me I find myself saying “awesome” and then having to sing that song the rest of the day, because I just said that word. No wait, I’m not thanking you, Tori!!! You hear that?

Damnit.

I want to answer a few questions I’ve been getting, and because I’m me I’m just putting this out there for easy reference:
How am I doing? My knee is messed up. Ask me in three months. It won’t be magically better if you ask me again tomorrow. Now, you can ask. I can’t stop you, but you will get a sarcastic response. I come from a long line of sarcastic people. It’s not my fault; it’s DNA.
Are you in pain? No, not unless I move my knee in an unnatural way that was formerly “natural” a week ago.
You are quitting the gym, right? Nope. I’m a badass. A badass that in three months will have made inroads on her upper body to start considering rock wall climbs. Goodbye pointless T-Rex arms!

In sum – I was wrong about how the day would be forever known. It won’t be known as “The Time Beth Went to the Hospital,” but maybe “That Time Beth Horsed Around In Some Mud” or “That Time Beth Did Those Rockin’ Splits.” I’ll work on a good title.

RAWR!