Thursday, December 30, 2021


*Warning: this post does contain pictures that may be considered graphic.

After surgery, I was not to drive for the next 24 hours. I was also supposed to elevate my leg as much as possible and while sitting. I was allowed to walk and climb stairs starting the day after surgery. After I hit the 24-hour mark, it became less painful to walk, and walking helped to loosen up my calf and thigh, which felt very tight. I could not walk normal though at that point. For the first week I was to minimize standing for long periods of time, and not lift anything heavier than 30 pounds. I stuck to just walking that first week, except when I put on my ice skates again starting 5 days after surgery. I had one day to prepare for this, so I did use it to get in my run with over 1,000 feet of climbing so I could hit that goal before the end of the year!

After 48 hours, I was supposed to take the bandages off and I could finally shower (no baths or soaking though). The first picture is the bandages after the ace wrap came off. It took a bit of work to get all the bandages off as some were stuck to me. I did not have any stitches. The 46 incisions were all glued with Dermabond. You can still see the blue marker outline from the doctor that he marked me up with prior to surgery. At the very top is where I had my big bleeder, so I have a large scab still there from that. There are a lot of incision marks in a large cluster on my calf as well. The worst initial bruising was at the top of my thigh above the first incision. I later had bruising from the top to the bottom.

Since I was done with the bandages, I now wear medical grade compression tights during the day for the next 2-4 weeks. My thigh and calf had loosened up so I was walking normal at that point already. I had my one-week follow-up appointment where they did an ultrasound of the vein that was ablated to make sure that was successful (it was!), so all restrictions were lifted, and I would just need to continue to wear the compression for the next few weeks. I plan to ease back into running and lifting in the next week or two. It is still tender and sensitive from the bruising and I elevate it when sitting still. The doctor said that my leg will look ugly for the first 2 months because of bruising, so I guess that’s the bonus of it being winter. I’ll follow up with progress and healing pictures that will look much better than these!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Going Under the Knife

Pregnancy is rough on a woman’s body. It can have lasting effects as well. While I can’t say with 100% certainty that pregnancy caused my varicose veins (pregnancy is often a culprit for healthy young women), it first became visible when I was pregnant with Baya. With the 2nd pregnancy, it expanded, and after my 3rd pregnancy I think it was to the point that it ran from my thigh to my calf on my left leg. Over the years, it has only continued to worsen.
Varicose veins have a higher risk of blood clots, and while superficial, they can still be painful. They can also cause swelling and pain as well. A friend referred me to the Surgical Associates of Wausau to get mine taken care of. You can’t always see varicose veins either. The veins that were visible running from my thigh and squiggling their way down to my calf (with multiple sets of “bubbles” along the way), were actually the branches that came off from a vein that you couldn’t see that was also varicose.
I was on the waitlist hoping to get in before the end of the year (insurance put a 12/31 deadline on their approval). Last week, I got a phone call that they had a cancellation and could get me in the next day! Andy and I rearranged our plans and spent most of the day in Wausau. The surgeon had me stand while he marked all the visible branches because once I was laying down on the table, he wouldn’t be able to see them as well and wanted to make sure he got them all.
They used partial sedation and shots for local anesthetics the length of my leg. This meant that I was awake the entire time. They ablated the main vein underneath, and then made incisions (46 total) to pull out the visible branches. He started pulling those at my calf and worked his way up. By time he got to the last part of my thigh, the numbing medication was either wearing off, or it wasn’t enough as it was a very tender area! I was trying to hold still while crying and trying to calm through deep breathing. He gave me more shots, and the nurse gave me some anti-nausea medicine as well. Everything was fine until that last section!
I did look at my leg before they wrapped me up, as well as saw the pieces of vein that they had pulled out! Sitting up made me very lightheaded and dizzy though. They took me to the recovery room where I was given more anti-nausea medicine. I was also able to eat and drink for the first time that day finally. Normally recovery is about a half hour, but I only left at 1.5 hours in order to be home when our kids got home from school. I still felt so sick! The nurse helped me dress and wheeled me out to the car.
At least we weren’t far from home when I finally threw up. Fortunately, I was also sent home with a vomit bag because of how I was feeling. I felt less nauseous, but I was still lightheaded and dizzy. Rowyn was sitting in the backseat patting my shoulder, “Sorry you don’t feel good, Mom.” What a sweetie! I took ibuprofen because that spot in my thigh really hurt still as well. The rest of my leg actually felt okay. I was able to eat some supper and drank a bunch of water. Andy carried me everywhere that night. The kids, especially my youngest who was home with me all of the next day, were super helpful. I had to keep the wraps on for the first 48 hours, but I’ll reveal what my leg looked like when the wraps come off in the next post!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Transition to Treadmill: Overcome the Dread

The winter often means the return to the treadmill for many. This could be for various reasons: shortened daylight hours, slippery footing, snowy feet, and the challenge of finding the right mix of wardrobe so you’re not too hot, not too cold, but just right. I will run outside occasionally in the winter these days, but most of my winter running does involve the treadmill. When I was at the Y, I could pass the time by chatting with a friend, watching tv, or even reading a magazine. At home I do none of those things, but I have had a great transition back to the treadmill anyway. How is that possible?!
First, it’s definitely all about mindset. Isn’t everything? A 3 hour drive to Grandma’s takes FOREVER, so how about those 12 hour driving days we did with the kids to go to Florida last month? They rocked it. Because when they got in the car, they had in their minds that they would be sitting in the car literally the entire day. We prepped with things to do, but there wasn’t complaining about how long it was taking because they knew it would take all day. If you hop on the treadmill to “get it over with,” it’s going to take forever. If you prep yourself with distractions and plan on being there awhile, it’s a lot easier to handle.
Second, I need the cooler temperatures. If it’s 70 degrees, I feel like I’m dying because it’s so uncomfortably hot. Turn off the heat in your house, crank a fan at you on high, and run without a shirt on. If it’s a tougher run, consider even opening a window and possibly putting a fan in front of it. The run will also feel easier as your body doesn’t have to work so hard just to cool itself. And don’t forget to turn the heat back on in your house when you are done! 
Third, music has been a game changer. In all honesty, this is the ONLY time I use music while running. USAT doesn’t allow you to race with music, so I quit listening to music when running outdoors several years ago and I have never gone back. It makes music a treat when it comes to the treadmill though and I really look forward to it! Tying into that, jamming with music in my ears has me visualizing myself in races, especially when I am doing harder runs. I might be stuck going nowhere on a treadmill, but in my mind I have raced many 800m runs on the track, ran the run course at Nationals countless times, and now I am adding the Three Lakes triathlon course to my options. I can understand the appeal of Zwift and seeing yourself “run courses” on a computer screen, but I feel that I can quite easily be transported mentally to a race when I want to.
Lastly, give yourself some challenges! Last December, I challenged myself to climb 1,000 feet in a run. That was my focus one day each week. I kept everything at an easy pace, but made that my “hard” day. In early January, I climbed 1,000 feet in just over 4 miles! I do not do enough hill work in general, so this also helps to mentally and physically address a weaker area of mine. This time around, I was able to start at 500 feet of climbing in my first run, with my intent of hitting 1,000 again after a month. Then in January, I plan to transition back into threshold running. It’s a fun change of pace and it gives me something to work toward and get excited about. 
So if you are dreading making the switch to treadmill running and don’t have access to Zwift, a Peloton or online workouts, a TV, etc, I hope you will find some relief in my tips above. What are some things that you have found to work for you?

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Running Bear Triathlon

        Andy somehow talked me into doing a little triathlon held locally in Three Lakes a week after Nationals (I mean – I was in shape, so why not, right?). A more unconventional triathlon, it was a point to point bike, run, swim race. It started with a 9.3 mile bike ride that ended at the host’s cabin, where we left our bikes in the yard, and proceeded to run a 5K away from the cabin to another cabin across the lake from our bike drop. From there we exchanged our run shoes for swim goggles and hopped in the lake to swim back across to the cabin where we had left our bikes (a short swim of only a couple hundred yards). 
        The question of the logistics of it probably piqued our interest the most, while the quarter mile of gravel before dropping our bikes at the host cabin intimidated me immensely. Around 40 people participated, and as I suspected, I was the only one there with a tri bike. The bike route was curvy, hilly, and fun – that is, until the end when I braced myself as I went over the gravel. Making it to the drop spot without wiping out honestly felt like a big success in itself! I was the first person off the bike, but I had a guy close on my tail who quickly passed me at the beginning of the run, and I never saw again until after I was done. 
        The run was brutally hilly. One long climb after another, and some were quite steep. The 3 miles felt so much longer than they should have! With about a mile left to go, another man came up alongside and passed me and I let him go, though I maintained not too far of a distance behind him. By time I got to the cabin to exchange my run shoes for my swim cap and goggles, I already felt toast and I took my sweet time getting down to the dock for the swim. Once I got there, I saw the #2 guy was backstroking, so I jumped in and quickly passed him. The group did not seem to contain much for strong swimmers. While it was refreshing to cool off with the swim, it was difficult to find my rhythm since I was so out of breath from the run. 
        I came out of the water in under 49 total minutes – there was no way I thought I could do that! I ended up 1st female and 2nd overall, by only a minute and 18 seconds! So next year the goal would be to cut that time and try to beat all the boys ;) Along the route, Andy was at the side of the road taking pictures while the kids were yelling out of the van windows, “Go, Mom, go!” I think they got me through that run. The atmosphere was far different from Nationals, but it was a fun challenge. Who is with me for next year?!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

2021 USA Triathlon Nationals: Milwaukee!

I know I have been off the map for some time now. Once I got behind on blog posts, it was easier to abandon altogether. But I’m back, just like racing! 
I was registered for Nationals in Milwaukee for 2020, and our registration was thankfully deferred. Training looked a bit different this time around, as I lost access to a pool. In more recent years, I was also slow to start bike training because I really struggle mentally with getting on the trainer. In April though, I got outside for a ride and found the joy in biking again! As a result, I typically did 2 rides a week – one outside on the weekend and one short one on the trainer during the week. All swim training was in our (very dark, shallow, muck-bottom) lake. 
In May, Andy sent me a race listing for a fairly local duathlon, so I took the plunge and registered with a week’s notice. While I was the top female by over 5 minutes, I also realized how much harder I needed to be pushing on my bike rides, so the race served as a good kick in the butt. 
As training went on and I was doing some of my fastest training rides I have ever done, and I was also putting down some fast brick runs (3-3.5 miles averaging 6:59-7:03 pace), I was feeling really excited and optimistic about Nationals. Years ago, I had in my mind the goal of making Top 10 and podium at Nationals (keep in mind, these ladies are FAST!), and I never accomplished that goal. Would this be my year? 
The 1500m swim. I was doing at least 3 swims a week in our lake, but very few were even for the duration of the race. But most were done in my wetsuit and ALL were done in a lake. I felt strong and I thought that my sighting and rhythm had improved. But I had no idea how fast I was actually going! On race day, this time I felt the most comfortable, relaxed (in a good way), and confident for the swim. For once I looked at the course and thought – that’s not that far! (Something I have never thought with all my pool training days). The lake was cold (Lake Michigan after all), but it also felt so clean and refreshing. Andy said it was the best swim start he’s ever seen me have. I hit my goal of 25 minutes for the swim, which was also my 2nd fastest Olympic swim EVER! 
Off to the 40k (24.8 mile) bike leg. Due to drafting rules, there were a few hard surges in the beginning to get a good position and avoid penalties, but otherwise it was a good ride. Rolling hills are no big deal, but the bridge we rode in Milwaukee was definitely a speed suck. I just tried to stay aggressive, and I hit my goal time of 1:05, which was also my fastest bike split for the Olympic distance! 
On to the 10k run! I thought my first mile might be slow coming off the bike, but my first 2 miles beeped as sub-7 pace. It was really hitting me after that point and I pep talked myself through the next miles, knowing I had to have 0 regrets when it was over – that even if I didn’t make podium, I knew I had given it everything I had on that day. My run ended up slower than what I was hoping for (goal was 43-44 minutes), and I ended with a 44:55 (7:13 pace). 
My overall time of 2:19:44 was my second fastest Olympic distance race EVER and off from my best by just over a minute, which I did 7 years ago in 2014! For reference, I personally feel I had my best race performances in 2013 and 2014. To perform at this level at age 35 (as good as I was when I was 28!), with drastically LESS training volume, is nothing short of amazing. 
Cheers to chasing goals, a more balanced life with training as a mom, and my family. My kids have put many miles on their bikes riding next to me while I run, and they cheer me on from the raft while I swim around the lake. My husband believes in me even when I don’t, and spends hours putting together memories for me – pictures and this sweet race recap video. So enjoy!