Sunday, March 29, 2015

Walking the Scotiabank Half Marathon Post Hip Replacement

On June 28th, 2009, I stood out front of UBC Hospital wearing a pair of leather Mary Janes. I was not allowed to leave the hospital barefoot, but my legs were so weak that I could only walk by scrunching my toes along the floor. I tried to take a step, but the rubber soles only scuffed against the pavement. I was fixed in place by a forcefield made of half a pound of rubber.

Mika and I on a very slow walk
That summer, I walked barefoot around the block as my hip replacement clunked around like a loose heel on a shoe. Sometimes my cat would join me. She would get annoyed by my slowness and sprint ahead in and out of bushes, then tire halfway through and flop down on someone’s driveway until my mom carried her the rest of the way home. I did my exercises twice a day in my childhood bedroom, napping, fading in and out of shows about home renovators and people with 19 children. At night, I slept under a ceiling fan that, decades ago, I had decorated with glow-in-the-dark stars and letters that read Arley Was Here. When the fan turned on, the letters blurred into a glowing circle over my head as I laid awake worrying that I would never get better, that nothing would improve, I would be stuck forever in this bedroom with the ceiling fan announcing that Arley Was Here Still Living With Her Parents And Had Not Worn Anything But Gym Shorts And T-Shirts In Over A Month.

Things did, of course, get better. I went to physio at Burnaby Hospital’s hips and knees clinic. I found a new surgeon, who diagnosed me with a torn gluteus medius, and I underwent another surgery to try to repair the gluteus medius and the hip replacement. (The gluteus medius reattachment failed. Cue a lifetime of half-assed jokes).

I graduated to a cane, then I ditched the cane because I thought that staggering around like a sea creature was somehow sexier than walking with an assistive device designed for old people and I was trying online dating. I earned the ire of the elderly women at deep water aerobics with my misplaced competitive drive. I wildly overestimated my physical abilities and tried to do the Grouse Grind, where I was passed by an endless parade of fit people, then children, then fat old men with their socks pulled up to their knees, then tourists limping in flip flops, but I did not die. I wildly overestimated my physical abilities and did a 20km+ hike to Garibaldi Lake, which caused all of my toenails to fall off, but which also did not kill me. I met an awesome guy, got engaged, and now boast a wardrobe that is only 30% comprised of workout gear. Okay, maybe 40%.

Hiking near Squamish
Today, I still walk like badly done stop motion animation. I will spare you the laundry list of my physical maladies, but suffice to say that if my muscoskeletal system was a house, it would be on Holmes on Homes. As a former Paralympian, however, I missed having a challenge. When one of the organizations I work for, BC Wheelchair Basketball Society, was announced as a charity for the Scotiabank Half Marathon, I once again wildly overestimated my physical abilities and decided to sign up. If I couldn’t run it, I would just walk it, and if walking proved too difficult I would just flail away in the direction of the finish line until I staggered across it.

Because the Scotiabank Half Marathon course closes after 3 hours, I decided to test my range at the four-hour Fort Langley Half Marathon, which unfortunately took place the day after I returned from a week working at the Canada Winter Games. I’d decided to go hiking the day before and got my shoes stuck in the snow, so they were damp. I was dehydrated from a week of event coverage, where I survived pretty much on coffee, popcorn and Starbucks’ lemon-cranberry scones (carbo-loading!). I had not trained. I was running on two hours of sleep. I remembered on my way to the race that I probably should have brought some of those replenishing gel pack things…or at least a bottle of water. I checked in at 6:30 am to a beautiful sunrise and wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into.

Still, I was optimistic. Armed with a copy of Hole’s “Celebrity Skin,” which I listened to on repeat for the entire duration of the race, I set off to walk 21.5 kilometers. Several people stopped to ask what was wrong with me. Several more asked if I needed medical assistance. One suggested an IT band brace. One suggested that the medics could be here shortly if I needed them. A guy drove up in a car and asked if I needed help, then returned again to tell me a story about his friend with brittle bone disease, then returned again with a printed photo of a double amputee running a marathon to inspire me to finish. Around the 15Km mark, my gait pattern began to resemble that of Jack Torrance's in the "Here's Johnny" scene of The Shining. Still, I finished in 3:04, and I was not last. (Eighth to last…but still).
Celebrating after the Fort Langley Half Marathon
And so, on June 28th 2015, exactly six years after I left the hospital after my first hip replacement, I’ll be walking the Scotiabank Half Marathon in support of BC Wheelchair Basketball Society. Wheelchair basketball changes lives. It certainly changed mine. I want to give back in a small way to an organization that has given me so much over the years.

So far, I’ve been overwhelmed with the support I’ve received. My family and friends helped me reach my fundraising minimum in about three hours. My amazing personal trainer Christie Stoll at Spartacus Gym went above and beyond to set me up with a strength program to correct my imbalances and a walking plan to improve my speed. Even the sales guy at The Running Room on Cambie turned out to be a physiotherapy student and spent nearly an hour learning about my condition and finding me a pair of running shoes that would improve my foot pain.

Right now, I’m off to go walk 11.5 kilometers in the rain. I still need to shave five minutes off my time to cross the finish line in under three hours, but I plan to using the same strategy that allowed me to walk around the block in under 30 minutes that summer six years ago: trusting experts, doing a little more than yesterday, and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Gimpy little baby steps, yo.

(If you'd like to sponsor me for the Scotiabank Half Marathon, click here. I'm grateful for any contributions).

1 comment:

  1. Hi there, I'm Lindsey! I have a question and would love to speak with you. Could you please email me when you have a chance? Thanks so much, I look forward to hearing from you! lindseyDOTcaldwellATrecallcenterDOTcom