The Ice Has Melted…at Least for NowI

First off, I want to give Jeanne a shout out. Its amazing how some of my long-time blog readers have followed me for years and been so supportive, even when I disappear for months. It proves again how sometimes “pocket friends” or virtual friends are just as sustaining as IRL friends.

Ok, so skating.

The last couple of times I skated, the ice was melting. I mean this literally, but it was perhaps a metaphor as to what was to come. It was actually pretty fun. My husband, Nik and I and the kids went skating 2 times at the temporary winter rink that they set up each Christmas season about 3 blocks from my house. It is VERY busy, but we managed to get private ice time for no more than the cost of paying for each of us to skate public. So, it was just the 5 of us on this small rink.



The problem was, we were first in the day and it was around 40-ish degrees. We would get there and they would have just revved up the generator that cools it down. It was the worst ice! It was just slushy on top and you kind of felt like you were skating through sand. But it was our ice, so we dealt. The main funny (looking back now) was when Nik literally catapulted himself out of the rink when he was racing Naim. He did not stop fast enough hit the boards and flipped right out. You could hear a collective gasp from the people in the coffee shop next door. He was not seriously hurt, but was sore for a few days afterwards. We were so afraid someone filmed it and it would end up a meme on Facebook!

I also skated a few times at Lloyd with the Hooky ladies. Around the blasted Christmas Tree. But I have taken this “semester” off from skating with the Hooky ladies. I’m concentrating on trying to rehabilitate my problem knees and feet.

I do think I screwed up my feet/knees skating. My knees have always given me issues and they crackle and everything all the time. But after I started skating, I began to have sharp pains when doing lunges or squats, walking up stairs, or just walking. All of skating is basically done in a lunge position. Its hard on the knees. Again, I need to preserve my ability to walk as it is so important to my overall independence and mobility. I’ve had a run of bad luck with the new skates and probably doing too much too soon, shin splints, etc. I don’t know if I will have to deal with the reality that I am now too old to skate (or only skate recreationally on occasion). But my months long return to skating has had quite a few bumps along the way and did not go as I had hoped. I’m not throwing in the towel, yet. And I don’t feel bad about trying. But  for now, I’ve temporarily stopped skating for awhile.

…And started swimming! Ice/water, its all related. Although swimming is much more boring and certainly doesn’t give me the same kind of creative outlet, I am really enjoying it now.

So, a little history: I am not a great swimmer. I never got out of “advanced beginner” swimming lessons. I could never properly dive, I don’t know how to do a flip turn, I don’t understand the concept of a breast stroke, I don’t breathe right, I’ve never raced or anything like that.

But it has been this weird little secret superpower over the years. When I was younger and I would race people just for fun, I always won. I won against my dad and many others. Sometimes I have won against much taller men. Now, these were just regular people, not swimmers. I am sure I would not win against a trained swimmer. But apparently, I have a decently efficient stroke.

Once when I was swimming at Fancy Shmancy Gym, this woman came up to me and started talking. I did not know what she was saying, so I told her I was deaf and asked if it was an emergency and she said no. I told her that when she saw me with my clothes on or with my phone, we could talk then because I would have my hearing aids and phone to text. Then I forgot about it.

A few weeks later, I was swimming again and this woman taps me on the shoulder. I was still deaf so still did not know what she wants to talk to me about or even if it was the same woman. I smiled at her and said the same thing again. I’m deaf blind, I can’t see you well or hear you at all but when I’m not in the pool, I will have an easier time, talk to me then.

On the way out, one of the people who worked there asked me to wait. The woman had asked them to get us together. So, she comes and talks to me. They even let us use this little office so I could hear her better. She says that I am a good swimmer with a really strong stroke and with some work, I could be really competitive and did I want to join the master swim team. I just laughed. I can’t dive! I can’t do a flip turn! I get tired after 20 minutes! I suck! I wouldn’t be able to hear or see the coach or when the start of the race happened.

(Interjection to say that blind and deafblind swimmers do swim with accommodations on an elite paralympic level, but I doubted they had those kind of accommodations I would need here. Besides, I still sucked.)

The bigger issue is that they trained 3 times a week and I just didn’t have time for that. I was a SKATER anyway! But I did go home and look up Master Swimming on the internet just for fun. And wow! These are crazy, highly competitive and organized adults! Then I remembered my high school/facebook friend Jay Gallentine was involved in swimming at a crazy competitive level. He is swimming across lakes and doing iron man shit. I wondered if this was what he was involved with. It seemed pretty cool, but still…no time.

Fast forward a few months. My knee is worsening. I can’t skate as much anymore. Everyone is telling me that swimming will be safe for my knee and help me rehab it. I changed gyms to a less expensive one that only takes me 15 minutes to get to. Also, I got an Apple Watch.

An Apple Watch is not necessary for life, of course, but as a DB person, I LOVES me my Apple Watch. Its got a ton of haptic stuff I use now. It can also be used to swim with (do you know how much anxiety I used to have swimming when I couldn’t tell what time it was and couldn’t ask anyone and had to pick up my kids from childcare at such-and-such time? Waterproof accessibility for the win!). It can give you an impressive amount of data about your swim. This is when swimming started to get interesting. I figured out that my stroke count is about half that of Nik’s (we swim at different pools at different times, but compare our stats like the geeks that we are) and I was going faster (although he can go longer as he has more endurance.) Nik has swam competitively in para-swim events in Sweden. He has been coached and could dive and flip turn and knew how to use the “bop you on the head” accommodations and all that. So, I was a little impressed with myself. I think, at least in a sprint, I could beat him. Someday we need to figure out how to be in the same pool so we can go head to head!

So this is starting to get interesting.

I mean, I have a LOOOONG way to go. Right now I only swim for 30 minutes and do more kick board laps than anything else. And my current gym doesn’t even have a masters swim team, and even if they did, I would have to figure out how to accommodate myself or if I could even be competitive without accommodations. And I don’t really know what is available in paralympic sports for an almost 50 year old who is not going to the paralympics.

And skating is not out of the picture yet. And I hope it will never be totally gone, even if I just skate on occasion. I hope to still skate a few times recreationally this spring and see where things are at. But for now, swimming is keeping my interest, helping my knees and feet, and is kind of fun.

Death by Shin Splints

My 8 year-old helping me do my shin stretches today by holding a strip of theraband while I pull it with my foot. And yes, my house is atrociously messy because nothing got done this week and my husband’s guide dog sheds 4 medium sized dogs’ worth of hair a day.

Ok, you all may have surmised that I had a little trouble getting a coach who would take me. I started at Winterhawks and didn’t even get any “no” responses, I got completely ignored. Emails and calls went unanswered. Friendly “hellos” at the rink got nervously rushed away from. So, when Anthony agreed to work with me, I was very appreciative, and I always attempt to make the newbie comfortable with me with a combination of telling them what I need for it to work but not making it be too much that I need for it to work. I try to be competent and fun to work with (hopefully) and sprinkle any education about my disabilities over time as we go to not be too overwhelming.

Last week went well. But this week was crazy bad. It was not his fault, nor too much my fault. So, my kidney illness that makes me have to count spoons manifests itself with these symptoms: headaches, nausea, kidney pain, and a lot of fatigue, in various degrees and intensities. So for the past four days, I was struggling to manage headaches, a bit of nausea and trouble eating, and fatigue. But, even though I took some Tylenol at 2:00am, I was good to go on Monday morning.

However, transit was not good to go with me.

It was fleet week in the lovely PDX area, and I skate across the river. The Willamette River, on Monday morning, was saying good bye to a bunch of navy ships that had been docked there. To do that, it needs to close down and lift up a ton of bridges. It took me two hours to get to the rink, and I ended up walking onto the ice in a hurry just one minute before my lesson was supposed to start.

Remember how last week I was happy because I took ten days off skating and thought my shin splints had all but healed? Well, without warming up both off and on the ice for my usual 45 minutes, they decided to come back with a vengeance. So, I had a trace headache, I had taken some tylenol and that always makes me woozy, I hadn’t been up in 4 or so days, I can’t see functionally at all when I skate with Anthony, and I had the worst shin splints I’d had in maybe…ever, after we started skating.

Do you know what your tylenoled, 4 days of no activity hungover, blind brain does when its being manhandled around the ice while in sharp pain? It panics and stops working altogether. He was telling me steps and left foot right foot and I was just like, “Wha?? Ow, ow, ow. Feet? Ow. Ow. Trip on toe pick, scrape, lose balance, ow.”

Here is what a smart person would have done. A) Asked the woman who has lessons after me if she would have switched times with me so I could warm up. She was RIGHT THERE, I could have asked… or B) told my coach to forget it, I’d pay him for the lesson but we either needed to quit or slow way down and just work on some really easy, basic stuff.

But instead, I just kept going in a blur of brain panic and blinding (ha!) pain because I didn’t want to be wimpy and have my needs be too overly “special” (barf) and so thus reignited my stupid shin splint pain. After the lesson, I had to get off the ice immediately and recover with skates off. I thought I would just take a break and maybe go pay for a public session so I could skate past the Hooky Club time, but when I got back on the ice, the pain was still dizzying. I even almost contemplated Uber-ing home because I thought I may die on the walk, but the billion dollar price tag encouraged me to tough out the walk. I ended up just getting back on the train after almost maybe 40 minutes of skating.

Ok, but WTF, Shins? Can’t we be friends again? I know at 47, I am not going to do as well as I used to. I know that it is more important to warm up and all that. But, really? I can’t let my illustrious ice skating career be killed by shin splints, can I? How stupid. Here is a video of a 95 year old man that skates twice a week. If he can do this, I should be able to do this, right? I’m nearly half his age! (Seriously, this is pretty cool, though.)

So, I’ve iced them. I stayed off of them for the rest of the day yesterday. Today, I went back to the Dr. Jo videos and did those series of stretches and exercises. They have improved a lot today. But I’m wondering if its something more. My skates? My orthotics? A more mechanical injury? ¬†Should I stop with lessons for a while? Should I stop skating for a while? I am completely confused as to whether I am over or under doing it. Do I actually have to go to the doctor over this? Annoying. I did go to a podiatrist years ago for my plantar fasciitis issue (which seems to be no longer a problem once I put orthotics in my skates) but I never had this much of a shin splint issue before. Someone said to try compression sleeves? I’m getting very high maintenance in my old age.

Dr. Jo (I have been using her videos a lot, lately.)