Sunday, October 28th It rained all day yesterday. Today was supposed to be sunny and mid-50’s but it was cold and overcast. There seemed to be a window of sunshine just after 4pm, before dusk. I wanted to test my mental and physical strength and I needed somewhat perfect weather conditions in order to do so.
I dropped the kids off at their Dad’s house and started gathering my bike gear. Thanks to my trainer rides, I wasn’t completely unprepared. I grabbed my helmet, dug my gloves out of a drawer and put on my bike shorts. I walked my bike outside, off the curb. I was nervous about clipping my shoes into my peddles. I always put my left foot in first.
I waited for all the cars to pass and the street to clear. I planned to ride to Brookdale Park, where I could bike loops around the park with little traffic to navigate. I was nervous about the 2.2 mile ride to get there, which included stopping at two traffic lights. It wasn’t terrible. I knew I needed to let go of the nervous energy if I wanted a smooth ride. I talked to myself the entire way to the park, trying to convince myself I could do this. I followed the rules of the road and pulled into the street when cars were parked on the right side. I didn’t want to chance another door opening in front of me.
Once I got to the park, I felt more comfortable. Each loop was easier than the last. I used to ride these loops to do my fast interval workouts but today, I took it easy, hoping my hip would allow me to keep riding. After my 5th loop, I rode back home. My 45 minute ride was the closest I’ve come to feeling normal. To be outside on a beautiful fall day doing physical activity, was truly a gift. I’m glad I ripped the band-aid off. I was able to overcome my fear.
Monday, October 29th The healthier I get, the harder it is to manage a never ending to-do list. Everything I missed during the first four weeks post-injury has been piled on top of my normal daily time commitments. The weeks my kids live with me, I cram all of their appointments, play dates and after school activities on top of my work schedule. When they’re with their father, I double down on my meetings and responsibilities. I am constantly playing catch up. I feel suffocated.
Today, was no exception. Before 7am, I went to the bakery to finish making the split pea soup I started late last night. My work day finishes when I am no longer able to tolerate standing and/or I can’t keep my eyes open for one more minute. Such was the case yesterday, when I put the soup on hold until this morning. It needed to be heated and puréed before the lunch crowd arrived.
Once all 10 gallons of soup were ready to go, I went back home before my PT appointment. I spent the hour ‘break’ trying to find the floor and reclaim my apartment from the legos, art projects, empty cups and endless supply of non-matching socks.
Dr. C started my PT session with a five minute warm up on the stationary bike and lots of stretching. I yearn for the day the stretching isn’t brutally painful. My tight hamstrings are loosening but they are still the reason I have limited range of motion on my left side. All the weeks I was using a walker and crutches and not allowing my left foot to touch the ground, shortened the muscles in my leg. I am able to sit with my legs crossed on the floor but I can not get deep into a squat position, like I could prior to the surgery.
Running is a series of small, single legged, squat jumps. To prepare for the day I’m cleared to run again, Dr. C. is starting a progression of jumping exercises. I was instructed to jump straight up and land in a bent knee position 30 times followed by 30 jumps side-to-side. It was the first time both of my feet have left the ground at the same time and the first time I’ve experienced any impact on my newly rebuilt hip. I was fine.
I returned to the bakery to start my next major project of the day…croissants. For the last 6 years, my friend Eric has been making the croissants for the bakery and shipping them from Connecticut. His creations are incredibly consistent and make it easy, in part because I don’t have to make them. As Eric’s company grows, I see more and more bakeries using his croissants and danishes and mine become less and less unique.
One of my goals this year was to bring croissant production in-house in order to make my viennoiserie one of a kind. This isn’t easy. Each croissant has 217 layers of dough separated by thin layers of butter. In order to achieve this, there’s a series of resting and folding where temperature, time and dimensions have to be maintained to a level beyond perfection. This process is a dream job for anyone with OCD. However, I suffer from an immense fear of failure which is 90% of the reason I’ve put this off for so long.
I’ve been testing recipes and practicing my lamination skills for weeks. The last time I put forth any lamination effort was in culinary school, 15 years ago! At one point, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort but Brad & Jessica changed my mind after they tried my test batches and showered me with compliments. I’m a sucker for pastry praise.
Before I called it quits and passed out in my bed, I had completed 144 croissants, 10 gallons of split pea soup and 60 jumps. It was a good day.
Tuesday, October 30th In an effort to avoid as many derailments as possible, my bakery staff screens visitors for me. Several times each day, people drop in to “speak to the owner,” about a fundraiser, a service they’re selling or an event they’re promoting. If I have to stop what I’m doing to talk to them, it takes time away from the task I’m trying to complete. So, unless I tell the retail team I have a meeting scheduled and I’m expecting a guest, they inform everyone who asks that I’m not available. Occasionally, I’m standing right next to the person who is being told I’m not in the bakery at the moment. I know, it’s mean but it’s the only way I can get in a full day’s work.
I heard my barista, Jo, telling a customer that I wasn’t available and I glanced over my shoulder to see if I recognized the person asking. I couldn’t believe who I saw standing there. Mr. Bill, my childhood neighbor, came all the way from Maryland to visit me. He was dropping a friend off in Brooklyn and decided to extend his drive a little further north to see my bakery for the first time.
Mr. Bill and his wife April, lived next door to my mother for three years when I was in elementary school. At the time, they had three boys, all younger than me, Micah, Timothy & Levi. Joshua, their fourth son, was born during their short time on Old Worton Rd.
I spent every possible minute with the Haddocks. Their home had everything my mother’s house didn’t. For starters, there were other kids to play with. Their toys weren’t like mine. They didn’t have video games and gadgets. There were boxes of building blocks and legos. Nothing required batteries. Mrs. April read us books and let us help her prepare meals. It was at her house that I developed a lifelong addiction to toasted whole wheat bread with natural peanut butter, drizzled with honey. It was my introduction to whole wheat bread, peanut butter that needed stirring and so many other foods like alfalfa sprouts, tofu and textured vegetable protein. Taco night at the Haddocks was just about the best thing ever.
Health food became my vice. I could have sugary cereals (my favorite was Apple Jacks), Wonder Bread, Pop Tarts and Tasty Kakes whenever I wanted but I longed for whole wheat bread and soy milk. When I think back to the biggest influencers in my life, the Haddocks are on the top of the list. Mrs. April had her babies naturally, at a birthing center with a midwife. They shopped for food at a local co-op where they were able to purchase grains, beans and granola in bulk. They are vegetarians and they tended a vegetable garden they used to sustain themselves throughout the year. This was almost 40 years ago, long before their lifestyle was mainstream or at least Montclair mainstream.
Mr. Bill and I only had a few minutes to catch up. I was so happy to see someone from home in New Jersey. I’m often reminded that I made the choice to move here, away from my family, so I have to be the one to pack three kids in the car and drive for four hours down the Jersey Turnpike if I want to see my relatives. It was a treat to have someone I haven’t seen for 20 (or more) years, show up at my doorstep. It was more than 30 years ago and I was so young but I never forgot about how much the time and the experiences I had with the Haddocks helped shape who I am and the choices I’ve made for my family today.
Wednesday, October 31st It’s Halloween. It’s the first Halloween I didn’t create a theme for the kids’ costumes. I didn’t create costumes at all. The kids were scheduled to be with their dad this year.
From the time they were born, there has always been a theme…Josie was Sweet Pea and I was Olive Oyl for her first Halloween. The next year we added Keegan to the ensemble. Rena & Chris sent the kids University of Florida gear and we all went as college co-eds. After that, we were cowboys and cowgirls. Once Mac was in the mix, we had enough people to be the whole Scooby Doo gang. Mac was Scooby. The next three years were all Day of the Dead. I got really good at the makeup and the kids played the parts well. When the skeleton faces lost their luster, we went with an Alice in Wonderland theme. This was the year Mac told the person behind every door he knocked on that he was the White Rabbit, “I’m yate!” and “Mommy is holding my big c(l)ock.” We’re still working on getting him to enunciate his l’s.
Last year, I dressed them up as marathoners who had been trampled. I dipped my Hokas in paint to put footprints on their singlets and across their faces.
I knew the number of years I could convince them to dress in collaborative costumes were limited but I’m still sad to see it go. Hopefully next year they will be old enough that it’s socially acceptable to pick characters from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I think Mac could rock a Frank N. Furter get up. It will be a great addition to the elementary school Halloween parade.
In lieu of trick or treating, I got to double my number of jumps today at PT. In addition to the straight up and down jumps and the side to side jumps, I did 30 box jumps for a grand total of 120 ups and downs!
Thursday, November 1st Every Thursday, my PT appointment is with Dr. Mayes. I look forward to our session with healthy amounts of hope and fear. I know he will push me out of my comfort zone in a way that no one else can. It will hurt. I will have a renewed confidence when it is over.
Dr. Mayes lived up to my expectations today. He placed orange cones on opposite ends of the exercise zone in his office, 20-30 feet apart. We stood side by side at one cone. He told me he wanted me to jog to the other cone. He demonstrated the ‘jog.’ I stood paralyzed. I couldn’t hold back tears. Here’s this thing I’ve wanted to do more than anything else and now I’m being told I can, but I can’t. My legs won’t move. My brain can’t compute the instructions.
Finally, I let myself go. That short jog across the office was spectacular. This is what progress feels like. I spent the next five minutes jogging to one cone, back peddling to the start and side stepping in each direction. After the multi-directional drills, Dr. Mayes set the clock for two minutes and let me run around the cones until the timer ran out. I didn’t know what to expect. It wasn’t pain free. My hip ached with each pivot around the turns. No amount of preparation to run can replace the actual body mechanics of running.
My surgeons told me it would take 6-12 months of physical therapy and recovery before I could think about running again. It’s been less than three months since my surgery and I just ran for two minutes straight. Nothing, including the 250 croissants I had to make after PT, or the bottle of Tylenol on my nightstand, could bring me down from this high.
Friday, November 2nd - Brad and I went to the NYC Marathon expo to pick up his bib today. Although he ran the NJ Marathon to pace me, this will be his first time racing his own marathon. Supporting him has been one of my biggest mental challenges throughout my recovery. This was supposed to be my race too. I’m angry, jealous and every other unsavory emotion. On the way home, I realized how bitter I’ve been. I thought about how Brad’s unconditional support is a huge contributing factor in my speedy recovery. I let go of my anger and I told him how proud I am of his marathon debut and how hard he’s trained to get to the starting line.
Four years ago, I met my friend Peter for lunch in the city. He founded the company I used to work for. After he sold it to become a full time philanthropist, donating and delivering fire trucks to his hometown in Zimbabwe, I resigned. When the company lost Peter, it lost its soul.
At this particular lunch meeting, I had completed my first half marathon the day before. I told Peter about my training and my accomplishment and he was in awe. I wasn’t a runner when I worked for him. He asked if I would be running the NYC Marathon in the fall. I told him I never wanted to run a marathon BUT, if given the opportunity, I would run NYC. The lottery was closed for the year; there were no remaining spaces in the race. Peter said he had a friend who could get me in but he wouldn’t make the call unless he knew I would take it seriously. For the next couple months we went back and forth…I was hesitant to train because he might not get me in. He was hesitant to get me in because I might not train. Finally, we both had a little faith and I was registered for the 2014 NYC Marathon.
I ran all my training miles with Anne Arthur and Ryan Trimmer. I didn’t know many people in the Montclair running community. Little by little, Anne introduced me to her friends and my training group grew. I ran three days each week and I went to Architect Studio for strength training two days each week. On my tempo days, when I had to pick up the pace, Anne literally ran circles around me encouraging me every step of the way. When I couldn’t make it through the end of my first 15 mile long run, she let me walk until I felt strong enough to finish running.
Meandering through the expo today brought back memories of all my running milestones leading up to my first marathon. This year, I get to experience a new first when I stand on the sidelines and cheer for everyone as they run by. I thought the stress and logistics of getting to the starting line were difficult until I sat down to figure out how to get in and out of the city to spectate the race. I have a newfound appreciation for everyone who showed up to cheer for me four years ago.
Saturday, November 3rd Since my PT appointment on Thursday, or maybe even the session on Wednesday, I’ve been in a good amount of pain. It’s not unbearable pain but it is unbearable to think that it could be my body having a negative reaction to the jumping and the tiny bit of running I was allowed to do this week. With the exception of standing on my feet for the better part of every day, I haven’t participated in any additional physical activities like riding, swimming or strength training.
I try to dissect the pain to rationalize it. When I first started walking without a cane, I was in more pain than usual and I got through it. This is the same thing, right? It’s not bone pain, it’s definitely muscular so I’m just building newer, stronger muscles, right? But what if it’s not? What if I pulled something or damaged something? What if all the progress I’ve made gets taken away and I have to start back at the beginning? Is it actually new pain or has it always been there and I’m just feeling it for the first time because the nerves are regenerating? What if I can’t run? What if I can’t build miles on top of miles and I’m stuck running 5Ks forever? What if I can’t handle speed workouts again? How can I manage a running store if I can’t be a runner?
This is what keeps me up at night. Every night. At least I know I can bake bread.