Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

-Catching Up – Part II-


So, roughly two weeks ago I wrote a post called “Catching Up!” where I gave a brief overview of what has been going on in my life for the past couple of months.

In a nutshell, I threw my back out in March while helping friends clean their pool in preparation for pressure washing and repainting it. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday. I had done a swim workout after training clients that morning. I came over to help my friends that afternoon. I walked down to the bottom of the empty pool with the mission of scooping sludge. I bent over and scooped, and my back caught. I immediately knew something was very wrong. I mean, it’s happened before. So, there I was, stooped-over like a 90-year old woman, in pain but not trying to show it. It was obvious, though, because of my posture and inability to move properly. My friends immediately told me I wasn’t allowed to do anything to help, and I of course protested.

Long story short, within a week or so of giving it a break, my back was better and I was back on track with workouts in preparation for the Oxbow Triathlon (early April). My low back wasn’t an issue at all with the race, and I ended up doing very well, placing 12th overall in the open women’s division. I believe my pace for the 5k was something like 7:45 min/mi. I basically sprinted the final 100 yards of it just so I could pass up this chick who I had passed on the bike, and who later ended up passing me prior to T2. Boo-ya! 🙂

12th overall in women's open!

Roughly a week and a half after the race, a few of my good friends and I went to Vegas for a long weekend. Needless to say, sitting on a plane for a few hours wasn’t the best thing for my low back. No worries, though, because we had a blast! The ride home, however, was another story. I ended up falling asleep for who knows how long with my left foot propped up on the armrest of the seat in front of me. Not good at all, considering my low back issue is on the left side, and my left hip “loves” to be higher than my right. I woke up and it felt jacked-up. Grrrrrr! Got home and it was so-so for the time being. Towards the end of April, I went to Florida with my friends for an amazing long weekend at a beach house. Lots of rest and fun, and my back didn’t seem to be too much of a problem, although going all-out on the Waverunner probably wasn’t the best idea!

The Grand Canyon helicopter tour was AWESOME!

Flash forward to May 2, 2011. Actually, May 3, 2011. 6 AM. I get a phone call from my mom. I knew something was wrong. I knew what it was. My beloved Nanie had passed away at the age of almost-94 on May 2, 2011. She must have known she was going somewhere, because she tried to put on her slippers, got her “Cadillac” (aka her walker), left her room at the assisted living center, walked outside, and passed away just before getting to the street. A few of my relatives say she was trying to get across the street to go to my aunt and uncle’s house. A few say she was going to meet God. All I know is that she is at peace now, and she wasn’t in pain when she passed. I miss her dearly and think about her every day. Needless to say, I was under a great deal of emotional stress, which really does a number on my low back. This was a Tuesday. I was leaving that Thursday to fly to Salt Lake City for my brother’s college graduation and birthday. At the time, I had no idea what to do because no one knew when the funeral was going to be held. Fortunately, it was arranged so that Nanie could be put to rest on May 10, 2011.

I basically flew to Utah for a long weekend and then turned around and flew to Texas the next week. My back was NOT happy at all. In addition to the flying and emotional stress, I got sick and spent an entire night awake in bed coughing, which further upset my low back. I also wore heels several times over the birthday/graduation weekend (in addition to the funeral). Sarah was not a happy camper.

My back was killing me, but I was SO proud of my one and only brother, Drew!

I think what really put the icing on the cake was when I slipped coming down the stairs at my brother’s house while carrying my suitcase. I didn’t fall, but I caught myself by planting my left foot down, which severely jarred my back. The result? Yet another round of stabbing pain…just before having to sit on a plane for a few hours. Vodka and soda, here I come! I had two drinks just to alleviate some of µy discomfort. Didn’t really help. We got in around 10:00 that night and I was a complete grouch because I was in so much pain. We put Nanie to rest the next day. She will always be one of the few people I have always looked up to in my life.

Rest in peace, Nanie. ❤

The tables turned the following morning when I woke up with sciatica. Never in my life have I had this issue. It was as if I had fallen asleep with stabbing pains in my lumbar spine (and a psoas that was as tight as a guitar string), and woke up with a left leg that hurt all the way down to my big toe. I couldn’t even walk properly, and standing on it was torture. In typical Sarah fashion, I did my best to downplay the pain I was experiencing because I was with family…and, well, I’m not a whiner. Also, I have a very high pain tolerance! I was basically in pain for the entire month of May.

When I got home, I immediately got a massage, and I called to make an appointment with an orthopedic physician who came highly recommended. It was evident that something major was going on, because my gait was severely affected. I now knew what “foot drop” was. It was so obvious, in fact, that one of my friends made fun of me (lovingly, of course) and refused to walk next to me in the grocery store. It was a “step, SLAP, step, SLAP” pattern, and we both got a laugh out of it. Everyone noticed, in fact. It was hard to disguise my new manner walking! Prior to Memorial Day weekend I went to get an MRI. The results came back – herniated disc with a fragment that was pressing on the sciatic nerve. The doctor sent orders for physical therapy.

Having a break from your "regular" workouts means lots more spare time...which means "don't mess with Sarah!"

Flash forward to today – July 21, 2011. I haven’t worked out since a meager attempt at jogging which I made just prior to my initial doctor’s visit around May 17. I obviously knew something was very wrong, but I had to go give running a try just to prove to myself that I was injured. It was terrible. I believe I ran three miles and my pace was a minute slower than my average “easy” pace for that distance. I ran three miles at a 9:30 min/mi pace and I almost tripped towards the end. My left knee locked up and as if the entire run hadn’t been enough proof, I knew something was very, very wrong. The entire run, I felt awkward and completely out of my element. This was a first for me. Never in my life had I felt so self-aware while running. It was as if my body didn’t know how to run. Completely odd. I felt like everyone was watching me. I felt “gimped-up” and not like myself. Not fun at all. End of workouts for me.

So, here I am, after a month’s worth of twice-weekly physical therapy visits, on the mend. My left leg has noticeable weakness and my range of motion is still affected. My left ankle DOES NOT want to dorsiflex! SO frustrating! I have gotten stronger, though, and my core has improved tremendously. I am hoping to be better than “normal” by the end of my experience with physical therapy! I haven’t gone for a swim, bike, or run in so long. I do miss training! PT is not easy, though! I have been sore all week and today was exhausting! Quite a humbling experience.

So, in a nutshell…my life for the past couple of months has opened yet another door for me…another door to personal growth. Having had one of my major outlets taken out of the picture, exercise, I have been forced to tackle a few issues from my past that I was previously unable to face. I am a survivor! Instead of dealing with anxiety by going for a long run, I am dealing with the root causes of it. It’s an amazing feeling being able to RELAX. I know it sounds silly, but it’s true. Never in my life have I been able to just lay on the couch and watch TV until now. Life has slowed down a bit, and it’s been a rough couple of months, but it’s all been worth it. As I have always said, everything I go through in my life, good or bad, is there to help me grow. I don’t have to see it that way, but I CHOOSE to. Lots of people shy away from struggles and choose the “easy” road. I, on the other hand, would rather face things and improve myself. Facing the pain of the past isn’t easy, but it is making me a better person for the here and now…and the future!

To be continued…

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