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The Sweetest Bad News

I had my appointment with the orthopedist at Emory today.   And in Swim Bike Mom style, it was a bit of an ordeal. [Mostly of my own making.]


The return of the pants…

First, after I wrote my earlier post today, I managed to read more past race reports from Couer d’Alene. (Big mistake).  And then I got freaked out by many emails from friends who were freaking me out about the freaking hills on the freaking bike course.  So pretty much after my panic attacks, I left to see Dr. Miracle Man Hands (to work on my other issue—neck—-which I never mention because it is tolerable)… and the whole drive to see him, I cried.

Oh my gosh. Ironman. What am I thinking?  This is insane. I’m not doing this. That’s even IF I can do this after the other shoe drops this afternoon after my OTHER appointment…. and all the time I am taking off from work. Holy cow… I’m going to be unemployed…

Then after I left Dr. MMH, I proceeded to cry myself right to a restaurant where I sat at the bar (had water to drink) alone (where I literally ignored a woman who kept trying to chat with me) and ate a salad (really) and then subsequently, had an in-restaurant coughing fit (that was karma talking for me not being nice to the chatty Cathy next to me…) due to this stupid headcold I’ve been fighting.

So I left the restaurant and cried all the way to Emory Spine and Orthopaedic center. I had an appointment with a Dr. Fletcher.


Yes. I literally document everything.

Ironman. Boo freaking hooooooo.

So I’m crying my way up the elevator (Why oh Ironman, oh WHY!??!).. and as I am standing at the desk to check-in, I see a father and his son…. about my son’s age.  The boy is about five years old… and I am no doctor, but he had a lot of things going on. A wheelchair. Oxygen.  Braces. And his sweet little face.  And I see them, and I literally burst into tears… audible tears.

I ran to the bathroom where I proceeded to have another coughing fit (stupid ass pollen!).

So in the bathroom, I am weeping and feeling stupid for even thinking about Ironman, when I have healthy kids and a loud mouth and giant cheap sunglasses I love.  And a bike.  And a job. Get yourself together!!!

I do. (Sort of), and I sit down with a guy to check-in.

Apparently, Dr. Fletcher “doesn’t normally see patients OVER the age of 18.”

“Excuse me,”  I say.

“You are not eighteen,” the guy says, smiling.  “No offense.”

“None taken.”

I am thinking, I waited three weeks to get in to see someone, and I’m about to be age-discriminated against. The HORROR!  But they let me in. Whew.  

Then I am escorted into the room and given the fabulous blue paper pants to put on.  I have been in these pants before. Well, not these pants.

Because Dr. Fletcher sees kids.

So I had kid sized blue pants.   Paper Spandex, if you will.  (Where is my bike? I could cycle in these babies!)


But turns out that while Dr. Fletcher does see kids mostly… he is also a hip specialist.  [A-maz-ing how these things work. And Dr. Miracle Man Hands had referred me. Miracle. See? ]

So.  I’m in my little blue pants. (Literally).  With my crying eyes, and I’m sent off to x-ray again.  The MRI is reviewed. Apparently, my MRI was crappy quality, so Dr. Fletcher couldn’t see much… but he could see enough. 

A few things about the young, handsome doctor.  He had excellent patient “bedside” manner.   He and his intern were just amazing.  (Intern? Doctor? P.A.? Ugh…I am sorry if I got the title wrong… I’m useless with directions and titles.)  Dr. Fletcher drew diagrams. He explained everything. He used to run marathons. He now runs and ellipticals.  He talked and I listened and asked questions and asked if shiny new Newtons would solve my problem (they would not. Poo.).

And the diagnosis was bitter… and yet, so very sweet…

I have retroversion of the hips.  What?

A type of hip dysplasia.  What? 

Well.  Basically, it’s not you, it’s me.  [Dear Triathlon, it’s not you.  It’s me.]


My hips are screwy.  Like a Scarlett Letter. Retroversion.  [And we all know the hips don’t lie.]

So as I listen to the good Dr. Fletcher, it all makes sense to me.  My limited range of motion in certain directions.  My horrific running form, no matter how many 100ups I do…. The pain off and on since I have been running.  The way it jumps from hip to hip like Rotavirus.

He showed me why my anatomy hates running. He explained why it hurts to run. Where most people have a certain range of motion… I have about 50% of it, which impinges my running ability and my form… and hence, it usually hurts. 

The good news… he couldn’t see a labral tear. But then he said, “Even if you do have a torn or partially torn labrum, it wouldn’t change anything.”

I braced for it. I waited for it. I waited for the news… you can’t race. I held my breath, for a minute.

“You have 8 weeks until Ironman, right?”

“Yes,” I said.

“This boils down to how bad do you want it.”

My eyes lit up.

I said, “Want it? As in the race? You mean I can do it?”

He said, “Definitely. If you can take it, you can do it. You will do absolutely no permanent damage.  The edema I am seeing is on the other side of the impingement—so the stress fracture risk is not there.  The labrum, I can’t see damaged. And again, if I could… it wouldn’t change anything right now… you know your limits.  If it hurts, stop.  If you can go–then go. After the race, we can discuss options, but I really think that you can function in perpetuity with cross-training and limiting the running as you see fit.”

I wanted to hug him.  But instead, I asked if I could have a lollipop and a sticker. (Because I know the kid docs well).

Now.  I have 8 weeks.  I can introduce some running back into the schedule.  But Coach M and I are going to be ultra conservative… maybe topping out at 5, 6 or 8 miles…after I build back up.   Maybe.  If it hurts, I stop.

I want to be able to RUN on race day.


…because this is my body structure at issue, this makes this Ironman that much more important and vital to me.  Because this kind of running… well, it’s never going to really work for me. Absent major surgery (e.g., massive bone reconstruction and breakage…), running will always be a struggle.  I can run. But I may have periods (like the last three weeks), where I won’t be able to…


This is it.  My big race. My big shot at a marathon—and Ironman—all in one.  I made it this far in the training without blaming my Scarlett Hip.  So I have a base that I may never have again.  Mentally and physically…Better make it count.  Every day, every training session, every bite of food into my mouth.

I am going to make it count. That is all.

[Love and hugs and thanks to all of you for your emails today… Sorry for the long post. But thanks for listening….I couldn’t do it without you! And seriously, thanks to Dr. Miracle Man Hands and Dr. Nicholas Fletcher.  Two of Atlanta’s finest. For sure.]


  • Jennifer

    April 26, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Dr. Fletcher did my son’s surgery when he broke his leg stealing third base a couple of years ago. He really is a fantastic doctor/surgeon despite the fact that he looks like he is young enough to be my kid! 😉

    I’m glad you got some good news, at least for this Ironman! It sounds like you have a great team on your side, and we are all praying for your success!

  • Allyson

    April 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    I am glad you can have your race moment in the sun, you deserve it. After the race, rest, recover, reflect and see what comes next. Good luck for the next few weeks.

  • Erinn

    April 26, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Wow, what a big day! Take a breath, take a breath…

    FWIW (not much, probably ;)), I did my first Ironman with a majorly screwed-up back… The adrenalin (and probably the swim and bike) help a LOT.

    I hope you are feeling a lot better SOON! Have you thought about pool running? A friend of mine did the MAJORITY of his IM run training in a pool due to a leg fracture!

    Good luck!!

  • tara

    April 26, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    i literally cried for you b/c i am thrilled that you can race and am thrilled that you too (the young boy in the wheelchair) are often hit upside the head with reality checks

  • Nikki Craig

    April 26, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Thank goodness you can still race! Don’t let people freak you out about the CDA hills. I’m a terrible cyclist, with a bike built for flats and it went fine for me at CDA last year (it was my first IM as well.) Email me if you have any questions or need more personal reassurance about it. Good luck!!

  • Carrie Giordano

    April 26, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    I am crying as I’m reading with joy and sorrow in my heart. I just started following but your spirit is undeniable. Not to mention your wit an humor. The Boston tragedy solidified my Decision to Tri. I’m so thankful for it, you, your book, blog and inspiration. But please PLEASE dont make it seem as if this will be the ONLY race! The ONLY Ironman! No way! I won’t believe it! You’ve come to far. You’ve worked too hard. You can do anything. I believe that. Your body will do what you tell it to do. You’re in control. You can do it. We can help. And we love you 🙂

  • Audra

    April 26, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    You are 8 weeks away from one of the most amazing experiences of your life!! If your goal is to finish the Ironman and only care that it is under the 17 hour limit, you will do it!! Have a great swim and a great bike! Once you do that, you will have plenty of time to even just WALK the marathon! So what if you don’t run it all, or even part of it? If you get to the finish line, who cares how you get there as long as you get there. My only advice, is to always move forward. Just don’t stop no matter what, even if it is just baby steps. Remind yourself why you are doing it. Think about all the bragging rights you will have. People will then see all your Ironman/mdot gear and or tattoo and noone is going to ask if you ran the whole marathon. So don’t worry about it! Keep yourself injury free for the next 8 weeks and you will be an Ironman before you know it! I did my first 2 years ago and it is right up there with getting married and having my children. It is the most amazing thing you will do!! Be proud of yourself and all that you have done to get you to this point! I remember stopping a mile from the finish and walked a few minutes. I had replayed my finish in my head for over a year and it was to walk at the very end to think about the whole year of training and to go over all that I have done and to prepare myself for what I was about to feel. Pure joy!! and you will experience that!! Also, start thinking about your finisher photo!! Remember, run/walk thru alone. If someone is right in front of you, let them go (unless you have seconds to the 17 hour mark) this way you have a really nice finisher photo without a strange person in your pic. 🙂
    enjoy the rest of your training! its worth every second! 🙂

  • Nicole @ One Running Mama

    April 26, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    I read your blog regularly, but I’m not sure I’ve commented before. But THIS post…. Not to say any of your others have been less touching or less inspirational or less AWESOME. But this one…

    I’m so, so, so happy for you. Relief, excitement, wonder, anticipation… ALL OF IT! YAY!!!!!!!

    Get it, girl. I know you will.

  • oldmotherrunner

    April 27, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I have been following for several months now and literally just heard my breathe escape when I read this diagnosis – whew!! I don’t know if it is my permanent Mom hormones or what but I am SO incredibly proud of you and all you have accomplished. You will finish this Ironman and continue your quest for health and fitness. Thank you for continuing to inspire us Moms of all ages.

  • Melody

    April 29, 2013 at 9:16 am

    OH my gosh!!!! and I have been freaking over a little sprint. I am going to be PRAYING for you on race day!!!! You got this girl!! Just Keep Moving!!!


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