“The day I withdrew from a number of races was in every sense a tough one!”

            Andi Eng

 

andi eng | william lutsky family ymca

WEEK 11

It's been a week of even more setbacks. I finally got in to see a sports medicine physician this week. It turns out that my fracture is known in the medical community as a "dreaded black line"; it is located in a load bearing spot at the mid-point of the tibia, a difficult fracture to heal without drastic intervention; frustrating news to receive. I have been directed to have zero impact for at least the next four weeks. Including walking distances no greater than "to or from". In about 4 weeks, if all goes well, I may be allowed to start a "Return to Running" program in May, and I might get back up to 10K distances by the end of June. Devastating news for a long-distance runner with at least one race scheduled every month between now and October. Especially frustrating as the weather improves and I am watching all of the Instagram updates of my friends out running the River Valley trails in single layers!

Now, my focus is healing my leg cross-training to be healthy and ready to run my 17km leg of Sinister7 relay in July. I've been told "no impact", so its spin bike, elliptical, water running in the pool, and strength work in the gym. Increasing my calcium and vitamin D intake, zero-impact training plans, and cutting down on my caffeine, which leeches calcium from your bones, has introduced caffeine withdrawal headaches at about 4pm remaining until I have my next cup in the morning:  Agony!

I am not allowed to do any kind of decline, so my workouts with November Project are what's called "Injury Deck". Instead of running stairs on Wednesdays and hill repeats on Fridays, I am at the bottom of the stairs or hill doing a "Deck" - I have a deck of cards and four no-impact, body-weight exercises - focusing on core and stability with sit-ups, push-ups, leg drops, and squats. Each exercise is assigned to a suit in the deck. The number on the card is the number of reps that you have to do of that exercise, with Aces being 14. When you complete it all, it's 104 reps of each exercise for a total of 416 reps. In r my first deck workout in August 2016 - I would finish one set of reps while it felt like everyone else was already two cards ahead. This week I completed the deck in 28 min!

Wednesday night was the 5Peaks Ambassadors potluck. 5Peaks is almost as big a part of my life as November Project is. It's an easily approachable trail race series for all ages and abilities. I've been introduced to so much more of the River Valley by running with 5Peaks. There is something special about a race that is for everyone - even the last person across the finish line will get a prize and a hug and aid station food. At our meet-up, the other ambassadors rallied around me. Lots of hugs, lots of love, lots of food, and lots of talk about how I can still participate in this season's races. The love and support that I have gotten from my NP tribe and my 5Peaks family has been overwhelming.

All in all, when I look back on the week, it felt like a lot of set backs, but really it's been a week of focusing on the road to healing and the possibilities of the future.

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WEEK 10

I’m feeling that I’m hitting a plateau. I had a lot of progress and momentum in February, before the stress fracture was diagnosed. 

Now that I’ve come to terms with the reality of not being able to run the JAJA marathon, my focus has turned to prepping and planning for the rest of the races this summer. 

I’ve been distracting myself from not being able to run by planning the training for all of the other runs I want to do this year: The 5Peaks series, a few MEC races, Sinister 7 relay - it’s all to build up to my “A race” in the late summer - my birthday race. My birthday falls in the middle of September, which is usually the end of the race season, which means that there are lots of awesome races to choose from. This week I focused planning for my birthday trip. Instead of one race, I’m celebrating the last year of my 30s with a bigger trip. I’ll be doing a bit of a tour of races, volunteering, and camping in Alberta, Montana, Washington, and BC: 84kms of races in 15 days, plus crewing and volunteering at Lost Souls Ultra in Lethbridge, and running the Lakeshore trail in Waterton Lakes/Glacier National Parks. It’s going to be epic. I’m so excited. 

I’m discovering the YMCA cross training kept me from falling behind in my training; I’m still strong, and I have the endurance – but not sure if it made me faster?  Time will tell. 

Two more weeks to solidify my cross training foundation that is only going to make me a better athlete. 

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WEEK 9

This was one heck of a hectic week! Work has really derailed my gym time.  In February, I was in the gym every day. So far in March, I think I’ve made it in once, outside of my regularly scheduled training. 

I finally got some time late in the week to evaluate where if I am prepared for the race season. I’m still waiting to get in to see the sport medicine clinic, regarding my fractured leg, so I’m just maintaining low impact until I get the clear to run. I’ve started planning out some longer training sessions and some brick workouts (back-to-back cardio - usually spin followed by track or track followed by swim coupled with walking.

I know JAJA will likely take me the full time allowed, and I will probably will not finish, but I would rather go out there and give it a shot than try at all.

If all goes well on my recovery, I hope to be able to run some of the shorter distances by the end of April, which will be perfect timing for the first 5Peaks race of the season at Terwillegar. You’d never know it, but there’s probably 15km or more of really great trails in Terwillegar park. Last year for the Terwillegar race, I was recovering from vicious back spasms, and ended up having to walk almost the entire 6.7kms of the 5Peaks Terwillegar – this year I’d like to not only run the full distance but shave 10 minutes off my previous finish time. 

I’m not one to worry about my weight, I’m down about 7 lbs from January, but any weight loss at all will improve my speed and reduce my risk for impact injury. My focus on how I’m fueling my body has definitely helped. I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to maintain eating balanced and nutritional meals. The more I eat this way, the fewer cheat days I seem to have. Doesn’t mean I didn’t dig in and have an entire homemade donair pizza on Saturday (because I did), but days like that are fewer and farther between.

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WEEK 8

I have been struggling with the mental and emotional parts of dealing with an injury. I have been referred to a sports injury clinic, but I am still waiting for my first appointment there. My GP and my physiotherapist have suggested that based on the scans, they guess my leg broke some time in the fall (maybe November?) and that I have been running on it since then. Oops! Note to self: listen to your body! If it hurts, you should probably stop!

When it comes to the specifics of what the next six weeks of rehab will look like, I need to wait and see what comes up on the scans and the recommendations from the experts at the sports medicine clinic. It's been incredibly difficult to start wrapping my head around the reality that I will not be cleared to run in time for the JAJA marathon on April 1, and while I will (hopefully) be clear to run in time for the Blackfoot 50km Ultra at the end of May, I will likely not be clear to run that kind of distance. Depending on my recovery, I may even have to miss running the first 5Peaks race this year. Accepting this reality has been tough, but these are the sacrifices I need to make to ensure I can keep running into the future. I am only 38 years old, I hope to have at least another 3 to 4 decades of running ahead of me. In order for me to stay healthy and run long into the future, I need to make this small sacrifice. 

I completed my February 5k per day challenge, that I was doing with some friends from November Project and 5Peaks before I was told to stop running on Feb 13, and I completed over 100 kms of running. The remainder of the month I did 5km of walking, or the equivalent of 5km in low or no impact training. March 1 was a very welcome rest day!

My plan for the next few weeks will be to focus on cross training and build endurance. There are big goals for later in 2018 and even bigger goals for 2019. Keep my eyes on the prize: Lifelong health and well being. 

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WEEK 7

Heartbreak and devastation. That’s what I’m feeling right now. I finally got in to see my doctor and get the scans done to see exactly what’s going on in my left leg. There’s been a recurring pain there for a few months.

On Thursday, I went for X-rays. I was still laying on the table under the X-ray machine when the tech brought in the radiologist. Right away he told me that there is “clear evidence of a stress fracture. Stop running. Now!” 

I’ve been running on it for months already, what’s a few more weeks? Completely irrational. I joked around with the X-ray tech as I let the information sink in. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I hate breaking hearts.” I held it together while I waited for a CD of the images to take to my physiotherapist. Then I went out to my car and cried. I have just under six weeks to a big race that I really want to run – only are few are selected to participate. First, you have to receive an invitation to apply, then there is an application and selection process, and only a few runners are selected.

The recovery time for stress fractures is six to eight weeks, and even then, running needs to be ramped up, you can’t just go from injury recovery to an ultra Marathon.

Heartbreak. I posted an image of the X-ray on Instagram.  In moments my running family came to my rescue to lift me out of wallowing in my own self-pity. They rallied around me. I had invites to spin, and swim, and strength train, and walk. My calendar is booked with workout buddies; people I know that I am going to need to keep me motivated, keep me accountable, and make sure I’m not doing something that is going to cause further injury.

One of the other Challenge participants reached out to me, “What does this mean for the challenge? Can you continue?” Yes. Giving up isn’t an option. I have a huge year of races booked. A stress fracture isn’t the end of training. It just means rehab and I need to change the way I train. 

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WEEK 6

I feel like I am hitting a wall this week. I have been doing well with my 5km per day challenge, and my friends and I use Facebook to keep each other accountable.

On Monday morning, I met a friend at the Victoria Oval to run our 5km before the Monday morning November Project workout. It was bitter cold and windy. We mapped out a route to the Legislature grounds that would keep us somewhat protected from the wind – it was still a struggle. The struggle continued in the workout - I was not enjoying myself at all. After workout, we took Fortway Hill to get back to our cars at the Oval, and I continued to struggle. During the run a pain in my left shin had returned - this is not the first time I had felt this pain – a trip to physio was in order. I went to my weekly workout and told my trainer about the pain. We opted to adjust my workout to low impact using the handbike, weights, and Pilates. Next week we will do water running and pool work. 

I spent a day and a half panicking that I had a "stress fracture". The fear of having my training derailed was eating me up, considering all the running I have planned this year. The Physiotherapist took a good look at my leg and suggested inflammation of the muscle, where it attaches to the Tibia, may be the source of pain. He taped up my leg and approved me for low impact and no impact workouts.

My friends in the 5km challenge have agreed that walking 5kms, or at least 40 min on a spin bike, on the elliptical, or water running will count for my 5km a day. Why 40 min? Because that's how long it takes me to drag my slow behind for 5kms when I run! LOL. I am not a speedy runner. 

At least 40 minutes every day this week in the gym, and it's been rough!  I struggle with the monotony of working out indoors. I've been trying to keep my workouts interesting by integrating intervals. Hopefully I can get back on the road to recovery quickly. 

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WEEK 5

February is always the hardest month.

February in Northern Alberta, it's been cold, dark, and snowy since November; We don't even have a groundhog here because we know that there's what feels like six million weeks before things start thawing out; The cold is relentless. So is the dark, and the layers, fleece lined tights, under oversized tights, under loose pants. Multiple pairs of socks means that your winter shoes bag out quickly. Nutrition is frustrating as well. You need more fuel, but everything freezes when you're out running.

February is the worst. You've already dealt with this for three whole months, and you know there will be anywhere from 6-12 more weeks of some variation of battling the cold and dark. It becomes demoralizing and demotivating. That's why it's so important to find a community to keep you accountable. When you have a community around you, it makes all of that stuff easier. I found my community in July 2016 when I showed up at November Project for the first time.

I had been training on my own for months in preparation for the day when I would finally have the courage to show up. Once the workout started on my first day I noticed that I was surrounded by a whole tribe of people of various ages and abilities that simply accept the people around them for who they are. Since then, I have missed only a handful of workouts. Even when I am in another city, I look up the NP Tribe there and workout with them. And just like my tribe here in Edmonton, they accept me as a part of the family with the same sweaty hugs and high fives. I have found my tribe, I love them hard, and they love me in return.

One of the things that I have realized about the Y is that there is a great community here too! Everyone has been very welcoming. I think a big fear for a lot of people when they start a health journey is judgement. That fear of being out of your element, in a place where everyone else seems to know what they are doing and they're going to laugh at you. I have the same fear. Here's the thing, that kind of judgement and behaviour is a myth. I have yet to have that kind of discomfort at the Y. I feel the same sense of community here as I do at November Project or 5Peaks.

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WEEK 4

At my first meeting with my personal trainer, she described me as “most definitely an athlete”. That didn’t make sense to me. I’m not an athlete. I don’t have an athlete’s body, I don’t eat like an athlete, and I don’t focus my training like an athlete. I put up an Instagram post about it (and possibly questioning my trainer’s sanity at the same time, ha-ha!), and a handful of friends commented that I was an athlete. Are you sure? 

At NP Stairs that week, one of our co-leaders passed me as she ripped up the stairs. “Good job, Andi the Athlete! Keep pushing!” I laughed back at her “But I’m not an athlete!”

“Yes, you are! We just need to change the way we define athletes. You are an athlete!” 

The dictionary says that an athlete is “a person trained or gifted in exercises or contests involving physical agility, stamina, or strength; a participant in a sport, exercise, or game requiring physical skill.” A participant. Someone trained the physical aspects of sport. That’s a WAY more broad definition than the schema in my mind. 

There’s a body-positivity statement about how to get a beach body. You have a body and you go to the beach. Easy, right? Of course it is! So what if I start thinking I have a runner’s body by having a body and running? And if that’s the case, then really being an athlete is more about having a body and being athletic. You don’t have to be good at whatever you’re doing, but you have to have the mindset to go out and do it. 

An athlete is trained and is a participant in physical activity. So apparently I am an athlete. Which is such a spiritually reaffirming realization. I can do this! I can train and become more accomplished than I am now.  Mind blown!

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WEEK 3

This week did not start well! I jumped off of a bosu ball the wrong way during our group workout on Friday morning and rolled my ankle. It definitely slowed me down! After a visit to my physiotherapist to get it checked and taped, I had to make some abrupt plans to my weekend training plans. I’m running the Hypothermic Half Marathon on Feb 4, so I had a 15 km training day planned for Saturday. I ended up only running 4km of it as part of Relay YEG. More details on the new website runyeg.com

Finally got the all clear from my physiotherapist to “take is easy.” So I took the time to get a body composition analysis done – an eye opener! I now have a very specific focus for my nutrition goals. 

The highlight of my week was an invitation to participate in the JAJA marathon on April 1. The JAJA happens in Ponoka, and is inspired by the Barkley Marathons (check out “The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats Its Young” documentary on Netflix; you will not regret it). I’m very excited, honoured, and extremely nervous to run it. As a slow runner, it’s going to be a huge challenge to increase my speed, in the next two months, to remain within the time limit on this one! The timing for JAJA lines up perfectly with this challenge, so it looks like my training focus is dialled in now too!

It’s going to be an exciting couple of months ahead to get ready! 

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WEEK 2

A little bit of history…

I did WeightWatchers in 2003. It worked wonderfully and the weight melted off. I changed my lifestyle and eating habits for the long term.

At the time, I was 210 lbs and a size 22. I lost about 55 pounds and was down to a size 12. Over the years my body seems to have settled in at a size 14.

There were three things that I took away from my 2003 WeightWatchers experience: I changed my relationship with food – I came to the realization that food is fuel, and the quality of fuel you use makes a difference.

Feeling good in my body, physically and emotionally, trumps everything and so I don’t have a goal weight, I have a goal size – It’s NOT about the scale.

I have followed these guidelines for the last 15 years. My WeightWatchers experience was transformational for me, so I was excited to see what WeightWatchers could do for me this time during my journey in the YMCA Challenge.

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WEEK 1

For me, this challenge is the beginning of a new chapter in a fitness/health journey I have been on for the last couple of years.

Two years ago, I had high blood pressure and struggling with depression. I felt groggy, flabby, and very unhealthy. A 2 km "walk 2 min-run 1min" run was difficult - my lungs would burn, my legs would hurt.

Today, I run and workout almost daily but despite my activity, and obvious health improvements, I am not seeing the physical changes I would like to see in my body. I need to focus on diet and nutrition over the next 12 weeks... because I love food. LOVE it. A LOT! I run so I can eat - which is probably the worst reason to run.

I‘ve been tracking my nutrition on my own for about a month now and started making more balanced choices. I am excited to see how WeightWatchers might enhance or even challenge me. I have set up my WeightWatchers account and started tracking, but it's been a busy week, and I missed my first meeting.

I don't have a "goal weight".  I have never owned a scale, and I have always measured my health/fitness by how my clothes fit and how I feel physically and emotionally but I have to make an appointment to get a body composition analysis to determine a realistic weight goal. I'm off to Jasper for the weekend to snowshoe some mountain trails with Blitz Conditioning - pics to come!

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ABOUT ME

Hi!  My name is Andi Eng.  I am in my late-30s. I am single, and I have successfully given birth to one graduate thesis.  I am a pet-parent to one Adventure Cat, and I am also a “mama bear” for 16 employees on my team at Shaw Communications.  I am a manager, an academic, and a runner.  I grew up on the BC coast, where it seems like just about everyone leads a healthy and active lifestyle.  I did too.  But when I moved to Edmonton in late 2007 for grad school at the U of A, my healthy and active lifestyle took a backseat to my graduate studies and working full time to pay for school.

Almost two years ago I started making changes in my life for the positive.  I was in a dysfunctional relationship that was coming to an end.  The more things devolved in that relationship, the more actions I took to focus on me.  I started building friendships; I started “showing up” to November Project.  Through my connections at November Project, I’ve returned to running very regularly, both alone and with several different groups.  I have even been chosen as an ambassador for the 5 Peaks Trail Running series for 2018.  I’m currently logging anywhere from 20-30kms a week, and I would love to ramp up both my speed and my distances.  For 2018, I have some ambitious goals, including not one, but two 50km ultra-marathons!

I am sure that from the above description, you picture someone tall, and slim, and very fit looking.  I am the exact opposite of all of those things!  Due to a rare autoimmune disorder during my teen years, I am an overweight (even obese) adult.  I am currently 5’0” (165cm) tall, 205lbs (92kg), and a size 14.  I am not a fast runner, in fact, I am probably one of the slowest I know.  I have had struggles with clinical depression since my late teens.  Due to my family medical history, I’ve been able to work with a family physician and psychologist to opt for holistic treatment of depression through exercise and diet, leaving chemical/pharmaceutical intervention as a last resort (that I haven’t had to turn to, yet). 

I want to participate in this challenge to prove that living a healthy lifestyle is not just about being slim or losing weight/size.  You don’t need to be the fittest, or the fastest, or the strongest, or the “-est” of any kind to find personal fitness and health success, and skinny doesn’t always equal healthy.  It’s about finding your own balance, and your own physical and mental strength.

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