Rowing snaps to a halt

The Head of the Giblet was one of my last days rowing. I just didn’t know it yet.

Right after Giblet, I followed in the footsteps of many Americans and hit the road to visit my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. By Monday afternoon, my two-year-old niece was tugging me around my Mom’s jacuzzi saying “wawa.” Tuesday the skies dumped bucket after bucket on us for my Grandmother’s surprise 90th birthday party. I texted an old rowing pal who lived in the area about possibly rowing later in the week. The next day I knocked out three desserts in three hours before family photo day. On turkey day I trotted out my awesome turkey plaque to a horrified or impressed (depending on the person) audience of 20+ people between eating and stuff like that. But Thanksgiving was the day things started to go downhill. By that afternoon, a tickle in the back of my throat was the first warning I’d been targeted as the next victim of this family present.

Everything hurts, and it’s not from rowing

Before we left, I’d heard Mom coughing and complaining about how her back hurt. As soon as I hung up, I’d warned the husband Mom was sick. We started downing Emergen-C.

On that rainy Tuesday, my brother woke up with the sniffles but gamely attended the party. By the next day, he was down and out, with a monstrous headache. The rest of us played babysitter and reminded our niece, yelling, “Daddy,” that, “ssh, Daddy’s sleeping.” (“WAKE UP DADDY!”) He groggily emerged briefly Thursday to say hello before trundling back to bed and sleeping through the horde in the house. It’s that day that I felt the cough coming on and knew I was in for it.

By the next day, the flu squeezed me in an its achy tendrils. I curled up as far away from everyone as possible, tucked under a sleeping bag trying to stay warm. The husband began coughing that night, the flu’s next victim.

The rest of the weekend we ignored the piles of luggage strewn around the house, curled up on the sofa, alternating between hot flashes and chills. Rowing was out of the question, not when my knees throbbed and my back protested attempts at sitting up.

I started to emerge from the flu-induced stupor around Monday. The aches and pains were gone, my mini-menopausal state over, all that lingered was a sore throat and voice. For practice, I stayed on shore and let someone else herd the middle schoolers on water.

Starts looking up

A little peeved that my endurance would be shot, partially from lack of working out, partially from flu recovery, I forced myself to erg Tuesday. Part of my brain hoped it would help knock some of the junk from my chest. The session proceeded a little like this: Pick drill warm up to 1000k, coughing fit. 750m, Dad calls. Another 500m, cough. Row 1000k, really thirsty. Cough. Convince myself to keep going. 250m, cough. At 4500 meters, I gave up.

I thought I’d join Night Crew for a Wednesday morning row. Instead, I spent a sleepless night banished to the sofa, coughing despite taking cough medicine. At 5 a.m., I bailed. The day passed in a sleepless haze, full of coughing and moments staring into space. I forced myself to join my Wednesday group erging in the Holiday Challenge, rowing 750m with 1 minute off. That minute grew into 2…then 3…but I racked 4500m.

Wednesday night was a rerun of Tuesday, banished on the sofa, coughing endlessly.

The erging effort repeated on Thursday, with more spacious breaks. That evening, the significant other asked about my Friday plans.

“I’m going rowing.”

“You’re what? Seriously?”

“Yeah, I gotta get back into it sometime.”

The morning was one of those rare perfect rowing days. Crystal clear, flat water, no wind, little current, a rosy sunrise, and a fly-by dozens of water birds. Night Crew took off, I paddled about 3k down, turned, paddled back, with a nice, big, coughing fit at 4.5k. I focused on patient catching and accelerating through the drive, but not at full pressure. I wished I’d been well enough to even have wanted to take off rowing and make use of the morning.

Warning Signs

Saturday is the first day I remember my right side hurting. I rolled out of bed with the ache but passed it off as sore from my week of hacking up a lung.

I committed to rowing Sunday. That morning was the first day in two weeks I woke up feeling like myself again. Definitely not 100%, but the cloudiness was gone, I was perky and ready to go. The cough still lingered. Everyone was so hopeful about rowing a quad, that I said fine. I’d just bow out if I needed to.

The moment I sat down, the oars in my hands, I knew it was going to a long, painful row. I just thought I’d suck it up. But every stroke hurt. I apologized for my rough rowing–I couldn’t swing forward at all, and very little backwards. Stroke called for different powers; half-pressure was a knife stabbing in my side. I didn’t want to seem like a sissy; I was trying to tough it out. When the front of the boat asked how I was doing, I said ok, just ribs hurt. Apparently I was being rather quiet. Breathing wasn’t an issue; I couldn’t apply enough power to get my heart rate up to need to breathe hard.

Of course it hurt the remainder of the day. I opted to skip Monday rowing and give my sore ribs a day of rest. That day, they didn’t feel any better, which concerned me, but I remained hopeful they’d chill out by Wednesday and I could pick back up rowing.

The Hammer Cracks

Tuesday morning, I prepared to take my dog for a walk. In one hand, I was talking to Alan on the phone, complaining my ribs still ached, in the other hand the leash. The tickle in my throat forced me to cough–and I froze mid-sentence, squeezing my eyes shut, gasping for air. “Hey–you there–hey!” Tears welled up in my eyes. “Use your words!”

I couldn’t; I was trying to take deep breaths. My entire core was seized up in a pain-wracking spasms as I leaned against the doorway.

No more. I called the doctor, who had an opening in half an hour. By 10, the good ol’ doc was pressing on my side ribs, causing more sharp gasps and groans.

“I’m so sorry,” She said. “It’s at very least sprained. We’ll get x-rays, too. I’ll write you a prescription for pain medication. You’re out at least three weeks. But don’t worry–you’re the second person I’ve seen in the last month having sprained ribs from the flu. The other girl was an avid runner.”

Three weeks of nothing. I texted my crew, sad face and all, in the waiting room for the x-ray. On the way home, I picked up my pain meds, and tried to resign myself to three weeks. Early January. Still time to recover for sprint season.

Wednesday, 10 a.m. The medicated stupor was making editing a challenge. Phone rings with a Sarasota number. It’s the doctor’s office with my x-ray results.

“I’m sorry. You do have a fracture. It’s rib #9.”

She rattles on more information while I sit numb, processing. Something finally clicks and I grab a pen, take notes and repeating what she’s said about the injury. Heat and ice as needed. No heavy lifting, no rowing, at least 6-8 weeks.

First I’m stunned. I fractured a rib *coughing* from the flu. All the crazy stuff I’ve done in the last 365 days–the 24000 meter row, all the racing, the pulled muscles, the hit markers, the duathlon–and I fracture a rib from the flu.

The second thought–no running, no rowing, any weight training must be zero-core, I don’t have a bike–now what do I do?

Third–there goes my sprint season.

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About camckenna

I teach; I write; I row.
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