Triathlon Weekend

June 29, 2010

I awoke after a restless night two days before the race with excruciating right shoulder pain. Even though my husband questioned the accuracy of my self-performed shoulder exam, I felt confident that I did not have a rotator cuff tear and that I did have impingement syndrome as evidenced by my positive Hawkin’s and Neer’s signs.

You may remember my previous posts about deciding to join my husband’s relay team in a local half-Iron Man Triathlon. Well, the event was this past weekend. A word of advice to those of you trying to get in shape for a swim race: Do not combine a yoga class with your swimming workout four days before the race. Especially if you have tight chest wall muscles from being hunched over your computer.

This trio of events led to my first experience with shoulder impingent. I awoke after a restless night two days before the race with excruciating right shoulder pain. Even though my husband questioned the accuracy of my self-performed shoulder exam, I felt confident that I did not have a rotator cuff tear and that I did have impingement syndrome as evidenced by my positive Hawkin’s and Neer’s signs.

I hastily sent off an e-mail to one of my friends doing his sports medicine rotation. He reassured me that I could still do the swim without being likely to suffer further damage and further advised lots of ice and ibuprofen. It’s hard to ice your shoulder while doing a vasectomy, entering your notes into the electronic health record, or answering telephone messages.

As the day wore on, I became increasingly convinced that I was going to need to find a sub to do the swim segment of the triathlon relay. Bummer. Okay, truthfully, my initial thought was “woo-hoo, I don’t have to do this crazy thing,” but then I quickly felt the anticlimatic pull of training for months for nothing.

I decided to go for my practice swim as I planned just to see if there was any way that I could still swim with my shoulder. Although it was uncomfortable, I think the wet suit acted like a brace and I was able to swim – both freestyle and my rest stroke (breaststroke). I swam around the lake and the course a bit and began to feel a little more confident. I took more ibuprofen and settled in with an ice-pack after the kids went to bed that night.

The day before the race, I registered a very slight improvement in my shoulder pain and went through my work day with an ice pack against my shoulder for as much of the day as possible. The morning of the race, I awoke with even less pain and felt ready to get this done. The day started warm and bright. As I drove to the race, the butterflies started. It’s one thing to swim leisurely by yourself and another thing to be in a mass of humanity all trying to go in the same direction.

But - and here I surprise even myself - I did okay. I finished the race in about the time I expected (although with more rests at buoys and kayaks than I had planned). I wasn’t able to run up the hill to hand off the ankle bracelet to my teammate so he could start his bike ride, but I didn’t have to be carried up the hill either. I may actually even do it again sometime.