Rhabdo Row. There’s a story behind this nickname of mine, and I know that you’re dying to hear it. It’s not that exciting though, really.
It’s been a rough year for me. I truly expected 2013 to be a great year for me. It was supposed to be a great year for me! Actually, it’s a been a good year, just not the best year for me athletically. Well, it didn’t start off the best year for me athletically. It’s getting better, but I’ll get to that.
Where do I begin?
At the beginning of the year, I switched CrossFit boxes. Not because I didn’t love the box that I was training at, or because I didn’t love my trainer. It was an issue of finances that started this domino effect. At the beginning of the year, I reinjured my shoulder – first rib, really, but aggravated it none the less. It had been healing, however, because one of my new trainers was not familiar with me, despite my explanations of being unable to perform certain lifts even if it was lighter weight, I aggravated my right first rib.
When it came time for the CrossFit Open, I once again changed boxes. This time, it was to a new box. It was literally a brand new box – fresh, clean. I changed boxes because I needed to belong to an CrossFit Affiliate in order to perform in the Open, and I just needed a change from the current box I had been training at. I loved this new box, it was fun, as was its energy. I enjoyed training there. I was doing well during the open until the 13.4 WOD – clean and jerks, and toe to bars. I knew that the weight of the clean and jerks was heavy. I hadn’t lifted that much ever, however, at the urging of my trainer who basically told me, “You’re doubting yourself before you even touch the bar,” I would do it. And I did … I was okay until the second round. I had cleaned the weight and was set up to jerk it, however something was not right … It felt almost as if the weight had come off my bar and hit me in the left knee. I had no pain, my left knee just caved and brought me immediately to the ground and I was unable to stand. I’m not exactly sure how I made it home. I was lucky that I happened to have a knee sleeve in my bag that someone gave me. It provided enough support for me to drive my stick shift Mini Cooper home.
And so it began … my knee injury took me out for a good 4 months. I injured it at the end of March, and had surgery towards the end of May, and was cleared to return to work out at the end of June. I was not able to do much of any kind of workout because of the fact that not only was my lower body injured, but my upper body was still healing from my shoulder/first rib problem. So when my orthopedic doc cleared me to workout, you better bet I was back in that gym faster than he could finish his sentence!
I started off “slowly.” Well, my version of “slow,” which was NOT exactly slow or easy. I returned to my beloved Kick Boxing class, thinking I’d get my cardio in while working my upper body. Well, kick boxing and mixed martial arts involves a lot of lower body movements and even with my knee sleeves, it was still difficult to really maneuver. I could do a lot of the movements, but not all of them. I was able to improvise but it was frustrating and I tweaked my knee on more than one occasion.
My Physical Therapist was able to help me with a lot of strengthening exercises and movements. My weekly Physical Therapy sessions that were an hour long had me sweating as if I’d run a 10K. Jumping, stretching, running backwards, and performing the movement that put me out of comission. Every week something different. Every week was harder and harder, but more mentally challenging as well as physically challenging. I believe that my injury cause more mental trauma than physical trauma. My Physical Therapist, Todd, really understood this and worked with me to help me overcome my fears of jumping.
I made my way back to CrossFit in July. I had scaled my workouts and the trainers at my box were understanding of my need to start slow. I had attended the 2013 CrossFit Games in Carson in late July. That following Monday at noon, I returned to the box with a renewed spirit. The WOD was one that was the final WODs at the Games – “Cinco,” which consisted of 800M Run, then 5 Rounds of 25 Pull-Ups, 7 Push Jerks, rest then 100 AbMat Sit Ups. No biggie, right? I was working out with my son and another girl, there was no pressure, and I scaled when I had to. Aside from working out in extreme heat (108F), I didn’t feel that the workout was difficult. I finished and was sore, but that’s to be expected.
As the days passed, the soreness in my upper arms became intense, but tolerable, and I had expected that as I had done an workout which I had not done in a long time. Com’mon, I’d expect anyone who did 125 pull-ups in a workout to be sore. I didn’t panic, I just went about my life – working, and doing my daily household duties. It was on Friday though, 4 days post-workout, that I noticed something slightly concerning … my urine was cola colored. As a nurse, I knew. I knew that I was experiencing rhabdomyolysis. I showered and dressed, let my husband know what was happening, and had my youngest son, Noah, drive me to the ER where I worked so that I could make sure that my kidney function was okay. When I got there, I proceeded to tell them what I believed was happening, and had them work me up for rhabdo.
My IV was started, labs were drawn and sent for processing, and my bolus of IV fluids was running wide open. An hour later, I received the news … I was greeted by one of my favorite doctors who said, “What the fuck did you do? Your CK is the HIGHEST number that I have ever seen in my medical career!!!” I cautiously asked what it was … 197,500 mcg/L, normal is 10-120 mcg/L. Yeah … Just a little off. There was no way I was going home that day, I needed to be admitted to the hospital for hydration and monitoring! My kidney function was always good, it’s the main reason why I went to the ER to get checked. I am thankful that I knew all of the symptoms, and that I knew exactly what needed to be done. I really did surprise all of my docs though – from my ER doc, to my admitting MD, the nephrologist who came to see me, then my own MD! None had seen CK levels as high as mine. As the nephrologist said, “You are just compact, full of muscle. You had a lot of muscle to kill! But you’re young and healthy. You’re gonna be okay.” And that I am. I am okay. I was ALWAYS okay.
Shortly after this episode, it was ironic that CrossFit took a huge hit in that several articles regarding how bad CrossFit was and how it caused this serious illness called rhabdo! (You can read various articles here.) I was livid. People were coming out of the woodwork, telling me that I was lucky, that I should quit now, and that I should never go back to CrossFitting ever again! What. The. Fuck?!
CrossFit did NOT cause my rhabdomyolysis! My body was fine, I was okay. I knew what was happening. I don’t blame anyone for what happened. I especially do NOT blame CrossFit. There were several things working against me when I did that workout, Cinco … 1) I am an experienced, previously conditioned athlete who had been out of commission for several months. Although the workout was not “intense,” it was for me because I had not worked out that intensely for several months. 2) The weather was HOT. 108 degrees at noon. This was not the most opportune time to workout. 3) I was slightly dehydrated. I had not kept properly hydrated over the weekend, nor was I properly hydrated for that workout despite me drinking water during the workout. 4) Although I was a conditioned athlete prior to my injury, my body was not exactly in the same shape, but my mind was. My mind knows to push, and when it should’ve said, “Slow down, Row., this is your first intense workout.” It said, “You’re okay. Keep going.” So I did. Should my trainers have known? Yes, perhaps, but by all accounts, I was on the road to recovery, and I scaled had scaled the workout. So, I don’t blame anyone for my injury. I take personal responsibility for what happened.
It took about 3 weeks for my CK levels to return to normal. Once I was cleared, probably about two weeks later, I was not doing any form of CrossFit exercises, just kick boxing and spinning. I was forbidden by my husband to return to the box in which I sustained my knee injury and where I my sustained my illness. In my recovery time, my old trainer, Gabe Subry, had reached out to me to see how I was doing, and to offer me encouragement. He talked me off the ledge more than once. I had attended one of his seminars on CrossFit for Competitors during my recovery time, but I was going crazy not being in a box! My husband knew this, and had been talking to my Gabe also. After much convincing by Gabe that I would be okay, it was then that I was given the okay to return to the box with Gabe only, no other box. The rest is history …
It’s now been 4 months since that fateful event, 6 months since my knee surgery. In the beginning, Gabe had me working mechanics only during my workouts at 209 (the box). Mechanics ONLY, no deviations, and every trainer – EVERY trainer at 209 was on board with the plan. I am now at about 80% capacity – squatting more and without any pain, and performing movements that I haven’t done in soooooo long, including cleaning and jerking more weight than what took my knee out last March. I got my CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Certification!!! And I’ve even run my first half marathon post knee surgery. The only thing is, I can’t box jump … YET. I still have a little trouble with jumping down from the box, and I’m slightly afraid because I’ve tweaked it before jumping down. It’s such a mind f*@%! Progress. It’s all progress. I’ve come a long way, and every little, tiny bit counts. I’ll take that.
As for the nick name, Rhabdo Row., it was given to me by one of my beloved ER Docs, Dr. H. He heard my story and thought I was insane to return to the scene of the crime. Insane, but brave. He was dumbfounded when he heard my CK results, so when he sees me down the hallway, he yells out, “Hey, Rhabdo Row.!!!” I know it shouldn’t be a badge of honor, but I like it. I like it because I have survived! I am a survivor! I like it because I am so much STRONGER than any illness or injury. It shows you that I can kick it’s ass!!! Take that!
As much as 2013 has taught me, I am sorry to see it come to an end. I am looking forward to a “fresh” new start in 2014. Come at me, 2014. Show me what you got! I’m ready … Here we gooooooo!