Happy ACL-aversary!

This week marks 3 years since I broke up with my old busted left knee ACL (thanks to the work of my amazingly talented, trust-him-with-my-life doctor, Todd Ryan) and started a new, healthier relationship with a piece of my own patellar tendon in its place.

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This was 3 weeks post-op. You don’t want to see it right after.

That’s right – 1/29 marks three years since I went under the knife to reconstruct my torn left ACL with my own tendon graft after twisting wrong out of a water stop during the Atlantic City Half Marathon in 2012.

That first year was tough, and I still don’t have perfect knees (what runner does?), but I’m grateful every day for that surgery and what it taught me.

I get asked a lot about the surgery and recovery, so in honor of my ACL-aversary, here’s a look back at my surgery journey through blog posts:

This doesn’t cover everything, but it’s a start. And as always, hit the comments with any questions or stories of your own – I love it all!

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Happy Knees, Happy Life

Ever since my ACL reconstruction in early 2013, I’ve had knee pain. The surgery knee aches when the weather changes, and I’ve got patellar tendinitis in my “good” knee from favoring it so much post-surgery. To deal with the achiness, I turned to glucosamine and chondroitin (PS, don’t tell me these aren’t words, autocorrect. They very much ARE words). After surgery, my surgeon recommended I take them via a supplement to help with joint discomfort – but the pills were HUGE. Seriously, they’d get stuck in my throat and hurt all the way down… not fun. So I chose achy knees over choking and stopped taking them.

When when I discovered Joint Juice, angels sang. It’s the same stuff in those honking-ass vitamins, but in a tasty liquid that’s only 20+ calories per bottle. Full disclosure: Joint Juice hooked me up with a bunch of juice and asked me to talk about it here on the blog, but I was happy to do so because I was already a fan. I love reviewing stuff – and don’t hold back on my real opinions, even if they’re negative! – but when it comes to something you put in your body, like this supplement, I would never recommend something I didn’t use myself.

And use it I do! It doesn’t erase the pain entirely (nothing will do that), but the aches take longer to set in during a run, and go away faster afterwards. I also threw in a Plyoga class (hello, jump squats and side lunges), lifting, biking, boot camp, and other stuff that make my knees go “nope”, and never slowed down. Even last night’s 4 mile treadmill run felt like a breeze, and the treadmill is usually where my knees go to die!

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Because I’m a science-behind-the-magic nerd, I learned that glucosamine occurs naturally in your body. We tend to produce less as we age (and piling on the miles doesn’t help either), so supplements like these actually do help. And chondroitin is a major factor in healthy cartilage, meaning that when you combine it with glucosamine, you get improved joint function and mobility.

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Yes, that’s a mini fridge filled with Joint Juice and champagne. This is 32, guys.

Long story short, I highly recommend this stuff! If you’re looking for something to help your joints as you ramp up your spring training, you can find it at Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, or order at their online store. I dig the Cran Pomegranate flavor (if you couldn’t tell by the picture of our mini fridge up there), but the Blueberry Acai was delish too. Try it out and let me know how it helps you run happy!

Do you have any favorite supplements of your own? Any knee issue sufferers prefer something different? Let me know in the comments!

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

It’s been a quiet month for me as far as running goes – but I’m happy about that! After my excellent 5K at the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line, I thought I’d be itching to get back on the pavement to see how much better I could get! But the day after the race I took off on a rocky cruise vacation where running was all but impossible without Dramamine (damn my inner ear imbalance!), so I focused on strength training instead.

photo 1Roses are red, poems are hard, go to the gym and squat.

When we returned I was happy to hit the bricks again, and maintained that 11-15 mile a week average that I stick to in the non-training months. But I also really liked the feeling I had after my strength training workouts! So in addition to running, I added a few more strength sessions into the rotation each week, working up to 3-4x.

I know I’m stating the obvious when I say this, but all of that strength training has got me feeling super strong! I’m so pleased at how easy it’s become to open the heavy-ass door of my office building every morning, and how little energy it takes to haul multiple grocery bags anymore. But the best part is how great it’s got my knees feeling! That pinchy twinge I get when I try to squat or bend has all but disappeared! Stairs in heels don’t need to be taken one at a time, because my quads are finally (FINALLY!) starting to get that old strength back.

ACL surgery was an eye opening experience, and I’m amazed to see that it’s still teaching me things almost 2 years later. Yes: recovery was hard work – going from 20-ish miles a week to *nothing* for 3 months will seriously kill your strength. But it’s just the bare minimum. Once they get you back up on two legs and release you into the wild, you need to do some serious pushing on your own!
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In the 2 years since my surgery, without that doctor telling me to do my clamshells every day or the therapist urging me to try one more flight of stairs, I got – for lack of a better word – lazy! I thought “OK, I’m out of therapy, I’m ready to go!” and I jumped right back into running. Sure, I was vaguely aware of the need to incorporate strength training into my routine, but dammit, self-motivation is hard! Especially when my knees were killing me all the time from the rapidly increased mileage.
YES, hindsight is 20/20, and I realize NOW that my knees were achy because I let the weights collect dust, but you live and you learn.
The moral of the story is I’m happy to report that I’m finally feeling more balanced in my fitness routine – without something to train for, I’ve been able to take a break from the stressful “must get the miles in!” anxiety and really focus on strength, and I’m loving every minute of it. How about you? How many days do you strength train when you’re training vs. off-schedule? Let’s compare notes!

Race Recap: Asbury Park Half Marathon

This weekend I ran my first half marathon since tearing my ACL in mile 12 of my last one back in October 2012. And it couldn’t have been a better day if I had scripted it!!

My day started out with a bit of anxiety: after 18 months of no running/racing in major races, I had some serious stress dreams about getting to the start. So when 5:30 rolled around I woke up ready but not necessarily rested. I did my usual pre-run routine (coffee, peanut butter bread, half banana, bathroom), and once I slapped some eyebrows on (gotta look good for the race photographer!), I taped up my knees and got dressed, sticking with the tank and shorts & throwing my running rain jacket on at the last minute.

After a quick 25-30 minute drive, we got to the boardwalk and easily found parking – a huge bonus in my book! I was so nervous & couldn’t stop talking in circles – poor Mike kept talking me down, and finally he gave me a look that said he was considering using the KT tape from my knees to cover my mouth, and I kept my insecurities to myself. Bless his heart.

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Fig. 1: a terrified runner

We milled around at the start, waiting in the semi-ridiculous port-a-potty line and acclimating to the cold wet weather, when the sun broke through the clouds, causing a huge burst of applause from the crowd. That’s when I called an audible, took the jacket off, and lined up for the start.

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Fig. 2: terrified runner, faking optimism

The gun went off and after the usual jostling at the start, we were on our way! As I crossed the timing pad, “Born to Run” blared from a nearby radio station tent and I couldn’t help but smile. Asbury Park, Bruce Springsteen, the Jersey Shore, the gritty boardwalk, the finish at the Stone Pony: this race was made for me! I own this! It’s funny how one song can turn your mood around entirely 🙂

So, with my confidence soaring, I settled into a nice easy, conservative 11:30-12:00 min/mile pace and smiled the whole first 2 miles, listening to other runners near me at the back of the pack chatting happily and joking about how they only had “5 more hours to go!” These were my people!

We passed hungover hipsters watching us from the doorways of diners, couples walking their dogs, people getting coffee – it was a gorgeous spring Saturday morning and I felt like I could go forever. We did a nice slow loop around the lake and back along the boardwalk where we got a nice boost from the crowd that still lingered there – and I even got to snag an extra good luck kiss from Mike!

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Fig. 3: Happy runner 🙂

Miles 3-5.5 went one way out and miles 5.5-7 passed us in the other direction. It was motivating to pass the faster runners and snag some high-fives to power through. I stopped at the water station at 5.5 for a stretch and some water, then took some almonds and peanut butter M&M’s for energy (gels cramp my stomach) a bit later at 1:07. But I realized too late – I had no water! I mis-timed my stop and found myself jogging with a dry mouth full of paste (that tasted like smoked almonds and chocolate, ugh). I asked a nearby course volunteer where the next water station was and while she didn’t know, she magically reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny bottle of water for me! I heard angels and saw the skies open up above her, and thanked her about 20 times as I jogged away, recharged.

The last 3rd of the race was along the boardwalk the entire way, and as we ran back past the start/finish area I found Mike one last time and smiled, for the camera, but I knew the rest of this race was going to be tough.

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powering through

I felt a little bit of fatigue, and looked forward to my planned walk breaks at Mile 10. Just after I passed Mike though, a tiny figure in a neon pink sweatshirt came out of the crowd right before the Casino pier and ran straight for me, screaming, “Jess! Yeah Jess GO!” – it was my friend Tina! I had totally forgotten that she was coming! I was grateful for the chance to stop and hug her, but she (being a seasoned runner with 7 [SEVEN!!] marathons under her belt) knew that if I stopped I wouldn’t start again. So she kept pace with me for about 50 yards, “You’re doing great! How are you feeling? How’s your knee? Can I get you anything at the finish?” I kept running. All I could get out was fragments: “I’m great! 5 and a half to go, knee is awesome, thanks but I’m good!” She trailed off just as I went through the abandoned pier, “Alright, we’ll be there at the finish, you’ve got this!!” I gave her a thumbs up and once I was inside the pier, I found myself sobbing.

I was so overwhelmed with the whole experience – I was running with my new ACL, on track to beat my old time, and here was this friend I completely didn’t expect and needed just at the right moment. I mean come on, no one understands a runner better than another runner. I heard my goofy sobs echoing around the empty pier – then realized that she was probably still only a few yards behind me, dummy, pull yourself together and run your ass off!

So run I did, and started to melt down around 10.5. The boardwalk was an unforgiving surface to run on, and my thin compression socks offered little in the way of cushioning. At every step I could feel every bump and nail in the boards under my feet. My good knee throbbed with every step, but as long as I alternated between jogging and walking, I was good.

I kept an eye on my watch, with my time to beat at 2:56; That was when I crossed the finish line after tearing my ACL in the AC Half. Even if I made it in at 2:55 I would call it a win. So when I passed mile 12 and saw 2:40 on the clock, I panicked. If I walked it at 15 mins/mile, I wouldn’t make it. I’d have to push. So I did.

And just as I came over the last bridge at mile 12.85, there was another friend – Bill. I pointed at him as I jogged towards him, as he stood there smiling at me, waiting to run me in. I had nothing left to give at this point; even speaking was impossible. I felt so bad – I couldn’t answer any of his questions, or even explain to him that I was so close to my time goal because I couldn’t breathe enough to say it!

And honestly, I hadn’t even said my goal out loud, ever. Saying it felt too real. If I came in after 2:56 I couldn’t bear the thought of having to hear everyone tell me, “Well you still did great!”.

So I speed walked, I jogged, and there was Tina and her boyfriend Joe, again at mile 13. This time she snapped a pic of me:

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I was laughing, yes – but I think hallucinating too.

I just had to make it up to the boardwalk and sprint the last .1 to finish. I said screw it and just RAN – I’m not even sure of that final pace – but when I could make out the numbers on the finish clock and saw 2:53, I burst into tears. I simply couldn’t hold the emotion in any longer, and crossed that finish line at 2:53:44, sobbing and wheezing.

When I cleared the finishers chute, I found Mike and could only make out the words “I beat my time!” before dissolving into full-on sobs. I hadn’t even told him about my goal, and I didn’t even have the oxygen to do so now! But he knew.

Tina and Bill joined us, for hugs and photos and chatting – it was amazing.

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Triumphant Runner 🙂

I felt like I was vibrating. I still do! It was an amazing experience and I enjoyed every moment of it. I left it all on the course and wouldn’t have done it any other way. This race was more than just a race, it proved to me that I could see something through to the end successfully. I guess when it comes to half marathons, my third time was really the charm 😉

The only negative things I can say had to do with the finish and expo/t-shirt pickup situation. When we all parted ways, I realized that I needed water, and maybe a banana or something. I was shaking and my legs were near giving out. But all they had available on the boardwalk near the finish were plastic cups of water – if I wanted anything else I had to walk about a half mile back into town off the boardwalk to the “expo” in a school gymnasium (where they were also giving out race t-shirts). Now, I’d just run 13.27 miles. That unpaved field I had to cross to get to the expo may as well have been made of lava and filled with crocodiles. I still remember standing at the corner, looking at the expo sign in the distance and asking Mike for a piggy-back ride because I couldn’t fathom walking that far!

But even with that, I’d give the Asbury Park Runapalooza about a B+. The expo was cute, the tech shirts are fun orange long sleeve shirts, and I even got a free leg massage after the race! This is definitely a race I can see myself returning to year after year!

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How about you? Did you race this weekend? I want to hear all about it!

Extra, Extra! I’m RunInspired’s New Homepage Feature Story!

Just a quick update today – and a warm welcome to anyone who has stumbled upon JessRunsHappy thanks to my exciting feature at RunInspired! I was honored when they asked me to share my weight loss and running story, and couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. And it’s an even bigger honor to be their new homepage feature story!

Go check it out and let me know what you think. 🙂

You can also follow RUNspiration on Facebook for other features and daily motivation – check them out and happy running!

Grateful

It’s really starting to sink in that I’m running a half marathon in a little over one month. And I can’t lie – I am terrified! 

So I’ve kicked my training into high gear, but it’s a double edged sword. I’ve incorporated a bit of cross training into every day and it’s already paying dividends. But the funny thing about training with this new knee is that I’m constantly walking the line between “is this pain from a new injury?” and “I need to train harder to make sure I don’t get injured again.” It’s a constant struggle – I sometimes take a day to rest between runs because I’m afraid of hurting my knees, but after that day off I worry that I won’t be trained enough for this race and will therefore tear my ACL again and need another year of rehab.

What can I say, sometimes it’s hell inside my head.

At times.

BUT… there are plenty of things I can do besides my training to ensure that I succeed. I can visit my orthopedist to have him take a look at both knees for good measure. I take my glucosamine every day. I skip heels at work in lieu of flat shoes that don’t tax my joints. I sleep with my knee brace on after a tough workout, to avoid twisting it in my sleep. I’ve picked up KT tape (and found that it’s a miracle!)

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seriously, what is this stuff made of, unicorn hide?

Tonight, I also realized the power of simply being grateful.

Let me explain: I had a 2 mile run on the training plan and got it in, even pushed the pace towards the end, but felt a few twinges in my good knee so I stopped at 2.5 miles. But instead of ending my workout there, I moved to a stationary bike and told myself to give it hell for one full mile with a level 4 difficulty. I worked it out on the bike throughout my physical therapy and remember pumping my fists in victory when I hit a 10 minute mile, so imagine my surprise when I hit a mile in 4:15!

Jazzed up from setting that new PR, I grabbed a Bosu ball and banged out a few sets of triceps dips, balance push-ups and squats then ended with a nice stretch. That’s when I realized that every little thing I do in addition to my running now is helping to prepare me for this race. I may be worried about taking a day off from running, but while I trained for my last race, I skipped cross training entirely – and paid dearly for it with a torn ACL! Now, I’m smarter. And with every extra rep, squat, and curl, I’m making myself stronger.

As I stretched I stared at my legs and felt an immense wave of gratitude wash over me. Sure, they ache and they’ve given me a lot of trouble in the past 18 months, but I am so thankful for these legs. They’ve come a long way in my 30 years, and I can’t wait to see where they take me next.

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a runner, from top to bottom

And I’m also grateful for my brain – along with those tree trunk legs, the positive thinking I cling to during my training is what’s going to truly get me across that finish line. Sometimes I get a little (okay, a lot) wrapped up in the crazy rabbit hole of negative self-talk and doubt, but all I need to do to silence that is picture myself crossing that finish line with two solid legs and a smile on my face.

So tell me: what are YOU grateful for? What have you gone through to get you where you’re at today? Whether you’re just starting or a seasoned veteran, you’ve got to be thankful for something – let’s share the love!

Change Your World

After last night’s post about my favorite running store (and my great experience there last week), I have a quick update to share.

In my time at the store during last week’s party, I got to chatting with the fit expert and her co-worker while I was trying on my magical sneakers. One of the managers caught wind of my story and asked me to share it on camera as part of their “Change Your World” video series.

The store has asked people to share their inspirational running stories with the world in the hopes that our journies might inspire someone else to sign up for that ultra marathon, make the leap into their first 5K, or even lace up to start with. I think it’s a great idea but I can’t lie – going from being the girl that used to say I wouldn’t run unless I was being chased to having a running store manager tell me that my story is inspiring is enough to put stars in my eyes.

So, without further ado, I present to you what happens when you give me free green beer and combine my favorite holiday with my favorite hobby, then put me in front of a camera:

I do wish I’d taken the bobble ears off. But other than that, I regret nothing 😉

Give a girl the right shoes…

…and she can rule the world!

just ask Kelly.

just ask Kelly.

I’m a firm believer in being professionally fitted for sneakers. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t even consider buying running shoes without having a professional help me find just the right kicks for where I am in my training.

Have you ever been to one of these places? I can only speak about my store (Road Runner Sports), but the process is similar everywhere: you meet with an expert who talks to you about your running habits (what are you training for, how many miles do you run a week, pavement or treadmill, paper or plastic, Giants or Jets, etc). They have you run on a treadmill barefoot and film it, then analyze your gait to find you just the right sneaker, all for free.

my papa getting his treadmill time at our last father/daughter fitting

So last week, with the final 5 weeks of my training staring me in the face – and my local store hosting its annual St. Patrick’s Day party! – it was a no brainer that I was heading in for the perfect sneakers to end my training and carry me over the finish of my half marathon at the end of next month!

you know the way to this Irish runner’s heart…

I enjoyed some free green beer in my new “Kiss me I’m a runner” mug while I waited for my turn on the treadmill, and had a good time talking with other runners at the party. I got called up and chatted with my expert about my goals, did my quick filmed jog on the treadmill, and got my “diagnosis”. No big surprises there: I put more weight on my right side to compensate for my left knee and I pronate (my ankles roll out when I run). Also I have SUPER high arches – no lie, at my first fitting the expert called all of his coworkers over to demonstrate how he could slide a pencil between the top & bottom of my foot where my arch completely missed the ground. Which was super confidence-building.

But anyway – it was finally time for my sneaker recommendations! Cue the heavenly music and angels bearing boxes of Sauconys and Nikes as I go into full-on Sex & the City fantasy mode. New Balance, Brooks, Mizuno, Asics, Pearl Izumi – you name it, I tried it on!

Carrie Bradshaw ain’t got nothin’ on me.

This is always my favorite part of the sneaker-buying process: it’s the one time in my life where I truly feel like a celebrity. I sit comfortably and give myself foot rubs and leg massages with the store’s foam roller and sprinter stick while the shoe runner brings out pair after pair of colorful kicks for me to try on. Every time they open up a new box I turn into Cinderella, oohing and aahing over the fun colors and gushing about the different features this shoe offers over the others, just waiting for the perfect fit. I even take a sprint around the store to test out the last 3-4 pairs, finally narrowing it down to my perfect, ultimate pair:

I may love them more than a human child.

I may love them more than a human child.

Brook’s Transcends.

They are *the* best. They cradle my ankle and help my alignment, but give me enough cushioning so that my knees don’t even hurt after 4 hilly miles. I don’t remember runs this smooth even before my knee surgery! I’ve never run in Brooks before, but just under 8 miles into this pair and I can already tell that this is the beginning of a loooong and beautiful relationship.

So tell me about your favorite running shoes! Have you ever been professionally fitted? What’s your perfect pair at the moment? Come on: Let’s get some shoes.

Training Post-ACL Reconstruction

I used to run through my aches and pains and told myself it made me a tougher runner. It turns out I was injuring myself even more. With each mile I logged, the tiny tears in my left ACL grew and grew, leaving me vulnerable to the nearly-full tear I experienced at Mile 12 of the Atlantic City Half Marathon in October 2012.

The resulting surgery and therapy -and the 9 months off from running while it healed- gave me the chance to work with orthopedists and physical therapists to learn all about my body and how to take care of it. They introduced me to an arsenal of tools to help keep my knee, and the rest of my joints, healthy and happy through the miles:

tools of the trade

disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or expert, but these are all magic.

TENS Unit: This was a gift from the running gods, let me tell you. When I started physical therapy after my surgery, my therapist put the pads on my thigh to stimulate the muscles and basically bring them to life again. I was given my own machine for use at home (thank you, health insurance!!), and was shown how to use it for pain management too. It was magic – there were still the usual post-surgery pains, but I could move around the house a lot easier while the pads were on and “buzzing”. Eventually the TENS became a part of my every day routine – 20 minutes on the bad knee at the end of the day to relax and revive the muscles, with ice & a quick massage. Now, 13 months after the surgery, I still use these puppies on my bad knee after a tough run or long day on my feet – hell, I even use it on my good knee too, to ease the usual overuse pains it’s developed with the extra pressure it had to take on while the bad knee healed. It’s like a little package of magic, and I don’t know what I’d do without it!

Ice: Even on the coldest days, I’ll ice up after a run if I’ve felt any little pinches or pops during my run. It’s a simple way to calm down any inflammation I may have, whether it’s because of a hilly run or a humid day (thanks to the surgery, I’m one of those people whose knees swell in even a tiny bit of humidity).

Glucosamine Chondroitin: AKA Osteo-Bi-Flex or any of the popular Glucosamine tablets you can find in the pharmacy. These are expensive, but I take them every day because I can feel an obvious difference if I don’t! My orthopedist didn’t want to do surgery immediately. Instead, he gave me these pills for 6 weeks, had me do daily strengthening exercises, and let the swelling go down. In my case, surgery turned out to still be necessary, but I’m convinced that these pills (along with the strengthening exercises that I still do to this day) helped me get stronger and made it possible for me to bounce back from surgery as quickly as I did.

Now, here’s the key: these are just tools. They only work if I put in the hard work and *train* with them! Strength training has been a HUGE part of the recovery process for me, as we determined it was the lack of training that got me here in the first place! I neglected to build up my leg muscles and only focused on mileage while I trained for my race, and that (combined with my family history of weak knees) spelled disaster for me at Mile 12.

Now that I know how to take care of and listen to my body, training post-ACL reconstruction is a lot of work, but it’s not impossible. If you’ve had an injury, how do you cope with it in your training? Have you ever used a TENS unit? What are your thoughts on glucosamine? Tell me all about it in the comments!

ACL Surgery Part 1: Surgery Day

A big part of my journey to health is my knee surgery – almost exactly one year ago, I had ACL reconstruction surgery after tearing the ligament at mile 12 of the 2012 Atlantic City Half Marathon. It’s a huge part of my story now, in that it’s taught me how to listen to my body, where to dig deep for true patience, and when to push myself beyond what I thought possible.

Now, I don’t plan on going in chronological order in this blog – I’ll do my best to tag and categorize if anyone wants to read about one part of the journey or another. But for now, let’s start with what’s still relatively fresh in my mind: the day of surgery.

I woke up early on January 29th, 2013. My appointment was for 1pm but of course I got there early. It was a sunny day, actually quite warm for the date. I remember seeing on the weather forecast that the next day (January 30th) would be the most unseasonably warm day yet. You know that one weird warm day you get every year in the dead of winter that reminds you that things are all going to be ok and you’ll make it through the winter after all? That was the 30th. But I had to get through the 29th to get there.

So at 11, my husband drove me into the surgical center and we walked in to find we were the only people in the waiting room. The kind woman standing behind the check-in window smiled as we walked in and asked, “Jessica?” Talk about service! Soon after I signed in and filled out a few forms, my father showed up for moral support. As it tends to do when he enters a room, everything around us seemed to swell with his presence. He always animates any space he’s in, my father. It’s nice.

After five short minutes of small talk, they called me in to change into my little gown and blue slipper socks, and popped a blue surgical hair cap over my head. I looked ridiculous. They put me in a big plastic arm chair in front of a tv hanging off the wall – King Arthur was on, with Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley – and reclined me and covered me in blankets. It was actually kind of nice. I was toasty. But I was alone.

One nurse came out and gave me a wrist band. Another told me she’d set me up with an IV. Then my surgeon came out. Dr. Ryan – he’s a reassuring presence for me. Through all my phone calls and questions he’s never lost patience or his serene smile. I relax when he’s there. He’s even had the procedure done himself, so that’s even better. Who better to have monitoring your recovery than someone who’s been through the same thing? Finally, the anesthesiologist came out and explained that I’d be entirely under, but would also have what they call a femoral nerve block, with 16-20 hours of numbness. Sweet!

After he left, it suddenly felt real. I had a pang of anxiety – I needed a familiar face. I asked a nurse if my husband could come in and they invited him in warmly. When he saw me, he smiled and reached for his phone to take a picture. I scolded him, having stared at the “NO CAMERAS” sign on the opposite wall for the last half hour. I kind of wish now that we’d broken that rule. I’d love to look back at my scared pale face in my stupid shower cap in my recliner.

We sat for a few moments but it went by WAY too fast – soon the little male nurse was there saying that I was ready. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my husband yet, but I had to. He took one simple silver ring that I forgot to take off, and my glasses. I was officially blind.

He kissed me and wished me luck, and helped me stand before going on his way. The little nurse wrapped me in my blanket and told me to carry it with me like a cape. I silently told myself to enjoy these steps, because they were the last I’d be taking for a while.

We walked down a few hallways and suddenly, boom; I was in an operating room. Like a full-on operating room with the big circular lights and hard metal table and freezing temperature. Oddly, Creedence Clearwater Revival was blasting on a stereo by the window where the shades were pulled tightly. Everything was blue. The anesthesiologist was there, and my surgeon, and the male nurse, and another female nurse.

The invited me to hop on the table – funny, I actually don’t remember the last step I took. Then there was buzzing activity all around me. The male nurse kept talking to me. Asking me how I was doing. Earlier that day, I told myself, “Don’t be chatty. You get chatty when you’re nervous. Just be quiet and go with it.” Now, I realized, I hadn’t been chatty at all. I guess when I’m truly nervous, I clam up. Because they kept asking me how I was doing, and all I could respond with was, “OK.” Or “Good.” Or “Still here.”

Finally, they gave me an IV. That’s where it gets really trippy. I remember every moment like it’s the present:

They tell me I’m not going to sleep yet. But I’m going to get warm and heavy and relaxed, and I’m going to taste metal for a moment. OK, I say. And sure enough, it all happens like they say.

I almost panic, but don’t want to. I worry that I’ll fall asleep before they can tell me they’re putting me out. I feel especially heavy and warm and tingly from my chest up. It’s as if I’ve been injected with hot, warm fuzz all around my lungs, neck, shoulders, and head. I feel like I should be tense, but I can’t muster the energy.

“How are you doing?” they ask. I want to respond, but everything’s slow. “Still here,” I start, but my words slur without me even trying. It’s like I’m in glue.

Next is the nerve block. The male nurse explains what he’s doing at every step of the way. This is just alcohol. This is iodine. This touch is just to prepare the area. This is the needle.

Suddenly – boom – my leg starts jerking around on the table. It’s an awesome feeling – I would laugh at it if I could, but I’m a melting wax figure. I smile to myself and stare at the pockmarked ceiling as it continues to jump. They’re talking to each other. “10, ok, here’s 10. Now let’s ease up to 15. 20. Ok, no, back to 15.” I want to care about what they’re saying, but I’ve got nothing. Nerves I didn’t even know I had are jumping in my leg, making the skin twitch and bounce. Right when they say it’s about to calm down, it does.

Now they’re ready. “OK, now here we go, we’re going to put you to sleep.” I slur, “OK.” But it sounds more like “ooogaayyy”.

The last thing I remember thinking was “Hurry – pick a rock star to run away with in your dreams! Ajay Popoff from Lit or Art Alexakis from Everclear?” then boom, I was out. I didn’t even have enough time to pick a man.

Next up: ACL Surgery Part 2: Post-Surgery and Recovery!