Monday, July 19, 2010

Knee Surgery - Day 10 - Final Blog

Okay . . . I'm done with all this selfish blogging about this surgery!  Let's just call the knee "well" or maybe "fixed" . .  or perhaps "good enough!"  Time to move on!

Today, I had my final visit with Dr. Rob Jones.  Stitches are out, I have the pictures of what he did, and his encouragement to do all I feel like I can do!  Not only is Rob a really, really good surgeon, his philosophy on recovery matches what just feels right to me . . . get up, get moving, do all you can do without creating further injury or damage.  Push it!

Rob cut out a nice-sized chunk of meniscus, and then did a ton of trimming and cleaning up some areas that were damaged by the flapping meniscus.  In the pictures, you can easily see where the flap of meniscus was locking up my joint and where it had done some significant damage to the surrounding area.  Glad I did the surgery when I did.  Not sure how I did both Boogie and Leadville . . . but I did (almost!)  Believe Rob gives an 100,000 mile warranty with each knee surgery!

Today I ran 3.1 miles with no unusual discomfort or pain.  That is not to say I'm totally pain free, but the pain doesn't get any worst during or after running . . . and Rob agrees this is okay.  We talked about me trying 13-15 miles this coming weekend and he is fine with it as long as the pain/discomfort doesn't change as I run.

So . . . I'm declaring myself well and will end this stupid series of posts.  I'm returning back to my normal boring dribble, as I chronicle the convergence of my "running pace" with my "walking pace."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Knee Surgery - Day 9 (Sunday)

Okay . . . I skipped posting yesterday.  Bottomline for yesterday: Knee great and back was bad.  Honestly it was almost as bad as every.

Got up this morning determined to run.  Managed about 3/4 mile running and 1/4 mile walking.  Knee almost seems normal except that one of the stitches which burns when I run (stitches come out Monday!)

But the big surprise was my back.  It was hurting when I started.  But now that I'm back and showered it feels WAAAAAAY better!  Go figure.  Maybe I just need to be doing more runs / walks . . . short but several times a day.  Going to try it and see . . . can't hurt!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Knee Surgery - One week after

Short and sweet this time.

Today I ran!  Only did about 1/4 mile (I promise!) and no pain . . .  at least no change in how the knee feels . . . but there is always a tiny bit of pain still.  Dr. Jones told me to stop immediately if I felt any change in the  pain whatsoever when I ran.  I felt none!

Finished up with about 15 minutes and the ellipse and 15 minutes on the bike.

My back is better . . . maybe 75% of normal.  That's real PROGRESS!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Knee Surgery - Day 7

Back is much, much better!  Maybe at 50% or so.  Knee is really good.  Every once in a while I'll get it in a weird position and it will "bark" at me with a sharp pain.  But really the only residual effect for the most part is just a limited range of motion which I'm working on.

Dr Jones prescribed a muscle relaxant today and I took a pill when I got home . . . I'm very, very sleepy!

Assuming everything continues as it is going, I'll try running maybe 1/4 mile or so tomorrow.  If that goes okay, I'll only do one more blog about this surgery experience.  Back to normal and I'll quite boring the few of you still reading this dribble!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Knee Surgery - Day 6

45 minutes on the ellipse plus 15 minutes doing leg extensions.  Knee swelling almost all gone!  Pain almost gone.  Just need a tad more range of motion and I'm working on that.

Only issue remaining is my strained back . . . and I believe that tonight it may be feeling better too.

Thursday is going to be a virtual day off (just going to walk).

Friday is going to be my first day running assuming my back is better by then.  Only going to go about 1/4 mile and have promised my doctor that if the knee feels ANY different at all I will instantly stop running.  Then, I start adding distance slowly.

This will work.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Knee Surgery - Day 5

Short and sweet today . . . I know you're bored!

Knee doing great.  Honestly believe I could have run on it today, but just did ellipse and knee lifts.

Back is absolutely killing me . . . go figure!  Came home fro  work early, took a back-spasm pill and slept.  No help.  Going to bed early.  Maybe this will help.

But it amazes me that I can be so good after surgery, but still out of commission.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Knee Surgery - Day 4

Okay . . . this blog about my surgery is getting old . . . for me and my readers . . . both of you!  But today's post needs to be written!

I believe it should be a requirement that each person having a meniscus tear cut away should be REQUIRED to 1) spend at least 15 minutes on an ellipse machine and 2) do 5 minutes of knee lifts with no machine weight added.  And this needs to be completed 3-5 days after surgery.

I can't tell you how much this helped me today!  Pain hasn't been too bad, but my range of motion has been limited and I still was having trouble walking pain-free and limp-free.  So at lunch I went to the Y for my daily exercise.  And the results were nothing short of miraculous!  I'm walking almost normally!  And much increased range of motion.

Now the exercise session was not without pain!  But not pain from the surgery . . . it was pain associated with exercising limited range of motion.

My only problem remaining is my frickin' back!  While hooking up the icing machine I have twice 'tweeked' my back.  Because of that, I'm still hurting!  But the surgery pain is almost 100% GONE!

If my back is doing better tomorrow, I'll hit the ellipse machine fairly hard.  Then, Wednesday maybe a very easy, slow run of 1/4 mile or so.

And yes . . . this is with my doctor's blessing as long as I promise to stop immediately if I feel ANY unusual pain at all!

Then, it's add a mile or so a day.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Knee Surgery - Day 3

What a difference a day makes!

Got up this morning and the knee felt okay, so I decided no crutches today.  I took about four 'long' walks . . . down about two houses and back!  Plus, once down to the lake.  The 'down to the lake' wasn't a problem but climbing back up the hill was a little challenging.

Took the bandages off this morning and things look very good.  Just swelling.  To keep the swelling down some, I'm still keeping ice on the knee as I'm sitting around.

I definitely could have done the ellipse machine today (and really should have) but decided to not drive an hour to Rocky Mount just for that.  Connie and Michael were here at the lake and just didn't want to leave.

My range of motion has reduced dramatically . . .  I've got lot's of work to do there!

I did try driving the car today . . . 5 speed manual.  NO PROBLEM AT ALL!  That's a big relief!  I took one pain pill when I got up this morning and one about 2 pm.  Didn't really need them, but just remembered the nurse said to stay ahead of the pain.  No pain pills tomorrow.

I'm definitely looking forward to the ellipse machine at the Y tomorrow.  I believe this will help me with my range of motion plus a little aerobic possibly.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Knee Surgery - Day 2

 I slept great last night!

Today I kept on with the icing plus I started some weight-bearing as I walked with my crutches. This hurt like hell!  One trip to the mailbox took frickin' forever!  Funny how some steps just hurt a tad, but sometimes I must turn the angle or something and the pain is serious!  But I am definitely a wimp when it comes to pain.

I needed the pain pills today for sure, especially in the morning.  Michael and I went to lunch (I was going stir crazy!) and that proved to be my undoing!   Thank God for Vicodin!

I kept forcing my 'semi-walking' with my crutches all day long.  And even a little bit of walking with no crutches.  By mid-afternoon things started getting much better . . . pain diminished and I skipped my late afternoon pain pills.  Went to bed early (about 9 pm)

But woke up about 12:30 with the pain back!  Plus, it felt like I had some swelling (but I can't be sure, as the knee is still all wrapped up.)  Took two Vicodin, re-started ice.  Ahhhhh!

Hey . . . I warned you this was going to be boring!

Knee Surgery - Day of Operation

Okay . . . these next few posts will be boring for sure.  I'm just going to chronicle my recovery from surgery.  I'm sure there won't be anything interesting, clever or funny . . . Strongly suggest you skip these.

Up early and drove to Raleigh the the Duke Hospital on Wake Forrest with my son, Michael.  Got there at 7:45 am, checked in, got prepped, wheeled into operating room, chatted briefly with my doctor and the staff, woke up and was on the road home by 11 am (I believe!).  Quickly stopped for a burger and coke and was home in Littleton by 12:45!

Doctor said there was a simple meniscus tear which he trimmed off.  I should be good to go!

Virtually no pain this day.  Kept ice on it all day with a neat new machine called a Polar Care 300.  Used crutches with no weight bearing.  Took two pain pills in the evening, but really didn't need them.  Pain wasn't bad at all . . . nurses said to try and stay ahead of the pain.  I just don't like to take pills unless I absolutely need them.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Leadville DNF

Leadville proved to be too much for me.  No excuses.  I gave it as good an effort as I had in me that day . . . but it wasn't enough.

Hard to describe the area . . . maybe a mixture of incredible beauty with a mix of man-made ugliness of the old mines thrown in.  Some may think the mining remnants are historically interesting, to me they were just plain ugly.   But I just chose to focus on the area's beauty and there was plenty of that.

Got there early . . . a beautiful hours drive from Vail.  My body was still on east coast time so the 8:00 am start was really 10:00 am to me.  Checked in and had my packet by 7:00 am so I just hung out and talked with folks.

One of the highlights of the day was finally getting to actually meet in person my e-friend, Jennifer Nichols.  Jenn lives in Bristol, VA near my hometown.  We had run two races together earlier, but never officially met.  I expected nice, but Jenn way exceeded my expectations.

My race plan was fairly simple . . . walk the uphills as fast as I could, and run all the downhills I could.  My right knee is giving me some issues, so I wasn't sure how it would do walking, let alone running (my doctor made me promise I wouldn't run . . . sorry Doc!).  I knew there were steep, downhill sections, with tons of large and small loose rock (scree) that I would have to walk for sure.  Had no idea just how much there would really be!

The race had an uphill start (altitude 10,100 feet) that lasted a full 3.5 miles.  Half sections were steep but the other half were moderate.  Right off the bat, I struggled to get enough oxygen.  Two results are 1) you breath heavily and rapidly trying to get the oxygen you need, and 2) your muscles get really tired, really quickly.  Very strange, like you're just having a bad day and you're tired from the previous day's workouts.

The first 1 1/2 miles took us through an old mining area- not all that pretty!

But then we hit a wooded area we ran (aka walked!) through that took us up to the first aid station.

Quick in and out and into one of the prettiest parts of the day as we ran up and around Ball Mountain.  This was our first time to run above tree line.  Fields, single-track, wild flowers.  Quite beautiful, just as Jenn had promised.!  Very cold and windy -  I put on my wind jacket and wished I had my gloves . . . bad decision to leave them in the car.

 We peaked somewhere along here at about 12,500 feet and I got my first areas where I could really run!  But I found I couldn't run like I had planned - no oxygen!  I got out of breath every 4-5 minutes and walked some to try and catch my breath.  I tried to press hard through here as I knew what was coming and needed to gain time anywhere I could.

Passed the same aid station for a second time and continued down through tons of mining remnants on to aid station #3.  During this section the leader passed me heading home!  We both exchanged encouraging words as we passed.  The leader had about a 5 minute lead on the second place runner.  Amazing running and it always amazes me how supportive everyone is!  Even the guy leading the race makes time to say something positive to me.

 Finally got to aid station #3 (elevation 11,200 feet or so) where the marathon course rejoins the Heavy Half marathon.  Now was the time for the really hard work to begin as I headed up the mountain to Mosquito Pass (elevation 13,200 feet).

By this time I was seeing tons of folks on their return trip . . . marathoners and half-marathoners alike.  The trail here became really tough - scree the whole, frickin' way!  Big loose rocks, medium loose rocks, small loose rocks . . . and fine loose rock.  People slipping, sliding and tripping all the time.  Really, this wasn't a fair test of anything . . . just lucky foot placement!

Guess I was 1/8 of the way up when Jenn passed me on her way down.  Clearly, we were both struggling, but a quick hug from Jenn gave me renewed spirit . . . but sadly a positive spirit was not going to be enough this day.

By this point I was walking 100 yards, and then stopping to regain my breath.  Then repeat!  I had imagined I would be able to walk up this whole mountain at a steady pace, but not a chance!  My knee had remained in good shape, with only maybe two instances of real pain, but the uneven, loose rock was treacherous.

This climb was killing me,  I found myself almost hoping my knee would go out so I would have an excuse to stop.  I had been warned about the five switchbacks and that two of them gave you a false sense of nearing the top.  I passed these but wasn't deceived because I knew some of the folks ahead of me and hadn't seen them yet.  The trail got even more steep, and even more loose rocks.  I remembered the elevation charts and knew it wouldn't last too long, but oh, was it hard for me.

The views back down the mountain were spectacular!!  You can see the last aid station just behind the second lake.

I wasn't last . . . but I was next to last!  Passed one nice lady and her dog out for a hike and she asked if she could take my picture for me.  Believe she my have been an aid station volunteer that just decided to hike down.

One by one I saw folks I had been with earlier in the race as they were headed down.  I exchanged words of support with each one, and each told me to hang on . . . it was much easier going back down hill!

Soon the trail steepness backed off and I surprised myself with about a quarter of a mile of no stopping at all!  Saw the sign and soon saw the aid station at the top!  13.1 miles done.  My hardest 13.1 ever - by far.  Cold and windy up here!

Got a cookie and re-filled my fluids, took a few pictures and headed back down.

 Maybe 1/4 mile from the top I met the one guy behind me.  He was suffering a lot but continued on, committed to getting to the top!  I understood his pain for sure!

Going down took way less energy, but I found I couldn't run much at all due to the poor footing.  Every once and I while I could see a way through the rocks that looked stable enough to run, but not often.  Very frustrating because I was feeling much better and really psyched cause I knew the bad part was over!  The only negative I was feeling was a toenail on my right foot was getting banged into my shoe's toe box . . . a rookie mistake on my part to not trim my nails close before the race.

About 3/4 of the way down from Mosquito Pass, the aid station volunteers passed me in the 4-wheel drive trucks and I saw my friend from Atlanta who had been behind me.  Guess I was now officially the last place runner.

Miles passed quickly and my spirits were high.  Came to an aid station with a few cheering volunteers and  I told them they could finally go home!  Then I saw the race director who told me I was way past the cut-off and he would have to ask me to stop.

I almost cried.

I felt so good, and I knew there was just a little uphill left for me.  Mostly down hill left.  I had paid my dues in pain and suffering and now I wasn't going to get my reward.  I was crushed.

Rode back to Leadville with one of the aid station volunteers and another runner who was cut-off.  Spent a few minutes cheering some finishers . . . but I was just totally bummed.  My heart wasn't in it at all.  Saw all the folks walking around with their medals, congratulating each other.  Looked for Jenn, but figured she was resting and taking a shower.  I KNEW I could have finished this race and not finishing just sucked.

Hard to explain the feelings I was having . . . feelings of failure, feelings of pride of having completed all the hard parts, feelings of relief that the pain was over, feelings of anger at being made to stop.  Bottom-line I was just crushed and I had no feelings of celebration or success.  The race has a dinner for all participants and everyone goes up to the stage for recognition and I had planned to stay for that . . . but I just couldn't stay and be with everyone else that had sucked it up and finished...  so I left.

I retrospect, I'm glad I tried this.  For me, it was more like an ultra than a marathon,  I put forth more effort than either of my 50 milers.  This was hard, very hard.  I do believe if this were run in the North Carolina mountains I would have easily finished well within even tighter cutoffs, but the altitude and resulting lack of oxygen did me in.

Maybe I should have done the Heavy Half Marathon, a least I would have finished it and gotten a medal.

Here are some more pictures.

Will I try it again?  I doubt it.  To be successful, I believe you really need to spend at least a week at 10,000 or more prior to the race.  And I probably won't be willing to do that.  But I sure would love to be able to run under this sign . . .

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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.