Saturday, January 12, 2013

Things change

Things do change.

That is one of the constants our world.  Nothing stays the same forever (thank God!)  One key to happiness is to "roll with the punches" and realize that things will change . . . always.  We just have to be smart about this and adjust as necessary.

But sometimes it's really hard to know if the change we're experiencing is just a temporary change OR the transition into a new era.  Like global warming . . .

At first I just didn't believe global warming was real.  I was thinking the changes we were seeing were simply normal variances in our weather cycles.  But now I'm not so sure!  With all the melting at the poles, the reduction in the Greenland ice cover and all the seemingly weird weather patterns in the last few years I'm now open to the possibility that this really could be a huge, significant climatic change.

See . . . I am open to being wrong!

But enough about global warming.  I'm moving on to something really important . . . running.

I'm so thankful for every run I'm able to do.  Honestly . . . I really am.  Just to be able to go out there and run SOME is simply a gift!  Some of you know why I look at it this way.  But most don't.  So here is "the skinny" as to why my runs are so special for me.

Back in about 1988 or so I had to quit totally running.  Knee problems had bothered me for years.  In about 1971 I had surgery on my left knee meniscus cartilage.  This surgery was before the arthroscope was widely used . . . as a matter of fact I don't believe it was used at all when I had this surgery.  Arthroscopes only really took off after the advances in flexible fiber optics in the early 1970s.

So this knee surgery involved opening up the joint with a huge incision and going to work.  Recovery was long.  7 days in the hospital.  I was on crutches for maybe 2-3 months post-surgery.  Tons of physical therapy.  Took seemingly forever before I could start being active.  But I started running as a sport in about 1974.

Fast forward to 1988 and my knees were really starting to bother me again.  One of my good friends was a sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon, so I went to him to figure out what to do.  After x-rays he told me he had some bad news . . . there wasn't anything he could do for now.  He found arthritis in my left knee joint probably caused by my previous surgery.  The solution was a knee replacement but he strongly urged me to delay the surgery as long as I could stand before we replaced the knee because I would only be able to do it once and knee replacements don't last forever.

He told me I could keep running as long as I wanted to, but he said it wouldn't get better and the pain would continue to increase.  So I kept running for maybe another 6 months . . . but then the pain got to be so bad running stopped being fun and just simply hurt.  I knew I had to quit.  And I did.

I tried swimming, ellipse machines, stair machines . . . anything to help my fitness.  All but swimming hurt.  And swimming was so frickin' boring I just couldn't stand it!  Nothing helped my knee pain except anti-inflammatory medicines which I soon began living on.

With my increasing knee pain I began a slow decline in my fitness and mobility.  I had to quit backpacking.  I remember a day trout fishing in the mountains when I quit fishing after only 15 minutes or so and hobbled back to the car to wait for my son and brother-in-law to finish.  I told them I was going to have to stop trout fishing too.  That was a hard day.

In 2005 our family went on vacation to Bermuda.  The place we were staying had a ton of stairs that I had to go up and down many times each day.  This just absolutely killed me!  The pain was bad.  I really couldn't get around and struggled to spend much time with the family on that vacation.

But by the end of the week I found something strange was happening . . . my knee pain seemed a tad better!  The only thing I could figure out was the stairs had helped me.  So I started walking up and down stairs.  Several times a day.  In the past I had tried ellipse machines and StairMasters as exercise but they just didn't help . . .  but the stairs seemed to help.  I worked in an office with 7 floors, so that was perfect.   It was painful - especially at first.  But slowly the pain got less and less.

The knee continued to improve.

I kept a backpack and boots in my office and became a fanatic about my stair "walks" and slowly I built up my strength and endurance.  And the knee pain kept reducing.  In maybe a year I started fishing again.  And backpacking.  And in the summer of 2005 I tried running again!

I thought . . . if I can ever run a 5k again I'll be happy.  And I was.  But I kept going.  And added more and more distance.  I can't express how happy and thankful I was!  I had been given a huge gift and I have cherished it ever since!  I wish you could have seen me when I finished my first comeback marathon!  What a great moment for me!  One I never thought would happen again!  I believe I was more emotional finishing that race than my first marathon!

So I'm enjoying the gift I have been given.  It is like getting a second life!

But I got a third life!  Most of you know about my hip problems - the year of increasing pain, then the surgery in October of 2011and now 15 months worth of recovery.  I was running a little 2 months after surgery.  I walked 50 miles in April and in September I fulfilled my dream of actually finishing a 100 mile race, though I walked almost all of it!  Then, in November I finished another 100 miler . . . this time running a good portion of it.

So I got a third running life!  How cool is that!

Running has meant so very much to me . . . physically and emotionally.  I've tried to 'give back' to the running community for all it has given me, but realistically I've gotten WAY more than I could ever give back.

But my hip is far from being 100%.  I would say it's maybe 60-70% okay.  I've given up running on trails . . . the uneven ground just really aggravates my hip.   And I have to walk at least 2/3 of anything I do - even 5ks!  I have to rest at least every other day and sometimes I need two days or more.

Right now I haven't run in a week (but I plan to try tomorrow!)

Just sitting in my chair now has become painful.  Moving my leg laterally now causes the hip to "lock up" and it hurts like holy hell to move it around to get it unlocked.  Sounds like my hip's labrum has torn and is getting caught in the joint.

So I'm thinking more and more about this whole situation and trying to decide if this is simply another hurtle to get through, or should I really give up running.

Oh, I guess I'll always try and run some.  And I'm pretty sure I'll still want to do races like timed races where I can walk a lot and run just a little.  How could I give up Hinson Lake?  And who knows . . . maybe I can do another 48 hour race and walk it . . . and finish another 100!

But marathons, 50k and 50 miles etc. are very likely a thing of the past for me.

Oddly, I'm not upset about it!

I've had a great time doing what I've done and I'm ready for new challenges and adventures.  I just don't believe they will be running adventures.  But who knows for sure.  Maybe this hip of mine will get better and I'll be able to really run again.  After all . . . nothing is forever . . .

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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.