Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Catching Up (2016-2018)

Running trails, climbing mountains, and getting back to nature where life slows down and the mind clears to the beauty filling the senses.  It took a lot of patience and hard work, but it's great to be back!

I thought a long time about sharing this story since we all get injuries along the way, often surgeries, and then we recover, especially in the world of mountain ultrarunning.  But if I can help one person with similar symptoms, then it's worth sharing.

On a typical long run one Sunday morning in March 2016, my right sacroiliac joint seized up and I could barely walk.  It took me 6 hours to get from the top of the Westridge Trail in Lory State Park back to my home about 6 miles away.  After multiple tries of resting (weeks at a time) and comebacks, the SI joint felt better, but now the pain in the groin, butt, and tailbone still made it difficult to impossible to run.

I decided on an MRI in July 2016, which revealed 5 pelvic stress fractures from the sacrum to the pubic bones, so it looked like I just needed more rest.  Living on Horsetooth Reservoir, I decided to pick up stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), which I still enjoy a great deal and continue to do even now that I can run.

Despite my best efforts to recover while laying off the running, every time I would try again, it was the same story.  Mostly groin pain, both sides.  Every run felt like I had already been running for 90 miles.  So finally in the Spring of 2017, I got a second opinion on the MRI and this time was told I wasn't going to get any better without surgery (actually two surgeries).  Femeroacetabular impingements (FAI) of both hip joints resulted in torn labrums, with the right side barely having any cartilage left.  With no hesitation, and with the goal of running The Bear 100 in 2018 (so I could get Hardrock qualified again), I wanted the surgeries (both arthroscopic) as soon as possible.  Despite shaking his head in disbelief at times, my surgeon knew it was possible and it wouldn't matter if he recommended it or not.  We did the first surgery on the right hip in July 2017.  Unfortunately, there was not enough labrum left to repair in this surgery, so it was more of a cleanup mission and shaving down the bones, both on the femoral head and acetabular socket, to relieve the impingement.  The prognosis was not great but I would likely see at least some improvement.

Rehab started quickly and I was back on the SUP after about a month, and also very committed to the stair climber at the gym.  I even did about a month of easy trail running, although still painful, leading up to surgery #2 (the left hip) in December 2017.  This time the labrum was reconstructed, along with more bone shaving for the impingement.  This meant a longer recovery, but a better prognosis for improvement.  So again, it was a quick commitment to rehab (mostly glute/core strengthening) and generally trying to stay in shape.  I returned to the SUP by March 2018 and again spent a lot of time on the stair climber.  In April, I got the ok to start running, but only on a treadmill for the first month.  I also discovered the Skillmill, which I still use regularly today.

I returned to trail running in May and progressed to the point that I thought I could finish the Never Summer 100K in July.  I figured if I could finish that, then I could finish the Bear in September.  As it turned out, I would finish them both.

To summarize a race report for both of these races, they were pretty much the same.  I was not as prepared for either race as I typically would want to be.  I sat on a rock and wanted to quit about half-way through both races (I had a million good excuses to not finish).  I even resorted to trekking poles for the last 50 miles of Bear, which I never use.  However, I did finish both races, which was really my only goal (I knew I would be slow), and last month I got my spot in Hardrock 2019.

So now the plan is to continue to get stronger.  I know I am not fully recovered from the second surgery (up to 18 months for full recovery) and there are still days that hurt more than others, but I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was before the surgeries.  I've gotten back to doing some speed work and even some short road races, making me actually feel like a runner again.  I now know it's all about the glutes and the goal is to literally be a "strong-ass" runner to keep those hip joints working for as long as possible.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way!  Despite the surgeries and recoveries, I still fit in many great adventures over the last couple of years, just at a slower pace.