Sunday, February 16, 2014

Post Surgery Return to Racing

It was a beautiful day in Baytown yesterday.  I went in a half marathon which included this bridge. It was my first half marathon and longest run since heel spur surgery in September. I finished in 2:25, which works out to 11:06 per mile. That is fantastic!

Here is the long form of the race report:

The post surgery journey…

9/1/13 I was supposed to be in a 12 hour race. It was in Fenton Missouri and the temperature was a humid +90F. My heel did really well for about 4 hours and 16 or so miles. Then, the pain in the heel became totally bad. At a little over 7 hours and 26 miles, I decided to bag the race. I decided that I would come home and find an orthopedic.

I went to the insurance company web site. I typed in “heel spur surgery” and picked a clinic. I called the clinic and told the nurse what I wanted. She made an appointment with Dr Panchbhavi. I went to see him, a quiet Indian; professor of orthopedics at UTMB. Surgery was scheduled.

9/26/13 half marathon in 2h50. I was in massive pain due to a retrocalcaneal heel spur. I could hardly walk after that. 

I spent the following week in Pittsburgh for work thinking I’d have surgery on Thursday after I got home. On Monday 9/23, the clinic called and asked if I could do my surgery the following day. I lined up a friend to drive me around, left instructions for my boss to move my computer stuff to an accessible office and off I went.

9/24/13 by 10 am, I am home with pain killers and crutches. They should give you training on crutches. This evening I nearly kill myself on one step.

I am non-weight bearing for 6 weeks. On day 2, I realize that crutches are really hard on me. I ask a friend to borrow his knee scooter. I ask another friend to go to the state office and obtain a handicapped parking tag for me. I ask someone to drive me to the drug store to buy a shower bench.

10/1 I go for my post surgical Dr appointment. The surgical splint is removed and I have a boot. 5 more weeks of non-weight bearing.

I begin to complete twice daily floor exercises; leg lifts and situps of various types. After a couple of weeks, I add easy stationary bike. After another week, my upper body is not so exhausted from the crutches so I add upper body free weights to the routine.

11/4 I go to the doctor. The boot is removed and he wishes me a nice life. What? That’s it? 

I hire myself a sports chiropractor, Dr Dustin, to help me rehab my achilles. We begin twice weekly sessions.

It is amazing how sorry a calf and foot can become if not used for 6 weeks. The first few days, there was a massive pain in my foot and I can’t really use the achilles at all.

11/9 My first walk outside in Seabrook park. 0.46 miles took 18 minutes. The next day I went 1.6 miles in 44 minutes. God my foot hurt. I saw the regular people in the park but I don’t think they recognized me.

Life goes on. My worst problem seems to be wearing shoes at work. I am in pain all day every day. But it is getting better. I progress with Dr Dustin through level 1 then level 2 then level 3. My weekend walks become jog/ walks and I get able to go longer and longer. I am cross training a lot and continuing my leg lifts and core exercises. I start to do short runs.

In January, United Airlines lowered the price of a round trip ticket to Calgary to $570. Since I have friends meeting in Calgary for the marathon on 6/1, how could I not pass up buying a ticket? My weekend long jog/walk is already at 10 miles. 

Then, I decide to enter a half marathon in my home town in March. It is good swag and would be in the park I am always in so I might as well enter. Then, I decide, what the heck; and enter a half marathon in Baytown in February.

That brings me to today, 2/15/2014. 4 months and change, still dealing with various issues but overall doing well. I begin my day as usual with my spiritual lesson from A Course in Miracles: “God is the love in which I forgive” I won’t explain all about what the book says about this phrase but I bring it up because my mind was stuck on it all during the race. 

I get a great parking spot and wait in the car for race time. Then, I am at a starting line with several hundred other runners. I like it. I like seeing the various shapes and sizes of the people who presume to run half marathons. I am one of them.

Start. I just start jogging. I am doing easy pace. After a mile I look at my Garmin: easy pace is just over 11 min miles. What? Isn’t that too fast? I guess it is, but it is easy so I just keep doing easy. Miles go by and the pace remains the same. A little slower going up the bridge but a little faster coming down the bridge.

My buddy from work, Barry, is at the bottom of the bridge and takes my picture. The race moves onto a bike path and the volunteers have put a lot of motivating signs along the course. These are entertaining. I keep running. 

Does my foot hurt? Exactly where? How bad is it? Yes it hurts, but I keep going without any trouble. I look at my watch some more. Wow, I’m really going fast. I feel ok energy wise. Worries about the foot are not too bad. I keep passing people. Just one more mile. I put a little effort into it, trying to balance speed with worry.

I see the finish. I look intense as I pass the photographer. They announce my name as I cross the line. I stop the Garmin and look: 2h25 at an average speed of 11:06 per mile. OMG, awesome!

This was the longest post-surgery run in distance and by far the fastest.  I really don’t know how it was possible. It means a lot to me to be running at all. When I decided to go for surgery I didn’t care if I ever ran again. I was just hoping to walk without being hateful all the time. Thirteen 11 min miles seems incredible. But I did it. Now several hours later, my heel is not in bad shape; just the usual scar tissue pain.

Am I different now? Not really. When I go in a race, I try a little harder than when by myself. And so I amaze myself. Races are a pain as they require logistics; but they also bring camaraderie and swag. So, a balance; enough but not too much. 

Running and racing have been part of my life since I was a teenager. I can't give it up.

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