Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February Wrap-Up, The Big 5-0, and Health News

Before I get into the deep stuff, here are my, as always, "edge-of-your-seat" numbers from February:

Runs: 8                                              (YTD: 12)
Miles: 31.4                                         (YTD: 45)
Rides (trainer): 8                              (YTD: 18)
Miles: 143.9                                       (YTD: 273)
Swims: 4 (hangs head in shame)     (YTD: 10)
Yards: 7,350                                      (YTD: 20,600)

Well, I officially made it to the half century mark yesterday (2/28). It feels odd to think of myself as a 50-year old. I remember how old that seemed to me when I was a teenager. Yet, here I am. It's better than the alternative.

Fifty means a new age group. I can't say I'm terribly excited about that, for two reasons. First, I'm nowhere near what I would consider racing shape. And, secondly, m50-54 is a VERY competitive age group! We're a bunch of guys trying to fight Father Time, proving to others (mostly ourselves, honestly) that we can still compete with the younger guys. Combine that with possibly more free time and disposable income, and you have some tough dudes to hang with.

Now, on to the "bleak at first glance" health news.

If you've read this blog in the last year and a half, you probably know that I've had three surgeries during that time: both arms and my right hip. Not one to visit the doc very often (let alone the hospital), I learned, during my surgery-related visits, that I had dangerously high blood pressure (174/106, at one point). Whether or not that was caused or enhanced by the surgeries is up for debate. It could be stress-related, given the up-and-down/deadline oriented nature of my self-employment the last 23 years. Oh, and having two teenage daughters, of course ;-)

I finally started taking blood pressure meds last October, which seems to be working well. Fast-forward to January of this year, when I found a new doctor (my previous doc left his practice), who decided to run me through every test known to man, since I was turning 50. That turned out to be a good thing, since it was discovered (after several blood, urine and ultrasound tests) that I have Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease. This came as quite a shock to me. I've been healthy my entire life. I'm active, eat well (usually), don't smoke, hardly drink, and have never been overweight. Kidney issues don't run in my family, either.

Long story short, Stage 3 CKD is manageable, and with diligence, can be stopped from progressing to Stage 4, or Stage 5 (total failure, requiring dialysis and/or transplant). Management for me requires me to ALWAYS stay hydrated. My doc said my kidneys start shutting down when I become dehydrated (which, apparently, was pretty frequently in my case). So, 60oz of water, minimum, every day. Also, no ibuprofen or NSAIDs, EVER! And, no contrast dyes if/when I have any scans in the future. That, and keep my BP under control.

So, really, it's not THAT big of a deal, as long as I stay on top of it.

During this "New, Hydrated Me" period, I discovered something interesting. A couple of weeks ago, I had to drink 100oz of water per day for a week. During that week, I had one of my best workouts in recent history. I did a "brick" (bike/run) at the gym. Thirty minutes on the spin bike, immediately followed by a 3 mile run on the treadmill. During the run, I actually got angry at the treadmill because I couldn't crank up the speed fast enough. I felt almost unstoppable, especially compared to recent previous workouts. I wasn't quite sure why I felt so strong that day. After that week of ultra-hydration (needed before additional blood work), I slacked off the water a bit (this was before my doctor's new edict). I then had a couple of mediocre and a couple of lousy workouts (runs & swims, mostly). I'm currently 3 days into my new 60oz+ of water per day routine. I did a 4 mile treadmill run earlier today, and had that unstoppable feeling again. I ran mile 3 in 7:52 (fast for me, lately) without much discomfort or strain at all. Therefore, my theory is that hydration makes a HUGE difference for me. That said, I certainly don't expect every run, ride and swim to feel great, now that I'm guzzling water every day. But, I would expect lousy workouts if I slip into dehydration again. It will be interesting (and possibly scary) to see if I can remain hydrated when on long rides or runs in the heat this coming summer. It'll take some planning, but I think I can manage.

Before I go, a very quick knee and hip update: both hurt just a bit when I run, but since I switched to running in Hokas, both are tolerable.

I'll end this with my own Public Service Announcement: Please get checked out by your doctor regularly! Especially middle aged men, who don't enjoy visiting the doctor. We're not invincible, no matter how healthy we appear to be.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Triathlon Training? Really?

Even while my body fights me all the way, I've decided to finally take a shot at a triathlon. It'll be a sprint tri, so I can limit my run training out of necessity.

My current training plan has me swimming, running and cycling twice per week each. I haven't stuck to that plan very well so far this year, but I'm not far off. Thanks to a particularly hard winter so far, all training has been done indoors...which has been quite boring.

I re-joined the local YMCA, which is where I've been swimming and running (on the treadmill). I have my old road bike set up on my trainer at home, so that's where I "ride."

I'm not a fast swimmer, but my endurance is improving. My always troublesome left knee is a little quirky still, but the combination of my Hokas and the treadmill seem to be acceptable, so far. We'll see how it feels once I hit the roads (and/or run in other shoes).

The triathlon is on May 20th, so I have plenty of time to prepare (and to see if I can continue running). I already purchased my tri kit, and it's just a tad small. Bought it on sale (70% off!) and can't exchange it, so I have more motivation to lose a couple of inches around my waist.

The open water swim portion of the race seems intimidating to me, having never really done an open water swim. I hope to get a wetsuit long enough before the race so I can test-drive it in a local lake.

And, having only taken it out three times before the snow hit, I'm eager to put some outdoor miles on my new Cervelo R3!

Through the first 5 weeks of 2017, here are my modest training totals:

Swims: 6 @ 13,250 yds
Trainer rides: 12 @ 158 mi
Runs: 5 @ 17 mi

Not much, but I hope to ramp up as I improve.

Happy training, y'all!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Um...About That Last Post...

Crow Eaters Unite!

I guess I made my bed, now I'm eating crow in it. Or some such mixed metaphor.

Remember that "I'm retiring from running" post I put up back in July? Yeah, let's just forget about that. For now, anyway. Why? Well, I started "running" again about 3 1/2 weeks ago. I was curious to see how my surgically repaired hip was doing. I did a couple of run-walks with my dog. They felt pretty good. I moved up to complete runs (however short) and kept them pretty slow. The left knee started to hurt again, which has been an issue for a few years now. I saw my hip surgeon for a follow-up on the hip, and mentioned my knee to him. A different doctor had done an MRI on my knee a year ago, so he had to go look it up. He said there was no structural damage (cartilage and knee cap look fine), but there's some edema (fluid buildup). He gave me a cortisone shot, and said he could scope the knee before the end of the year if the shot doesn't help. I've since done two runs. Monday of this week, I ran 2.5 miles, and the knee felt a little better. Today, I ran 4 miles at 9:15 pace. I felt a dull ache in the knee as opposed to the sharp pain I usually felt. Although, my hip ached a bit after the run. Maybe I won't start increasing the distance nor the pace for a while.

But, I guess I'm "resurrecting" my running once again. I've lost count how many times this is.

One reason I'm trying to get back to some running is that I really want to do a triathlon next year, even if it's just a sprint. I finally bought a new bike this week — a 2016 CervĂ©lo R3. It's a very nice bike, probably better than I deserve. This was to be my Christmas present last year, but plans changed after I tore my right bicep tendon, which required surgery (and paying a huge deductible).

But, the delayed gratification was worth it. Here's my new baby:

Let's hope this bike is crash-proof. Not sure the rider will be...

I also want to start swimming again soon. Haven't done that for about 5 years!

So, that's the story and I'm sticking to it. Until I do my Brett Favre impression and retire yet again ;-)

Onward, my friends!

Friday, July 22, 2016

End of an Era

So...a rare post!

I'm sure nobody reads this blog anymore, and for good reason — I haven't posted anything in six months!

I started this blog in 2009 to document my return to running, after a several year layoff. I wrote about running my first half marathon (and several subsequent halves), my first (and only) full marathon, and all training involved en route. I wrote about my diet, my weight training, weight loss, my injuries... oh, did I write about injuries! Some of them sidelined me for months (over a year in one case), yet I "resurrected" myself as a runner, as best I could, after most of them.

As the years wore on, my body kept sending me messages that it wasn't tolerating the running any longer. Be it from poor training choices, insufficient rolling/stretching/mobility, my propensity to "overdo" things, or just biomechanical flaws. Perhaps a combination of all of those.

After my marathon in May of 2010, I developed "Haglund's Deformity," which was basically a heel bump and very aggravated achilles tendon. After months of rehab and physical therapy, I resumed running. Long story short, I then managed to pull a hamstring, tweak a calf, endure hip pain, and permanently (?) develop a sharp pain under my left knee cap every time my left foot landed while running.

I went to physical therapy for said knee issue, only to discovery that I also had a torn labrum in my right hip. I'll be having surgery for that less than a month from now.

So, with my running more or less shut down, I decided to take up the sport of road cycling in early 2015. All was going swimmingly until I crashed in May, due to a leg cramp. The urgent care clinic didn't detect it at the time, but I actually fractured my left wrist in the crash.

Riding resumed, fitness improved, enjoyment increased as I continued to ride into summer. Then, one fateful day in August, I had a violent crash that snapped my left radius. Surgery was required to insert a plate and 8 screws to hold the bone in place.

Five months later (January of this year), I tore my right distal biceps tendon, requiring yet another surgery to repair it. Yes, I had surgeries on both arms within a 5 month period. Quite fun.

To continue this ride on the "Woe Is Me Train," I tore my left calf muscle a couple of weeks ago while doing stunts off a diving board (trying to keep up with teenagers) while visiting relatives in Texas. No surgery required for this injury, thankfully.

With all that said, I believe my running days are now behind me. It took a while, but I've come to terms with it. I fell short of several of my goals (I did hit 10,000 lifetime miles last year, though.)  I can't say I'll never run again, but I can pretty confidently say I'll never again approach running like I did when I started this blog. That's not to say I regret what I did as a runner. Sure, I could have been smarter, but I enjoyed the process. I met a lot of great people in the running community (both in person and online); many that I'm still friends with today.

As I approach the age of 50 in a few months, and as I endure one injury after another, my goal now is to do whatever it takes to be fit, healthy and injury-free from here on out. Much easier said than done, especially knowing myself, but I do know that the extremes (which may not be extreme for others) don't work at all for me. My "all-or-nothing" approach has been a recipe for disaster in most cases. The well-worn cliché of "moderation is key" seems to contain more truth than I ever realized.

So with my with that, my 549th post here, my friends (the one or two of you that may accidentally read this!), I bid you farewell. Thank you for your friendship, your comments, your support, your encouragement, and for buying my parody songs! Unless there's a reason to post here again as a "resurrected runner," I think the purpose of this blog has been met. Maybe it's time to start a "Moderate Fitness" blog!

Be well, run strong, stay safe.


Monday, January 25, 2016

I Couldn't Make This Stuff Up

If I could throw in the towel I would. But that requires your throwing arm to NOT have a torn biceps tendon.

From the "Here We Go Again" files...I will be having surgery soon to repair a torn right biceps tendon. It popped clean off of my bone a week ago today.

Here's the exciting tale:

Two Thursdays ago, I was at my dad's house, getting ready to load my sister's belongings into my truck and other vehicles to help her move into her new house. My dad has a riding lawnmower that wouldn't start, yet had to be moved out of the way. While my dad was inside taking care of something else, I decided that I could take care of this problem by myself. So, I dialed my testosterone up to "HIGH" and proceeded to push the mower. The back wheels were locked up, so I had to push hard. I had forgotten that the seat flips up (it hinges near the front), and I was pushing against it. The seat suddenly flipped, my right arm hyperextended and I felt something pull around my elbow. I was in quite a bit of pain, but I continued helping my sister move that night and the next day.

Over the weekend, it slowly started feeling better. I bowl league on Monday nights, so I decided to give it a go. On my first warm-up throw, I felt a "pop" and sharp pain. I knew exactly what I had done. My orthopedist (the guy who operated on my broken left arm last August) confirmed my fears two days later and recommended surgery. I'm still waiting to hear from the scheduler on the date.

Fortunately, the bicep & tendon didn't retract too far up my arm, so hopefully they won't need to cut a huge incision to fish it out and pull it back down. It is slightly deformed, though. I have a bigger gap around my inner elbow now, below the biceps. I also had a good amount of bruising below the elbow (where the blood pooled).

Ugly, but I've seen worse after biceps tears...

After surgery, I'll be unable to use the arm for 2-4 weeks. Recovery will be gradual after that, with "full" recovery taking 6 months, so says my doc.

So much for attempting my first triathlon this spring. This also delays my new bike purchase. With a high insurance deductible, my body will be a financial burden for a second straight year.

As for the hip I've mentioned in previous posts, I'll tentatively get that surgery done in mid-August. By then my deductible will be met, so might as well get it taken care of, too. I'll also have to endure physical therapy after both surgeries.

So this year will pretty much be a wash, as far as any serious training goes. This will be three surgeries (four, if you count my root canal) in the span of one year, after basically going my entire life without any. Hopefully, this will be it for my stretch of misfortune for a LONG time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hip Update

Well, it has been confirmed that I do have a labral tear in my right hip. The cause is likely from the top of my femur having a very slight bump in it, and over the years it has pinched that cartilage and torn it.

I will need to have surgery, but after meeting with the specialist, I've decided to put it off for the time being. After my recent broken arm, I'm not exactly ready financially nor mentally to go through that process again. The recovery and PT involved just doesn't appeal to me right now. The doc said that I should be fine, as long as I don't put it off for too long. Otherwise, it'll lead to arthritis and, possibly, a full hip replacement. Tentatively, I'm thinking about getting it done this fall. In the meantime, I can get a cortisone injection if/when it bothers me too much. I'm hoping to train for a triathlon or two, so we'll see if that becomes necessary due to my training.

With that said, I'm planning on heading out for my first run since I broke my treadmill over a month ago. I can tell that my left knee is still an issue, so hopefully the pain won't be too bad.

Maybe I should get that cortisone shot in my left knee instead...?

ADDENDUM: I did have surgery on my right hip on August 18th, 2016...which is the one year anniversary of my first surgery, on my broken left arm. It was a sweet way to bookend my 3 surgeries.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Hip Kinda Guy

Time to un-neglect this blog once again to bring you an update. Since my last post a month ago, I've run exactly 3 times for a total of 8 miles. All on the treadmill (which felt better than the road, but not entirely without pain). I figured I could manage 2-3 short treadmill runs per week, especially given the outdoor conditions. That is, until I broke the treadmill during my third run. So, that's that.

I continued with my physical therapy visits, once or twice per week, focusing on strengthening my hips, glutes, legs, working on balance, stretching & flexibility. During this process, my right groin became more and more noticeably painful. My PT guy suspected I have some sort of impingement and suggested I see an orthopedist. I did, and got an X-ray that showed some bone chips floating around. He also said I may have a torn labrum there, too. So I get to have my hip numbed, shot full of dye, then an MRI on Christmas Eve.

The fun never ends for this guy.

With the bone chips, I'm wondering if this isn't more fallout from my bike accident back in August.

If there is a tear, surgery will probably be recommended. I've even had dreams where I had my MRI, then overheard my doc talking with the MRI tech about a hip replacement. My broken body is now haunting (taunting?) me in my sleep.

2015 has been a rough year for the old bod. I'm hoping for a still very active but less painful year in 2016. Or, at the very least, less expensive.

Oh, speaking of expensive, there is some good news: I will be buying a new road bike. It's my Christmas present and has been officially approved by the Mrs. Not sure which make and model I'm looking for, but I'd love full carbon fiber with Shimano Ultegra components. In the meantime, I've been riding my old bike on my indoor trainer 3x per week. It can be a grind, but it's better than nothing here in snowy Spokane.

Back to the MRI. I'll have my follow-up on Monday the 28th, after which I'll post the results.

So until then, Merry Christmas, folks!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Shut Down, Again

Since my last blog post, I've had some setbacks with my running. What's new, right? The week after my first 10-mile run in 3 years, I ran yet another one. This came the day after a particularly hard PT session, including some exercises I hadn't done before. Consequently, I struggled during the run, had more pain than usual, and was too hardheaded to cut the run short. Ergo, I came out of it a bit scathed, rather than the unscathed I was hoping for.

Fast-forward a few more days and I went out for a moderately paced 4-miler, which I had to cut a mile short due to a strained right calf. It was a cold day, so I thought the calf was just tight. As the run went on, it hurt more and more. That was about a week and a half ago, and I haven't run since.

Of course it's frustrating, but I'm used to that feeling. It's how my body rolls these days. Two steps forward, two steps back. I'm hoping to add at least a half step to the two forward eventually. I don't expect to ever be 100% injury-free or pain-free again when it comes to running. But I hope to get to where it's at least manageable and only a little uncomfortable.

In the meantime, I've dusted off my trusty fluid trainer and have done a few indoor rides, taking advantage of my Netflix subscription. It's not as fun as running (or even riding) outdoors, but I get a really good workout and sweat like crazy, so it's not all bad.

I also started hitting the weights and bodyweight exercises again. I think I may have gotten a tad ahead of myself, however. This morning, my left forearm is throbbing and a little sore right around the break area. I think the pull ups may be the primary culprit. I may not be ready to hang and pull my entire bodyweight up with my arms — left arm, in particular. So, I shall back off again and let it rest.

This has been a bit of a tough year for me, physically. I'm getting weary of complaining like an old man, but I really feel like one lately. I had two relatively serious bike crashes, arm surgery, a bad knee (even before any crashing), a root canal on a dying tooth, a strained calf, some shoulder problems, and get the h*ll offa my lawn, you blasted kids!

But, here in the U.S., it's Thanksgiving week. I'm alive and otherwise healthy. Got a great wife, two awesome daughters, a spoiled dog, roof over my head and food in my belly. Get to draw things for a living. Any complaining I do is pretty ridiculous when put into perspective, I guess.

I'm very, very thankful. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Double Digits, and a PT Update

This week marked the first time in nearly THREE YEARS since I've recorded a double-digit run! I ran a pretty solid 10 miles last Thursday, keeping the pace nice and easy (9:05/mile average). As usual, my left knee hurt for 2-3 miles, but then it settled down quite a bit. My right hip (which has sometimes hurt more than the knee) barked a few times, but didn't feel too bad. This was an out-and-back run (which I've been doing on the Centennial Trail, by the Spokane River, for my long runs) and I was going to go out 4 miles and turn around, unless I felt better than usual, in which case I'd stretch it to 5. That's what I did, and the last 5 miles were the least painful miles I've run in a LONG time! If all runs felt like those last 5 miles, I could live with that. However, I'm sure that won't always be the case, given my history.

Which leads me to the physical therapy I'm currently doing. I just finished my second full week (twice per week), and it seems to be helping. I'm doing a lot of foam rolling (on the evil black roller), stretching (hamstrings, calves, groin, quads) and a good deal of hip and glute strengthening using various exercise bands. I'm also working on my single-leg balance using a couple of different exercises. I've had my left IT band rubbed and dug into a couple of times (and have bruises to prove it), but it seems a little looser. I often leave there feeling pretty beat up and unable to walk normally, but I can finally feel my stabilizer muscles kicking in now during some of the movements. And, like I mentioned above, the knee pain seems to be lessening a little.

On my second visit, I ran a mile on the treadmill while my PT guy watched my form. I apparently swing my legs a bit and "scissor" my stride (i.e. cross over a little), which probably puts my knees in poor alignment, along with my hips. He says that should start correcting itself as I get stronger and more flexible, but I've started consciously working on my stride the last couple of runs. It feels odd, but I'm trying to make it only a small adjustment and not go overboard and potentially cause other issues. I'll be doing PT until the end of November. After that, I'll continue doing it at home on a maintenance program, and will do my best to roll and stretch both before and after I run.

Today, I finally set my beat-up bike on the trainer and did an easy 45 minute spin. It was the first time I've been on the bike since my accident back on August 13th. It felt good to be back on, even if it was indoors on a stationary trainer. I'm very hesitant to ride that bike outdoors again. I'll probably have the shop look it over, but it did get banged up pretty good in the accident, and if any of the frame is compromised, I'm asking for trouble by riding it outdoors again. And that's the logic I'm using on my wife in hopes of getting her blessing on buying a new bike! Thanks to our glut of broken arm expenses, I'm not expecting that blessing to be granted until next year (if even then), but with a few triathlons in my plans for 2016, I'll pretty much need the new bike.

But marital harmony comes first.

And I'm going to end this blog entry before I get myself into trouble. Thankfully, my better half doesn't read this blog.

I hope...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Ten Thousand Miles, an MRI, and PT!

Well, well, well...

After FAR too many years, I finally managed to hit the 10,000 mile mark for lifetime running mileage. Some of you might say, "that's quite an achievement for someone dealing with so many injuries over the years," and others might say, "jeesh, it took you long enough!" You would both be correct. I have many running friends who have eclipsed this mileage in far less time and have probably doubled or tripled my mileage already, so this won't be all that impressive to those folks. But it hasn't been an easy road for me. Still isn't.

Ran my 10,000th mile today in 7:22 (4th mile of a 5 mile run). Didn't feel easy. Sucks to be out of shape. And yes, my knee and hip hurt. But it was awesome!

It all started back on June 26, 1983 (Actually, it started a few years before that, with a year of XC during middle school, for which I have no written records, so I don't include those miles.) I was living in Kent, WA with my dad, stepmom and baby sister but visiting my mom and other family in Florida during summer break. I was going into my junior year of high school and had decided I wanted to run cross country. So I started running loops around the block where we lived.

Those of you that know me at all will NOT be surprised to know that I do, indeed, have my first written log from that time. My first recorded run was a 2-miler (at 6:46 pace!) around the block (CD stands for Crestwood Drive). I also like that I threw down a 5:44 mile during my second week of running. Ah, youth...

Low mileage, fast pace. What's this "base building" people talk about?

Thirty-two years of ups and downs (and plenty of injuries) later, I finally met that goal. You can see on the right side of this blog, if you scroll down a ways, my year-to-year mileage. Some years have zeroes, some have hardly any mileage at all. I'll admit that not all of those paltry years were due to injuries. Post high school, I lost interest in running (oh, if I had that time back again...I was just starting to get fast when I graduated!) There were other years where I decided I was going to lift weights and add muscle to my skinny frame. And, of course, there were plenty of injuries that derailed my running, sometimes for months (or years) at a time. But, glutton for punishment that I seem to be, I always returned to running. It's in my blood.

So, here's to the next 10,000 miles, God (and body) willing.

Speaking of a willing body, I ended up getting an MRI on my left knee after all. I won't go into the ugly details involving my insurance company (there are still issues being dealt with), but I met with my doc a few days ago to go over the results. Long story short, my knee looks great! No tears. Cartilage, tendons & ligaments all look good. Very little wear and tear. No arthritis. There is a bone bruise (probably from one of my bike crashes, but my knee pain goes back long before any crash), and there's a bit of fat deposit that might be causing impingement, but nothing that's obviously giving me the knee pain I'm still experiencing. I'm thrilled to know the knee is structurally sound, but frustrated that I still don't know what's up. Doc said that tight hamstrings can lead to knee pain (I've had tight hamstrings for decades, so I doubt it's the main problem.) I decided to go for a 6-week round of physical therapy to hopefully get my gait analyzed (again), get more flexible, deal with any strength imbalances and weaknesses and, hopefully, put the chronic pain behind me.

After all, I've got another 10,000+ miles to run. Don't want it to be painful! At least, not the bad kind of pain...