Friday, July 29, 2016

With Renewed Vigor

In addition to reminding you of trips to places you’ll probably never get back to, ex’s you’re no longer with and relatives and pets who have passed, Facebook will also remind you if you have a blog that you haven’t written in for some time.  The reminder is not much.  Facebook is not pushy but Facebook IS persistent.  Just a little reminder every day that says, You are lazy. 

So I am returning. 


1) I miss it.  There are parts of me that enjoy writing (my fingers do not enjoy it, which makes typing awkward) 

2) I’m attempting to do something difficult in my life and can use the blog to keep me honest. 

3) It’s my sister’s birthday.  She’s the one who inspired me to start distance running in the first place and continues
to inspire me to run today.

So I had stopped writing for a few reasons but did not stop racing.  One of the reasons I stopped writing was because I hadn’t really been training.  Training is what happens between races.  It’s the hard part that no one wants to do.  It’s fairly difficult to keep writing I didn’t get to the gym/run today but will try harder tomorrow.  Rather than train so I had something to write about, it was easier to stop writing about it.  I kept racing because racing is fun, I just wasn’t putting in the work in between to make sure I had the best races I could. 

My race schedule for 2015 (when I last wrote) was light mostly due to my toddlers.  Lack of time, lack of money, lack of sleep.  I did however complete two marathons, New Jersey in May and New York in November, both of which were new personal bests for me.  These two races sandwiched the Walkway Marathon in Poughkeepsie which will go down in the books as a DNF.  Race day was extremely humid which didn’t help but more importantly, I wasn’t locked in mentally.  The more you train, the harder it gets to quit but I wasn’t training.  I also had some stuff going on at work which was distracting me from being in the moment.  Somewhere around mile 11 I realized that although I could probably make it another 15 miles, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to wander around Poughkeepsie for another 3+ hours.  I walked into an aide station and announced that I was giving up.  I regret it and will go back for round 2 one day. 

The 2016 race schedule has been light as well.  The first race of the year was cancelled due to weather conditions.  My third race of the year, which will always be known by me as the Coogan’s Run although NYRR calls it something else, seemed like an easy race to finish and a quick way to pick up credit for the 9+1 to run the NYC Marathon in 2017.  I had been experiencing some issues with numbness in my left leg from the knee down.  I was diagnosed by Dr. Internet as having piriformis syndrome, a numbness in my lower leg due to an unexplained compression of nerves in my hip socket.  I rested for a week or so before the race and stretched to try to free the nerve. Going into the race, I had also been experiencing what I thought to be a hyperextended knee caused by a vigorous session on an elliptical machine which will remain nameless.  I was beat up but figured I was capable of completing a 5K.  My running style has been self-described as “Grim Determination” so a short distance like this one, even injured, was of no concern.

I arrived in Washington Heights ready to run.  When I run, I know two times: my personal best for that distance and my personal best for that particular course.  My 5K PB was recorded during a race at MetLife Stadium which makes sense as I was amped because the race is finished by scoring a touchdown (running into the end zone) and because the course is very flat through the parking lot outside of the stadium.  In comparison, the Coogan’s course is incredibly hilly and less likely to result in personal bests.  Also, I wasn’t in as good shape as when I got the PB in New Jersey.  I started out, felt good and was enjoying my race.  At some time toward the end of Mile 2, I felt numbness in my left leg.  Looking at my watch, I was also on pace to set a new PB for the course.  I continued to run although I couldn’t really feel my foot.  I felt relatively okay for the next week and then fell asleep on the train the following Friday.  It must have been the way my knee was bent but when I woke up 25 minutes later, I was in intense pain and was having a hard time walking.  I made appointments with an orthopedist and an MRI was ordered.  They found this:

There was a sleestak living in my knee. 

Okay, I have already used that joke.  From the picture you can see the spot the arrow’s pointing to, there are some whitish spots which indicate a wintry mix of ice and snow and as always, there is congestion on the Cross Bronx Expressway.  If you study the picture long enough, you’ll believe that the guy sitting next to Jesus is actually Mary Magdalene.

Actual diagnosis: partially torn ACL, torn meniscus, torn cartilage.  I also had an impressively large (doctor’s evaluation, not mine) Baker’s Cyst on the back of my knee which was largely responsible for the lack of flexibility.  I also found out I have discoid meniscus which is the awesomest name for a band ever. 

I was told to see a PT and do rehab for five weeks and then a decision would be made regarding surgery.  I didn’t quite make it to a therapist but after the initial pain subsided and some mobility returned, I started walking a lot during my lunch break at work and eventually returning to the gym.  I switched orthopedists and after looking at my MRI, my new orthopedist recommended microfracture surgery.  He rattled off a few athletes who had the surgery including Alan Houston and Mo Vaughn.  If my memory serves me correctly, both had their careers cut short by knee issues.  Also, my knee didn’t hurt that much.  There was still some pain from time to time but it was more reminiscent of tendinitis than an injury which required surgery.  After looking at my MRI, I wondered how similar my healthy knee would look.  Was this damage new or was it something I’d been living with for some time that only came to light because I had my first MRI on my knee? 

Long story short, I decided that if I was going to have the microfracture surgery, it was going to be because I was in pain or because I couldn’t run anymore.  I finished the Queens 10K with no knee pain during the race or in the week after.  I didn’t set a PB for the course or the distance but I ran it faster than other 10Ks I have run while healthy.  I decided that it is not yet the time for surgery.
               Since then, I’ve been formulating a plan to get myself in position to run a few more races this year specifically the Chicago and New York Marathons.  If I had the surgery, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in Chicago and New York would have most likely have been a DNF as I’d have no time to train and about 4 months of limited activity prior.
               There are 71 days until the Chicago Marathon.  My plan is to drop weight and do as much as I can to strengthen my legs to take pressure off my knee while not making the injury much worse.  That’s a good plan for life in general, I think. 

Anyway, welcome back.