Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rough Beginnings to a New Year

On January 1st I ran a local Fat Ass 50K and won in a time of 6:29. The race was run in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and in the morning the ground was frozen but as the day wore on the course became muddy and slippery. I'm not saying it was a large field of runners or a deep field of runners it's just that I took it as a good omen for things to come and of course this year in particular I'm looking for all the omens I can find and hoping that they are all good. Why, well, I think I've crowed about it to just about everyone I can think of but this year is the single biggest year in my running "career." Not only did I qualify for Boston for the first time ever having slashed almost an hour and a half off my marathon time, but I was the only New Mexican to be selected in the lottery to run Western States and so of course that opened the gates for my bid to complete the Grand Slam of Ultra Running.

However, that first day of the year was to be my one and only good omen of things to come. I took the next week to recover with some low miles at an easy pace; I think I logged about 35 miles and my weekly mileage the week before the race had been at 60 so it really was a recovery week. When I started up my next week of high mileage training I made it to Wednesday and during my run into work I started to experience a tightness in my upper left buttock. I slowed the pace but the tightness began to grow worse so I slowed the pace even more and then the tightness turned to pain so I just stopped altogether and called Misty to come and get me. I was 7 miles into a 12 mile run and it was about 28 degrees out so I wasn't going to risk trying to finish or trying to walk it in.

In the minute I spent stopped and calling Misty the area of tightness stiffened considerably and I had a pronounced hobble as I walked to the street corner where Misty was to pick me up. It took her maybe five minutes to get to me and then about 10 minutes for us to get back home. The pain had become serious enough that I knew I should stay home from work and try to get an appointment with my primary care physician. When we got home and I got out of the care I almost collapsed because of the pain and complete lack of strength in my left leg. It was really quite stunning. I have fractured my hip before and not had this combination of a lack of strength and intense pain. I hobbled into the house using the car, fence, gate wall, door frame and Misty to keep me from falling over.

I was able to get in to see my doc the next morning so I just stayed home and rested flat on my back. After determining it wasn't something blatantly obvious like serious fracture and being advised that I could probably run a little if it didn't hurt I first attempted to ride my bike, which ended up making it hurt worse. I then tried going for a hike in the foothills behind my house, which made it hurt. I finally just tried going for a walk around my neighborhood. I was only able to hold a 21 minute per mile pace and, of course, it hurt. I have not attempted any form of exercise whatsoever for the past seven days and, you guessed it, it continues to hurt despite the fact that I have been taking unhealthy amounts of ibuprofen. As a matter of fact, I simply gave up on that after five days because it really didn't make any difference.

I went back in to see my doc yesterday hoping that now since I've tried rest I'd get a cortisone shot but that was a no-go because there is no pain to the touch so there isn't anywhere he can inject me. I now have a referral to a pain specialist because the most likely scenario at this point is a seriously inflamed sacroiliac joint and the most likely fast acting treatment for that is a cortisone shot deep into the joint, deep enough that it has to be done by a specialist and guided in by some type of imagining machine. He may also want me to go get an MRI since the X-rays were negative. I don't get that appointment until February 7th and my expectation is that is when any testing will be ordered and I won't necessarily get any treatment. However, I'm also going to see a chiropractor this Friday so with any luck something more positive and immediate will come of that. The Chiropractor I'm going to see is a sports injury specialist and works with the New Mexico Lobos. If he coached the Lobos or had anything to do with their general lack of success I'd avoid the guy but since he just treats some of their injured athletes I'll take it at worst as equivocal information.

In the mean time I guess today I'll try and hit the pool on base, which is always a hit or miss proposition. I've been there twice during their "hours of operation" and they weren't operating. My backup plan is to hit the gym and look into either the elliptical trainer or see if they have a rowing machine, anything that will allow me to at least maintain my cardiovascular fitness.

I'm becoming very self-conscious about complaining to health care people about my need to get this seen and resolved quickly because of my athletic pursuits because, after all, it's not like I'm a professional athlete or even an elite armature trying to make the Olympics. I've discovered that most non-runners don't even know what it actually means to get into Boston. Most say, "wow, isn't that the race where there are a lot of people?" or "Wow, isn't that one hard to get into because so many people sign up?" It always comes across as, "Man it's a bummer if you can't do the race but really it's just an inconvenience, right, you can do it any time." Forget about explaining qualification standards and what it took to transform my butt from 310 pounds of non-running fat to a 200 pound Boston qualifier and don't even get me started on Western States and the Grand Slam. I say I got into Western States and they think, "Well, shit, we live in a western state how hard can it be" and that the Grand Slam is something you can get at any neighborhood Denny's.

Normally this stuff doesn't bother me. I don't need for other people to fully grasp the things that are important to me because they are only important to me and I'm normally the only one who needs to understand or appreciate them. But now it's different, or it certainly feels different, I need to make them understand how important it is, how much work and money has brought me to where I am and therein lies the self-consciousness. I can't judge my plight as being any more important than anyone else's plight or even that getting someone else to the point where they can sit in their LazyBoy and watch the Boston marathon more comfortably is any less urgent than getting me healed so I can actually go run the Boston marathon.

But, it is, right? You can ask Misty, I a huge baby when it comes to being sick or injured.

My current thinking is that, worst case scenario, I have to skip my first race of the year, which is the Bataan Memorial Death March marathon, run Boston easy and just be happy with the experience of running Boston and then see if I am up for actually racing the Army National Guard's All Guar Marathon Team time trials. If I can't actually race there I may bow out and just focus on training for the Slam. At this point I'm not thinking that I'm out for the Slam. I sure as hell hope that's not wishful thinking.


  1. Bummer. I hurt just reading about it.

    I would not feel self conscious about your health care needs. THATS THEIR CATER TO YOUR NEEDS.

    You are one of the very very few people that fixed your bad habits yourself with lifestyle gently point out that you need help!

    Congrats on your BQ..I aspire someday (maybe). However who cares about running Boston fast? You got the BQ, I would just enjoy the sights and sounds of the race... Think of it as an enormous victory lap that you got there at all (mr former 300lb-er etc)!

    Anyway, good luck with the health care system. Too bad you don't need a mental health tune could get that in-house (haha)

  2. Wow, that sucks. And such a random, nebulous thing, too. I think it's always easier to have a diagnosis than a "well, let's try this...."

    And I totally get where you're coming from on the need to stay ready for your athletic pursuits, even if mine are way smaller than yours. So much work goes into it, and not just the work but the dreams and excitement and anticipation. Plus, once going out and running or riding crazy miles is what you do for fun, not being able to do so is as painful as the pain.

    I hope you get fixed up quickly, for you and for Misty's sake! :)

  3. As a physical therapist, the first thing that popped into my head when you described the location of the pain is your sacroiliac joint. The chiropractor should be able to test this area and hopefully do some adjustments and give you exercises to fix it, if that is the actual problem. If you end up at a physical therapist, I would ask if they have extra training in treating the SI joint since it is a complcated joint. I hope you get to the bottom of this and get some long term relief!

  4. Hopefully you are still able to P90X type workouts. Dropping weight and having a strong core will make a huge difference in ultras, where being able to keep correct posture means decreased discomfort and faster times. I'm just doing '200 squats' & '100 pushup' workouts now, and feel great. Great job at Foothills 50k :) Guess you won't be at Placitas?

  5. Wow, really hope the Chiro and rest can (has?) help(ed), and hope you do get the MRI to get to the bottom of this immediately.
    I see "Stairmaster" "Hiking" "Swimming" but also some Running in your workout log, and hope for steady progress.
    Boston is a 26mile party for most folks, but obviously, it'd be great to be feeling excellent for such a whale of an event, and for the training you especially need this year.
    I've followed you for a while now because we've had somewhat similar paths through Sprint Tri, Century Cycling, Ironman..., and you've successfully made the transition I'm still trying to make- Ultrarunner. For me to check in and see you set up for a Grand Slam attempt and come down with a debilitating mystery injury at the same time is really heartbreaking. As with everything you've done, steady progress is what I'll hope for.

    As for Docs, Man I've quit more than 1 for the reasons you've mentioned. I don't walk around needing folks just trying to get through their day to waste time understanding the extraordinary lengths I've gone to to accomplish some lifetime achievement endurance goals. But I need a Doc who knows how serious my health is to me because of those goals. I believe I've actually found such a Doc, but he's so busy I've seen his PA now for over a year, and I frankly I'm tired of that. Ha, so it goes.
    Best of Luck!