Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting ready for a New Year!

Did you have a good year in 2010?  Are you sorry to see it go...or are you happy to put it behind you and move on?  For me, I'm ready for a fresh start.  2010 was a tough year, but I also had some very good memories to reflect upon.

In 2010, I went on a great backcountry ski trip to British Columbia, paced Bruce G. at Western States, and paced the Goat in his first 100 miler in Vermont.  I watched my daughter graduate college, and watched my Granddaugher turn 1.  I met Charlotte in June, and we have been very lucky to share the last 6 months together. 

There has been stress and turmoil along the way with work and family, but who doesn't have something to fret about?  Since the accident, I have had my share of down moments, but I think I dwell less on the little stuff.  There was a panic on Christmas Eve when my Secret Santa gift could not be located.  It did not bother me in the least.  I said, "After you survive a 100 foot fall, a missing Secret Santa gift just doesn't seem that important."

I've been very fortunate to have the better part of two weeks off to end the year, and have tried to make the most of it in terms of the rehab.  I have made it to the gym nearly everyday and am routinely riding an hour on the bike and doing some upper body and core work.  Stretching feels great and my range of motion continues to improve.  Today, I managed to put in 17.4 miles on the bike in one hour which is a new record for me. Woohoo!  It really feels good to be on the road to recovery.  Sure, I used to run that distance routinely, but it's a new game now. 

Tim Ferriss, the author of the 4 Hour Work Week, released his new book, The 4 Hour Body (capitalizing on his first success I suppose).  Anyway, he sent me two free copies for volunteering to help with his book.  He didn't need me since he had the likes of Dean K. and Scott Jurek to lean on, but getting two complimentary copies of this voluminous work was very cool.  I think the book is over 400 pages and chock full of interesting insights and tips.  It just hit #1 on the NY Times bestseller list, so Tim is a happy camper.  Anyway, it has me stoked about getting my diet back on track and getting my body back in motion.  It's worth a look for anyone since he covers such a wide range of topics...check it out.

My old climbing partner, Alex, called today.  After exchanging holiday updates, he said he wanted to climb with me again and mentioned a trip being organized for Red Rocks.  I was psyched!  I'm not sure I'll be ready in time for that trip, but it felt good to fantasize about it for a few minutes.  Sure seems a lot more doable now than 4, 8, or 12 weeks ago.  I will be back before too long.

After talking to Alex, I was so excited that I decided to do some push-ups.  Go figure!  It may seem simple, but I haven't kneeled since the accident.  Frankly, it was terrifying, but I managed to kneel down, stretch my quads, and then crank out about 20 push-ups....not bad.  Getting up was interesting, but I managed OK.

While I'm improving almost daily, it is frustrating not being able to walk without crutches.  Goat and Charlotte took turns clearing my driveway due to the storm.  The snow kept drifting into the driveway, so it required multiple efforts.  I am grateful and humbled.  I just wish I could do it myself.  I understand why older folks fear losing their independence.  I'm glad it won't be snowing again for at least a week.  I hope to be off these crutches within 30 days.

Each day brings a new adventure.  It's a great time to be alive.  If things are stressing you out, don't sweat it.  If there's an adventure you have been putting off, go for it.  Life is too short. 

Happy New Year!  May 2011 be a great year for all of us!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Non-unions and re-unification

They have a special term for it....when your bone refuses to grow back together.  It is called a "non-union". There are a few other things that could use this term as well.  Instead of a divorce, it could be called a "non-union".  Sounds better, eh?  Anyway, my x-rays were looking very "non-union-esque", so I went to see the "non-union" specialist.  Can you believe there is a specialty in "non-unions"?

The Doc looked at the x-ray, took a measurement, and said, "It's OK."  OK, what do you mean by OK?, I asked.  OK, like good or OK, it could be better?  Basically, my bones are put together at a 10 degree angle from my hip to my knee, and it should be in a straight line.  He said, It should be zero, but 10 degrees is OK.

OK, Great.  I have a rod and two screws holding me together, two bones that refuse to grow together, and the bones happen to be offset at a 10 degree angle.  What do we do know?  The Doc said my strength and range of motion were very good and I could start riding the bike and swimming, but no more than 50% weight on the leg until it heals further.  He indicated that something happens around 13 weeks and good healing should result.

OK, I told him I wanted to run another 100 miler and he didn't say anything.  Nice!  I guess we don't have data for how one performs with a 10 degree offset in a 100 mile run.  Looks like I'm in unchartered waters....a somewhat familiar feeling.

He told me not to bother with Physical Therapy because my fitness level is where it needs to be and I know how to get myself working again.  I think he gave me a little too much credit, but I figured I could start off on my own and see how it went...

After a few days of walking with 25-50% weight on the leg, I was ready to hit the gym.  The walking had helped improve the blood flow, so the swelling and color improved.   I was hopeful that the gym workouts would speed up recovery even more.  I sat on a recumbent bike and tried turning the crank.  At first it was stiff as you might imagine The knee was the big issue.  I felt no pain in the fracture zone.   Encouraged, I pedaled for 30 minutes...gradually increasing the resistance to level 5 (very little resistance).  I felt good afterwards with very little pain.  Good first data point.  The workout was not much from a cardio standpoint, but it was  something  for the leg.  The horse is out of the gate...

The next day I wanted to see how far I could go... I wanted to see if I could do 1 hour.  30 minutes seemed like child's play and I needed to get in a decent workout.  I also wanted to sit on a real bike...not the recumbent.  It was tough getting on the bike seat, but I was fine once my feet were on the pedals.  I rode for 1 hour with minimal pain and broke a slight sweat.  I did some stretching and light strength training afterwards.  All systems seemed fine...Data point number 2.

On Monday and Tuesday, I did 45 minutes on the bike before work and made slight improvements on the resistance level each time.  My leg felt good, and I was becoming a regular at the gym.  My crutches brought a lot of attention and I had to explain my story to enquiring minds.

This morning I was determined to get the endorphines flowing.  I wanted to get the stress buster workout  I needed so much.  My goal was to do another hour on the bike, stretch, and do some core and upper body work.  I talked with my new friend who reads the Wall Street Journal while pedaling away and chatting to anyone within earshot.  I cranked as hard as I dared and put down the equivalent of 16 miles in an hour...not bad considering the circumstances.  I actually got a decent sweat going toward the end, so I was pleased.  Both knees were a little tender, so I need to keep an eye on it.  The good news was no significant pain in the fracture area.

My range of motion is improving and the knee seems to be improving everyday.  I'm even wondering if I may be able to avoid surgery on the knee.  We'll find out soon enough.

I remember running last winter and thinking how I could not live without running.  I couldn't imagine how I could cope without it.  I have been running regularly since the age of 12, and the thought of not running is not one that I care to hold close to me.  It feels good to be working on my fitness again, and I desperately want to get rid of these crutches.  I've gained weight and know the cycling is not enough.  It's a start though and I need to keep it all in perspective.  I've made daily progress for the past 12 weeks, and just need to be patient.

It feels like I could walk without crutches.   On several occasions, I have messed up with the crutches and essentially put full weight on the leg.  I haven't felt any pain as a result, so I find it encouraging.  If this continues and the knee does not require surgery, I could be back to running in the near future.  I know I need to be patient and not get ahead of myself, but it sure is nice to be moving in the right direction.

It's been tough for nearly 3 months, but life is slowly getting back to normal.  The daily gains are small, but it's also amazing to see the progress over the past 12 weeks.

I am very grateful to be getting another chance.

Hope you all have a safe, warm, and loving holiday!



Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Waiting Game

I haven't blogged in almost 4 weeks.  My apologies for those of you who enjoy the posts and thank you for the kind and generous comments.  It's been a bit of a struggle...this waiting game.

I went to my Ortho after 6 weeks fully expecting to get the green light for rehab and weighting the leg.  After all, I do everything on or ahead of schedule, so I was not prepared for his news.  When he said, "Mr. Nelson, please come take a look at your x-ray", I could tell from his voice that the news was not good.  When I looked at the x-ray, I nearly passed out.  My head started spinning when I saw the uneven break with the rod going through it.  "How the heck is that going to heal?", I thought.  "Now I know why I have a bump on my thigh,  and look at the size of the screws!  No wonder I can't sleep on my left side!  I am put together like Frankenstein!"  The doctor kept talking and showing me how the bone had to grow back together, but it was information and sensory overload.  I did not understand how this could be possible.  I thought the two pieces of bone would fit together like 2 puzzle pieces and the parting line would eventually go away.  The fall would just be an interesting story to tell at my next race or trip to the crag.  Reality started to set in as he told me, "4 more weeks with no weight".  He may as well have punched me in the gut.  I was definitely in more shock than when the accident occurred.

I begged him to let me spin on a bike.  He said, "Maybe you could try swimming, but be really careful getting in and out of the pool."  Great!  I'm not a great swimmer with two good legs.  The thought of trying it with a broken leg terrifies me even now.  I have yet to try it.  I'm afraid of slipping at poolside and taking a bad fall.

I left that office in a blur.  I am Ultra Steve...King of the World and Master of the Universe!  How could this happen?  Didn't my bones get the memo?  We believe in miracles...we bounce back from anything...we leap tall buildings in a single bound....and we survive 10 story falls without any permanent damage.  I talked to my leg, "Get with the program, dammit!  This was not part of the plan."  The Doctor was supposed to say, "Wow, I've never seen anyone heal this fast.  You can hardly tell there was a break"."

"OK, Chief, let's re-group!", I said as I sat in the Milkwagon (my newish Honda Element).   "You can do this...4 weeks is nothing in the grand scheme of things.  Now that you know what it looks like, you can visualize the bone filling in like a bead of weld."  Yeah, that's the ticket!  ... I drove off in a daze.

It's been a tough 9 weeks (3 weeks since the dreaded news).  December 2 was the two month anniversary of my fall.  I'm back to work full-time.  I'm sleeping better and my mobility and strength have improved.  My foot still swells up everyday and it gets ice cold from the lack of circulation.  I've gained weight and I eat like a horse.  My home is nearly back to normal.  I cut off my cable TV for fear I might get addicted to crap.  I miss the sports, but am more productive without it.  I'm grateful for all the help from family and friends.  It truly is humbling.

In 6 days I will go back to the Dr. for another set of x-rays.  I'm praying for the green light to start full rehab and put some weight on the leg.  I'm terrified of the idea of using crutches in the snow.  I've tried to fill my free time productively, but I want my life back.

I appreciate any thoughts, prayers, or energy you can send in my direction.  I'm doing OK, and I know it will come in time, but every little bit helps.

I will run and climb again...it's just a matter of when...

All the best to all of you!  Be safe while you prepare for the holidays!  Steve

P.S. - Here's a shout out to my buddy, EuroMan.  He leaves for Haiti today.  He will be jumping (parachuting) into a remote village with medical supplies and assistance.  It is a dangerous jump with a very small landing zone.  He will be there for 2 weeks providing assistance and trying to build an airstrip for a plane to land.  This is his second trip to Haiti since the disaster.  It will be his most challenging mission, and we will not have contact with him until his mission is complete.  Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.  He is a true superhero!