Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Hike: That's a lot of beer to drink!

This one was just too funny not to post!

As many of you already know, the x-ray this week showed good bone growth in the lateral view.  Doc says it's a good start, so I decided to celebrate today.  People celebrate in different ways, and I am definitely in the category of "different".  I've had a few near term goals in mind recently.  I have to say recently because my original goals regarding this comeback are long past.  No worries though...we'll get there eventually.

I basically have 3 goals in mind:

1. Walk without pain and without a limp by my Birthday, April 4.
2. Walk the Traprock course on April 15 to mark it for the race.
3. Run another 100 miler when I turn 50 in 3 years.

OK, number 3 is a stretch goal, but please allow me to dream a little.  Frankly, number 1 looks like a bit of a stretch from where I sit now.  I'm walking, but the limp and pain are my constant companion.  The limp seems to be improving at times, but who knows...  I'll take what I can get.

Anyway, today I decided that I needed to see if I could walk on trails in an effort to prepare for number 2.  Sure, I may be limping and in pain, but I can still walk.  Anyway, I was curious to see if the limp would be less on uneven surfaces and see how I would fare on the hills.

I haven't been up to Pinnacle Rock since September.  It's about 2 miles from my house and I used to run hills there.  I love running to the top of the rock and jumping around like Rocky, checking out the view, and running the trails along the ridge.  Today, the goal was to hike the half mile from my car to the top of the rock and back.  It seemed simple enough.  I figured the snow would be melted and I would just have a nice stroll.   I underestimated the challenge!

Walking down the road to the trail head, I was passed by a climber heading up to the cliff.  I said hello and asked if he was out for a climb.  As I was saying it, I tripped on a rock...kicking it with my repaired leg.  Ouch!  I wasn't even on the trail yet, and I was getting into trouble.  The climber warned me that it was muddy and wet as we picked our way through the seasonal wet spot at the trail head.   I just nodded and tried to concentrate on my footwork.  Once on the trail, I could see it was all snow and ice.  Ugh!  No turning back now superman.  The climber pressed on and turned right at the single path to the base of the cliff.  I had half a mind to follow him, but didn't dare.  I knew I had a better chance of getting to the top safely if I stayed on the double track.

It wasn't pretty and took awhile, but I picked my way up to the top without hurting myself.  I had one close call when I stepped on some ice that collapsed under my bad leg.  It was comforting to know that my leg could hold up under the impact, but a bit scary nonetheless.  Near the top I noticed the usual garbage left by others, and wished I had brought a garbage bag.  In the past, the Connecticut Climbers and Mountaineers have held annual clean-ups at the crag.  It helps, but it gets trashed again within weeks.  Occasionally, I would pick up trash during my runs, but it's hard to carry much while running.  After basking at the summit and taking a few photos, I decided to pick up some trash on the way down.  I carried as much as I could find along the path...which was about all I could handle.

On the way down the steep section, I struggled to find good footing.  My leg was hurting quite a bit and I limped and hobbled my way to find dirt patches.  A man was out walking his dog and asked if I was OK.  I said that I was fine, but didn't explain the erratic cadence.  He said to me, "That's a lot of beer to drink!" and pointed at the empty 6 pack of Long Trail beer that I was carrying.  I smiled and told him that I was picking up trash and hadn't been drinking.  He said OK, but I could see he wasn't sure if I was being truthful.  I explained that I had broken my leg, but he didn't seem interested.  As far as he was concerned, I drank a 6 pack of beer and now was trying to stumble my way down an icy slope.  How irresponsible could I be?!  HA!!  Oh well, he'll have a good story to tell someone tonight.

When I got back to the car, I checked the time.  It had taken me 30 minutes to walk the half mile from the top.  I used to run that path in just a few minutes.  Wow!  I know I have a long way to go, but I'm enjoying the journey.  I sat on the tailgate of the E and stared up at the cliff.  What a different life I am leading now.  So many times I have climbed up the cliff or run the trails and now I humbly hike a mile and take pride in the accomplishment.  It's been a journey.  I could look at what I once had and wonder if I will ever get it back OR I could remember that I was on crutches 5 months and 5 weeks ago and know that the walk I took today is a minor miracle after what I've experienced.  I remember the nurses trying to teach me how to use the walker, so I could get into my house.  Now, I'm walking to the top of the cliff.

It's a great start!

We have nearly 60 runners signed up for Traprock this year.  It's going to be a great race!  Looking forward to seeing you all there.  I'll be marking the course with all of you in mind. :-)



Sunday, March 6, 2011

First steps

It was a beautiful day yesterday.  A perfect day for a run!  I'm sure many of you were having fun outside, and I didn't want to miss it either.  I've been riding the stationary bike and doing some elliptical, stretching, and doing some balance work.  The leg is still very weak, but my mobility and endurance have improved considerably over the past 2 weeks.  I haven't used the cane in more than 10 days.  Life is getting better every day.

So yesterday I did my usual routine at the gym: 30 min. elliptical (3 miles - woohoo!), abs, some weights for the upper body, stretching, and trying to balance on my weak leg.  Eh!  It was OK, but I really wanted to be outside.

Char came by around 1pm, and we decided to try for a walk at the West Hartford Reservoir (#6).  I have been walking with a fairly pronounced limp for about 10 days, but I manage OK.  I haven't walked more than a couple hundred yards at a time though, so I had no idea how far I could reasonably walk.  Keep in mind, I'm only five weeks into the healing since the screw was removed.  Once the screw was removed everything moved, and the healing essentially started anew.  The docs are all over the place in terms of how much load is OK, etc., so I'm going with my gut at this point.  The bone seems to be healing and I don't think the leg isn't getting any shorter at this point.  The loading is supposed to promote healing, so off we went.

We decided to walk the road along the reservoir since the footing on the trail looked pretty poor due to snow and ice.  Normally, I relish the challenge of running on the nasty stuff, but one has to start somewhere I suppose.  I certainly can't risk a fall at this point.

So, we walked for a couple hundred yards, and I was thinking my goal was to get to the first bench at a minimum and hopefully shoot for a mile if all went well.  The pain was manageable (think nagging toothache).  I mentioned to Char that it would be nice to take some pictures to document my first "walk" since October 2, so she ran back to the car to get the camera.  I shuffled along at my snail pace.  Along the way, I ran into a gent we met at the Traprock 50K last year.   He was an old time runner and really liked the fact that we had started another ultra in CT.  He and his friend, Tony, saw me limping along and asked why I wasn't running on such a glorious day.   I told them about my accident and they asked the usual questions.  We talked about Traprock a bit and then Charlotte caught up to us.  It turns out that this gent was Char's neighbor, and we had a good old time chatting for a few minutes.

My back started to stiffen, so I wanted to get moving.  I think the apprehension of not knowing how far I could walk was also getting to me.  We bid them farewell and hoped to see them at Traprock, and then pressed onward.  Before we knew it, we had passed the bench along the reservoir...1 milestone down.  We walked along as Charlotte analyzed my stride.  We tried some variations to see what would work, and then she suggested I try swinging my arms like I was running.  I tried it and it helped.  It actually felt like I was running.  Of course, I was not running, but it sure felt good to be moving somewhat fluidly.  Unfortunately, this took a lot of energy for me, so I had to stop and rest a bit.  We tried to walk to the end of the pavement, but the pain started getting to me.  I was nervous about getting back to the car, so we decided to turn around.

On the way back, I saw a car that looked like the "Goat mobile" driving toward us.  I mentioned to Charlotte that the car looked like Goat's, and then he pulled up alongside us.  As fate would have it, Goat and his new girlfriend were out for a tour of our stomping grounds.  What's the chance of us running into each other there?   Introductions were made, and we chatted for a bit.  It was a cool thing.  They drove off into the sunset, and Char and I made our way back toward the car.  I had to stop and rest on the guard rail a couple times and old folks were lapping us, but we were fine with it.  The pain was getting bad toward the end, but we managed to pull it off.  I was very excited and asked Char to clock the mileage to see how far we walked.  We drove back and clocked it at 1.8 miles.  Nice!

I can't remember the last time I got excited about doing anything for 1.8 miles, but to me it felt like I had just run a marathon.  No, I wasn't sweaty and exhausted, but the mental effort was just the same.  Venturing into new it your all when the outcome in unknown, and then taking pride in the effort.  It felt good.

I was sore last night, but glad we went for the walk.  The fresh air and sunshine did me good.  Today it is raining, so we went to the gym.  I tried to focus on strengthening the leg today.  I go for another x-ray this week and am not cleared for any strength training yet, so I just used 15 lbs. of weight for some leg curls.  It felt pretty good doing some easy reps.  The knee is still very weak.  I believe the limp will slowly diminish as my strength improves.  My goal is to be able to walk the Traprock 50K course on April 15th, so I can put out the trail markers.  It would be a 10.5 mile effort in total.  We'll see if I can pull it off.

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend and look forward to seeing many of you at the 2nd annual Traprock 50K on April 16th!  Don't forget to sign up soon.  We need to get the T-shirt order placed!