Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kicking it into gear!

As many of you know, I broke my femur in a 100 foot vertical fall off a cliff while rock climbing in the Gunks 11 months ago.  It's been a long road back to say the least.   For those who know the details of the injury, thank you for your support...you can also skip the next 1-2 paragraphs :-).

As luck would have it, the leg was set with a gap between the bones, and less than stellar medical guidance left me in no better shape after nearly 4 months.  Distraught to say the least, I opted to have one of the two pins, holding the Titanium rod in place, removed in an effort to close the gap and start the healing.  The break was a spiral fracture, so the bottom portion of my leg rotated 7 degrees when the gap closed.   The result was a leg that was shorter than the original...somewhere between 1/8" and 3/8" depending on what you want to believe.  It's been tough for me to come to grips with the situation, and the healing and recovery process has been brutal at times.  

Despite all of it, I have worked hard to get my life back in order.   Over the past few months,  I have been very happy with the progress of my recovery, but it's been a mental game the whole time.   Since the leg was not perfect, I wondered when I would plateau.  Since the pain was there daily, I wondered if it would ever go away.  At times I saw great progress, and at times I would plateau for a period.  Everytime there was a plateau, the question was always, "Is this as good as it's going to get?"  So many people told me of loved ones in similar situations who never fully recovered...those conversations didn't help.  It was like they were giving me the OK to stop working to improve my gait.

The past few days have given me great satisfaction!  At one point a few months ago, I reasoned that a recovery that would allow me to run 4-5 miles at 8 min pace without pain would be enough for me.  It would give me the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and stay fit.  At times, it seemed like it would take a miracle to get to that point.  My first attempts at running were so painful and awkward that I just couldn't get my head around it.  I couldn't connect the dots to get there.  Nevertheless, I just kept working to get as far along as the running gods would allow.

Yesterday, I had my last physical therapy session.  After 5 months, they told me I didn't need them anymore.  They said my walking stride was normal and my strength was greatly improved.  I am forever grateful to the folks at Integrated Rehab Services for everything!  

Today was an even better day because it gave me hope for my running!  I am so close to achieving the goal I can taste it.  By coincidence or fate, the Goat pulled into the parking lot at Reservoir 6 at the same time as me.  We hadn't planned to run together, but I was glad to see him there.  We ran the loop and this time we re-measured it with the GPS.  As it turns out, it is 3.7 miles which is a bit longer than I had been book-keeping.  From the start, my stride felt improved and the pain level was manageable.  The first 2 miles went by quickly at  just under 8 minute/mile pace.  As we continued, I felt the weakness and pain creeping in.  No!!!!  I pressed hard while the Goat talked.  Goat kept encouraging me with reports that we were maintaining a 7:55 average pace.  In the final stretch, we picked up the pace and he said, "This is what it feels like to run a 7 minute mile again."  Nice!  Even if it was only for a brief period, it felt good.  I used to run marathons at a faster pace, and now I can't even imagine a 5K at that pace.  It's OK, I have seen so much progress in such a short time.

The thing that has kept me focused on this recovery has been the 2011 Reach the Beach Relay with the Red Eye Runners.  We've run this race together every year for the past 6 years.  I promised myself I would do everything possible to be there for this year's race.  At times, I doubted whether it was possible.  Tonight I realized I will be ready for the big event one month from now.

To all of you who continue to support me in my recovery, "THANK YOU!"  Your words of encouragement help keep me going.  Once I am convinced that I will not hurt myself by pushing too hard in a race, I will see you out on the trails.  

All the best!

Steve