End of February 2008

Posted by on February 26, 2008 in Training

In April 2006, while playing in my football league, another player slid into my left knee accidentally and forced it inward at an awkward angle. I knew immediately that it was trouble, but I was able to walk it off albeit with a limp. As soon as I could, I went to see the doctors at my hospital who diagnosed it as a slight tear of the medical collateral ligament (MCL). The recommendation was physical therapy, so I went religiously and worked hard to get better. Only 4 weeks later, I was able to participate (though not competitively) at the Wildflower Triathlon in central California. Thereafter, I was careful to wear a knee brace and not pound the knee too much.

That next Spring (of 2007), I felt some instability and achiness. I went again to the docs who suggested a different knee brace and different strength exercises. Fast forward to training for the NYC Marathon and while I was able to run up to 15 miles without any issues, anything longer was problematic. It wasn’t so much about pain as it was just this nervous feeling like I was doing some long term damage given some signs that made it just a little uncomfortable. I plugged on like I always do and finished the race but I felt miserable towards the end (and my time reflects it; 1:55 at the half and 4:39 at the finish).

With my intention of racing Ironman Brazil in May of 2008, I figured that I would take a full six weeks off from training before starting up once again in mid-December. I also figured that I should just check in with another doctor to make sure that I had a clean bill of health. This doctor however prescribed x-rays and an MRI. I went into see him on January 2nd, the first day back from the holidays only to learn that the MRI revealed a tear of the medical meniscus. I was devastated. All my thoughts and plans about Brazil and the entire 2008 season for that matter seemed decimated. I did opt for surgery and had it as soon as possible which wound up being the very next day. The doctor explained that I was an ideal candidate for a new procedure which would enable me to retain the cartilage tissue rather than the typical procedure which is to remove the damaged tissue by trimming around the problem area. Retaining the tissue is critical to ensuring that I’ll be able to walk normally when I get old. The drawback is the short-term recovery which is about double that of the “normal” procedure. So, I told him to have at it.

Fast forward… I was walking without a limp in 7 days. I began swimming freestyle within 10 days. I began indoor cycling within 12 days. I began physical therapy on day 13. The doctor’s recommendation was to not run or engage in dynamic/lateral knee movements for six weeks. My physical therapist had me running just a few days shy of this anniversary and it was pain-free. In two short weeks, I’ve already logged in hour-plus runs with zero knee or endurance issues. I’m simply amazed. I’m reading a book called The Pose Method which I hope will help me to be a much lighter runner given my heavy gait.

Let me just add that I also went snowboarding just after week 6 and worked hard for three straight days, including two in the trees (we had a foot of snow in two days). http://youtube.com/results?search_query=gghoopss&search_type=. Check out GG boarding in the trees, Javier Skiing in the Trees, and GG handheld video while boarding – again. No matter the terrain and stress, the knee felt totally stable the entire time.

Incidentally, in case anyone is interested, the doctor’s name is Richard Rosa, located on Northfield Avenue in West Orange, NJ. He is not warm and fuzzy, but also not cold. I found his approach very straight-forward and easy to understand. He’s a runner, and he really seems to know knees. Doctor recommendations are so subjective as we all know; ultimately, I think that folks go on bedside manner more than academic credentials. I’m no different in this recommendation of Dr. Rosa, except for the fact that he did a perfect job as far as I can tell.

Okay, that’s the history of the bum, or formerly bum knee. I’m swimming at the Jewish Community Center near my office. They’ve accepted my membership despite not being part of any synagogue! Compared to the YMCA in Newark where I used to swim, this place is a country club. I’m trying to stick to a MWF schedule unless work precludes it. I’m also there on Tues and Thurs morning where I try to shoot hoops to get warmed up, run on the treadmill, lift weights, and pathetically try to find my abs. The place is a whopping mile from work, so I can push the envelope in terms of timing and get to work less late than I used to. Some new years resolutions (get to work by 9) are hard to keep.

Cycling is the biggest challenge at this point. I’ve got to be able to bike for 112 miles in Brazil and I only have three months from today to get it done. It’s just not enough time. My longest ride thus far is 45 or so miles. I just joined the NY Cycling Club and will try to do some group rides as motivation. I always fancied myself as a strong biker, but last year wasn’t great. In 2006, I was in the top 3% in the bike leg of the NYC Triathlon (no one really gives that stat any thought except me), but the goals are different for this season. The Ironman is on May 25th, so I’ll primarily be focused on getting in long rides. Of course, part of a good training program is interval and speed work on shorter distance rides, so I’ll try to get into Central Park as often as the weather will allow for mid-week rides. There are always folks out there looking to be the fastest and far be it for me to ignore that competitive spirit.

The run; what can I say… it’s not going to be great. It’s all about distance. I have to run a frickin marathon in three months. My buddy’s father-in-law is going to be my run coach, albeit from his home in San Diego. The guy is 70 years old and is a legend; something like 47 marathons after the age of 43 (may not have exact numbers, but they are real close), board member of the San Diego surf club, pilates and spin instructor, etc. He knows me well and vows that he’ll make a runner out of me yet. I’m definitely motivated and committed (committable?), and with my optimism, I’m sure he’ll succeed.

Much more to come. Stay tuned. I have intentions of posting new entries once a week, but I’ll try to get interesting anecdotes or stories up sooner.

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