Friday, September 25, 2009

3 weeks

First, a simple math equation:

Meniscus < ACL

I've had a number of people tell me recently about their knee surgeries, only to come to find out they were talking about their meniscus. Let's get one thing clear: ACL surgery is approximately one thousand times worse.

Meanwhile I had one of my worst days since surgery. I went to the pool in the morning and struggled through 2500m in the pool, bringing my week total to 9000m. That's not terrible. I'm disappointed because I'm swimming slower in the yard pool than I was swimming in meters before surgery.

I went over to PT after that and it was frustrating. I struggled at first to make it to 86 degrees, and that was disheartening. My range of motion is just not doing well. By the end of the session I was able to get to 90 again, but it was no easier than earlier in the week. Part of the problem today I think was that I swam before PT - which helps with building muscle but decreases flexibility.

My therapist then goes "when do you start running again?" so I of course reply, November 1st. He goes "five months" - I said you mean until I can race again? He says until I can run again. Yeah, that's not going to work really for me, let's try 2 months.

Surgery was 3 weeks ago today, allegedly by the end of next week I'm supposed to be able to start pedaling a bike.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mission: 140

Normally at this point in the year I'd be talking about my fall goals, and maybe start thinking about the following year. Right now I have a new goal, but it has nothing to do with racing: I need to get my knee to bend to 140 degrees again.

Every minute of every day I feel pain. There seriously isn't a moment during the day where I feel even okay, or remotely close to comfortable. Whether I'm sitting, standing, lying down, whatever - I hurt.

140 is a good number. It's what I weighed when I started college (that current number is somewhere in between 165 and 170). It's also the distance, in miles, of an Ironman. To be accurate, it's 140.6, but it's easier for the symbology*.

Today I went to physical therapy in the morning and managed to bend my knee 92 degrees with help. I've been stuck around that number for a week. My leg just does not desire to cooperate. Following PT I had my next challenge: walk close to a mile to the gym. It took a little while but I got there, and it was time to hop in the pool again. Day 1 I swam 1500m, and Day 2 was 2000m. I thought I could do a little more than that, so I wanted to bump up to 3000m. I probably should have stopped at 2000. My knee was definitely not appreciative of what I was putting it through, and this is the easiest form of activity I can give it right now.

After the session my next challenge was the 2 mile walk back to my house. I was starving, so I detoured slightly to eat something. A little boost of energy hit the spot and gave me the motivation to walk home. I walk slow as shit. It took me almost an hour to get home when normally it would be 30-35 minutes. My knee was screaming at me and I just wanted to stop on the side of the road or hitchhike or something.

I finally got back into my neighborhood with a half mile to go and was pumped to get back to the house. I smelled like chlorine and was sweating, since the temp was over 80 and it was humid, but rather than shower I crashed out for a while. I never thought this combination of minor activities would make me more tired than a race, but it did.

Now I wish I could just cut my leg off, it hurts so bad.

Michelle Pfeiffer is pretty hot, for the record. She's always been a favorite. Her and Heather Locklear.

Today is my mom's birthday, so it's actually nice to be here to celebrate with her for the first time in a few years. Thanks mom for having me a few days before you so we didn't have the same birthday!

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Philadelphia Distance Run has been my favorite race since I bandited in 2006. I ran with Chima, who hadn't run more than 8 miles in the previous 7 years I don't think. His goal was ambitious: 7:00/mi. I drove up from Baltimore to crash at his girlfriend's place in Manayunk. At the time they hadn't been going out real long, now of course they're married.

The weather was perfect, which I found out would be a staple of this race. I couldn't go into the corrals with a number, so I waited for Chima about a quarter mile up the road. Magically, I spotted him very easily and jumped in. We ran even, comfortable splits and by mile 4 we were running 6:48-6:50, well below his goal pace. I was enjoying the run, it was super nice out. Once we crossed the bridge to the other side of the Schuykill, Chima was finally starting to have to work. The pace slowed, but only to 7:00-7:05, so with the time we had in the bank, we ended up with an average of 6:59 per mile pace. It was great.

So then I went back the next year to run for real and it was an epic failure. I had been running through a piriformis/sciatic problem and it crippled me at mile 6. I only finished because I was too far away to not finish. I ran 1:35. At the time, it was the worst race I think I'd ever had. Fortunately there were a few more years of worseness to come.

Following year (2008) I went back and ran much better, but still didn't do great. I was hoping to run very well this year, and Alfred Terry ensured that I would not be able to do that.

I did make it out to Philly for this year's race, and I was glad to get there. My brother and I drove down and met up with Arjun, Melissa, Jen and Nina, who were thoughtful enough to celebrate my birthday with a mini-surprise in the hotel room. I appreciated their kindness and we later met up with Joel and Alix for dinner at our favorite Philly restaurant, The Continental.

The next morning they all went out and killed it, with some amazing PRs and generally great runs. Our favorite Philly post-race spot is back in Newark, DE, at Deer Park Tavern, so my brother and I detoured slightly to go hang out there with the gang.

Sad that I couldn't do the race, and sad that it's the last year that the official name will be the Philadelphia Distance Run. Like a common whore, the race has been bought up by the Rock n Roll franchise, so it will be named the ING Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon next year I'm sure, brought to you by P.F. Chang's. Bleh. The only sweet thing about it is that this year's shirts were dope, finally no more cotton and it's bright orange. Doing all these ING races I'm just going to have a floor full of orange shirts.

All the walking around did some serious work to my knee. Was not feeling good at all by the time I got home. Monday's PT session was rough as a result. I feel like I'm not getting anywhere, and my motivation is being crushed every day when I see how awesome everyone else is doing. I know, selfish - I'm happy that everyone is doing so well but I also just don't see how I will be able to compete next year when I'm back to my 3rd grade level of fitness and everyone else is just steamrolling along.

I'm also going nuts being stuck at my parents' house in NJ. I can't even go out and enjoy the things I normally do here, like go to the beach. I was about to say "go for a ride" but I don't think I'll ever bring my bike back here to ride again.

I made it into the pool yesterday. A little over two weeks out of the pool and I didn't feel terrible, but I'm also back to where I was right after I got hit. That is to say, I swam 1000 yards with a pull buoy, then 650 without. Can't flip turn, can't kick really. It was better than nothing.

Today I'm struggling. My motivation and energy are really low. My dad's going to drop me off at the pool and I'm going to try and walk home. It's about 2 miles.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Two Weeks Notice

Surgery was only two weeks ago, but it has felt like an eternity. I've been festering inside for these two weeks, only going outside to make my MWF trips to physical therapy. I've watched a lot of movies, and a lot of the same movies multiple times. Fortunately, the new season of television is underway so at night I have new things to watch.

I think because it took so much energy, both physical and mental, to get over the initial shock of the injury back in July, I don't have that much right now. I anticipated a drop in morale after surgery, but I don't feel like doing anything - mostly because I can't. At least when I still had my old ACL I was able to pretty quickly get back into the pool, lift, and was even able to ride a bike within a few weeks.

A big difference is that the days are shorter, the weather is cooler and the leaves are changing color. It no longer is the middle of the summer, but rather full on fall.

My improvement seems to be moving at a glacial pace, or roughly the pace I was moving in the last 10 miles of the Boston Marathon this year. But there have been some improvements.

Last week, my first at PT, my extension and bending were poor. 0 degrees is straight out and 140 is about as far as you bend your knee. Mine was at 10 and 35. That was Monday, 4 days after surgery. Wednesday I missed due to my trip to the ER, and I don't think he took a measurement on Friday.

By Monday I had managed to get to 2 and 60, Wednesday was 0 and 70, and today I managed to go 0 and 88. Almost got to 90 but I was not successful.

Apparently 90 degrees is the goal for the end of week 3 on the ACL protocol, which means I'm almost a week up on just where I should be able to bend to. I am able to do some mini wall squats, which are embarrassing because it shouldn't be hard but it is impossible for me.

My mom is also going to physical therapy for her Achilles tendon, so we go together. We are a family of cripples.

If by next week I am still not able to walk better, it means I can't come back to Baltimore. Since my physical therapy place is about a mile and a quarter away, I have to be sure I can walk at least that far without a problem in order to be able to return. So I may end up being here another week or more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Last November I made a huge leap for myself - I signed up for Ironman Arizona 2009. Actually, I didn't even sign myself up, since I couldn't get through on Mike Zero managed to sign himself up, then got back through again and signed me up.

Man, that seems like a lifetime ago.

Triathlons didn't always sell out a year in advance. No, you used to be able to sign up the day before certain races. There are still a few out there like that, but in general, the races that I want to do, do sell out very quickly.

It's frustrating because you are committing to doing something 365 days later that requires you to be super fit, but you never know what's going to happen in that time that may derail you. Of course, sitting there a year ago, I would have had no reason to think that I wouldn't be able to race.

So now, being mid-September, I'm already out of the game for a number of 2010 Ironman events. I don't foresee being physically capable of doing one before July anyway, which only left Lake Placid - a race I have no desire to do. Then comes Louisville. I am pretty sure I could wait to sign up for this one, but after going to it this year and seeing how great the weather was, I know next year will be terrible if I go to do it.

Next up: Wisconsin.

I remember when Wisconsin began. My training partner at the time had just become a card-carrying professional and went out there for his IM debut. The race quickly earned a reputation as a challenging bike course, and over the years would be known for its inconsistent weather, its amazing organization and fantastic community support. At the time my friend went 9:55 and was 18th overall. Wow.

Brennan's sister has done this race the past couple years, so he goes out to watch. During my trip to Madison last year for Chima's wedding, I was awed by how awesome the place was and really felt like that would be a race I would want to do. Alyssa decided she was going to sign up for next year and the thought popped into my head.

I went online around 4pm on Monday (I don't remember this race opening to in the past few years) and began filling out the application. My favorite was the section regarding "overcoming obstacles or adversity" on your way to the race. I filled it out, thinking that I've got a pretty good shot at making it onto TV.

Then I came to the payment section. Nearly $600. I contemplated it for a second, then a few minutes more. Last year I took this leap, but given my current situation, I just couldn't do it. I closed out the browser and forgot about it. The idea of spending money for a race in the future isn't the problem; the problem was I spent the money last year, can't do the race this year, don't have that money back and can't spend money I don't have on a race if I just don't know how my rehabilitation will go. And it's not just the race entry, it's everything - flight, hotel, bike transport, days off, etc.

It was sad, because it just appears as if the Irongods are working against me to allow me to ever do one of their races. I don't even want to think about next November yet (and IM Florida or Arizona) and those are the last two remaining races. There's always the SetUp Events Beach 2 Battleship in November, but that sells out just as fast as an Ironman event.

I've already signed up for Eagleman next year, which had gone up $15 from last year, and Columbia opened up a little over a week ago.

Columbia is a race that sold out in February 2001, the first year I did it. I think I registered in January. Then each year this hysteria was manufactured by the race director and the idiots that do these races that you had to sign up earlier and earlier. By 2003 I was signing up in November. After my two year hiatus, I was signing up in October.

I thought I might at least have a few weeks this year, but when I went online on Tuesday they were down to 260 spots. Not bad, I thought, probably have another week or so.

Or not. Thank God Pat emailed me this morning, informing me that as of 9:15am there were 15 spots left. The time was now 9:55am and I had to haul to get through it. I filled everything out, was appalled at the $130 price tag for the race (2001 it was $75) and when I got my confirmation, there were only 9 spots left.

Amazing. I am the 10th to last person they are going to let in that race.

But who knows if I'll be able to race or not. I may not have a time trial bike, I may not be running. Only time will tell!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life's a Beach

Growing up near the beach definitely has an effect on you, especially as you get older and move away from the beach. In the summers as a kid you would go to the beach club every day. Your life was amazing. You needed nothing other than the PBJs mom would make for lunch and maybe a frozen Charleston Chew. The only time you were unhappy was the 20 minutes of every hour that was dedicated to Adult Swim.

Then you get to high school. For the first couple of years work hasn't got you down yet, so you still might go to the beach. You're in the weird age of hating to go places with your mom, but also really want to be at the beach. Running becomes a bigger part of your life, and then you have to start working, so summer days revolve around those two activities. Fortunately for me I worked basically at the beach and would run at a park nearby everyday, so even if I wasn't at the beach I could feel it.

College comes and now you're 2.5 hours from the nearest beach. You can't just go there whenever you want, but when you're home for the summer it's not all that different from high school.

Then you graduate. Work takes more out of you. Training takes up your free time. All you want to do is go to the beach. For two years after school I still lived here and it was available to me. I went as often as I could. Since moving to Baltimore it's become a trip to go to the beach. I've never been to a Maryland or Delaware beach; I figure that if it's going to take me 2.5 hours to go somewhere I'd rather go back home to NJ.

I've spent more time in NJ this year than I have since I left in 2005. It's not been on purpose. Prior to today, in all the time I spent here I think I only made it to the beach once. I'm just not allowed to be on the sand or go in the water. I've watched many a beautiful day pass by in sadness from the couch.

For those from beach towns, most know that September is the best month for the beach. The crowds disappear after Labor Day, but the water is at its warmest, the air is still warm and the humidity goes away. Perhaps it's because I'm a September baby - really an Endless Summer baby, as my birthday falls right on the cusp of Summer turning into Fall. Those Indian Summer days are the stuff of legends, and today it was like I was a kid again.

My mom had a doctor's appointment in Spring Lake so I went with her, and afterwards we drove through the mansions of Spring Lake and up along the beach to Belmar. After eating the most expensive pizza lunch in the history of time, I was determined to walk along the boardwalk unassisted by crutches. I made it probably close to a quarter mile up, took a small break on a bench, and then headed back. The beaches were surprisingly crowded - not because the weather was absolutely perfect, but because it's a Monday. And there were tons of slammin' hot chicks, too. I couldn't figure it out. Of course I also couldn't sit and stare with my mom hanging around.

We used to be able to go to Kootman's house on LBI whenever we felt like. For us, it was an hour's drive and offered a little getaway from Red Bank. In high school and even in college we would go down any weekend we felt like. As we've gotten older it's been reduced to holiday weekends, and this year I never made it up. We normally go big on Labor Day weekend, but as everyone had other things going on, it fell apart.

Today was as close as I would get to my perfect beach day for the year, it would have been nice to go on the sand or in the water. Or lay on a blanket next to the two hot blondes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Guardian Angel

This week was a rough week for me. It started on Monday with progress; I only took two pain pills on Sunday and I didn't take any on Monday. I started to feel a ton better and when I went into the surgeon's on Tuesday he was mad impressed with my skillz. He said my knee looked great, and the inside was pristine so it made for a good, clean surgery. I then went to PT and while I pretty much couldn't do anything, I made progress in that I was able to lift my leg up on my own power from a supine position. Little things = big things, unfortunately (that is what I wish she said).

I slept terribly on Monday night though so when Tuesday night came, I took a percocet/oxy/whatever it is that I have. I woke up on Wednesday with a 101.5 degree fever and a headache, which I rarely get. Both my parents were at work so I just tried to sweat it out, but the fever crept up to 103 and the headache became blinding. By the time my mom got home I had enough and had to go to the ER.

My trips to doctor type people are always fun because I have to explain so much to them. No, I don't have insurance. No, I don't have car insurance, but yes, it was a motor vehicle accident. No, I wasn't driving, I was on my bike. A push bike, you know, with pedals. Employed? No, I don't have a job. How am I going to pay? Your guess is as good as mine. Now I know I am not the only one in the world right now with no insurance and no job that needs medical attention. It just sucks, you feel like you're being treated like a 2nd class citizen. Note: this does not mean that I feel bad for illegal immigrants who do not have health care.

My 4 hours in the Monmouth Medical ER were highlighted by the A/C nearly putting me down permanently (it felt like the top of Everest) and some hot nurses. In the end, there was nothing they could/would really do for me so I just left, with a fever still.

On Thursday I felt a little better but not great, and I was annoyed that I had to miss my PT on Wednesday. It's amazing how I feel like I just lose days now. And the worst part of my day is sleep. I fear it.

Today turned around a little better. Besides the hurricane going on outside, I went to PT in the morning and had made some good improvements already. I've got some kinesio tape on my knee so now I look like Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. Then I had a good meeting with my lawyer and gave him a few running tips (he's getting ready for NYC, but is NOT a runner) and also swim advice. I should have charged him, but I'll let it slide.

As I improve I'll have many, many notes to write to people, thanking them for their help along the way. Of course my parents have been invaluable and those that know my parents would expect nothing less of them going way out of their way to help me out. Alyssa and Brennan have also been super helpful over the past week, and the messages I've gotten from some of my friends have been very kind.

But sometimes you find that you're eternally linked to another human being, and in this case it's this guy Steve. Steve was in the car next to the guy who hit me, waiting to make his own turn (right, instead of left). When I hit the deck, Steve was by my side in seconds. He even came down to the ER later that night to check on me. He's a tanned guy, looks like he might be 50 but apparently it like 65 or something. He and his wife still have a place in River Plaza but really live in New Mexico. Part of the reason to move out there was that he, an avid cyclist himself, couldn't stand the threat of being hit every day in our town.

He's also a Buddhist, which is pretty awesome.

So this was July 10th. My mom must have sent him a nice email afterwards and whatever, I probably won't see him again.

Or will I? Because at PT today my mom hears a guy's voice and thinks it sounds familiar, and she hears my PT guy call him "Steve" - so she asks if Steve lives in NM. Sure enough it is Steve, and my PT guy opens the curtain and voila, there I am. He hops off the table and comes over and gives me a hug. He says he thinks about me every day (not in a gay way, you pervs) and can't get the sound or sight of the car hitting me out of his head. He was amazed to see how good my knee looked and we chatted for a bit. It was just coincidence that he was in NJ, because he's only here every few months. How crazy is it that he goes to the same PT place I went to at the same time today?

He made a comment to me that I hadn't put on any weight, which made me laugh because I said dude you don't know how hard that was!

Steve, a great dude. He encouraged me to keep in touch with him and stop by his place in NM if I'm ever out there, he's got some bikes we can ride. I won't say I owe my life to this guy, but I will say I wish more people in this world were like Steve. Maybe when I go out to AZ for the Ironman in November I'll make a detour out to NM.

So then at my lawyer's later in the day he ALSO makes mention of me not putting on any weight. I love athletes man, they just know. I could be in a full body cast but if it looks like I didn't put on any weight, hey, sweet job, you're still at race weight.

Heading down in a little bit to Maryland for the RM Memorial 5k. A tad inappropriate, I suppose, but whatever it's all in good fun and I'm hoping the times are quick. The weather seems iffy but we'll make the most of it.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Prediction: Pain

I figured since I am both a) a BOSS and b) a Champion, I would not need any sort of Western medicine following the surgery to repair my ACL.

Then I felt like every chick that says she wants a natural childbirth until the pain is too great.

I went in for my surgery on Friday. I didn't really tell many people that I bumped it up to the 4th because I didn't and don't really want a lot of people emailing/texting/calling me with bullshit about how things are going to get better. I'm fully aware of what I need to do to get better and I will do it, again because of a) and b) up top. I've unfortunately been in a similar position a few years ago and while it took me 2 years, I did get back into shape.

The surgery went well; they pulled out my fully torn ACL and replaced it with a donor ligament. I'd like to think it's from DJ AM or maybe Michael Jackson. They also had to fix up my meniscus, which they found was also torn. When I came out of the twilight anaesthesia I was in severe pain. I couldn't feel my leg because of the nerve block, but I could feel the pain. I sucked it up and took the Oxycodone. They didn't have crutches my size at the surgery center so I got wheeled out to the car and hopped in using my good leg. I have an enormous immobilizing brace on my leg. In this brace are ice packs that surround my knee, and they connect to a cooler that plugs into the wall. In turn, ice cold water circulates around my leg. It's kind of cool.

Friday was a tough day. I was taking my pills every 4 hours, and they would wear out after 2 so I would just writhe in pain for 2 hours. I also have a pain pump connected to me, and can hit the button to deliver more pain medicine. I waited until later in the day but finally had to hit it a few times. You can only hit it once per hour. Through the night Friday I was up once per hour having to call my dad to help me get to the bathroom or deliver more medicine.

Saturday, still hurting. Fortunately we had the start of college football so my brother and I watched 12 hours of games - at one point we were flipping between 5 channels of simultaneous games. Late in the day I had a couple of visitors in Vic, Pereless and Caitlin. Like the 3 wise men, they came bearing gifts. Vic brought a Lipton Iced Tea (sweetened), P brought a Slurpee and Caitlin, like the wise man who brought gold, brought me a Star magazine. These are the elements of every Skeetfest weekend.

Saturday night I slept a little better. Only woke up a few times. Very uncomfortable to sleep as I can't make even a slight move. But I woke up on Sunday feeling considerably better.

I also woke up and now that the numbness is wearing off, I can feel my knee a lot more. This was not very awesome. My visitor today was Alyssa, who stopped by after her friend's wedding which was not far from where I live. She loaded me into the car and took me into Red Bank, and then we drove down along the beach and went to 7-11. It's the next best thing to actually going to the beach. The only problem is that we saw tons of guidos and DBs, most probably from NY or north Jersey.

After being out of the house for a few hours I was not feeling very good and had to return. I only took two of my pills all day yesterday though, so that was a minor accomplishment. The highlight of my day was watching I Love You, Man - which was really quite good.

Last night I "slept" through the night, which really means I didn't have to go to the bathroom or call my dad for medicine or help or anything.

I really underestimated just how painful a surgery this was going to be. I have not showered since Friday morning. I feel gross and lazy. I should have shaved before going in, but I had to be there at 6 on Friday morning and just didn't do it. The worst part was my worst fear coming true on Friday - I had a hot nurse. She was rocked up, but she was still absurdly hot. She was really tan but I figured it was just her general skin tone. My parents made a comment to her about being tan and allegedly she said that I was pretty tan myself. YEAH BOYEEE.

Hopefully she did not see my unit and laugh or anything. The nerves were blocked, it wasn't functioning!

Today I feel alright. Generally annoyed that I have to sit in a reclining chair all day but that should only be a few more days. I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow and then a physical therapy starts as well. I'm not sure what I can even do, it may literally just be me taking my brace off. Hopefully I can take a shower.