Wednesday, April 23, 2014

About That Knee Surgery I Had Last Week ...

Whatever you could say about my athletic abilities - or lack there of - the one thing you could never accuse me of is being lazy. As Woody Allen said, 80% of life is showing up.  And show up I did. Day after day, month after month, and year after year, I was there training and racing. You can say and think whatever you do about me, but you can't call me lazy and you can't call me inconsistent.

After beating the $hit out of my body with heavy squats and deadlifts for years I caught the endurance bug, running the first of many marathons in 1999. Eventually I caught the triathlon bug which inevitably (in my mind) led to my first full Ironman in 2006. I might not be close to being the best at it, but I have been going long for a long, long time. And I have been doing it, for the most part, injury-free.

Last week, for the first time in seemingly forever, I went 5 days without any swim/bike/run. As the title of this post notes, my extended rest has been forced upon me by my first (and hopefully only) major injury - a torn meniscus. Last Wednesday I had surgery to repair the problem.

As far as the actual surgery, everything went fine. After arriving at the surgery center around 11:30 am I began the process of being readied for procedure. As a part of this process everyone - and I mean everyone - you meet asks you your name and birth date (something about making sure they are doing the right procedure on the right person). They also want to make sure you are comfortable, which is nice when you haven't been able to eat or drink for 16 hours or so.

The procedure took about an hour and was good and bad. Good because there were no complications; bad because there was more damage than originally expected. None of this came as much of a surprise.

The next day The Queen drove me over to meet with the Physical Therapist, Rick, and see what was going on under the Ace bandage. What we found was all good. While swollen and bruised, it wasn't bad. My range of motion was close to normal while all of the surrounding muscles were working just fine. Apparently muscle activation post-surgery can be an issue for some. I was able to walk  (slowly) without crutches. PT Rick instructed me to keep icing, take it easy, and do a few basic exercises three times per day. He cleared me to drive starting Friday.

My original plan for the weekend was to spend the bulk of my time on the couch with my legs up and ice on my repaired right knee. Other than a few short ventures out and Easter dinner with The Queen's parents, that is where I spent my time. I'm fairly certain I not only got my money's worth out of my Netflix subscription for the year, but that I read more in those five days than I have in the past month.

After seeing PT Rick on Monday everything looked "very good" and I received clearance to start riding a bike on the trainer for 30 minutes each day. Needless to say, I have been riding, hoping to be back outside next week sometime. In the meantime I continue to do exactly what I'm told I can do, nothing more.

Recovery time is expected to be weeks, not months. Bike will be first, then back in the pool. Physically I could probably swim today, but need to wait for the wounds to heal or risk infection. I choose to avoid infection. Running is still 4-6 weeks out.

So in the short-term, I'll be back. This Summer I expect to be racing myself back into shape and Ironman Florida is still a-go.

But what about the long-term? The damage in the knee was worse than expected. Tomorrow I'll be back with The Doc and get to hear and see all the gory deets. I'll be able to run again, but not nearly as much volume as I have in the past ... unless I want to ruin the knee and not be able to run. I can, however, swim and bike my ass off without concern for my right knee.

The practical application for me appears to be the days of running 2500+ miles and 3 marathons in a year are over. When the roads get sketchy I either stay in on a treadmill or skip that day's run. Triathlon is good, but my approach to getting physically prepared will be much different with more focus on the bike and less emphasis on running mileage. Long distance racing should still be doable, but emphasis will have to move to shorter distance events.

In the end it is about remaining active and making sure I have longevity in this crazy world of sport. I have become comfortable with the fact that things have changed, forcing me to adjust. Better to listen to sound advice than it is to be foolish with my health. Better to take care for the long-term than it is to be self- destructive. Better to continue on with a different focus than it is to be permanently sidelined.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ironman Training Review: March, 2014

As far as training goes, to say that March was not the month I expected it to be would be an understatement. After two months of horrid weather and relatively low volume (but high intensity), March was designed to be a transition month into race specific prep for Ironman Couer d'Alane. Total volume would increase while intensity would continue, but with more emphasis on long interval sets.

What actually happened is my right meniscus has a small but painful tear which requires surgery. As a result, any planned racing for the first half of the year is not going to happen (including IMCDA). While I had a great plan coming into 2014, shit happens and things change. I have a general idea of what I want to do in the back half of the year to get ready for IM Florida, but need to see how surgery goes and how fast I'm able to start training again. My plan is to be very conservative and err on the side of doing less. You can read more about it here.
Always Sunny Running - The Complex Triathlete
With that said, here's how the month of March worked out:

Strength Training: March is a transition month. I still strength train 2x per week, but less volume and less emphasis on continuously adding weight to basic exercises. With knee issues I moved away from basic squats and into single leg movements. I'm still deadlifting. Core work increased slightly over February.

Swim: Weekly yardage was up, with the exception of a swim recovery week in week three. Well, more like I was a bit bummed about my knee and used that as an excuse. That small transgression aside, I was able to hold my CSS pace at 1:21/100. On the surface this doesn't sound all that great. But ... and this is a big but ... unlike years past I haven't slowed down with the increase in bike miles (see below). Also, I have been doing some serious pull sets this year, which have been getting slowly but consistently faster. I'll call that a win in the pool.

Bike: March is a month I generally get approx. half my riding done outside and half inside due to weather and sunlight issues (gotta hate when work gets in the way). With the early daylight savings clock switch, riding before work doesn't really work until April, and in the evening I can't get onto the bike much before 6 pm on a good day. So what happens is I usually manage 1-2 days during the week outside and then both Saturday and Sunday. The other days are on the trainer. As it worked out the weekend long ride has been progressively longer, overall time in saddle has been where I expected, and HIIT sessions on the trainer have been effective. With the knee issue I haven't been as aggressive as I'd normally be, but I'm pretty much where I expected to be entering April.

Run: The month started out with two weeks of 3 runs per week with OK mileage and ended with an appointment with a surgeon. On March 9 I went out for a short recovery run and around 3.75 miles I felt a pain in my right knee. After consulting with my doctor it was concluded that either I reinjured the knee or the cyst that was in the knee area burst. A few weeks of rest would tell us what actually happened. On March 27 I did a short test run and the results weren't good. Needless to say I haven't run since.

Overall: If I were a pessimist I would certainly call March a disaster. When the highlights are sub-par training volume and being able to run, there's a problem. After facing reality and backing out of IMCDA due to the knee surgery I scheduled,  I should be really, really bummed right now. But I'm not. I have chosen to take this setback in stride. After many years of training and racing without major injury it was my time. Please don't misunderstand, I am not happy about having my plans drastically changed. Believe me, I would like nothing more than to be outside running 30, 40, or 50 mile per week and preparing to race Ironman in June.

I prefer to concentrate on the positive. My fitness is up, my swim is in good shape, and my bike legs are coming back. After recovering from surgery the plan is to slowly increase run mileage. The big goal for the year continues to be Ironman Florida and the time away from running, something that hasn't happened since I started seriously running in the mid-1990s, cannot be a bad thing. November 2 is a long time away.

Between now and then I will do what needs to be done to make sure I am fully prepared when I step into the Gulf of Mexico. Racing this year will be different that originally planned. Some planned races aren't going to happen while others will be on the schedule. Training will be different as well. I have a number of ideas for both ... just need to get through surgery and back out running before I can make any hard decisions.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Related Posts:

Ironman Training Review: February, 2014

Ironman Training Review: January, 2014

2014 - The Year for Ironman Racing

Friday, April 4, 2014

Do you remember that time you had the perfect plan and it all went to ...

"Race when you are healthy and able because you never know when that may change." - Lo-Jack

After the final race of the year and a few weeks of R&R, I started to plan out the 2014 race season. Already having two "A" races on the schedule - Ironman Coeur d'Alene and Ironman Florida - it was simply a matter of filling in a few tuneup races, filling in the training blocks, and tracing out the important workouts. For once in my life I had it all sketched out on paper BEFORE the season started. Once January hit it would be a simple matter of filling in the weekly details.

Come January 1 all was good. I started my base period, focusing on strength on the bike and speed in the pool. Coming off a calf strain, running was mostly base miles. Simple, straightforward training.

Then it happened ...

On morning after a run I felt some tightening in my right knee while stretching. This pain was not an unknown to me. Presenting like a tendinitis issue I have dealt with in the past, I went with my standard protocol for this problem. A few week later, things were no better, and I was not running.

Something was different.

For what is probably the first time ever I made the decision to call a doctor. A few days later I was in the office of a sports medicine doctor at OAA Orthopedic Associates getting an x-ray and MRI. A few days after that my fears were confirmed - a meniscus tear. Fortunately, the tear was minor, probably with me for some time, and not necessarily bad enough for surgery. Long story short, after working through the problem, thinking we were in the clear, then dealing with the problem again, the decision was made to get a surgeon involved. Yesterday (April 3) I sat down with a surgeon and will be having surgery in a few weeks.

How things have changed ...

A few weeks ago The Queen informed me that Ironman Coeur d'Alene wasn't going to be happening - I wasn't able to train as needed and nothing good could come from attempting 140.6 miles in an unprepared state of fitness. More than likely I wouldn't be ramping up the run fast enough to give me a chance at a successful marathon off the bike. We talked about it (I had already looked into a number of options), and both agreed it wasn't going to happen. Even if I could have evaded surgery, The Queen was correct.

I have been keeping in shape on the bike and in the pool. I do miss running, but have hit new PR times in the pool and am starting to feel good on the bike. Between now and surgery I will continue to build fitness knowing I will be out of commission for a period of time. I've been told that getting back into the pool and on the bike will happen relatively fast, with running dependent on how much repair needs to be done. Big picture, Ironman Florida and my Fall racing season are still on tap.

Mentally I'm OK with this and will be writing more about it. I did my first of 30 marathons back in 1999 and my first of four Ironman distance events in 2006. All this time I have been relatively injury free, dealing with minor muscle strains and the occasional lower back pain. Don't get me wrong, it's not all "happy happy joy joy" around here, but I do understand the miles I have in my legs. I would much rather be thinking about 20 mile runs, 100 mile rides, and a crazy long transition workouts than surgery, rehab and planning out a comeback.

And that's how your perfect plan goes from awesome to crap.

Train hard. Stay focused.