Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Riddance to 2014 and Optimism for 2015

So for my ultra trail running and backpacking, 2014 was pretty much a bust.  The worst year I have had since beginning in 1999.  This was because of an injury which had deteriorated in throughout 2013 and led to many painful races in the early part of 2014 until Jemez 50 in May that was so painful, it convinced me that I needed to seek more medical help and eventually to stop running altogether at the end of June.

The good news is that by the end of July I had a firm diagnosis confirmed by MRI of Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy after years of thinking I had either sciatic pain or piriformis syndrome.  I had several months of relative rest hoping the problem would go away and finally on December 12th, I laid out some big bucks to have bilateral Plasma Rich Platelet injections done.  The healing was either non existent or so incremental to the point that I thought that I might never get better.  It was really a no brainer to have the PRP because even though I stood to lose a lot of money if it did not work, I could not go on without being able to run wondering that if only I had the injection, I might be back to where I was.

So where does that leave me now.  Well, after nearly 3 weeks, I am very encouraged.  Initially I had a period of regression immediately after the injection, but that is to be expected because of the injection itself and the healing is expected to begin two to three weeks later and can continue to improve for six months.  I really feel like I am now at the beginning of that period.  I can drive without discomfort, I can sit in hard seats, I can stretch with very minimal discomfort in the HHT area and am almost at the point now where I have almost no discomfort 24 hours a day.  That will be the first time that has happened in years!  So that is indeed encouraging.

What then can I expect from 2015?  I am not foolish enough to think I will be doing a 2:44 marathon again and I may not even be able to compete in ultras in the top ten, but I now have some expectations that I can again complete ultras.  And that means the world to me at this point!

So 2015 is now looking to include Jemez 50 Miler in Jemez Mountains New Mexico in May, San Juan Solstice 50 Miler in Lake City, Colorado in June, Beaverhead 100k which is on the Continental Divide Trail between Idaho and Montana in July, Multi-day hike on the Colorado Trail also in July and then the Run Rabbit Run 100 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in September for which I had to postpone my entry last year due to injury.  That's just the summer schedule and I haven't yet decided about next fall.

January will be continued total rest and rehabilitation.  February and March I will slowly begin training again.  April I will work in a 50K or two to build endurance.

It's an ambitious schedule but I am full of hope and optimism and have only in mind to complete these events and not compete in them.  I think too that if I can get fully recovered, then I can better manage the tendinopathy and then hopefully never again get in the condition that I was in this past year.  I think the biggest reason for this injury was weekly mileage in the 70 to 100 mile range without ever a break and so I just ran this injury into the ground until it finally forced me to stop.

So that's my hope.  I will check back next year hopefully with the full satisfaction that I had some great races!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ultrarunning and High Hamstring Tendinopathy - Part V - PRP Baby!

After finally exhausting all other options, today I finally went ahead and got a bilateral plasma rich platelet (prp) injection at the ischial bursitis insertional point of the proximal hamstring tendinopathy.  Say that five times fast.  It took me four months to memorize that diagnosis.

A little update on my progress since my last blog.  I have returned to running two to three times a week.  The really good news is that my gait and stride have returned to normal after nearly five months of relative rest (I still played tennis and had one or two runs per week of 3 or 4 miles and they were very slow).  The fact that my gait has returned to normal and my right foot has stopped flaying out I take to be a good sign that the rest is helping albeit very slowly.

In the past two weeks leading up to the injection today things really improved.  I had two runs of about five miles each where I felt only a little discomfort and during the first run I through in a seven minute mile and then during the second run a couple of days later, I was able to somewhat comfortably run a 6:35 mile.  That is the first time that I have been able to do that in 8 months!

Then yesterday I went for a six mile run hoping to maybe even throw in a 5k speed work.  If I could successfully do that, then I was going to forego the PRP.  But as it would turn out, I really struggled.  It was humid that day and humidity definitely seems to make my condition worse.  The good thing about that run was it sealed the deal for me as I knew I needed the PRP because quite frankly I could tell that this was nothing near normal in spite of a few good miles.

As for the injection.  I had read a few blogs and reports that the injections were painful.  Not so, it was surprisingly easy with just a few needle injections.  Actually four for me.  Two to get blood out, and two to put blood in.  Dr. Stanley did mention that the needle is not long enough because the company doesn't make a 2 1/2 inch needle and that makes it more difficult to get to the place that the prp needs to go.  I asked what effect that might have and now that I think about it, didn't really get an answer.  As I understand it, the prp will still be where it needs to be in the tendon and the ischial tuberosity or at least that's what I hope.

One caveat for other sufferers who are going to get PRP, a few hours after the injection, you will become very sore.  I have trouble just bending over and picking things up because I am so sore.  This is suppose to only last for a couple of days.

So now the wait begins.  Dr. Stanley ordered four weeks of no running and I will certainly oblige because prp ain't cheap and I do not want to do it again.  After that, I am hoping to start trying it out and hopefully it will be even more improved than it was right before the injection.

At times I have hope that I will be 100% again and can be a competitive marathon and ultra runner again.  But sometimes I feel that the reality might be that I am limited to slow running and hiking in which case, 50 miles would probably be the furthest distance I would be capable of.  Only time will tell. I will certainly continue to up date my blog.  I will let you know how the first run post prp goes one month from now.

But with my gait and stride returning to normal and continued and steady improvement, I may yet be running as I used to.

As always, if you are a fellow runner and sufferer of HHT, share your experiences.  Together we may be able to beat this thing.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ultrarunning and High Hamstring Tendinopathy - Part IV

Hard to believe that it has been 3 1/2 months since I've last run.  Truth be told, I have done gone for 4 four or five mile runs in the last two or three weeks.  I've also started playing tennis again for the last month or so.  My healing has been very slow with many ups and downs but I think I can say that I am getting better.  Each of the runs I went on was a little better than the last one but I am still only going once or twice a week.

In addition to the HHT, I also had achilles tendonitis that was really bad and that is almost healed now.  I also had tennis elbow and that is mostly better but all three of these injuries are very stubborn to heal.

The big one of course is the HHT.  I just absolutely cannot compete in ultras again until that is healed.  The four mile runs that I have been on are a struggle and there is a lot of discomfort and I definitely cannot go fast.  Only something close to 10 minute miles and if I try to pick up the pace, the discomfort returns which I am trying to avoid so that I can heal.

My goal is to get well enough so that I can eventually run four to five times a week with no pain and then work toward being able to do a speed workout on the track and then a 5K.  If I can get to where I can run a 5K again at maximum effort, then I know I will be ready for ultras again.

On the bright side, I have learned quite a few things over the last three plus months.  (1)Running is not THAT important, it's not everything.  (2)I will never again run every day, I can take days off and still maintain my fitness.  I do not need 70 to 100 mile weeks every week of the year.  If I can ever get healed again, I'm thinking 50 mile weeks max will be just fine.  In this way I can hopefully avoid the HHT from coming back.  (3)I also really love running and really miss it.  I must get back to it because it brings so much joy.

For those that are searching as I was and still am - for some type of magic cure for HHT - here is my experience thus far.  Nothing works.  That's about the sum of it.  The injections did nothing for me.  Rest seemed to actually make it worse.  The first run I went on a couple of weeks ago, my legs were very stiff.  It felt like the tendons had not been stretch and I think that is why a few runs every so often will actually help rather than hurt.

My next step is to go back to Dr Chris Barnes in Tulsa.  He really helped me 2 - 3 years ago and I was able to complete Leadville after seeing him.  But I think the HHT was just beginning back then.  This is much, much worse.  Back then I could still run and compete and now I cannot.  So Dr. Barnes will probably be doing some ART and dry needling as he did last time.  I know it will have to be better than the injections because unfortunately, they did not seem to help.  The one good part of spending all of that money is that the MRI gave a confirmed diagnosis that what I have is indeed HHT and ischial tuberosity (inflammation?).  So I can continue to focus efforts on those areas.

My goal is to just continue to heal in 2014 with an eye on the summer of 2015 for some big advenutres.  Some of the things I'm considering are:  Jemez 50 Miler, San Juan Solstice 50 or Bighorn 100, Alpine to Slickrock in Moab 50, a 50 mile race in the swiss alps, and then I'm signed up to do Run Rabbit Run 100 in September because I had to postpone my entry due to injury this year.  So those are my dreams if only I can get rid of this problem.

For those struggling with the same trouble, feel free to post and best of luck to you!