Although I already offered up my pearls of wisdom from four months in my last post, today is actually exactly four months since my surgery. In a most significant development, yesterday evening at physical therapy, I ran for fifteen minutes on the Alter G at 65% of my bodyweight. The Alter G is an interesting experience. First you have to put on some neoprene shorts that have a kind of tutu with a zip attached. Then you get zipped into a pod on the treadmill It senses your weight and then inflates the pod according to the percentage of bodyweight you want. It’s hard to describe the sensation of running on this treadmill. I guess it’s the feeling of reduced gravity. Anyway, while it was something of a strange sensation, it still felt like running! My heel felt somewhere in the zone between feeling normal and hurting, where I could feel it but it wasn’t painful. My gait felt a little off but that could have just been from the Alter G. The headline though is that my body still knows how to run and my heel held up to this jaunt. It was a little bit sore last night but back to feeling normal this morning. It’s the longest I have run since early September. It did feel really, really good to run in this fashion but mostly I am just super encouraged to be up to doing this at this stage. I’ve read that being able to run pain free at 85% bodyweight is an indication that you can start to run on ground. Whenever I get to that point though, I am going to be very, very conservative with my return to running. Things will still not be 100% better at that point and I have an unfortunate history of developing compensation injuries. I also know of a couple of people who had successful surgeries but developed other injuries in the year immediately after, likely from the inevitable strength imbalances that take a long time to correct.
In other news, I’ve been getting out riding with friends quite a bit these last few weeks. In particular, I’ve been riding trails on my mountain bike. It’s been so much fun, I think I may be in the market for a new bike soon….I’ve been riding a couple of times with one of my longtime friends from running. She is a flight nurse with a crazy schedule who works a lot of nights so she is often free in the day. Since I am hard at work not being hard at work right now, we have hit the trails in the middle of the week. We have the place almost entirely to ourselves and there is a special kind of fun when you are not at work but most people you know are. I’m happy to report that there have been no mishaps so far, just hours zooming through the trees. Florida lacks any kind of dramatic scenic vistas but up close it has a good deal of natural beauty. One of the quirks of Florida is that ecosystems can change suddenly with very slight elevation changes. You can go from cypress swamps to soaring pines to oak trees draped in Spanish moss just by turning a corner or going over a bump.
After we had got back to the car, an acquaintance happened to be running by. She, like my friend, is a fairly prolific ultrarunner who has done multiple 100 mile races and distances beyond. She stopped to say hello. We’re Facebook friends and have a number of friends in common so she already knew of my forced running hiatus. She commented that if she ever couldn’t run she would just die (figuratively speaking obviously). For some reason that I still can’t quite figure out, the comment bothered me. I’m pretty sure I have expressed that sentiment in the past too and there is nothing objectively wrong about saying that, but it really annoyed me today. My reaction was partly to think, “Well, you wouldn’t have any choice so you would just have to make the best of it like I have,” and partly to think, “It’s when, not if.” Maybe also I recalled the horror with which die hard runners react to stories of people who get injured long term or permanently. There is often a tendency to want to distance yourself from the person in case it is contagious. They become a cautionary tale. It’s not entirely dissimilar to the way that many people react to those who have suffered a the death of a loved one by avoiding them in their hour of darkness. Some of the discomfort comes from the fact that people who have suffered a loss remind you that what you fear could happen to you too.