Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Long Strange Injury Trip

Roller coaster ride doesn't even begin to describe what my knee--or at least its prognosis--has been through over the past 6 months. No need to rehash the injury and diagnosis, which I've documented and updated many times here since October.

After getting the diagnosis for a possible mosaicplasty (otherwise known as osteoarticular treatment surgery or OATS)last December in Fairbanks I set out to find a doctor. I chose not to stay local for a couple of reasons. One, the doctor I saw must have told me to stop running (for good) at least 4 or 5 times during a 10 minute consult. Moreover, his apocalyptic description of the injury didn't quite jibe with the MRI and his own report, which described a small (~1.4 cm lesion) at the end of the femur.

See the lower left portion of lateral lobe for a view of the injury last November, a month after NYC Marathon. It looks like a portion has been gouged out, and the entire lobe is inflamed and filled with fluid

So after some searching on my own, my friend Grambo (who had the same type of injury and procedure done on him 9 years ago) suggested Dr. Eberhart in Portsmouth, NH would be a great doctor. A long way to go, but I wanted someone with a good track record on this procedure, and Dr. Eberhart was among to first to introduce mosaicplasty in the USA.

So in last week of March, off to the Granite State I flew. Met by Grambo and hosted by his gracious family, I braced for surgery on the 25th. We met Dr. Eberhart on the 24th and he went over the MRI, showing the probable site of the divot on my bone and what to expect for surgery and recovery.

It was pretty grim. Two weeks of bed rest before I could fly back to Alaska, and then another 6 weeks on crutches. Could maybe resume running in 3 to 6 months, but even Dr. Eberhart suggested that at 52, I should look into mixing in other sports with the running.

Anyone up for rollerskiing on Farmers Loop? NOT!

The night before felt almost like a marathon, after tossing and turning for a bit I slept for about 3 hours and that was it. I just lay there for another 3 hours waiting in anticipation for the time to get up.

My BP was high going in, 159/110 to start, but it settled a bit before they shot me up with anesthesia (a little something to make you think you just drank a 6 pack of beer before we give the real stuff, said the the anesthesiologist).

Next thing I knew after they wheeled me into to operating room was that I was already dressed and Dr. Eberhart said something about good news, "We didn't find anything, your cartilage is clean and smooth and we didn't need to do the mosaicplasty."

Other than a stiff knee and a little nausea for a few days that was it! The doctors and staff were "flabbergasted" that the injury appears to have healed on it's own with no damage to the articular cartilage. A minor miracle, perhaps.

The camera images indicate a clean cartilage and any bone injury has healed on its own!

On Monday the 29th, 4 days after surgery I was given the go ahead to start running, and so I did, a 2.5 miler with Grambo near his home in Concord.

So this chapter is more or less closed. The build up will take longer than usual, but by June or so, I expect to be feeling strong and gnarly and ready to take 'em on at the Midnight Sun Run, and to go for a 6th age group win. To break last year's 35:45? Hmm, not likely, but we shall see.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tour of the Tour of Anchorage

The Tour of Anchorage is premier citizen's ski race in Alaska with up to 2000 skiers participating some years, including several of the best in the country. For example, James Southam and Holly Brooks won last year and this year they just happened to be among the best American finishers at the Olympics. I've always been 'up' for this fun race, and the results have been kind. There are four races, the 50K freestyle (more or less an elite race), 40K freestyle, 25K freestyle and 25K classic. Prior to this year I had done all the freestyle races at least once but not the classic.

2002 25K (freestyle) - 4th OA/1st AG
2006 40K (freestyle) - 3rd OA/1st AG
2007 50K (freestyle) - 35th OA/4th AG
2008 50K (freestyle) - 28th OA/2nd AG
2009 50K (freestyle) - 34th OA/1st AG & 1st US Masters Championship (50-54)

I had anticipated one last hurrah for my age group in 2010, because there a couple of world class age group skiers (including Todd Boonstra a former USA Olympian and Norwegian ex-pat Trond Jensen) ready to move into the 50+ ranks next year.

However, a couple months ago--broken, busted, and somewhat disgusted--I wasn't even sure that I'd be able to line up without a pair of crutches at least.

But the turn around since the first of the year has been getting better and better, and for the past 5 weeks I've been able to average an hour a day of training. Skating definitely cause problems and not ready yet for a prime time 50K, but I figured a 25K classic would round out a complete set for the Tour--a tour of the Tour. Not to mention classic is easier on my knee.

Weather - 16F, clear, windy, with 2 or 3 inches of fresh snow.

Goal - not being in top shape I was hoping for a decent finish, and if everything went well, maybe make it to the podium and win my age group.

Lined up after a last second pit stop in the woods and I was surprised to suddenly find myself in the lead within just a couple hundred meters. Three of us pulled away within a few K, double poling outside of the tracks because those were slow and filled with fresh snow that had blown in.

By 10K there was just two of us. At 15K, just one. I was the one who dropped off (Kikkan Randall's high school xc runing coach, Gary Snyder ended up winning by almost two minutes). Was able to draft of some elite wave freestyle skiers (they started an hour earlier at another area), but other than that was untouched. The last 4K were murder because my wax was worn off and we had 200' of climb into a headwind.

The result
2010 25K (classic) - 2nd OA/1st AG

So now I've won my age group in all four Tour of Anchorage races--a rare feat that will go virtually unnoticed except for here. Not all that strong this year but I'll take it.

What a great day on the snow. My kids (12 and 14) did the 25K freestyle. Mikko was 2nd for the 12 to 14 age class. How cool is that? He was so happy to win a medal.

Race director PJ Hill mentioned that something like 120 Fairbanks skiers entered this year. Mopped up in age class medals for some divisions. Will report on that later.