Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Different Kind of Ultra

Ultra- an adventure where I might have to face the worst part of my mind, but have the opportunity to present the best side of myself physically and mentally.

Okay, so that’s obviously not the real definition. I completely made that up to suit my own running metaphors that can relate to life outside of running.

I’ll just say it. If you see me running any ultras this summer, it will be a miracle. Sponsors and race directors have been notified, except for the RD of CCC in France. I haven’t yet had the heart to say I won’t be running a 100k around Mt. Blanc (and my spot doesn’t go to someone else through a wait list).

This summer will be a different kind of ultra, although I already realize that I’m on the home stretch, currently without too much worry of negative thoughts coming to get me.

A couple years ago my iron/ ferritin got quite low and my energy was gone as I struggled for a couple years to get it to normal. Then, while still dealing with that I developed asthma (or something to that effect) which took some time to figure out because I thought that maybe my low iron levels were making it harder to breathe. In reality, tests this past winter showed my breathing was quite terrible for a healthy person even while just sitting in a chair and then it took trying 4 medications to finally find one that worked. Breathing correctly is a beautiful thing! My easy runs and tempo runs immediately got 15-20 seconds per mile faster! Now, with enough oxygen in my lungs and near perfect iron levels, there’s only one thing that needs to be fixed. It’s be my achilles heel for at least 5 years. Literally.

This upcoming Monday I’m having surgery on my left achilles. In Sweden! It will be quite the adventure with Sage by my side.

Long story short, I’ve been trying for years to get rid of the pain in my achilles and in the last 6 months I’ve been constantly in and out of the doctors office and physical therapy appointments doing everything possible to get rid of the pain. Nothing worked. Actually, things got quite a bit worse. I’ve been barely been able to run in 6 months. I’ll say the following because I want other runners to be warned, I liked my doctor but I think it was terrible that he gave me two cortisone shots (spread out over the 6 months).  After doing some research I found studies saying that treating achilles injuries with cortisone shots can have big negative effects once the cortisone shot wears off. I now believe that that’s the reason why I went from kind of being able to run to not being able to run at all. What may be a big part of the problem and the reason the pain started is that I was born with a Haglund’s deformity, which can make traditional treatments far less effective. When researching Haglund’s deformity I was greeted with suggestions to not run on hard surfaces or run uphill.  We all know that there’s no way I’m spending my life avoiding hills! Anyway, an MRI confirmed it was time to have surgery.

Purple polka dots after trying prolotherapy.

Over time a large "bump" formed around my left achilles.

Are you still thinking “why the heck would you go to Sweden for surgery?”. I don’t blame you. It sounds kind of crazy.  I’m incredibly thankful to know the kind runners that I do. Through friends,  I was put in contact with quite a few runners who’ve had achilles surgery, a few being professional road runners who are well known enough that they had the resources to fly all over the country seeing specialists and asking for opinions. After all their searching, they decided Dr. Alfredson from Sweden was the guy too see. The runners I talked to had perfect results (a relief after reading way too many achilles surgery horror stories!) and said they wouldn’t trust anyone else. A big bonus is that he specializes in minimally invasive surgery. If all goes well, I’ll be able to start running again in half the time it normally takes. After doing hours and hours of research (trust me, I did my homework), my gut instinct was to fly to Sweden. It’s a huge bonus that surgery in Sweden is relatively inexpensive and I’d probably be paying more in the US even with insurance.

I’m actually not that upset that I have to have surgery. I’m just happy to start the healing process. Life has funny ways of teaching us lessons. I finally let one lesson sink in. Happiness should not depend on one thing. If I allowed myself to be unhappy because I couldn’t run, that wouldn’t be saying much for the rest of my life. Even now, I’m in awe and gratitude of this incredible life that I have created for myself and the amazing people that are in it. So if you read this and your initial response was to feel bad, don’t. While I’m deeply passionate about running and being on the trails, I have a lot of other things in life to enjoy.

Keep on running wild,


Huge thanks to Sage who is making the trip with me even though I told him that he shouldn’t come! :)

The following link provides a helpful article with videos for eccentric heel drops (the first thing I would suggest to anyone with achilles pain) and a link to the podcast that interviews the doctor who will be performing my surgery:

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