One year ago today I laid down on an operating table in Columbia, South Carolina and underwent hip resurfacing surgery on my arthritic left hip. Today, I am thrilled to say, I have made a full return to running and am enjoying a quality of life I had not experienced since my late 20’s. The story of this last year is, indeed, one of recovery, reflection, and rejuvenation.
The first six weeks following the procedure were emotionally the most difficult for me as my mobility was compromised and I was under strict doctor’s orders to tread very carefully on my hip as the implant needed time and stability to take hold. As such, I battled low-grade grumpiness and general angst for much of that period. After a trip to Dr. Gross’s office in South Carolina at the 6-week mark, I was cleared to begin light physical activity and the rehabilitation began in earnest. At that point my upward emotional trajectory began, as well.
At first I was told to focus on slow walking on flat ground and, then, was gradually allowed to introduce the stair master and the elliptical trainer. In this period, I literally became addicted to the stair master and between Thanksgiving and Christmas spent nearly 90 minutes a day pounding out the miles on that thing. In fact, I was in the midst of an intense stair master interval workout in early December when my phone started to explode with the news that I had been selected in the lottery to participate in the 2016 Hardrock 100. Needless to say, at that point the intense stair master workouts became even more so.
Additionally, during this transition period, I consistently attended two strength classes per week in my local gym to work on developing muscle strength and balance that had largely been ignored up until that point in my athletic career. Those classes, combined with flexibility exercises that were part of my physical therapy program allowed me to transition smoothly to gentle running/hiking on January 1st.
At first all of my efforts were done at an easy/moderate pace. I sought out vertical as much as I could as my body was responding well to both ascending and descending and the advice I received was that the hip would respond well to changes in terrain and surface. By early February I was up to running 4-5 times a week and by March I was beginning to get itchy for training again. At the time I was still walking with a slight limp and twisting motions hurt, but, in general, I was returning to normal much faster than I thought I would.
On April 2nd, I pinned on a bib for the first time in over 16 months at the Dam 50K and at the end of that month completed a second 50k at Promise Land. I finished April with 375 miles and just over 57,000 feet of climbing. I felt like a runner again! May was devoted to heavy training and building back strength and speed and I was pleased with how each weekend seemed to build on the previous one. By the end of that month I had logged 415 miles and 87,000 feet.
June saw even more development as I made a couple of trips out west to run and hit some more intense trails and altitude as well as some varying conditions. Hardrock came and went and while the experience was excruciating both physically and emotionally, I was pleased that my surgically repaired hip made it through that extraordinary day no worse for wear and by the end of July I was ready to get back in the swing of things.
I have devoted that last seven weeks to simply running for the sake of running and have enjoyed just getting outside and running every single day, something I had not been able to do before my surgery. And, while I have a few low-key things on my calendar over the next few months, I am mostly running these days for the physical and psychological benefit it brings. I have to say that, above all else, getting that surgery a year ago today has brought a feeling of general well-being back to me that had been lacking for about five years previously. And, along with that well-being has come an increased sense of equilibrium and focus for which I’d been longing. The comeback has been by no means easy, but, in the end, at this point one year later, extraordinarily fulfilling.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery in Goochland, Virginia. Just this past week I had an opportunity to sample their Coconut Quad and it was delicious! As a bitter beer guy in general I have been slow to adopt to the sweeter varieties but this one is outstanding. While only available here in Virginia if you are ever in the area it is worth the detour off I-64 to try this amazing beer!
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
Share your story of coming back from a major surgery or other significant layoff from running.