Going Under The Knife, Part 2

AJW's TaproomBack in September of 2015, I underwent hip-resurfacing surgery on my left hip. I wrote about the decision to do so in this article. Then, I wrote three follow-up articles at one month post-operation, two months later, and a year after the fact.

During my follow-up appointment a year after surgery, my surgeon asked me how my right hip felt as the images indicated cam impingement and evidence of moderate osteoarthritis. At the time, I told him it hurt occasionally but that the pain was manageable. He suggested I monitor the pain and that, given my level of activity, I could expect the possibility of needing, at some point, to return to South Carolina for right-hip resurfacing as well.

I went on my merry way, proceeding to run two 100 milers in 2017 and then beginning what I hoped would be a successful build-up to the 2018 Hardrock 100. Along the way, however, the pain in my right hip worsened. It was a familiar, stabbing pain at the joint line, but I attempted to will it away as a strained hip flexor and forged on. Eventually, this past January, I concluded that something needed to be done. After a cortisone shot and an extended period of rest, I returned to running and enjoyed a few good weeks before succumbing to crippling hip pain once again. I knew then, it was time.

I sent my x-rays off to Dr. Thomas Gross last month. Last week, he called and we had a long conversation. Indeed, he confirmed, as he had done three years earlier for my left hip, that I was a candidate for hip resurfacing and he felt that given my age, health, and activity level, assuming I worked my ass off in rehab, I could expect a full recovery and a return to long-distance running. Four days later, the surgery date was set, April 9th.

What swiftly followed was a swirl of emotions, for sure, as this meant no Hardrock and a long, hard road of recovery ahead. And yet, even in the midst of the emotions, something in me felt confident and steadfast. For some reason, this time, the decision was easy and straightforward, much like a lot of what I’ve learned about life through over two decades of running. It seems to me that the more experiences we have with adversity, the more we struggle through the dark times in search of lighter times, the more we make decisions to propel us toward the best versions of ourselves, the better we become. With this decision, I had no choice but to believe I was becoming better.

Dear Taproom friends, wish me luck! I hope to come out of this surgery stronger and more complete. Succumbing to chronic pain is hard, as it goes against my better nature. But I am not getting any younger and running is immensely important to me. Of course, my non-running friends sometimes look askance at me and ask, “Is it worth it?” To which I, of course, respond, “You bet it is!”

You see, running is not just what I do, it’s who I am. In order to continue to be my best self, I sometimes need to make the hard decisions and face the consequences. This is most certainly one of the tougher ones I’ve made, but in the end I have to believe that it will make all the difference.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Ouray, Colorado along the Hardrock course. There is a great little nano-brewery there called Mr. Grumpy Pants Brewing Company. I first stumbled into Mr. Grumpy Pants with Bryon Powell after a particularly long day of training back in 2016. Mr. Grumpy Pants likes to keep things simple so they have six beers all with clever names like “Amber” and “Pale Ale.” If you ask for a taster, Mr. Grumpy Pants will serve it up in a baby bottle, complete with the nipple and everything! Nonetheless, Mr. Grumpy Pants’s take on an IPA, called “India Pale Ale” is particularly good and well worth sampling. Don’t expect friendly service, just good, honest, fresh beer!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Are there other runners out there who have had hip resurfacing and who would like to share what they’ve learned through this surgery?
  • How about other recurrent major injuries or health issues, have you had them? How did your approaches to them change when they recurred?

There are 15 comments

  1. Wolfgang

    Dear Andy,
    For such a tough cookie like you finishing xx 100 milers & xxx other ultras a hip replacement is like for the average person a flu.

    Good luck !
    Wolfgang

  2. Jon

    I couldn’t help but laugh at your “I attempted to will it away” line. I’ve tried that for nagging pains. Usually ends the same way as yours…a trip to the doctor!

  3. Beth Simpson-Hall

    You’ve always inspired me and continue to do so! My best wishes for a full and complete recovery. We will miss you at Hardrock this year. Larry finally got in, missing the last many years, even on the vet list! Being flatlanders, we have to go out at least 3 weeks in advance. This year, we’re going four. We have accommodations for the first three, but are still in need of a place race week. Any chance you had a place that you haven’t canceled yet? We’ve been checking places daily with no luck.
    Thanks for any help/suggestions. We’ll be thinking of you April 7th and beyond.
    Best always,
    Beth Simpson-Hall

  4. Brandon

    Once at an aid station I heard a simple question that helps slap me into reality when my inner-Ahab starts popping up: “Do you want to run today or tomorrow”? Sometimes we have to take a couple steps back so we can then, hopefully, take many, many more forward. Best of luck!

  5. Henry Peck

    Best Wishes, AJW! You have this, you know that. It gives us purpose! We are still pioneers in this running with fake joints thing. It was only a generation ago, we would be with a cane, and getting old. And, it was only a years ago, maybe even still, that we would be encouraged to switch to swimming or maybe walking- “how do you feel about ellipticals?” Ha! Go get yours, keep making a difference showing the way. It means alot to the runners after you who would like to enjoy the great lifestyle for all our years!

  6. SDB

    Wishing you a speedy recovery AJW. It is absolutely the right decision. My husband is facing the same fate after having one knee replaced and knowing he will need to do the other in the not so distant future. At 51, he wants to ski for the rest of his life, so you do what you can do. On the bright side, maybe Scotty Mills will get into Hardrock off the waitlist? Enjoy a more relaxed summer with your family and you will be back out there before you know it.

  7. Kaci Lickteig

    Andy, you have always been an inspiration to me from the day we met on the Western States trail. I’ve looked up to you and I cannot be more proud of you right now. The hardest decisions come with a lot of wisdom…and that is something you have. I know how hard it was for you to let go of your Hardrock goals this year, but just think how much better you’ll be when you are healed and healthy. You’ll be more confident and able to run Hardrock to your full potential. The comeback stories are the best stories out there. Hang in there and know that you have us all behind you every step of the way! Cheers to a healthy hip and fast recovery!!

  8. John Vanderpot

    …and while it ain’t no HR, there’s that “easy” one in early Aug. and I think your name’s still on that list?

    Wishing you a speedy recovery —

    JV

  9. Jenn McConnell

    I was an ultra trail runner – I had been experiencing left hip pain for several years that was going mis and/or undiagnosed correctly.

    In October 2015, ran a 100k. Still had horrible left hip pain but could manage through it. Took some months off to recover. Started running regularly in January 2016 to come back to the hip pain (it never really went away) and sharp unbearable groin pain.

    For the first few weeks, I could stop and walk off the groin pain. By March 2016, I could no longer get through the pain.

    The next seven months was a roller coaster of medical professionals, taking weeks off from running to see if it helped, HORRIBLE left hip pain, and groin pain that literally stopped me dead.

    Eventually, I found a great Ortho/hip specialist who first diagnosed me with complete labrum tear, severe broken femoral head, coxa-profunda, cam/pincer impingement and mild osteoarthritis.

    They repaired the break first BUT I was stubborned and pushed through hiking after the surgery and made the groin pain worse where eventually I had hot searing pain in my lower right abdominal muscles. (Eventually, I found out the soft connective tissue where my abs connect to my adductors tore off, diagnosed as sports hernia.)

    I had a hip reconstruction a year ago February 21st.

    I intensely PT the hip. Three months after the reconstruction, I felt like I plateaued. Outgrew PT. Still had groin pain, couldn’t walk more than 1/4 mile without the pain.

    My one dr encouraged I didn’t have the sports hernia surgery but changed my PT plan to address the sports hernia. After reviewing the protocol and talking with my PT, we decided I would work with an actual personal trainer to address some issues.

    In June 2017, I started working with a trainer. It took some time but I am back to running halfs on the weekend. We focus on my glutes, rectus abdominal muscles, shutting of my adductors (i compensated for so long using them to perform almost every movement), etc. I think after years of compensating using the wrong muscles, my glutes shut down. I also work on lengthening my hip flexors.

    I still struggle a bit with inguinal canal pain IF I don’t watch my form and get sloppy and sink down in and stop using my glutes and abs to propel me forward. But my pain is so much better.

    For the first time in two and a half years, I am starting to feel healthy and like myself.

    It was a long recovery! I wish you the very best – quick and full recovery to return to what you love.

  10. Jack Bolan

    Excellent. Best of luck to you sir, I know you’ll come out on top and be back on the trail soon. I only hope I may be as resilient one day.
    As for Mr Grumpy pants, I must go there…

  11. B

    Man, I was hoping that this was your yearly April fools day joke. I’m hear that hardrock will be happening in 2019, too. Best of luck.

  12. andrew nichols

    I really appreciate the articles. I am exactly where you were in 2015 – weighing total hip replacement versus resurfacing, bummed about having to (likely) give up my already registered races for the year, doing extensive research, etc.

    It really helps to read your past articles on the subject, and I hope your procedure goes perfectly next week.

    Cheers, Andrew as well

  13. Kim Russell

    I live in SC about 1-1:30 drive from where you will be. If you need anything, I have a house for you or family to stay in!

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