Going Under The Knife

AJWs TaproomA little less than four years ago when Bryon suggested we come up with a column to provide an editorial voice for iRunFar, I was excited to contribute. After writing on ‘AJW’s Blog’ for over four years, I was looking for something a little different that would allow me to comment on the sport of ultrarunning and share some of my own experiences as well. From there, AJW’s Taproom was born!

Over the years, the column has evolved to include more editorial and reflective content and less first-hand personal experience. This has happened, in large part, due to changing circumstances in my life and my running. However, in this week’s column I am going back to full-blown personal sharing, the likes of which was common on AJW’s Blog. So, if that kind of stuff bores you, feel free to stop reading now.

On Monday, in Columbia, South Carolina, I am having hip-resurfacing surgery on my left hip.

Ever since I can remember, even as a young 11-year old athlete in the Pearl River Little League, I have struggled with left-hip pain and limited range of motion. Gradually, over time, wear, and tear, the pain in my hip has gotten worse and, in recent years, particularly in 2013 and 2014, the pain became so bad that I had to stop running. After a long and exhausting year of running in 2014 I decided to take time to re-boot and re-evaluate. After extensive research and reflection, I have decided to have surgery.

My surgeon is Dr. Thomas Gross of Midlands Orthopaedic. He has performed hip-resurfacing surgery on over 4,000 patients and his success rate has been remarkable. Of particular interest to me, not surprisingly, is that over 95% of his running patients have been able to return to running after the surgery and many have returned to ultramarathon running and triathlons. In short, if there was a guy for me and my hip, Dr. Gross is that guy.

You see, as much as I’d like to say I’ve achieved all that I want from ultrarunning, that is just not true. Sure, I’ve enjoyed a 20-year-career of running in races all over the country. Yet, 93 ultras and 31 100 milers later, I still have the drive and determination to set goals and train hard. I am hopeful that hip resurfacing will get me back out onto the trails that I love and give me that opportunity to become a Hardrocker, finish UTMB, and get my fifth finish at Angeles Crest.

Now I also know that the recovery and rehabilitation from this surgery will likely be more difficult than any ultra I have ever run. It is my hope that the temperament and skills that I have accumulated over 20 years running of ultras will allow me to embrace the recovery with as much vim and vigor as I have in all those races that have gotten me here in the first place. I have to believe that those tried and true ultra values that I hold so dear–hard work, patience, and a positive attitude–will steer me through even this difficult but ultimately rewarding chapter in my life.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Wicked Weed Brewing SerenityThis week’s beer of the week comes from Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina. They have a sour beer called Serenity that is really outstanding. I am not usually a sour guy but Serenity, now available in bottles, is a new twist on the Brett variety. Give it a shot if you can get your hands on one!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you had major hip surgery? If so, what was your experience like and how did your return to activity progress?
  • When was the last time that injury took you away from running for an extended amount of time? With what did you fill the extra time and emotional void?
  • If you’d like to send AJW a personal note, his email is ajoneswilkins@tandemfs.org. :)

There are 4 comments

  1. kjz

    You will be the perfect person for an excellent full recovery,AJW. Best wishes for patience in the early days. Your ultra grit will carry you through the rest! If you have a fav recovery drink, the early days post-op and post-PT session is a great time to take it!

  2. LB2

    In 2010, I had a bizarre hunting accident that resulted in an avulsion fracture of my right shoulder that required surgery. I think I had finished my first 50K right before that accident. I was unable to run for about 3 months. I intensely focused on my physical therapy and did lots of extra stretching at home. It still took well over a year to get full range of motion and all my strength back.

    I have a co-worker who broke her neck by falling from a 20 foot wall at one of those obstacle course things. I told her not to run it, but I had no idea that she would lose the ability to do something that she had grown to love, run. She wasn't paralyzed, but she has lost an enormous amount of movement in her neck. And, she may never run again on anything other than an elliptical.

  3. tahoepete

    Good luck and heal quick. Just take on rehab like training for a race. The harder you work during rehab and the more effort you put in the better off you will be in the long run. You will be back on the trails before you know it.

  4. @freemartini

    Great timing on this. I too am going into surgery again the first week of October. I wish you the best!

    The last time I had to take an extended leave from running post breaking my tibia and fibula, I couldn't run for 6+ months. I read a lot, I took up some random hobbies including making raw chocolate bars, did as much upper body and core work as I could, explored coffee shops around town that I hadn't been to and took the opportunity to hang out with friends more often. It's mentally tough for sure but that ultra frame of mind helps!

  5. @DeborahHamon

    All the best with surgery and your road to recovery! I've had chronic hip issues over the past few years and know how tough it is. Just found this site recently… http://hiprunner.com/ which gives me hope whenever I am feeling particularly down about my hips. The site is for runners with hip replacements (I've had arthroscopy and I know resurfacing is different also) but I figure if people with full hip replacements are running and even doing ultras, then there is long term hope for those of us that are determined and positive. Good luck!!

  6. Hone

    I have had surgery on both of my hips (FAI/Labral tears). The left hip was in 2011 and the right one was in 2012. (I also had 2 knee surgeries this year and haven't been able to run for last 5 months)

    I tore my left hip labrum in a flag football game (acute) but I decided to be tough and I continued to ran 100 mile weeks all 2010 in extreme pain. The pain was so bad I was forced to drop out of a lot of races because of it. After my left hip surgery I came back too quickly and ran Zane Grey and my right hip tore during the race. I was out of balance and the weaker left hip put a ton of pressure on my right hip and I ended up having to have surgery for a tear on the right hip 2 months after ZG. Both hips are much better but there is still a bit of pain lingering when I do activities.

    Anyways, take your time coming back. For years I just pushed and pushed without any regard to sustainability. I was such an idiot. I doubt I will ever run a long ultra but hopefully my knee heals correctly so I can at least enjoy the mountains again.

  7. sdjackie

    I'm sure that wasn't an easy decision or one that was taken lightly. I'm glad to hear that you have picked a doctor with a lot of experience, that will make a difference. You are probably going to feel amazingly good afterwards and wonder why you didn't do it sooner. I am glad to hear that you are having the resurfacing vs the hip scope. The patients that I see with hip scopes seem to be struggling. ( I am a PT assistant doing outpatient ortho PT).

  8. SeanMeissner

    The part of the article that I found most interesting was your ultrarunning stat: 1/3 of your ultras have been 100 milers. That's impressive!

    I wish you the best for a successful surgery and full, efficient recovery, my friend.

  9. RalfGJ

    I underwent bilateral hip resurfacing in late 2014, and while I was merely an aspiring ultra runner (working up close to marathon distance on trails) when arthritis became unmanageable, I am now (one year after the first surgery) happily building my mileage (right now doing ‘long’ runs of up to about 15 miles) without the crippling arthritis pain. I have been extremely conservative with getting back into running, initially working extensively on mobility, range of motion, and strength. A runner as accomplished as AJW will bounce back and return to high-level training much quicker, I’m sure. Best wishes!

  10. @JoeldWright

    AJW – thank you very much for sharing your story! I am similar to you, in that I'm a 43 year old trail runner with a hip impingement on my right side. After being diagnosed with it a year ago, I've tried almost everything known (and unknown) to fix it, including extensive mobility and strengthening exercises. While it is better, it is still a major problem, and I think about it constantly. I'll be very interested in following your recovery, and the lessons you learn about what works, and what doesn't, so please share! Warm Regards, Joel Wright

  11. @JoeldWright

    Can anyone point me to a good chat room or Facebook group, or even web page, where runners discuss the process of deciding to have hip resurfacing surgery, and/or how to recover from hip resurfacing surgery, so they can return to running at full strength. Thanks!

  12. MIKE

    AJW, I recently went through major ankle surgery (Nov 13), and my surgeon was not willing to say if I would ever be able to run again, let alone run ultras. This last weekend I attempted Virgil Crest 100 in upstate NY, and made it 63 miles before missing a cutoff (22 hours)…my ankle held up fine. It took me two years of steady rehab and patience to get back to putting in big distance, but it is doable. Those same values we all share as ultramarathoners came in very useful during this period, especially patience. While I was out, recovering, and with the clearance of the doctor, I tried my hand at a new sport….ice hockey…and fell in love with it. It certainly helped get me through that stretch of time that I could not get out and run like I wanted. Good luck with the surgery and rehab, looking forward to eventually running in to you on the trails.

  13. lizardly1

    Small world! I am going tin for the same procedure with Dr Gross in November and would love to hear how yours goes.Good luck to you. I haven't been able to run for a year and it is maddening.

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