Simple Pleasures

AJWs TaproomEarlier this month, shortly before leaving on our family spring vacation, my doctor cleared me to begin running again. After four months of battling hip problems brought on by a variety of issues including a torn labrum and osteoarthritis, I was at last able to run pain free again.

Over our spring break (camping on the beach in Florida) I ran a little bit each day. Simply putting one foot in front of the other I began with a one-mile run/walk and during the course of the week worked my way up to three miles, I slowly began to feel like a runner again. Now, three weeks later, I am running about 25 miles a week and, I must say, I have never, and I mean never, been happier in my life as a runner.

I know there are a lot bigger problems in the world than not being able to run but for me those four months away from running were extremely hard emotionally and psychologically. I felt an emptiness in my life that I couldn’t seem to replace through any other outlet. Now, after just a few weeks of running mellow paces and light miles, I have learned, at long last, not to take my running for granted. It is too much a part of my life to risk losing.

What this means for my long-term running future is too hard to tell. As my doc said, “You’ve got a lot of wear and tear on those tires and there are no spares available.” As I think about it, what really matters to me most is my daily run. And, if I need to trade running long races or running long periods in order to enjoy my daily 35 minutes of solace, then I am good with that. I know it’s cliche but it really is all about the process.

So, as we roll into the heart of spring, I am celebrating the simple pleasure of my daily run. For now I am sticking to the roads and no more than about five miles at a time. I feel myself slowly getting more fit, I feel my mind wandering more readily with each passing run, and my emotional balance is much more strong. After four months away, it is that balance that I feel like I most need. And, now that I have it back, I’ll do whatever it takes not to lose it.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Lagunitas Brewing Company Waldos' Special AleThis week’s Beer of the Week is Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Waldos’ Special Double IPA 2015 edition. Released every year on April 20th, this big, forward-leaning DIPA is a mouthful. Tipping the scales at just over 11% ABV, it is not for the faint of heart. However, like many of the offerings from Lagunitas, it drinks surprisingly smooth. Only available on draft, take a look at the website to find out where you can get it near you, before it runs out!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • When was the last time you were injured enough that you had to take several months off running?
  • How did that lack of your daily run affect your emotional well being and the rest of your life?
  • Have you ever found yourself taking your ability to run healthfully for granted? How do you remind yourself in those times that the physical ability to run is not a guarantee?

There are 5 comments

  1. EmersonTA

    Two words: Phil Maffetone; not just for running, but for sleep, nutrition, biofeedback, philosophy, etc. Injuries and inflammation — any malady with "itis" on the end — are not acts of God, they are mistakes of mankind. If you start hammering long stuff again you may luck out, but then again you may not. The Faustian bargain of self-congratulatory "top tens" in exchange for your health may come home to roost. Good luck.

    1. ClownRunner

      We are all playing the Faustian game, whether we realize it or not. Inflammation happens to some degree just by waking up and being hit with sunlight and oxygen. We're all fading, all the time. No need to throw the "self-congratulatory" slight in AJW's direction. He's heard it before a million times. He's writing a column about where he is at the moment…he's already stopped congratulating himself for WS Top Ten, many moons ago. He ends this column by saying he won't do anything to jeopardize his daily short run…where did he say he was going to start hammering again? And hey, Maffetone probably has made mistakes too…

  2. Hillrunner50

    I'll have to agree with Emerson, and I'd like to add my opinion and advice to anyone reading this column, whether a newbie or a veteran: a long running career does NOT have to involve injuries. What happened to AJW and to so many runners is avoidable IMHO. What's important is to have an open mind to the science involved with endurance training, whether the information comes from Maffetone, Lydiard, Daniels or any other great endurance legend. Educate yourself and do what it takes to STAY healthy and keep running, especially as you get into your 40's and beyond. Ultras WILL decimate your body over time if you do too many, run too hard too often, get caught up in fear of missing out, eat poorly, sleep poorly, and don't manage stress. In 15 years of running the occasional ultra I have seen so many great runners, many personal friends, not only get crippled but actually have incredibly serious health consequences, including death at a young age. AJW I wish you a full recovery and a return to what you love, but I hope you walk the walk, reflect, and really DO what it would take to be a healthy runner.

  3. nelsonprater

    What a great reminder! Thanks! I've been running for 21 years injury free – except for that 2-week period my IT band was killing me after somebody talked me into mountain biking for some cross-training (no more mountain biking!) – but the long Saturday runs I'm doing are starting to wear me out, and I'm starting to look less forward to my little solo early morning daily 6-milers – because I'm just flat tired. Was going to do 8 tomorrow morning early before meeting up with buddies at 6 for a 9-miler around the lake. Think now I'll just enjoy the 9-miler at 6 with my buddies, and do a lot more of that this summer, followed by blueberry pancakes and coffee at the local cafe. I can't imagine a bunch of long runs being better than that this summer.

  4. jstemple

    Hey AJW. Glad to hear you're back at it. It's totally like we're kindred spirits. I dnf'd VT1002014 due to what turned out to be OA of the hip. Tried to suck it up but wasn't gonna happen. I was referred to Dr Wilder by a close friend. I saw him in late Dec with the expectation of having a hip replacement. (I'll be 69 in July). He said not so fast. Following his initial evaluation, PT, steroid injection, I have begun running again for the first time since VT. I did an hour on elliptical prior to seeing Wilder, but that sucked. I got two 5 milers in this week, even if at a snails pace, but sure as hell beats riding a machine inside. I really missed slogging through the mud during spring rainstorms. Being outside really rocks. I'm sticking to non technical trails and hoping to avoid asphalt as much as possible. Question for you. Do you deal with ongoing pain, even when you're not running? Couple of my buddies ran TJ100K and said you did a good job. Trainer for MMT. Take care of yourself and stay healthy. Hardest thing for me is reconciling to 25-30 mile weeks, but beats nothing. /stemple

  5. robbinsmar

    So happy you are back running AJW!!! I am currently on an injury-forced hiatus myself. Going on close to two years. It started with a torn labrum in my hip, escalated to acute and chronic low back pain combined with SI joint issues and now possibly a torn labrum in the other hip. The first 10 months were the hardest, and now I have learned to accept the little bits of activity I can do pain-free. But every day that I can't run a little piece of me dies inside. Running makes me feel free. When I need to go to my happy place, I think of the times I was running in the woods, sun on my face, breeze whistling through the trees…I hate that is as close as I'll get to running for a while, but so happy that I have that place in my mind and heart to help me find some peace. Injuries are no fun, and I keep thinking this is a great time to explore all those cross-training activities that I didn't do (and probably one of the many reasons I am in this predicament now) but nothing can replace the way I feel when I run. Looking forward to getting back out there, I agree AJW, I'll take 35 minutes of solace in replace of long runs if it means I can stay healthy and keep running in the long-term. Enjoy every one of those runs while you can, I am living vicariously through you all :)

  6. TonyMollica

    I'm glad you are back running! I know what a void not being able to run creates. Not to mention the slowly growing gut.


  7. @EasyStej

    I totally feel your pain AJW, metaphorically and physically.

    I have been out for 12 weeks now, and I'm not for one second asking for sympathy from people. There are great runners the world over that write on this site who have had far worse than my Peroneal Fascia problem. However, this is the longest break that has ever been forced upon me, and yeah, its tough.

    Each day gets a little easier, and just this past weekend I managed a slow 100-yard run/shuffle. It feels so good to be able to cover the ground like that again, even though its such a small distance. Injuries really make you sit up and realise that what we are given is blessed, and that we should cherish every day of our health.

    Wishing you all happy, safe, and fun running. Bottoms up!

  8. @jrudolphd

    I recently suffered from a broken kneecap (not running related) and turned to crutching. My first day I managed a meager 0.5 mi trip, building up to 8 – 12 mi/day by the end of 6 weeks. As I hobbled through our beautiful world, I realized that the time outside, the sun and the snow, the forests and the plains, the mountains and the flat roads, those were the things that kept me happy and well-balanced. My wife thought me the happiest guy with a broken leg ever. Like you, I have now returned to running and treasure each and every day. But I also know that whether I hobble, or run, or stroll, or god-forbid, wheelchair, self-powered movement in the outdoors is where it's at. Good healing to you. I enjoy your columns.

  9. @williamgread1

    I am happy to read that you are running again. That is great. Sadly it seems like your doctor has not given you the best prognosis (lots of wear and tear, no spare) for the future so the trick is to balance the amount of running with amount of recovery and healing time between runs. I am in the same game myself now. I know that in my instance it was not a case of trying to come back too fast because before I knew I had a problem, I was cutting down running a lot to make time for calisthenics training (40-50 mpw to 10sh) over three years and then when I ramped up to about 20sh to run a trail race last year, my Achilles tendinitis just flared up badly and so I have cut down again and run slowly and it seems to be OK for now. My coworkers have said you are not limping any more. Unfortunately how long anyone is going to be able to run I believe is mostly genetic. A few lucky people seem to go on forever and can even do ultras an a regular basis, but most probably can not. AJW has had an amazing and accomplished running career and a long one at that so I don't feel it is fair to criticize him now for his injuries now. You just don't know what is going to happen until you take the journey.

  10. laurenmuirdpt

    The last time I had to take several months off from running was Feb 2014 to Feb 2015 secondary to labrum tear/repair (FYI contact Dr. Philippon's office). I have now had to take several months off from running TWICE from a labral tear/repair. Not only did time away from running affect me psychologically, it also affected my family, friendships, and relationships with running and non-running friends. Not being able to run created a different person mentally and physiologically. A person I do not want to encounter again! I have learned patience with running and the importance of taking time away if the slightest bit of pain arises. I have learned from every running injury I have sustained and for that I am a better person and physical therapist! Pain is your body telling you something is wrong. Do not cover it up with OTC meds. Get it checked out ASAP!

  11. @lunamiapico

    Andy, I have the same thing that you have and the same thing as robbinsmar has–torn labrum, FAI, and moderate arthritis in one hip and mild in the other (the second is not symptomatic). I saw three hip guys (one–supposedly a top rated guy– said cut back on running but stay active as long as you can, even if it is running, because there's no evidence that exercise or not leads to worsening; another said absolutely DON"T RUN; and the FAI guy said run if you can, but you have FAI). I also researched the hell out of FAI and feel that it is a rather problematic diagnosis at best; and for labrum tears, like FAI I'm not sure that most will do it with arthritis already present. So, I've had this for two years now and like you took weeks on end off from running this past winter and took celebrex for a few weeks (until I read Alberto Salazar's autobiography and how the big heart attack hit him a few days after taking celebrex; the celebrex didn't feel right to me anyway and it played havec with my blood counts). Anyway, now I'm running and just stretching and strengthening (there are some good exercises on the internet for hip osteoarthritis–it is very, very important to try and keep range of motion and to prevent the muscles from atrophying (they do!)!). I run an occasional 10 mile on the trail and four or five miles a day on the grass and road or such; so, the daily run, six to seven days a week. It is slower, but it gets the job done. Every few days or weeks it flares up badly, but then goes down to the usual, literal, pain in the ass and back and thigh–not in the joint itself, but in the muscles trying to hold it all together, I think. All to write, don't give up. The long, long runs may be history, but you can still have your daily run unless you're bone on bone throughout the joint. The important thing is to gently stretch and strengthen and keep from atrophying. I think that much of the stuff you find on the internet is just plain BS regarding referred pain from the joint–I think that it is muscle pain from supporting a weak, or not properly fitting, joint (the pain has moved around in the past two years, I'll add). Here is a link to some good hip OA stretches and strengthening that I've found:
    Keep at it and let us know what the prognosis is. Thank you for writing this blog post. We have to hang in there together!

  12. Canyon Stories

    Huge, huge congrats to you and your writeup, which I will save for inspiration. Although you say you have osteoarthritis, how can you say you are "pain free"? I too have OA in one hip but continue to run at a modified pace and distance. The pain is always there, the occasional NSAID notwithstanding. Comes and goes, moves around. But I really don't want to quit running – just have to keep telling my ego to shut up about pace and distance. Some days are harder than others. Tip o' th' Lagunitas to you and everyone on this thread – hang in there!

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