Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Six Thousand Dollar Man: The Epidural

We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. 




The days following American Canyon 15k were bad. I continued twice weekly physical therapy sessions, and daily strength conditioning. My sore quads eventually recovered, but every run sent my back into spasms and the numbness in my foot returned. I gave into the discomfort and scheduled an epidural with my spine doctor. Fortunately, I was able to get an appointment within a few days.

I had been weighing the pros and cons of the spinal injection of cortisone for a couple weeks. As I kept hitting the dreadmill, and then needing four to five days to recover, it became apparent that I needed some relief in order to really begin training again. Any concerns about side effects were trumped by the discomfort. With races looming on the horizon, and no real mileage under my feet, I took the plunge.

Epidural needle
An epidural is an injection to the spine, usually using a needle about 4 inches long. An x-ray technician helps guide the surgeon to the desired location, and the entire procedure takes less than ten minutes. I showed up at Webster Surgical Center in Oakland at 10 o'clock on Friday morning. By 11:15 I was face down on the operating table, wondering when the anesthetic would kick in. Then I was in the recovery room. The clock said 11:25. Easy peasy. The local anesthetic made my back feel spectacular. I could hardly wait to go for a run.

X-ray assisted spinal injection

Later that afternoon, the local had worn off and the injection site was really sore. I had planned to take Twirly dancing in the city that night, but it was obviously a bad idea. I took it easy on Saturday, and went for a "test run" with Twirly this morning. So far, no real repercussions. My lower back is a little tight, but the discomfort I have been experiencing seems to be held at bay. With only two weeks to Way Too Cool 50k, I am curious if I can put in enough quality work in the next ten days to give it a shot. Either way, Twirly and I will be in Cool on March 5th.

Here's to hope. And drugs. And more hope ;)


Race Report: 2016 American Canyon 15k

I threw caution to the wind, and decided to toe the line at the American Canyon 15k on February 6th. Race Director Harlan Reymont was kind enough to comp my entry. After a couple of treadmill workouts in the days before the race, I figured I should put my best foot forward, followed by the other one. At least until I returned to Auburn Dam Overlook Park. I have participated in this race every year since 2012, when it fell on my 40th birthday. As my first trail race, it will always be a special event for me. My annual birthday recognition would be incomplete if I missed it. Of course, if I had been 100%, I would have been racing Jed Smith 50k as my first PUSATF Ultra Grand Prix event for 2016. I'm glad I ran AC15k instead.

Harlan has made some improvements to the beginning/end of the lollipop course, adding miles of single track on the descent to No Hands Bridge. I had never been on this old railroad grade trail, and it was nice to not know exactly where we were or what was coming next. I kept up with friends Torrey and Clare on the descent, running a bit above my comfort zone. Once we got down to river level and rejoined the Western States trail I backed off, feeling my quads burning from the hammering descent. I grazed at the aid station and teased Julie about the additional mileage she had to run. "Haha, I get to go back now!" I joked.

I took it easy on the return, enjoying the much more runnable grade provided by the new course. I played with my pace/heart rate a little bit, and stopped to enjoy the views of the river and old coffer dam abutments. I finished in 1:40, about 15 minutes off my PR from 2012. The winners finished in 1:24, I think... At least my time will stand on the Ultrasignup top ten (9th) for another year.

I was happy that I could pull 15k out of my ass off the couch. Unfortunately, in the days that followed, my sore quads gave way to a sore back. Turns out the sciatica finally took up residence in the L5-S1 area from which it originates. Returning from injury is a bitch, no doubt about it. Baby steps, relentless forward progress, determined daily strength conditioning, positive attitude... It all makes sense in my head, but the stamina and endurance I have enjoyed in the past seems so foreign to me now. I never want to take fitness for granted again!