On Friday, I ran for 40 minutes! It's the first time since March that I've run more than four miles at once. A little boost from sea level air helped, though I like to think the massive humidity in Missouri, where I'd flown to collect my kids and see my parents (too briefly), cancelled some of the "thick air" advantage out.
Boy, my hat is off to all of you who contend with that kind of heat and dampness on a regular basis. It was like running with a wet washcloth over my mouth and nose. I'll take less oxygen any day if it means cool dry mornings.
Before leaving Colorado, I had two key doctor appointments. Here's a summary (since all of this medical stuff is starting to seem downright self-absorbed):
Last Tuesday, I returned to Jim, the physician's assistant in the orthopedic practice. He reviewed my MRI with me. It didn't show nothing, which was my greatest fear. I do have some disc degeneration in my lumbar spine, and as expected, they are recommending a steroid injection for the pain. Jim thinks with good core maintenance I should be able to be pain-free for a while after the shot, so I made an appointment for it. The downside: many people my age, especially those of us with a history of sedentary jobs involving a lot of sitting at a desk, have disc degeneration in the exact spot I'm showing it. My pain may or may not be related to it.
The next day, I visited Dr. Hansen, the chiropractor Darren wanted me to see about my tweaky right hamstring. I told him the boring story of my back and my return to running, and he ran me through several diagnostic tests (toe touching, twisting my legs around to see where the stiff places are, etc.). He feels that I may not need the shot but recommends that I keep the appointment for now and consider cancelling it if working with him mitigates my pain. He then gave me some active release therapy (ART) for my hips, back, stomach and the hamstring.
I liked Dr. Hansen. He's a longtime runner and high-school cross country coach himself, and he has a good sense of humor. He does his homework, and I trust him, even though I come from a background that's decidedly unfriendly to chiropractors (my dad's work resolving insurance lawsuits really biased him against them). The only thing he's suggesting that I'm unsure about is the Graston technique. I could find no real science backing this up online. Any Graston stories out there?
The situation right now is this: I have an appointment for a steroid shot on Aug. 22. The good news is everyone agrees I can run and train, that running hasn't and won't make whatever the underlying problem is worse (whether it's the discs or something else). Dr. Hansen recommends keeping any speed work at tempo pace or slower for now until the hamstring completely resolves, and he's given me another routine of post-run moves to loosen my back.
I'd love to have enough of a reduction in my pain before Aug. 22 to be able to cancel the shot, largely because I'll have to cut back on anything strenuous the week following--cutting back is the last thing I want to do right now. But I'm dubious that I'll really be able to do that. The pain has been there for so long that it's hard for me to imagine any set of exercises or therapies will cut into it that quickly. I'll do my best to stay optimistic about it. Honestly, the only thing that's keeping me going to these doctors is the fact that I don't EVER want to go through this again, that I need to fix this now, or at least determine what can make it something I can live with and still run reasonably well.
Quitting running? Not something I'll ever consider.