Happy April Fool’s Day!  There were some funny’s things around today.  Like Mark Sisson’s reported bacon tax from the Health Care Reform, or Google, err, Topeka having their vowel rendering engine fail:

or like Gu’s fancy shmance new delicious flavors – Lard Dart is sure to be a crowd pleaser:

C()m3 t0 th1nk @b()ut !t, wr1t!ng w1th()ut v)(w3ls f()r @ d@y ()r tw() m!ght b3 k!nd@ f\/n??

Thankfully, I’m not joking when I say that I’m back training.  Well, kinda.  Its only been a few days but so far so good.  I have an easy plan brewing in my head that I’m going to stick to as long as the body tolerates.  I’ve come to realize that it feels the same whether I am training or slacking, so I figure maybe I can train a bit, loosen things up (mostly some scar tissue and my left hammy) and get some progress with that.  The plan is pretty simple right now.  Just get out there and do some stuff.  Running is on its own day.  I can swim during my lunch hour or morning and bike in the afternoon.

I’ve been running off and on now for a few weeks.  Running is totally fine, though I think I can run faster backwards right now.  My chickens can probably out run me…thats sure sure.  Those things are fast…fast like marsupials!

Swimming is so-so, but it feels better as I warm up.  I just have to take it a little easier or things get aggravated.  That should go away soon though… just gotta loosen up a bit.  I biked today for the first time in 8 months and 18 days.  It was…okay.  Riding was fine, but getting on my bars is going to take me getting back some flexability.  I was able to get down a few times but with my left hammy being so tight it literally bounces me around on the seat.  That’s fine though.  Little things are better than nothing right now.  I know I have a ways to go, but you’ll see a comeback from me.  You’ll see me get back to where I was, plus some.  You can count on that.

Everything flairs up a bit after the training, but its nothing really new.  It’d feel the same if I was just standing around and training doesn’t make it worse overall.  Being with Team Zoot we get hooked up from Brian at ALCiS. I’ve tried this stuff in the acute phases of my back issues and it didnt work all that well…its probably not made for that type and intensity of pain.  But, good news that it seems to be working now.  Worked pretty well for my flight home from CA as well.  I plan to keep using ALCiS for these smaller “aches”.

Now, on another note.  The wife and I have something else brewing:

Yup, we got a preggo on our hands!

Yeah, it kinda looks like a bean…this ultrasound was done early.  By now it the limbs should be formed and is probably running by now.   The wife is due Oct 11.  We are super excited to have a little one on the way….no joke!

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Today marks 2 months since my last back surgery.  While I thought Id be totally back at everything this is not the case.  I still have some pain in my leg (sciatica) mostly when I am standing still, which is odd – and basically the opposite of what the pain profile was before the last surgery.  At times it felt like I never had the surgery – the pain was the same intensity as pre-surgery.  I had another MRI done about 3 weeks ago and it came back clear.  No reherniation, but the nerve is a bit compressed when compared to the right side, there is some scar tissue around the nerve and there is some more disc degeneration in there.  Most of this is expected from the surgery and the others are good (I think) besides the whole degeneration stuff.

I’ve been going to PT now for about 6 weeks.  Nothing seemed to help and the PT was a bit stumped.   This past week she has me started on some movements that can be extremely painful in the short-term, but seem to be helping over time.  Over the last couple weeks, it feels like it is getting better and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction….FINALLY!

I’ve been doing what I can to keep active.  Mostly walking on the treadmill; doing hills and what not.  Walking is fine.  It’s the standing still or walking very slowly that bothers me the most.  Swimming is okay, at times. I’ve been doing so strength training, while avoiding lifting weights (read: mostly machines) and thats fine as well.  Actually, I think that’s helping.

And, GET THIS!

I ran yesterday.  I ran for the first time last night in exactly 6 months and 26 days.  The PT gave me the go-ahead to try it out and use pain as my guide.  I did just that and it was pretty good.  Some tightness in my hip, but that’s about all.  Afterward it felt fine as well.  This is good. This is huge for me and my recovery from all this crap.

So, baby steps.  This is all moving along much slower than I thought it would but at least its in the right direction.

blah blah blah, yack yack yack.  Enough of me.  Who am I even talking to anyways?  I dunno.

Out.

Good bye 2009, you piece of crap! Okay, it wasn’t that bad but just looking back on the past three posts anybody could tell that 2009 wasn’t a very good year for me.  Even looking at it as optimistically as possible, having two back surgeries and being in near-constant pain for 6+ months will put a pessimistic spin on anything.  There were a couple of highs throughout the year, but when all is said and done, I’m glad that 2009 is done with.

Moving on… That pic above is of my empty bike spot at the Ironman World Championships ’09.  2010 is about one thing for me:

Filling that spot.

So, with that…Happy New Year! Let’s get this thing rollin’.

So, here we are a week out.  A week out from what you ask?  A week out from my second back surgery.  Yeah, I finally gave in and had it done last week, December the 10th.  I didn’t want this surgery at all.  I waited for over 4 months to let it try and heal by itself but it just wasn’t.  If anything, I think it was going backwards.

A week or so before Thanksgiving was the turning point for this.  We went out to dinner at a local mexican joint and I was uncomfortable the whole time, as usual.  Leaning sideways; trying to disregard the pain, I downed my enchiladas.  We got home and after a little bit I could barely walk it hurt so bad.  This lasted for a few days.  A day or two after that I called to schedule the surgery.

This was the 2nd surgery for the same issue – herniated disc between L5/S1.  It was the same procedure but this time the Doc used some brand new fancy-schmance device that is better at grabbing hold of the disc and putting a stitch in it so it heals better.  Apparently, I was the first person Doc has used this on…its that new.

After the surgery I found out that the herniation was worse than we initially thought.  No wonder it hurt like a bitch!  Doc said he took out much more disc than he anticipated based on what he saw from the MRI two weeks after the first surgery.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad – good, that he got everything out or, bad, that I’m that much more short of disc material.  Either way, it needed to be done and I think I’m finally on the track to full recovery.

After the first surgery, it took all of five days for the disc to re-herniate itself.  So on Tuesday (5 days out as well), when I started to have some pain in my hip again I got nervous and called the Doc.  We decided that a round of oral steroids (anti-inflammatory) may be helpful.  I’m feeling good but a bit of pain is still lingering if I stand around for a while.  I’m sure this is normal as the nerve has been compressed for so long, but I really don’t want to go through all this crap again!  I’m up and moving around – walking, squatting, bending a bit – but avoiding sitting, picking most everything up, etc, and just taking it easy.  In other words, I’m bored outta my mind!

Overall I’m feeling pretty good though.  Just gotta see how these next couple of weeks go then I’m hoping to be back at it…pain free!

On another front, Team Zoot is building their team for 2010 and have asked me to join the team again for ’10, despite my back injuries.  Talk about standing behind their athletes!  The hopes are that I’ll get back at it soon and be back racing later in the year.  This has given me an incredible amount of motivation to get back training.  Its gonna be hard to hold back for a few more weeks with the fire that’s lit under my ass!  Them are some good people over there at Zoot.  I am incredibly happy to be joining the team again! They have definitely won over my loyalty and I am looking forward to another year with them!

1478208586_fee05c88a5I meant to report back after a month post-surgery on how I was feeling.  Kinda forgot about.  Oops.  Anyways, we are only a few days out from when we leave for Hawaii and coming up on two months since the surgery.  I’m really excited to get out there, but unfortunately I won’t be able to race Ironman Hawaii.

I was feeling very good for the first 4-5 days after the surgery.  I felt like everything was headed in the right direction and pain was low.  After those first days I woke up with a slight pain in my hip – same spot previous to surgery.  I didn’t really think much of it since I was still within a week of getting cut.  The days following, I could feel the pain getting progressively stronger.  12 days post surgery I went in for another MRI to see what was up.  What was up, you ask?  The stupid disc that I had surgery on re-herniated itself!  All I did was lay around and ice the thing and this is what I get.

Since then I’ve been doing nothing, trying to let it recover before having to have surgery a second time on it – which I REALLY do not want to do.  It felt like it was getting better for a while but now it feels like the recovery has hit a plateau or even gotten a bit worse.  Especially this past week its been bothering me.  I was off my pain meds for a long while but am back on them now.  As I mentioned before, we are leaving for the Big Island soon and I want to feel decent out there.  I have a lot of snorkeling, hiking and cliff jumping that I want to do out there!  I’ve decided to get a steroid epidural in a couple days, hopefully giving me some relief.  I’m not really looking forward to having a needle stuck in my spine, but I guess this is the next step for relief.  Ugh…

I had thoughts of trying to do IM Hawaii just to complete it.  I can’t run right now so I knew if I attempted it I’d be walking 26.2.  At the time I hadn’t trained in about 2.5 months so I didn’t know how swimming or biking would go.  To see how things felt, I got on my bike.  Yup, not gonna work – that was pretty clear.  I went about 1/4 mi and no way would I be able to do it without being in pain the whole time and possibly aggravating it further.  Just not worth screwing up my back.

Yeah, so thats it.  Nothing is really going my way on this and I’m not liking the possibility of having to have a second surgery done on it.  No racing for me for a while (let alone training), but I am looking forward to our trip to the Islands and doing all the things I wouldn’t be able to do if I were racing.

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Showing off my stylish hospital gown

Well, I know I said surgery was a last resort, but I opted for it and got it done on Thursday.  I went to see the neurosurgeon on Wednesday morning and he gave me my options.  It was pretty apparent, that if I wanted to get healed as quickly as possible that surgery was the best option.  Besides, I was miserable dealing with all the pain I had in my leg as a result of the disc herniations.

I scheduled the surgery for Thursday afternoon.  It’s an outpatient procedure called a microsurgery discectomy, where they cut out the part of the herniated disc.  I guess it took about 90 minutes to complete. We arrived at noon and were home by 7:30p, after a stop to the grocery store.

As soon as I woke up my leg pain was gone. Relief!  That made the whole thing worth it right there.  Also, about an hour after I done with the surgery I was up and walking around.  Pretty amazing for just having my back cut to shit.  Bonus: I got a pair of thigh-high compression socks out of the surgery as well!

Yesterday I mostly just hung around, icing the baseball out of my back and moving around a bit.  I still felt really good and am probably in one fourth of the pain I was pre-surgery. I’m feeling kinda lazy right now, so I’ll cut to today and say that I’m feeling even better. Though, not getting ahead of myself for the recovery, I’m still taking it very easy and Amy is helping me out carrying things around and picking stuff up for me.

High-fives all around to the surgeon, Dr. Yazbak, and his crew.  I’m happy a million times over that I went through with this and he did a helluva job cutting me up without putting me in any real pain.  Recovery time should be 1-2 weeks before I’m back at nearly full training, he says.  He was really concerned about getting me back up and going in time for Kona.

Oh, and thanks to my coach for the care package he gave me pre-surgery:  a diaper, a tube of Vagisil and a prescription for “Fookitall”.  That gave me a good laugh before being put under.

So, heres to a quick and speedy recovery to me.  I’m gonna do everything I can to minimize recovery time and get back out there, without any aggravation!

side1Over the last month or so I’ve been having some pain in my hip/glute that I thought was caused from overuse.  It’s been extremely painful and caused to me drop out (not start) the Door County Triathlon and also take a seat to the Pigman Tri that is coming up here in a couple of weeks.

Nothing was helping – ART, PT, medication, rest, icing, etc, and really no progress was made on it over the last few weeks.  Finally, I went and got an MRI done yesterday (the image to the side is my spine).  Those areas that I circled in red are herniated discs.  Yeah, I’m injur…injurrrr.. Okay, I’m injured as much as I hate to say it.

I’m not 100% sure about treatment, recovery time, etc as the images won’t officially be read until Monday when I will also meet with the ordering Doctor.  But, having a coach that is a Doctor and has lots of Doctor friends helps everything get going a little faster.  He was able to have  neurosurgeon review the images and get his recommendation for treatment.

Today I start on an oral steroid taper, namely Prednisone.  Prednisone has some nasty side effects, but I guess I’ll just have to deal with it as this is one of the first steps to getting this beast treated.  Second step would be an epideral steroidal injection (not sure if thats right or not, but close) into the hot spot.  Last, but not least is some type of surgery that I will be avoiding at all costs – I don’t want it!

Like I said, I don’t know exactly how long I’ll be down for.  To me, it looks pretty bad as the herniated disc nearly touches the back of the canal or whatever it is back there.  The only thing I can do now is sit back and wait to see how my body reacts to the treatment.  If its good, I can get back to training sooner than later.  Obviously my health is more important than racing, but nonetheless I’d like to get back at it. I’m planning for the worst, hoping for the best.  I mostly realized already that I won’t be as competitive as I’d like in Hawaii this year.  But that also means the less competitive I’ll be, the more snorkeling in the ocean I can do! I’m just going to take this day by day, staying as positive as I can and snatch up that progress whenever it presents itself. A positive mind heals the body quicker!

Now, I have some organic bacon to get in my belly!  What?  Keeping my mind positive, remember?!

littleRedMy coach, Mike, wanted to get the team together and rock a small local sprint triathlon.  We had a good showing with about 10-12 people, which was pretty cool having the whole team there.  The atmosphere around the race was pretty relaxed.  The race directors explained the course before starting the race and it kind of felt like they would just say “You know, rack your bike and stuff someplace in there, go here, turn around there, come back, yada yada.”  Just a fun race to be at.

This was my first time racing a sprint in a while.  Why? They hurt! I like the longer distance races, not that those don’t hurt or anything.  On the other hand, red lining it for 60 minutes can be lots of fun as well!

I signed up the day of the race and was put in the 5th wave.  Even with the waves only being maybe 30-40 people at a time, it was still a rough swim.  The swim was in a man-made lake and pretty tight.  I caught a stiff elbow in the jaw and had to swim over two people – they kept pushing me outwards (ie, were swimming in the wrong direction).  Sorry! Ha!  Even though the swim was short, I decided to swim in my Zoot SpeedZoot.  I’ve never swam in it yet and wanted to try it out.  It almost makes you feel like you’re swimming nekked.  Nice!

Coming out of the water I just started hammering.  Looking back there were a couple times where I probably could have kept pressure on the pedals, but I wanted to have a good run as well.  Being in the fifth wave leaves you lots of people on cruiser bikes to pass.  Whats even better is that I ride a Zipp 999 wheelset (808 up front, 900 disc in the back) and they’re LOUD!  I love catching up to people and having them look back cause they hear me coming up on them.  Makes me smile everytime.  It was a flat 15 mile ride.  I came in around 35:00 +/- :10, which gave me a split mph avg of 25.7 mph.  I’ll take that!

After a quick T2 it was off running.  I’m not really used to running really fast right away.  I started out pretty easy, then remembered what type of race I was in.  Get ’em going! The course started out running in the grass around a baseball field.  I don’t mind running on grass but this stuff was’t level in the least bit.  I almost fell 3-4 times with the ground dropping from underneath me and running over holes.  Thankfully that didn’t last too long and we got onto the roads.  I had to stop for a split second and yank on my laces to tighten them up.  Then got down to business. At the turn around I found I was the fourth person, but thats somewhat misleading as I started in the fifth wave.  I was ahead of some of them.  Anyways, I ran a bit harder on the way back, through the grass almost falling (again) and finished with a good kick to the finish line.  It was a flat 3 miler that I ran in 16:08.  5:23s.  Yup, I’ll take that as well.

When all the results where compiled I ended up with an overall time of 59:21, placing 2nd Overall and 1st in my AG. So close. For having not done a sprint in such a long time, nor even training even remotely close for a race of this type I’m happy with the results.

Since the race was so short, a few of us took off after the race and rode the Door County 70.3 bike course.  Nice scenery, but some not-so-good roads on the course.  Either way, it should be a fun race in a few weeks!

The Yellow BrickWe ain’t in Kansas anymore!  Although I did like the area we were in down there.  Very nice!  We headed down for Ironman Kansas 70.3.  I’ve heard lots of good things about this race and I was looking forward to racing it.  This was the first race on the Orbea Ordu, in my Team Zoot race kit and also on Zoot Ultra TT shoes.  New gear is fun.

The race went pretty good and I ended up setting a PR for me in the 70.3 distance by over 3 minutes.  I also had the fastest bike split (2:19) by over a minute in my age group on a hilly course.  Backed that with a solid run (1:23) and the day was pretty good to me.  We’ll skip talking about the swim for now, but the gist of that is I needed to sight better and swim straighter.  I think I was in a different lake at one point.  HA!

I finished with a time of 4:21:50, placeing 3rd in my AG and 15th overall (non-pro).  The full race report is here. I also have some pics up of the race and weekend on the Photos page. I did get a Clearwater slot, again, but passed on it as I have a little bit bigger of a race a few weeks before that. 😉

Now, back to training.  Door County Half-Ironman is up next on July 17th!

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DonkeyMan 2009 was a hit!  It was good to meet and see everyone again.   Big thanks to Chris and Jeanne for hosting and organizing – even though I did make a couple wrong turns on the bike course!  Good times all around and fun racing with everyone.  Photos of everyone can be seen here.  Thanks to Amy for all the great shots!