Friday, April 30, 2010

Knee Progress Report - 2 Weeks

In an effort to keep up the good news around here I'm happy to report that I'm healing ahead of schedule. I went in for my two week checkup this morning and the great Dr. Cooper cleared me to start running again, preferably on the trail! Yesterday was actually the two week mark from my knee surgery, where I ended up having a plica removed, a little patella cartilage cleaned up and a slight lateral release.  The latter will allow my patella to track a little higher than normal which should reduce wear and tear on the existing spot.  Since I had surgery I've been going to therapy a couple of times a week, where everyone was impressed with my rapid improvement, that was until Brandon Roy decided to upstage me by playing in an NBA playoff game 8 days after surgery.  Can you believe that?  They repaired a torn meniscus, a more intensive surgery and he came back that quick, really quite amazing.

As for me, up to this point I've been riding the bike and doing the exercises from PT and the only thing that could still improve is the flexibility of my knee.  There's still a slight amount of swelling and inflammation that prevents me from pulling my heel up to the back of my leg.  Once I can do that I should be golden.  So the plan is to mix in some running with the cycling until everything is back to normal.

On the competitive side of things I still plan on doing the Pocatello 50, but I have opted for the relay option with Peter instead of the full meal deal.  My new goal is complete my short 16 mile section without pain and if that goes well it will be the Devil's Backbone 50 in July.  Peter and Jay are also making the trip for this one so it should be a good time.  After that is the Cascade Crest 100 that Greg and I will be doing in the fall.  I am highly optimistic that if I stick to the conservative plan I will be able to complete each one of those.  Patience is hard sometimes.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Day I got Better

It’s no fun not feeling well. In fact, it just sucks. The past four months have been frustrating in that I just haven’t been able to recover from a nagging hamstring injury that has resulted in other ailments, including chronic lazy ass. At least until last Sunday that is, the day I got better.

I’m a bit loath to share the details with you lest I jinx myself. But, I do seem to be on the mend. The story of my injury and miraculous recovery goes something like this…

Since February I have been experiencing extreme pain in my lower abdomen and inner thighs when I run. At the Buffalo run (where I was a spectator), I received a diagnosis from Dr’s Greg Norrander and Matt Hart. They were convinced I had a hernia. So, in I went to see my doc. But alas, no hernia. I think my doc wanted say “Jay, you’re a big baby and I hate whinny patients like you. Stop wasting my time and just deal with whatever your imaginary ailment is.” But, he is too much of a professional to say that. So in lieu of expressing his true thoughts he referred me to a PT.

So off I traipse to the PT. Upon arrival at Memorial Medical Clinic (where the influential Dr. Peter Lindgren practices) I let the fact drop that on occasion I run with the famous Dr. With this knowledge I became an instant celebrity with the question immediately posed to me, “do you run centuries?” It was clear that answering “yes” was going to get me somewhere...

We’ll the right answer resulted in a cadre of three PT’s who ran me through a battery of tests. Most of the tests I passed with flying colors – but there did seem to be a pattern of difficulty with range of motion and strength with my left leg. Additional tests revealed that I was unable to fire my left gluts!! Apparently for some time, my hip, inner thighs and lower abdomen have done much of the work of throwing my left leg forward, stabilizing and lifting with little help from my ass. In fact, there was noticeable muscular atrophy in my left cheek! Which is a whole other subject and suppressed tirade. How come none of my running friends ever said to me, “Jay, your left ass seems to be drooping. It looks real bad!! You OK? Anything wrong??” Some friends they are....

The short version of the PT’s theory and diagnosis goes like this.... Most likely at the Red Hot 50 where my hammies were irritated and inflamed, I likely began to shut down my gluts and compensate with my hip flexor to protect the hammies. In reflecting on that race now, I remember running with a different gait and feeling discomfort in my lower belly after the race. At the time I blamed the snow, red rock, and inflamed hammies for not feeling like I was running the way I usually do. Since that race I have experienced extreme pain and discomfort through my abdomen and thighs – the worst pain being when I coughed or sneezed. The pain was so bad I was unable to even do a single sit up! I could run for about an hour, maybe 90 minutes, but after that I could hardly walk because of the pain.

The instructions from the PT were fairly simple – 1) get the gluts firing, and 2) learn to run correctly again. I’ve got a battery of exercises designed to make my gluts fire and give me major pain in the ass, as well as hopefully a full-figured bottom again. And for several weeks now, I’ve been concentrating on throwing my left leg forward (not around to the side) and not letting my right leg dominate. A difficult task given my predilection to daydreaming.

The first week there was no progress. My abdomen and thighs still hurt. And to add insult, I realized that I was running REALLY WRONG. So discouraging. My left leg swung wide, did not push through, and my right leg did much of the work. I was a mess. The low point was a Saturday ago running the East Rim Trail in Zion and having to hold my lower abdomen on the way down to Zion Canyon in an effort to manage the pain. Would I ever get better?

But then on Sunday I got better!

This ‘miracle’ on Sunday thing is problematic for me. You see, I’m a card-carrying atheist. My wife, a finding her way Christian is convinced the day of my healing has some significance. Significance? Huh? Belief-based, spousal arguments are tricky to start with. But this debate is particularly challenging given that my evidence for why I got better last Sunday is pretty thin. But I digress

I felt much better. The tightness and pain had dissipated greatly. Could this really be? I needed a sign. So on Monday, a day I felt was auspicious for a sign I ran the west approach to Grandeur. I was able to run to the top with little walking. But more importantly, the run down resulted in very little pain.

Still the skeptic, I need some more proof that I had gotten better on Sunday. So on Tuesday, I ran 14 miles at a brisk – almost race-like – pace. I felt great!

Having had several false recoveries over the past months, I was still not convinced. I needed just a little more proof that I had been physically redeemed. A crisp run on Thursday went well. Friday I rested. Then on Saturday, a fast 14. Followed by 23 on Sunday with lots of vertical. Yes, I do believe I am healed.

My recovery makes no sense. How I could be so injured for so long. Feel completely broken one day. Then the very next day feel strong and almost like my old self again. How did I heal? Evidence of higher power? Or just good old-fashioned luck. Frankly – I don’t care. I’m just glad I’m better

Bear Mountain 50 mile on May 8th. Off to the first race of the new year for me - Yippee!!

PS – Missy it was a pleasure meeting you today on the trail and I’m glad you enjoy our musings and dispatches. Good luck on your Zion’s Traverse run next week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Knee, Meet Surgeon, Please Get Along Together

It's official, I'm having surgery.  The whole thing started at the end of November and after trying everything but surgery I'm willing to give it a go.  The official diagnosis is Medial Synovial Plica Irritation.  Often times it is referred to as patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS or runners knee).  Essentially it is a dull ache that gradually increases in pain until you're forced to stop.  Sometimes it takes days to build up while other times it only takes less than a mile.

An MRI done back in December revealed a possible meniscus tear as well as a large cyst; aka Mr. Irritated Plica.  More often than not rest and an anti-inflammatory regimen will take care of it, but not this time.  In the words of my surgeon "I see about 200 of these a year and I perform surgery on about 5".  Looks like I scored on the wrong side of the odds this time around.

Through the course of this whole thing I've tried complete rest, physical therapy, and both non-steroidal and steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (all oral, no shots).  The result is always the same.  I can run, but I'm limited to a paltry 20 to 30 miles per week and there's no way I can do back to back long runs without the pain returning.  I even contemplated an extended time off, like the rest of the year, but I'm told it wouldn't make a difference.  Plus I'm not sure my family could tolerate me for that long, there's no doubt I would go a little crazy.

So next Thursday I go in for a simple scope that will make me good as new.  I know, I know, I'm not naive enough to think that nothing can go wrong or that it won't work, but at this point I'm extremely optimistic and I will do everything in my power to make sure I heal and rehab properly, pinky swear.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Zion West Rim Trail - Rich & Jay's Grand Adventure

I had a hard time deciding what to title this post. Drop, Stop and Roll. First Tracks. Post-hole-athon. Failure of the Swiss Knot. Or simply, Rich and Jay’s Grand Adventure in Zion.

This Easter weekend I had the pleasure of running the West Rim Trail in Zion National Park with Rich McDonald. Our original plan was to start at the Lee Pass trailhead on the west side of the park and run to Zion Canyon, 34 magnificent miles of trail. Running this trail has been a long-standing Easter tradition for Rich, and this year he invited me to join!

I’ve not had the pleasure of running with Rich before so I was looking forward to this run with great anticipation. For several weeks I had been resting my injured hamstrings, knowing that 34 miles would be pushing the limit on what was prudent for me. A two-hour run earlier in the week in Red Canyon left me convinced that this was too long of a distance for my broken legs. The night before our departure, I called Rich to deliver the news that I couldn’t run with him. Rich’s response was, “No way dude, we’re doing this together. We’ll just run the 20 miles from Wildcat Canyon to Zion Canyon.” My response was, “We’re on!!”
As we drove up to the trailhead we were surprised to see how much snow still remained. We received an additional surprise when we found the road closed due to snow approximately two miles before the trailhead. And for a final surprise, we were the first people on the trail since it had snowed more than a foot 2 days earlier! So off we went, making first tracks on what we thought to be the direction of the trail, convinced there had to be less snow on top where the trail would be exposed to sun most of the day.

We were fortunate in that the previous day had been sunny and the night had been cold, resulting in a frozen surface we could run on. Well sort of. The breaking point of this one-inch thick frozen crust was somewhere at about 200 lbs of impact. Rich at 160 lbs would drop through the frozen surface into the underlying powder about every 14th step. I at 140 lbs, experienced a 22-step ratio. We coined the action, Drop (for breaking through the surface and dropping 10-14 inched into the soft snow beneath), Stop (because you came to an instant stop with all of your weight grinding your shin into the edge of the frozen crust), and Roll (because the only way to prevent a face plant was to roll). During one of the rolls Rich dropped his handheld bottle. We watched gravity pull it, clackety-clacking over the ice down a steep embankment and finally disappearing over a precipice. This was going to be a long day.

While we had both been on the trail before, everything looked quite different under 3-4 feet of snow. Navigating became a challenge. Since we were the first people on the trail there were no visible tracks to follow, and neither of us had bothered to bring a map – a good part of our conversation that day became, “my recollection is that the trail….” Well, sometimes recollection doesn’t quite cut it. Let’s just say we pioneered a new West Rim route that is not as direct as the established trail. For a while we consoled ourselves with the notion that our route was more scenic than the established route. But after a few rock scrambles and glissades that were not in our “recollected” memories, we realized that maybe it would have been a good idea to bring a map.

Once we were up on the rim we were treated to the views and majesty of this spectacular trail. We ambled along indulging in the beauty of the landscape, celebrating being the only people on the trail and making first tracks in the pristine snow, and relishing that we were able to share this experience together. We repeated almost as many times as we post-holed, “this is f’n awesome!!”

At about the Telephone Canyon trail junction the sun had warmed the snow to the point where we could no longer stay on the surface. Almost every step resulted in a drop of 12-24 inches. A post-hole-athon at its finest. The next 2 hours we only covered 4 miles! As our legs plunged into the snow, so plunged our spirits. Bloody shins. Frozen hands. Diminishing quantities of liquids and calories. An untied Swiss Knot. Silence (for those of you who know Rich – it takes a lot to get him to shut up). We soldiered on...

As we began the drop into Zion Canyon we finally saw our first dirt, and first people. We had been running (a euphemism used here to mean ambulatory movement over a distance under one’s own power) for more than 6 hours and had not seen a single person or any evidence of a person on this popular trail. You could see the perplexed look on people’s faces as they tried to figure out where we were coming from. Clearly we could not have traversed the West Rim trail.

We finished in a little under seven hours. Our estimate for the Rich/Jay West Rim route is about 22 miles. Not a record pace, but a pace that allowed us to become thoroughly dehydrated, scrapped and scratched, sunburned AND good friends. Thank you Rich for this Grand Adventure in Zion.

Post script – my hammies feel the best they’ve felt in weeks. Go figure???? And, failure of the Swiss Knot (see post below); Unusual to say the least and seemingly in the face of MANY miles of evidence supporting its invincibility. Stay tuned for further thoughts and analysis. See Rich's post below for great photos of the West Rim in snow!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Debunking of a Legend and Zion's West Rim (Wildcat to Springdale)

Here is the report of our snowy Zion’s adventure Jay said was coming. It turns out that the run served two very important purposes. The first purpose will have a profound effect on your life and undoubtedly shake many of you to the core. The second purpose was that I was able to get to know Jay a lot better and he learned I never stop talking. It was a slow beautiful day and Jay’s company made it even better.

Here it is ladies and gentlemen (except Christian), the legend and myth of the Swiss knot has been scientifically debunked. I know you are all thinking “HOW COULD THIS BE!” or “IT MUST HAVE BEEN TIED WRONG!” The morning of our run I tied my shoes the way my momma taught me 30 years ago. Jay followed Christian’s fine tutorial and tied both his shoes with the “Swiss Knot”. It wasn’t long before Jay was stopping to re-tie the laces of his shoe. Had this been the only incident it would have been very easy to assume the knot had been executed improperly. Unfortunately for you believers it happened two more times. I know it must be hard to believe, but it is true. See the proof below. (Photos) You may now be wondering, did Rich’s lace ever come untied? The answer is, NOT ONCE!

I know you all will need time to deal with this info. I will only say in spite of Jay’s obvious disappointment, it was a great day. I hope to get back down here soon and do it on the dirt. See you all soon on the trails. -Rich

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Red Canyon Trails

Recently I started a new job. As Chief Strategist (what does that title really mean??) for Social Capital,, I advise a variety of top-tier nonprofit organizations on strategic issues such as resource generation, organizational structure and governance, and development of strategic partnerships. What this really means is that I’m one of those people who comes from afar, whose value is perceived as a function of how far I’ve come (the general notion being that the farther you travel the smarter you must be), and disrupts life as it is know in an organization.

I’m very fortunate in that one of the organizations I have the privilege of working with is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, UT. They are a remarkable organization that is working towards creating a world where no companion animals are needlessly euthanized. Each year, more than 5 million pets are killed in shelters across the country. Best Friends is working to make this number zero. If you are not familiar with them, check them out at

Stay with me – this post is NOT a shameless plug for my employer or Best Friends – it is actually about trail running. You see, I’m required to be on site at Best Friends once a month. What this means is that EVERY FOUR WEEKS (CAPS to express – lucky me!!), I get to spend time running trails in and around Kanab, and enroute to Kanab.

Today, I had a remarkable run in Red Canyon, just 4 miles off Highway 89 south of Panguitch. The trails in Red Canyon are in many ways are similar to Bryce Canyon – just without the crowds. Today’s route was a loop starting at the Losee Canyon Trailhead on Castro Canyon Road, proceeding up the Losee Canyon Trail to the Cassidy Trail, north to the Castro Canyon Trail and back down to the Castro Canyon Road. Best guess is that this stunning loop of a variety of FABULOUS rock formations is about 14 miles.

Some of the trails in this area are open to ATVs. So plan your route accordingly. ATV traffic was light for me, but I think that was a function of parts of the trail being inaccessible to ATV’s because of snow. The trail network is extensive and non-repetitive loops can be constructed from 10 – 25 miles

So here’s the shameless plug… Next time you are traveling Highway 89 in Southern Utah give these trails a run. You can find basic Red Canyon trail information and map at

Next run for me, West Rim of Zion National Park with Rich McDonald on Friday. Stay tuned for a report and pictures from Rich.