Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ironman - The Beginning

In April, 2009, I had a hip replacement on my right hip. This was due to an accident when I was 14 years old that completely broke my hip apart. It was surgically repaired, but over the years the hip socket wore out. 

In November, 2008, I completed my first marathon. During training for that marathon I experienced some fairly significant pain, but being my first marathon and the fact that I was putting in some reasonably serious mileage, I just assumed it was par for the course. 

After the marathon (Tulsa Route 66, finish time 3:36), when I started running again, I could not get the pain to subside. I went through several rest periods and each time I started back the pain would return. Through process of elimination I came to the conclusion that I likely had a stress fracture in my pelvis. I finally did the right thing and went to the doctor. X-rays showed a different story right away. There was no cartilage between the hip ball and socket, so I had been running with bone rubbing on bone. This totally explained the searing pain I had experienced. 

I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon and was soon scheduled for a replacement. I was actually a good candidate for a "resurfacing" which is much less invasive and just replaces the socket (acetabulum) and puts a cap on the head of the ball (femoral head) versus the full replacement, which replaces the femoral head bone and inserts a steel spike into the femur. 

The resurfacing surgery is much easier on someone who wants to remain active. I said I was a good candidate and I was, but because of my age when the trama occurred my broken leg lagged in growth behind the healthy leg. A full replacement could rectify this, whereas a resurfacing could not. I experienced some back pain over the years and the surgeon said it was likely contributed to by the differing leg lengths. 

So, we decided it was best to have the full replacement for long term health. This also likely signified the end of my running career. I was beyond disappointed. Doctor said no running whatsoever for at least a year after surgery and even then it wasn't recommended. He did say, however, that I could ride a bike and he even recommended it. 

Well! That sounded like a new opportunity! I've always been one that enjoyed any sort of athletic endeavor, and when I participated, I went all out. So, no surprise, I did tons of research and bought a bike a week before my surgery. I did this so it would be ready to use for rehabbing my hip. I had not ridden a bike since I was a kid, and even then it wasn't a road bike, so I bought a "trainer", which is an apparatus that allows you to mount the rear wheel and ride indoors. 

Within a couple of months I was learning how to ride a bike on my new hip. Being the competitive person I am, I began to look to racing. I got seriously into it and competed in a few races in 2009 and did fairly well in 2010. I was turning into a pretty solid cyclist.

Summer 2010 meant I was close to being able to attempt to run. I got clearance from my surgeon to try it but with clear guidance to stop if it was painful. I started slowly and within a couple of months I was feeling fairly decent. 

I don't remember the exact event or time it happened, but at some point I thought, "hey, I'm able to run again and I love cycling now, if I can just learn to swim I can do triathlons!" Now, while I loved racing bikes, it could be a very dangerous sport, and with my hip it really concerned me a lot. Triathlons removed most of the concern, although you can still crash bad on the bike, it's much less likely than road bike racing. So, the decision was made. 

I spent the next few months learning how to swim and continuing to build up my running. I hit a few bumps in the road with running. I experienced some pretty severe pain and at one point thought it was over. I finally was able to rest and build enough to work through it and felt good.

The first real test was the Hogeye half-marathon in April, 2011. In pretty rough conditions I ran a 1:42 and won my age group. That was faster than any half-marathon I did pre-surgery. Running with my new hip was looking good.

In the months to come, I completed a duathlon and seven triathlons, including 2 half-Ironman distance. I had a really good year, even got to the podium (top 3) a few times. I was hooked. This eventually led to the registration for Ironman Louisville.

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