I woke up yesterday and enjoyed walking around my house doing tasks that I knew I wouldn’t get to do again for a number of weeks.
These tasks including exciting things like walking up and down the stairs, opening the refrigerator and grabbing items, standing at my computer, and taking a shower… things like that. Simple things. Things we often take for granted.
I didn’t take these things for granted yesterday. I haven’t been for weeks. Instead, I have been thinking about these things and cherishing them, if cherishing is the right word, because I had been counting down, for a long time, to that day. I knew that in a few short hours, I wouldn’t have the luxury of doing any of those things again for a good long while.
By 6:30 a.m., it was time to go. Laurie and I walked to the car. I was carrying the new boot that would be placed on my right foot, and off we went to the Hackensack Surgery Center.
I walked in the entrance, knowing that that would be the last time I’d walk freely for a month, or more, and announced to the kind receptionist, “Hi. I am here to begin my marathon training.”
She smiled and said, “You must be Mr. Semendinger…”
Sometime in 2017, heck, maybe it was 2016, I tore my right Achilles. I didn’t shred it. I didn’t rip it. I tore it. Ever so slightly. But it hurt. I suspected I did something not so good, but I’m a runner.
I run marathons. I am tougher than pain.
That pain has been with me ever since. But, running and pain go hand-in-hand so I didn’t think much of it. I have a great chiropractor who is an expert on sports injuries. He’s fixed me a million times. He has taken away the pain and healed or helped remedy countless injuries including small muscle tears, tendon tears, bones that have fallen out of alignment, a stress fracture, and more. I have called my chiropractor a miracle worker on many occasions.
Because he is.
He is the absolute best. Of that there is no question.
This pain, though, from the start, this hurt, was a little different.
The pain came as I approached, or passed fifty years old. I’ve been running marathons since 2002. I figured that as I aged that things would hurt more. I figured my muscles would ache more. It’s called getting older. (Sometimes it just felt like getting old.) I thought that this pain, even though it was different, was just part of crossing into my fifties.
I ran through the pain as best I could. I did miss the 2017 marathon. But I ran NYC in 2018 with the torn Achilles. I wasn’t fast, but at 4:47:47, I was still not a five hour marathoner. Earlier in 2018, I still played competitive men’s softball and played well enough, though I played the season in sneakers, not cleats. (It hurt too much after the games when I wore cleats.)
I rested the tendon after the marathon for more than a month, and then came back slowly in early 2019. I wasn’t going to push it. I visited the doctor regularly.
In April of last year, as I was preparing for a relay marathon with two dear and treasured friends, as I ran a simple three mile loop at home, I felt much more pain. On this simple run, I crossed over that line from this being an inconvenience to it being an injury. I hurt that Achilles pretty badly and knew that this wasn’t good. I had finally pushed it too far.
I did all I needed to to provide relief. I rested. I iced. I had every type of manipulation and remedy possible. Some of it brought some relief, but I knew the injury was worse than I let on. Yes, I still tried to run and I still played ball. Last spring I even began pitching in a baseball (not softball) league. (You can find all those stories on this blog.) I played as well as I could, but I missed a lot of time, for all the teams I played for – because I was hurt. I gave it everything I had, but I didn’t have a lot to give.
But I’m tough.
I run marathons.
By June I was seeing an orthopedist. He thought surgery would be an eventual option. I knew this as well. I had known it for a long time. The MRI said the same thing. “Tears.” (Isn’t it funny that tears (as in rips) is spelled the same way a tears (as in crying)?)
The doctor did say that of the thousands of runners he’s worked on, that most, if not all, return to running. Once, I asked, “How long is the recovery after surgery? Six months?” The doctor replied (and I love this so much), “No. In six months you’ll run your next marathon.”
Over the summer and into the fall, we tried a host of ways for me to battle though this. Rest. Physical therapy.
I did try to train for the 2019 NYC. I am a runner. I don’t give up easily.
I did complete an 18-miler on my treadmill, but it was a slow (and painful) slog. My other long run efforts were worse. After a 13-mile disappointing run, just two weeks from the start, I knew I didn’t have it in me. I deferred my race entry to 2020.
A few weeks, after more physical therapy and absolute rest, we had the follow-up MRI. The tears (as one might imagine) got worse.
And here I am.
Yesterday I had surgery to repair the interstitial tears in my right Achilles and to clean out (finally) the scar tissue that had built up for years.
The doctor said the surgery went great. My physical therapist was there. She said so too.
I’m now in a boot. A heavy boot. It’s uncomfortable. I can’t do the stairs in my house. I’m on crutches for weeks. I can’t drive. I can’t do the simple things. It’s not fun.
I’m okay with it all, but…it’s not fun. It won’t be fun.
I have to sit a lot. I don’t sit much at all – ever. I’ll be sitting a lot now. I’m out of work for a few days, but have a very busy schedule next week that includes presenting at a regional conference and doing a book talk at my local library.
But I’ll be a good patient. I’ll now heal. Finally. Me and the boot. The crutches and me. It’s all part of a process…
My 2020 Marathon training has officially begun!