Friday, August 9, 2013

Shouldering a Tough Start to 2013

“Well… that sucked.” - The Penguins, Madagascar 2 upon arriving at Antarctica

I sort of feel like I’m on Antarctica without some of the rides, runs and swims that I normally do.

The injurry - see the divot in the cuff?
The last 18 -24 months has been trying for sure. It’s been like being on a bad stretch in a Las Vegas casino and waiting… and losing… for however long before you start to win (or leave when you run out of money.) The house always wins. So my choice has been to take whatever the “house” throws at me and KEEP GOING. So I did, sweating my way through countless PT and ART sessions, swimming 1,300 yards and then kicking the balance of workouts up to 5,500. I missed swim meets, state meets, indoor triathlons and training camps. For fun, I endured different endurance sessions like holding my arm in one place without moving for 25 minutes stuffed in a tube slightly smaller than a coffin. The last straw was seeing my starting block at US Masters Swimming Nationals (I was planning on swimming three events.) Blocks – EMPTY – knowing the times I did in practice (in a HOT pool, drag suit on, untapered) and then watching the times posted at Nationals on their live web cast was really hard. I age up next year. The guys in that age group are FASTER than my current group. Older and faster huh? No, US Masters Swimming doesn’t need drug testing because why would someone dope in these competitions?  (grr)  I could care less about that right now.  I just want to race again.
I should be on this block.
Seeing these times got me fired up.  I missed 100 BR, 200 BR and 100 IM.  (Qualified for 200 and 400 IM too, but timing (if uninjured) wasn't going to work out.
The first surgeon said it was a tear and gave me no real direction other than “continue to do PT and come back in June or July”. The second surgeon was ready to carve me up like a turkey on Friday. (I saw him on a Wednesday.) So I waited and saw the best guy I could find. I went to Dr. Greg Nicholson. He literally wrote the books (plural) on shoulder rehabilitation, surgery, pre-op, post-op. In his office, I waited with a MLB pitcher, a minor league outfielder and an Olympian. Yep… this is the right place. Dr. Nicholson didn’t dick around. He was fun, smart, engaging and to the point. “Look, if I operate, I operate on you and not some MRI. Go test this shoulder. Keep doing PT rehab, ART, and give this thing more time. Come see me at the end of June or early July. “

Since then, I’ve been getting ART (Active Release Therapy) three times a week for six weeks. ART is helping a great deal. I’ve also been working with Jamie Ginsburg at Body Werks Physical Therapy. Between the ART and the PT with Jamie – I’m much better. I’ve been able to swim 4,700 yards or so the last three workout sessions. It has been fantastic to actually swim a full workout! Additionally, I was able to grab my suitcase and my wife’s suitcase out of the overhead bin on an A320. These bags (loaded) are roughly 25 lbs.. I know I’m getting stronger. Surgery was not the right solution. Seven screws and cutting all the tendons was not a viable solution. I tried something "radical".  I started doing Pilates strengthening exercises for my shoulder and core.  I've learned that this is something now being recommended by some doctors; something I decided to try on my own.

I’m hopeful that I’ll be strong enough to do at least one triathlon in 2013. Looking for the positives, I’ve been able to train a great deal more. There is still a long way to go before I’ll feel I’m ready. That’s ok. There is no pressure to “race” or participate in any event; to do so when being out of shape is just plain stupid. I need to test my fitness in some sessions and plan accordingly with my ‘fitness consigliore’ and BS filter. I’m making time for my own training and executing. I’m doing what I can “control”.

Diet: I’m doing a plan with Isagenix and eating (mostly) a paleo diet. I’ve shed about 15 pounds – what I call a “good start”.

Exercise: Something I touched on above - I’ve added a weekly Pilates session with our friend (and fellow coach) Laurie McFadden of Weight and Tri. This is something that Lorrie(my wife) and I can do together. My core is getting there.

Swim: Swimming three masters sessions a week
Bike: Cycling four times a week – once or twice outside. (work/coaching schedule)
Run: Running four times a week – 100% trail running. This is “slower” but my leg strength is noticeably stronger. I need to add some speed sessions and road sessions.
Weights: I just started back in the weight room.

Nice to be back training.

On a more personal note, Lorrie and I have gone to a concert, LA and Las Vegas and have had a bunch of fun. 

Seven months ago I tore the labrum in the left shoulder going off the blocks for the first time in 12 years without any practice. Tears when the arm is fully extended are the most common, normally, it is from people slipping on the ice and trying to brace themselves and the ligament and tendon pulling apart like a chicken wing on a football Sunday. Only, the chicken wing is your arm.

Seven months of two MRIs, physical therapy three to four times a week, three surgeons – one who wondered what to do, one who wanted to carve me up like a turkey as soon as he could, and the last one who works with professional athletes who is awesome and worth the effort to get to. I contemplated jumping on a plane to go see Dr. Andrews in Alabama (my day job is at an airline). I found Dr. Greg Nicholson who literally wrote the book on shoulder surgery, shoulder recovery and was worth the effort to get in to see as I previously mentioned.

I haven’t had PRP or any other treatment that is “illegal” by the WADA or any other governing body (FINA, USA ___ etc). I know that sounds silly given that I am no athletic threat to anyone except the 75 year old female swimmer after masters. You know, the one who swims with no goggles and comes in smelling like perfume and baby powder. Yeah, she is quaking in her boots on my return.

My conditioning and fitness is just this side of awful. I did a few fitness tests and I’m a good 27 points down from my career best. I plan on turning this all around once cleared to train flat out… or, post surgery and recovery. This is all still up in the air.

In the last three weeks, my training is up 10,000% by the numbers. I just cannot wait any longer. I’ve decided to do what I can, be that walk, ride, swim, lift, run. I’ll do what I can and just establish some consistency.

Sounds depressing, but I am starting over from whatever is less than an “untrained” state. If I have surgery, expect to see me on the treadmill the next day walking with my arm in a sling. The important lesson is that while I’ve listened to my doctors and physical therapists to the letter up until this point; sometimes the patient knows best. I can ride a bike, a bike trainer, kick in the pool, walk, walk up hills. Ever go on a 2 hour long walk? It can be just that simple.

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