26 August 2013

Beds & Meds

My rock & roll month of packing in every bit of living possible before the Big Slice came off as planned.  For those keeping score, I managed to sleep in ten different places over the first twenty days of August.  (Yes, home counted, but only for one…)  That all came to a screeching halt Friday morning, when the Saints of Marlborough Hospital laid me out on the slab for the dissection.  Now, nicely medicated against what has turned out to be a surprisingly small amount of pain, I’ve got – at least in terms of running – nothin’ but time.  Time to rest and recover with a lot of hard work down the road to rehab and regain racing form, but for the moment, just time.  Dearest Daughter the Younger coined the catchphrase for the month:  Beds to meds.  I love the irony.  Hey, you might as well take joy from wherever you can find it, right?

Getting there is all the fun.  After last episode’s Adirondack Death Marches, DDY and I headed to New Hampshire for a few Death Marches of our own.  In a bid to obliterate the Adirondacks’ reputation for having rougher trails than the Whites, we directed ourselves up the North Slide of the Tripyramids, a monster that rises twelve hundred feet in a mere half mile – do the math, that’s an average forty-five percent grade.  This thing is a trail only by virtue of the fact that paths lead to and from it, and that someone built a few cairns on its upper reaches.  Otherwise, it’s merely a climb, and while not quite of the ‘butt-hanging-in-the-sky’ caliber of trails like Acadia’s Precipice, it’s clearly in the daunting category. 
There’s nothing like watching fist-sized rocks whiz past your kid’s head while you clamber hand-over-hand for the next tenuous root upon which your life will depend for the next thirty seconds.  Yes, this trail was proof that time heals all wounds.  Otherwise there’s simply no way I would have done this again, had I recalled its intensity from my last trip up some twenty-two years back.  Needless to say we survived the ordeal, as well as the following day’s excursion which brought DDY to the half-way mark of her quest to summit New Hampshire’s four-thousand-footers (and my second trip around, in keeping with this blog’s title, having wrapped up my first round of these peaks back in ‘ninety-five).

Home no more than a few nights, we set off again for a third trip to New York State in two weeks, this time to celebrate a family wedding, pay some social calls, and scope out colleges in the Big Apple. Translated to the “Let’s Trash the Achilles Before Surgery” mission, this meant miles upon miles of pavement pounding, highlighted by New York’s new High Line elevated-railroad-turned linear park, the classic Brooklyn Bridge walk (don’t die without doing it), and a surprise entrant to the ultra-cool places to walk and run, Poughkeepsie’s Walkway Over Hudson, a two-hundred-foot high, mile-and-a-quarter long rail trestle turned spectacular walk.  Or run.

Yes, in the midst of all this commotion, my diabolical plan was to run to the end, knowing it would be a while before I can hit the roads again.  Having taken the June break and the May-through-July slowdown, slowdown has been the key word for any miles lately, yet I was amused to find that among the hundreds of runners in New York’s Central Park, I was still the passer and not the passee.  After registering runs in seven of the month’s ten bedding locations, pride kept me going up to the last morning, when I popped in four and a quarter just an hour before reporting to the hospital.  Being accustomed to two hundred fifty miles a month, merely topping a hundred for August wasn’t a big deal, but hitting it just before the slice did feel pleasantly defiant.  And besides, I didn’t have to re-hydrate afterward, as the nurses had a nice IV bag ready to do that for me.

And frankly, that IV was the worst part of the whole ordeal.  I am a Certified Wimp on that score, but once past that, this repair thing was a breeze.  The procedure, according to Dr. Foot Doctor, went well.  As he’s once again promised pictures (can’t wait!), I’ll leave the details brief here for now, but in short, after slapping myself down face-first on the slab and imagining I was in for a good massage, I instead took a nice chemically-induced nap while he filleted the back of my heel, punctured That Pesky Achilles nine times (take THAT you troublesome bit of flesh!) to promote blood flow and healing, added a lateral stitch to hold it all together, and Zip-Loc’d me back up.  Less than an hour later, I was back in the real world, riding my horizontal chariot to recovery.

A big part of the reason this was so easy is the cadre of Saints at our local hospital.  The nursing staff is simply awesome; attentive and caring of course, but also performing with a cool competence that is both comforting and confidence-inspiring.  They deserve songs of praise, so imagine I’m singing as I say thank you to Enid, Patrice, Carolyn, Barbara, Sharon, and everyone else I missed.

Later that day, save for a bad trip on some overzealous meds, soon replaced with merely zealous and well-functioning meds, I found myself in so little discomfort that I was tempted to suggest that Dr. Foot Doctor merely performed placebo surgery, with the intent of getting me to stop running long enough to let things heal on their own.  Of course that’s not the case, as a bit of random pain and swelling and the inconvenience of being back on crutches have reminded me, but really, this is nothing at all like the misery of that last repair back in ‘oh-eight.  It’s merely a small price to pay for the joys and benefits that a life of running has brought.

I’m already on recovery Day Three.  This cast and crutch thing will be gone before you know it, the boot will come and go, and I’ll start the road back.  Keep smiling, it’s only eight months till Boston!

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