All good things must come to an end, according to an old adage.
In this case, we reluctantly cut our winter trip short by about
three weeks because both of us had knee "issues" that were best
addressed by our orthopedist in Roanoke. We gave notice at the end of
February to Tina, the volunteer coordinator at Brazos Bend State Park,
so she could adjust the March campground host work schedule accordingly.
Later, Alligator . . . cute sign at BBSP exit
Ironically, it was also knee problems that delayed the beginning of
our Winter 2010-2011 trip for two or three weeks. Instead of being on the road for
4½ to 5 months as we originally envisioned,
we were traveling in our RV for only 3½ months.
That's OK. At our age, maintaining our health is paramount. If we
aren't healthy, we can't do the traveling and physical activities we
enjoy so much.
JIM'S EXTENDED RECOVERY FROM MENISCUS SURGERY
Jim tore the meniscus in one of his knees last November 14 during a
He had fairly routine in-patient surgery to repair the damage on
December 1and a follow-up visit with our orthopedist, Dr. Johnson, on December 6.
Jim got to take the bandages off his knee three
days after surgery.
Note the check mark to make sure the doctor got the
We left on our winter trip that day, with fairly vague instructions
for Jim to take it easy for a few days or weeks, then resume running
when it didn't hurt. When Jim specifically asked about running ATY at the
end of the month, the doc said, "Go ahead. You can't hurt anything."
Well, it's hurt most of the time since then, regardless of how much
and what type of exercise Jim has done. He's tried total rest, just
walking and cycling, and some running. His knee continues to ache no
matter what he does.
Oddly, his knee feels better when he's
active than when he's sedentary. It aches when he's sitting or lying
down and is particularly bothersome when he's trying to sleep. He hasn't had consistently good sleep since the surgery.
Jim on our Specialized TriCross
bike at Brazos Bend in March
The six chiropractic adjustments and deep tissue massage treatments he had in Texas during
February helped but they didn't solve the problem. Neither do pain meds or
sleeping pills; they partially address the symptoms, but don't
remedy the cause.
Jim has become increasingly despondent from the lack of sleep, the
frustration of not knowing what's wrong or how to fix it, and being
unable to run. Until this week, he even began to wonder if he'd ever be
able to run again. I keep telling him it's not the end of the world
if/when he can no longer run, but he hasn't had as much time to adjust
to that possibility as I did when my knees began to significantly
Any athlete who's been sidelined from his or her favorite sport for any
period of time because of an injury or serious illness knows what Jim
was going through. It's agonizing at the time, and such a relief if/when
you can resume training again.
Jim and I have both "been there, done that" too many times.
Here's a run down (pun intended!) of Jim's training since the end of last year:
Jim rested after meniscus surgery and gradually began walking after a
week or two. Four weeks after surgery, he walked for enough hours at ATY
to accumulate 32 miles. This is one of our favorite races.
ATY pre-race briefing on December
29: walking (not running) as much
as possible during the 24-hour race sounded
like a good idea at the time . . .
Despite the cold, rainy weather he was happy to be on the track with
friends and kept going longer than he originally thought he'd be able to
do. His knee felt no worse after that race than before it.
After recovering from his effort at ATY, Jim tried to resume training
for the Rocky Raccoon 50-miler on February 5.
This is when his problems really became evident. Running felt good
when he was running . . . but he wasn't able to "shake the ache" after each run
or walk. His weekly running/walking totals in January were 9, 30, 23,
50, and 2 miles, plus 14 miles on the bike.
Because of the continuing pain Jim had after running it became
increasingly obvious that trying to run 50 miles at Rocky on
February 5 was pointless; he simply wasn't adequately trained and
was afraid he'd
do further damage to his knee. But he was hopeful until right before the
Taking a walk on the Rocky course at Huntsville SP
the (frosty) day before the race
He called Dr. Johnson from Texas at the end of January to discuss the
problem and have better information to decide about running the race. The doctor was very surprised he was having so much trouble with
his knee. The surgery was simple and it appeared that Jim's knee would
heal promptly. His recommendation wasn't exactly what Jim wanted to
hear, to put it mildly.
Dr. Johnson obviously couldn't diagnose the problem long distance and
we didn't want to go back to Roanoke that early for an appointment with
him. All he could recommend
on the phone was for Jim to stop running completely and do only whatever
walking and cycling didn't make his knee feel worse later.
If that didn't help, Dr. Johnson said for Jim to come back in when we
returned to Roanoke and he'd try to figure out what was wrong.
Jim was compliant with the doctor's recommendation and did no running from
the last few days in January to March 12. During the entire month of February he walked only
8+ miles for exercise and rode the bike about 55 miles while we were at
Huntsville and Brazos Bend state parks in Texas.
He was also fairly active doing various campground host duties at
Brazos Bend, which helped take his mind off not being able to run.
Picking up litter and putting newly-painted signs back
up was at least some exercise.
Although Jim was concerned about maybe never being able to run again,
he had enough optimism that he signed up for the Jemez Mountain and
Bighorn Mountain 50-milers before their entries closed. That gave him
some hope of maybe being able to salvage part of his 2011 race season.
The first two weeks in March Jim walked a total of about 11 miles for
exercise and rode the bike 55 miles. His knee felt a little better but
still hurt when he was sedentary.
On March 12 he decided to test his knee by running some during a
6-mile walk. Since it didn't ache afterward any more than when he just
walked, he ran-walked 8 miles the next day. Unfortunately, he paid for
it with increased swelling, heat, and pain in the injured knee. He
walked only a mile or two for exercise the rest of the month and rode
the bike about 39 miles.
By the end of February we had already decided to return to Roanoke the third week of
March so I could get my knee injections. Jim made an appointment to see
Dr. Johnson on March 28 to try to determine the source of his knee
Pickles cartoon by Brian Crane
Jim was able to get in a little sooner than that to see our
chiropractor. The adjustment he got last Friday helped his back, but
didn't make any difference to his knee.
A NEW RAY OF HOPE
I went with Jim to see the orthopedist on Monday of this week. After listening to
Jim's symptoms and x-raying the
knee, Dr. Johnson determined that a steroid injection (not cortisone)
might do the trick. There was some inflammation but no other discernable
To Jim's utter amazement, the steroid shot already seems to have done
the trick in only a few days! He noticed relief almost immediately. He's
already sleeping better and his knee doesn't ache when he's not moving
If only we'd known the solution was this simple, he might have been
able to get a steroid shot from another doctor while we were in Texas.
Jim at the Bighorn 50K finish
As you can imagine he's chomping at the bit to resume running! Dr.
said to rest the knee for two more weeks, then gradually resume
training. We have our fingers crossed that the steroid will resolve the knee problem.
TENTATIVE RACE PLANS
Now Jim is more optimistic about the races he can run this summer. He
registered already for the Jemez Mountain and Bighorn 50-milers in May
and June in order to get into the events before they closed out. The
race directors say he can drop down to the 50Ks at either or both races if he's
unable to train adequately for the longer distances.
He'd like to run the North Fork 50K or 50-miler in July again,
and maybe the Grand Teton 50-miler in September. He's also considering
pacing at one or more 100-milers this summer; Hardrock,
Leadville, and Wasatch are possibilities.
His long-term goal this year is to run the Bear 100 in late
September. The races leading up to it will essentially be training runs.
Jim talks with an AS volunteer at
The Bear 100 last September.
we're making more solid plans for our next trip out West, which will
hopefully begin in early May and last through all or part of October. More about that later.
Our schedule will look a lot like last summer's, with a few
SUE'S GRANNY KNEES
Jim's knee problem was temporary -- long-lasting, but
basically a temporary injury that has hopefully resolved itself. He
should be able to resume running again soon.
My knee problem is permanent and will only get worse, but the current
"fix" is obvious and fairly easy -- I've gone too long without Orthovisc
and need another round of injections so I can continue walking and
hiking comfortably. It is not in my best interest to run because the
pounding exacerbates my knee deterioration.
One of my last and most-favorite
ultras: the Bighorn Mtn. 50K in June, 2009.
The course has too many downhill miles
for me to even consider walking all of it now.
Orthovisc is the brand of visco-supplementation (lubrication) I get for
the osteoarthritis in my knees. I'm bone-on-bone in both of them. Orthovisc works great for me -- as long as I get it before
I need it, not after it absorbs into my body to the extent that my knees
start hurting again.
This is the longest I've gone without the injections, almost eleven
That's too long for me. One of my knees began hurting again shortly after we
left Roanoke in December; the better knee began hurting in
I've had to limit the number of miles I've been walking. I hate that. With all
the great trails at McDowell Mountain Park in the Phoenix area and at Brazos Bend State Park in
Texas I was able to
increase the number of miles I cycled, but I enjoy walking more
Great single-track at Brazos Bend
to run, walk, or bike (Red Buckeye Trail, 3-17-11)
These are my hiking and cycling miles during the six weeks we were at
Brazos Bend in February and March and had perfect trails:
Week 1: walk = 30 miles, bike = 36 miles (10, 3, 18, 8, 5 =
miles each time on bike)
Week 2: walk = 21 miles, bike = 34 miles (20, 14)
Week 3: walk = 25 miles, bike = 90 miles! (20, 20, 10, 10, 11,
Week 4: walk = 20 miles, bike = 80 miles (15, 20, 15, 9, 20)
Week 5: walk = 21 miles, bike = 88 miles (12, 35, 28, 13)
Week 6: walk = 12 miles, bike = 91 miles (5, 8, 16, 30, 18, 14)
via bicycle at Brazos Bend
That's very high cycling mileage for me historically. It felt great, too!
Unfortunately, I won't be able to do that much biking while
we're in Roanoke. I just don't have the convenient, safe road or trail options that I
did at Brazos Bend. I'd love to get out and ride on the nearby Blue
Ridge Parkway, for example, but some people drive like maniacs there (not the
45 MPH speed limit). I'm hoping I'll be able to ride more when we're
traveling this summer.
I also want to increase my hiking miles and climb some more mountains this summer.
I need my mountain fix. I had some awesome hikes last summer!
I should be able to resume doing that after these current knee
injections take effect. It was hard enough giving up running 2+ years ago;
I'm not ready to give up hiking, too.
Mountain hiking doesn't get much
more exciting than this:
High on Table Mountain in the
Tetons late last August.
My experience with Orthovisc shows that my knees will be feeling
My very first round of Orthovisc, which is injected 2 CCs at a time,
once a week over a three-week period, was in the fall of 2009. My worse
knee was starting to hurt by the time we went back to Roanoke the next
spring (2010) so I got my second series of injections then. The first
were about seven months apart.
That was a good
decision. With enough cushioning in my knees I was able to climb
all sorts of mountains last summer and felt rather invincible.
One of three 14ers I climbed
last summer: Pike's Peak at the end of July
When we returned to Roanoke last fall my knees still felt good. I
seriously considered getting another round of injections then, despite
the cost (not nearly so much to me as to the insurance company), but I
decided to wait to see just how long the Orthovisc would last.
That was a mistake I probably won't repeat. I wish I had gotten the
Orthovisc last fall because the risk I took -- that my knees
would start hurting again while I was one or two thousand miles away from my
orthopedist -- was very real. And now it's one of the two reasons
we had to go back to Virginia earlier than planned.
Here's another peak I want to
climb again: Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest 14er.
That cute dog will go anywhere
This is a complicated medical process;
it's not just a matter of finding another doctor to give me the
injections in Texas or Colorado or wherever we are traveling at the
particular time I need them.
It's actually a lot easier to go back to
Roanoke than jump through all the hoops of 1) finding a competent
orthopedist somewhere that's a preferred provider with my insurance
company AND 2) uses Orthovisc, 3) being able to make an appointment in this
lifetime when I'm not an established patient, and 4) either having my
previous medical records sent to the new doctor or 5) going through that
rigmarole again (MRI, x-rays, etc.).
But I still laughed out loud at Matt's funny e-mail re: Jiffy
Lubes! If only it was that easy.
The Wolf Creek Greenway is one of
my favorite places to hike and bike in Roanoke.
It's especially scenic in the
spring and fall when we are in the area.
I got my first round of Orthovisc last Thursday and my second
injection today. The third and last injections are next Thursday. I can
already feel an improvement in both knees. I should be able to start
increasing my walking distances soon.
And that makes me very happy. I have some training to do so I can
repeat those great hikes I had in the Rockies last summer and come up
with some new adventures!
The older I get, the less I celebrate my birthday in a conventional
Maybe if I ignore it, it didn't happen and I'm not one year closer to
Pickles cartoon by Brian Crane
Today's the day I turned 62. I celebrated it quietly by getting more Orthovisc and a wonderful
sports massage. I talked Jim into getting a massage,
too. Because of the timing of those appointments we decided to wait
until tomorrow to have lunch at one of the Thai restaurants in town.
All I want or need on my birthday are a few "real" cards, some e-greetings from friends who saw my name at the top of
today's ultra list's birthday list (oldest first, which on March 31 is
me), and lunch at a good
Thai restaurant. That's my favorite ethnic food.
My sports massage therapist just happened to have two spots open
today. I would have gotten the massage anyway, so that wasn't really a
gift. It was a nice treat, though.
There are some real advantages to turning 62. The main one is that
I'm still alive and in pretty good shape! In addition, now I can collect
Social Security when I decide is best to begin and get my own
National Parks Senior Pass for a mere $10
for life (unless the NPS changes the deal and doesn't grandfather me).
Can you believe I'm more excited about that $10 national parks pass
than getting Social Security???
The reason is pretty simple, really. I've never counted on Social
Security to fund my retirement and I don't intend to collect
it for a while.
My goal is to live about 38 more years. I want those checks to be as
high as possible -- assuming that government deal also doesn't significantly change
in the coming years and I end up with nada.
Jim jokes about being eligible for his "old age checks."
Not me. I'm still coming to grips with middle age. No way I'm a senior citizen
already . . . I cannot possibly be old enough to collect Social
Head firmly in the sand . . .
Scene from Rocky Mtn. NP late last September
The national parks pass I can use now. And I can more easily
ignore the fact that I had to turn 62 to be eligible for it!
Even though Jim has
one of these passes it doesn't do me any good when I want to visit a nearby park
or monument by myself, or even go out of one we're camped in and come back in. I almost learned
that the hard way last fall at Rocky Mountain National Park when I went
out past the entrance gate to the main visitor center (why was it
outside the park to begin with??). I had to sweet-talk my way back into
the park to get in with Jim's pass. I came close to having to pay the
Anyway, thank you very much for all the nice birthday cards and
e-greetings I received this week. They make this milestone birthday a
lot more tolerable!
Next entry: Is it time to list our house for sale
yet so we can begin full-timing in the Cameo? More decisions
. . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil