I talked about Jim's problems following
meniscus surgery in the journal entry dated
March 31. He had been plagued with soreness in his knee for
four months whether he walked, cycled, ran, or did no recreational
activity at all. Deep tissue massage, stretching, ice, OTC pain killers,
and extended rest did little to help the inflammation and pain.
Jim had difficulty sleeping because the pain was the worst when he was
sedentary. He wondered if he could ever run again. He
didn't know how to plan for the summer.
He was understandably frustrated
and getting depressed, not knowing what was wrong -- let alone
how to fix the problem.
This is the second-longest time in Jim's 33-year running "career" that he has
been debilitated -- five months. That's even longer than after
the various foot and leg surgeries he's had. The only time he was
incapacitated longer than that was after back surgery when he was in his
I'm very happy to report that he found both relief and hope soon after we returned to Roanoke from
our winter trip.
In this entry I'll describe what has made the difference and how his
training has evolved during the past month. The photos are ones I've
taken during hikes and bike rides in the Roanoke area in April and May.
Part of the 6-mile Chestnut Ridge
Trail loop we like to run and hike (4-15-11)
** Jim's e-mail addresses all begin with "Letsrun100." Now maybe he
OH, WHAT A RELIEF IT IS!
At an appointment with his orthopedist on March 28 the doctor
listened carefully to all of Jim's symptoms and an update on his
activities in the four months since surgery. During that time we'd been
wintering in the Southwest and unable to consult with Dr. Johnson in
person, just on the phone.
A new x-ray of Jim's knee showed nothing that would explain the
problems Jim had been having since surgery.
Most of the deciduous trees have
new little green leaves at Chestnut Ridge. (4-15-11)
That was good news, but it didn't answer the question of what the
heck was wrong. Because Jim's knee was still hot to the touch, the
doctor gave him a steroid shot at the surgery site to calm the
The sorta bad news was that Dr. Johnson told Jim to do no running or recreational walking for two
weeks. If his knee didn't feel significantly better after that, he
wanted to see him again. His next step would be to try an injection of Orthovisc, the
viscous lubrication I get for my Granny Knees.
He reassured Jim that he does NOT have any significant cartilage
deterioration like I do, however. That was great news for the
One of our favorite running/hiking venues is
Explore Park, which is
accessed at MM 115 on the Blue
Ridge Pkwy. (5-7-11)
To our amazement, Jim never needed to return to the doctor's office.
I just gave Dr. Johnson verbal updates on Jim's knee when I went in two
more times to get my Orthovisc injections. The
steroid shot apparently was exactly what he'd been needing for several
months. Within only a couple of days his knee was free of pain for the
first time since November 14, the date he initially injured it.
Even better (for his health), he could finally sleep well again.
If you've ever had an extended period of time when you can't sleep
well, you can understand the tremendous relief Jim had when he finally
started getting adequate sleep again. That alone helped his outlook on
life improve significantly.
Shady trail along a creek at Explore Park; notice
how much more GREEN it is three weeks later. (5-7-11)
We were very busy working on our house and yard during this period of
but Jim dutifully complied with Dr. Johnson's admonition to do no
running or recreational walking for two weeks. The most he did was some
indoor and outdoor cycling and weight machines at the YMCA, activities
approved by the doctor so he could remain as fit as possible.
Jim resumed walking with some running on April 12.
Boy, did he feel good to finally be out on the trails again! That
also made a significant improvement in his outlook.
JIM'S TRAINING FROM APRIL 12 TO MAY 7
Jim has been running long enough to know he'd need to resume running
He soon discovered, however, that he had enough residual
strength and endurance from so many years of running (and all that
rest!) that he could build up to 8-9 miles fairly quickly as long as he
interspersed the running with walking.
The roots make this a tough
little hill to run up at Explore; note the little creek to the left.
Most of his walking/running miles while we were in the Roanoke
area were on hilly single-track trails at Explore Park. His weekly
mileages of 11½ (partial week), 26, 27, and
28½ miles included four runs that were about nine miles long, the
longest distance he managed before leaving on our summer trip (we plan
to leave tomorrow).
His knee feels fine. We have high hopes
that those problems are behind him and he can continue to build up his
training miles for the races he'd like to run this summer.
JIM'S SUMMER RACE SCHEDULE
Other than wondering how long he'd be able to run before his knee
began hurting again . . . Jim's main question after he resumed
training 3½ weeks ago was whether he
should try to run either the Jemez Mountain or Bighorn Mountain 50-mile
trail runs he'd already entered.
Both events fill up quickly, so he'd
entered them during the winter in hopes he'd be able to run them. The
Jemez run is May 21; Bighorn is June 18.
Cody waits for me at the top of a
long hill; four legs give him the advantage! (5-7-11)
Because Jim wasn't able to train for so long, we had kind of given up
the idea of going to New Mexico for the Jemez race, even if he dropped
down to the 50K. That gave him only 5½
weeks to go from zero miles to almost 33 miles (it's a long "50K").
Would all that rest make him stronger
and able to muscle his way through the race, or would so much mileage
during the event cause an injury that would set his training back
The only flat sections of trail
at Explore Park are along the Roanoke River. (5-7-11)
I still thought running even the 50K distance was a bad idea on April
12 when Jim returned from his first run in several months. I didn't want
to see him over-extend himself and get hurt.
Jim was still so optimistic a few days later, however, that instead
of discouraging him from running the race, I decided to support his
decision to drop from the 50-miler to the 50K and go for it. Jim knows
the course. It's difficult terrain but the 50K has a very generous time
limit, generous enough that he can walk most of the way and finish the
Jim took this photo of pretty
blue flowers along the river with his cell phone;
see close-up in next photo. (May, 2011)
Jim's attitude brightened every day. He's been able to run more and
walk less in each training run. His knee hasn't hurt afterwards. He's
been sleeping well -- consistently.
And he's really psyched about running both Jemez and Bighorn, two of
his favorite races.
Now we'll see if he can pull off the 50K at Jemez. Depending on how
well he does there, and how good he feels afterwards, he'll decide
whether to remain in the 50-miler at Bighorn or drop down to the 50K
there (he has the RD's permission to do that if he wants).
Close-up of the blue phlox (?) Jim
photographed with his cell phone recently.
So far, those are the only two races Jim's entered this summer. He'd
also like to do the North Fork 50K or 50-miler in July, the Grand Teton
50-miler in early September, and The Bear 100-miler in late September.
The shorter races would all basically be training runs for The Bear.
He's also considering pacing runners at Hardrock in July and Leadville
Our summer schedule will probably look a lot like last year's, with a
few modifications for some variety.
Boulder-hopping is required on
the challenging trail above the river
at Explore Park; I've never seen a cyclist on that loop! (5-7-11)
That makes me very happy, too, because I had a great time
hiking in those locations. I also need to resume a more rigorous
training schedule so I can replicate some of those hikes and come up
with some new adventures.
Although I no longer train for foot races, I do maintain a good
walking and cycling base for my mental and physical health.
One of many little creeks at
Explore Park (5-7-11)
I built up to some pretty high bike mileage during the six weeks we
stayed at Brazos Bend State Park. The trails there are el primo --
and they were very convenient, right out the door. The only reason I wasn't doing hikes
any longer than three hours was my own knee pain. I needed more Orthovisc.
That's not a problem now; I've completed another series of
Orthovisc injections and my knees feel good again.
Ferns love all the shade and
moisture at Explore. (5-7-11)
However, we've been so busy with house and yard projects while we've
been at our house, and the roads and trails around here aren't as
convenient or safe as at Brazos Bend, that I haven't done as much
cycling or walking as I'm capable of.
Over the last six weeks I've averaged only 14½
miles of walking per week and slightly more cycling.
Nice footbridge at Explore Park; this creek has
water year-round. (5-7-11)
Most of my hikes were on the dirt Wolf Creek greenway in Vinton and
the single-track Stewart's Knob Trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'll
show photos of those trails in the next entry.
longest hike was 8½ miles at hilly Explore
Park. I had hoped to do a 10-mile hike on the AT to McAfee Knob but
inclement weather and all our home improvement projects put the kibosh
I had several 10- to 16-mile bike rides
on the paved Roanoke River Greenway on my Terry Isis road bike . . .
Part of the Roanoke River
Greenway near Carilion Hospital (April, 2010)
. . . and a few
shorter off-road rides at Wolf Creek on the Specialized TriCross (a
cyclo-cross bike). I'd love to ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway but folks
drive too fast in their vehicles for me to feel safe on the two segments
OUT-RUNNING THE COPS
I've got a funny story to tell you about
a 16-mile ride I took on the river greenway about a week ago.
There is a paved three-mile section along the
river between the Carilion Hospital and 13th Street with no
street crossings or tight turns. It is fairly flat but has some
elevation changes. I can really "hammer" this section
(relatively speaking) on weekday mornings or afternoons when few other
people are using the pathway.
I was on my Terry road bike, which is
light and fast. I don't know my speed; I had my little bike
speedometer/computer set on distance, not speed, but I'd guess I was
doing an average of at least 20 MPH on the flat sections and even faster downhill.
Part of the "fast" section on the
river greenway; photo from last November.
I noticed there were two cyclists behind
me. Because I was trying to do a hard ride during that three-mile
segment (and the three miles back), I did my best to stay ahead of them.
Lo and behold, I could see that I was
gaining on them! I had no clue who they were -- Olde Pharts like
me? young studs? (not likely) -- but it became my goal to gain as
much ground on them as possible.
Who says I've lost my competitive drive?
Mostly I just wanted a good, hard ride and this gave me more incentive
to push my pace.
View from the river greenway
When I reached the top of
a hill on 13th Street at the trailhead/parking area where I turned around, I
stopped for a minute to get my camera out of its pouch before heading
back the way I'd come.
The two cyclists who'd been following me
caught up, breathing hard. To my surprise, they were young male
bike-cops-in-training! Roanoke PD has recently purchased some new
for patrolling the city and the officers are becoming familiar with
their new cycling routes.
Uh, oh. Instead of feeling good about my
pace, I began to worry that I was in trouble because of it.
When they approached me, I
figured I'd get admonished (or worse) for riding too fast on the greenway. There is
no speed limit per se, just signs to ride at a reasonable speed. What I
did seemed reasonable to me, considering nobody else was on the
trail, but it would have been reckless with other trail users around.
Lots of ducks and geese along
this part of the greenway (4-29-11)
Not to worry. The bike cops actually
gave me a huge compliment, telling me how hard it was to catch up with
me! There was no mention of going too fast.
I laughed and replied, "I'm old enough
to be your mother. You can't imagine how big of a compliment that is!"
I also pointed out to them that my bike is much lighter than theirs;
I didn't want to damage their male egos! They were riding
what looked like heavy bikes with saddlebags. They smiled, nodded, and
told me about their training.
Two runners enjoy the greenway
between Rivers Edge and Smith parks (November, 2010)
After turning 62 recently, their comment about my riding
made me feel pretty good about my level of fitness. I don't consider myself to be much
of a cyclist. I'm a runner.
I'm not even a runner any more, "just" a
long-distance hiker now. I do have a fair amount of stamina and
endurance left, however, even if I've lost all my speed. It's harder to
compare myself with other folks since I'm not competing in foot races
What about bike racing, you ask? That's
not on my radar, although I'm considering doing a non-competitive
Century ride or journey ride someday. I've got a lot to learn about bike
maintenance and repair before I do that, though. I hate that part of
LOVE THAT TRI-CROSS
Although I can ride faster and shifting is smoother with the
higher-quality components on my Terry Isis road bike, I really like the
Specialized TriCross cyclo-cross (hybrid) bike we bought last fall. It
is a good choice while we're traveling because of its versatility.
While we were in Roanoke we took the TriCross back in to Cardinal Bikes for a free tune-up, one of the
services the shop offers during the first year of ownership. We can also highly recommend Cardinal for their expertise and
service. They've done several things for free that other shops would
have charged us for.
Frazz cartoon by Jef Mallett (published 4-2-11)
Someday when we've got enough spare $$$$ we'd like to get a second TriCross bike so we'll both have one. It
is so versatile. We've been able to ride it over varying terrain with
the original tires -- even through a couple inches of sand or gravel. We'd get better
traction through deeper sand, or loose rock going up and down hills, with
more knobby tires. So far we haven't gotten another set of tires for
On our winter trip we had only the
TriCross with us; this summer we plan to take Jim's old mountain
bike, too. That way we can ride together sometimes. My skinny-tire road bike will
remain in Virginia. It's the best of the three bikes but the most
limited re: where it can be ridden. One sharp rock or a little
thorn and the tires go flat . . .
Next entry: spring photos from the Wolf Creek
Greenway and Stewart's Knob Trail (more photos, much less verbiage)
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil