Thursday, January 30, 2014

Happy Legs Are Here Again

Woo-hoo!  My leg feels fine and dandy.  Had a visit with my local -- and most excellent -- sports med doc yesterday afternoon.  All I need to do is keep doing what I've been doing these past few weeks -- mainly, stretching.  He gave me a few new stretches to go with the old ones.  He also told me I should use hiking poles on a regular basis, to slow the progression of arthritis.

Two days ago, I did a five-mile hike up and down some hills near my house.  Yesterday, I walked a few flat miles and rode a stationary bike for half an hour.  Nothing hurt.  YES!

Monday, I'll head back into the woods and take on some mountain miles.  A week from tomorrow, the girls and I will summit a peak or two.

It feels good to feel GOOD again.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Recovery Hike #1: Presidential Rail Trail, Appalachia to Randolph East. 1/20/2014

1.8 miles roundtrip with perhaps 30 feet of elevation gain.

One of the many great aspects of New Hampshire's White Mountains is the diversity of the trails.  Most of the trails are rocks, boulders, and roots -- but there are quite a few tame and flat paths out there too.  Today, I decided to take my injured gam to the Presidential Rail Trail (just west of Gorham).  This trail is wide, flat, long, and never comes close to going up a mountain.  Most hikers avoid it, but for me and my Iliotibial Band Syndrome, it was the perfect terrain.

The long and unwinding Presidential Rail Trail

Note -- I have yet to see a specialist (my first appointment is next week).  In other words, I hiked today on the advice of no one.  If you have ITBS, then follow your doctor's orders and don't exercise before you're sure you're ready.  In other words, I took a risk today.  My mind desperately needed my body to get back into the woods, I feel the venture was worthwhile.

I stayed off my leg as best I could this past week, and I've been doing these excellent stretches.  There has been significant improvement in day-to-day leg function.  Walking these 1.8 flat miles, however, was challenging.  I walked normally from Appalachia to Randolph East, but the return trip was not so easy.  The pain reappeared and I had to slow my pace.  When I got home, I put my leg up for a couple of hours and took some ibuprofen.  My muscles now feel like I hiked ten miles instead of barely two.

I'm thrilled to have gotten out of the house and into the woods, though, and I don't mind the less-than-killer mileage.  An injured gal has to start somewhere.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

ITBS, PT, and the JMT for FA

How's that for a bunch of letters?

First -- a reminder that we are fundraising for Feeding America.  Before Christmas, we reached 50% of our $2104 goal.  Now it's time to raise that other 50%.  Please check out our fundraising page and contribute what you can.  Every penny goes straight to Feeding America.

On December 26, I slipped on my icy driveway while loading the car for my Tecumseh hike.  I did what most hikers do...I got up, brushed myself off, and went on my hike.  2200 feet of elevation gain and 5 miles later, I got home and put my feet up.

Here's Alex's reenactment of my fall...

The next morning, the lateral (outside) portion of my left knee was swollen, so I stayed off it (kind of...I have children...) for a couple of days.  I then hiked Cannon (2400 feet of elevation gain and 4.5 miles) through a foot of unbroken snow.  In between those hikes, I shoveled two storms' worth of snow from my long driveway.  A few days later, after the Cannon hike, the girls and I tried to ascend Waumbek.  That's when my knee finally rebelled.

The knee didn't hurt on Cannon -- at all.  It barely hurt on Tecumseh.  I didn't hurt when I was shoveling the snow.  On Waumbek, however, it became weak and started to hurt like hell.

I had an x-ray, which showed degenerative arthritis.  Um...yikes.  I don't feel symptoms, but I'll see a specialist soon so I can learn how to manage that lovely condition long-term.  I plan to hike as much as possible for the rest of my life, so I need to know how to increase my chances of pain-free joints.

The MRI showed no menisci tears, which is good.  The verdict -- Iliotibial Band Syndrome.  Usually, that's an overuse injury.  In my case, I slammed the heck out of the distal portion (by the top of my tibia) when I fell, the band subsequently became inflamed, I ignored it and hiked multiple times in the days that followed, and now the whole damn thing is very unhappy with me.

What does this mean in terms of hiking?  I'll probably be off the trails for a few weeks, then I'll likely ease back into things on flat, ice-free trails/sidewalks.  I hope to regain 4K hiking ability within two months, and I don't anticipate having any serious issues on the John Muir Trail (seven months from now).  Of course, I'll have a better idea of what to expect after I begin physical therapy.  My first appointment with my osteo/sports-med doctor is two weeks from today.

In the meantime, I've put myself on the 5:2 eating plan so I can avoid putting on weight during my relative inactivity.  Also, I'm increasing my sit-up sessions, weight lifting (arms) reps, and core body work-outs.

I'll post my PT details and weight loss progress each week.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Icy Driveway of Doom

Icy Driveway of Doom

I usually come home from hiking with at least one bruise, scratch, or minor skin wound.  The White Mountain trails are all boulders, roots, and tree branches.  When above treeline, the wind is often strong enough to push you off your feet.  Bushwhacking (going off trail through the woods) usually means a branch in the eye, torn clothing, and/or spiderwebs in the face.  During winter, the ice is treacherous.  During spring, the mud can be slick.  And so on.

The girls and I have been hiking the Whites for five and a half years.  In all that time, the worst injury any of us has received on the trail is a skinned knee or a large bruise.  All our more serious injuries (Alex's fractured tibia, Sage's cut face, etc) happened while doing run-of-the-mill, average activities.

The same goes for me...the last time I had a serious injury (blood clot issues aside), it was from a fall down my own front stairs.  Yea uncoordinated me.  Fractured patella, 2005.

This time, it's probably a torn meniscus.  That's what comes from trying to walk on your icy driveway in Crocs.  Yea idiotic me.  Knee injury (yet to be specifically determined), late 2013.

I have the MRI scheduled for next week.  Tuesday's x-ray showed no broken bones..but I do seem to have arthritis, which comes as a surprise since I've never had any symptoms.  Guess that'll be a discussion for a separate with an orthopedic specialist.  I need to know how to manage the arthritis long-term so I can fulfill my life's desire of happily dying on a mountaintop at the age of 104.  The torn meniscus (if that's what it is) will require at least a couple weeks of healing.

This is a long way of saying that I won't be hiking all 48 NH4Ks this single winter season.  I anticipate being well and strong enough to handle the JMT this summer, but I'll know more after I have the MRI.

In the meantime, here are a couple photos from the aborted hike up Waumbek.  I fell on my driveway December 26..then I hiked Tecumseh, then Cannon a few days later, then I shoveled tons of snow, then I got all the snow off my roof...all on an injured knee, which rarely hurt.  The hike up Waumbek was, apparently, the last straw on this camel's patella.  On the way up, the knee went from feeling sore to feeling AWFUL...and then I finally realized I must have truly injured it when I fell on the 26th (and then wrecked it entirely by hiking on it over and over again).

Beginning the aborted Waumbek hike.

I had to bail five minutes after I took this photo.

The girls had fun sledding down the mountain.

I'll write more after I've had the MRI next week.  It's early January, which means I should have more than enough time to heal before summer.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  In the meantime, the girls will stay in shape by doing all their other usual sports (skiing, karate, climbing, swimming, etc.).

'Til next week -- happy hiking, everyone...and be careful on your icy driveways!