One year ago I was desperately clutching to the dream of racing NY. After 23 years of not doing a marathon, I rediscovered the event in 2006, shortly after I turned 50. In 2007, I did Reach-the-Beach and did not feel up to two major efforts for the year, so my plans to really race a good marathon, to adjust my training from the lessons learned in 2006, were deferred to November 2, 2008.
Training went well early in the year. I got in a number of 2 hour runs of 16 or 17 miles in the late winter and early spring. A solid road 15K followed by a 35:35 10K at Healthy Kidney. A barely sub-5 mile on the track. All this before formal marathon training had begun.
Then I started having slight issues. Nothing major, but enough to force me to miss a few days here and a few more there and to drop out of a Club 5-miler. Come summer a series of bad races, culminating in a wretched Club Champs.
I knew it was not too late. Not plenty-of but enough time to get in the requisite long runs and the marathon pace runs. Plus I wanted to get some purer speedwork in for the Club 4-miler in September.
It can be tricky to find a track around here on which you don’t get hassled by walkers. I had done some work up at White Plains HS, but then thought of the Pelham track, a couple of miles from home. On Monday the 17th I included it on my run to see how easy it would be to run home. It was only a couple of miles, perfect for a cooldown, so on Tuesday, August 19 I took the train to Pelham in my running gear and jogged to the track.
After a series of 1000 intervals, I headed home, up Route 22. Knapsack on, nice and easy. Half-way home, I tripped on a beaten-up bit of sidewalk. Next thing I knew I was on the ground, my watch ripped off at the band. I hurt, my upper left arm periodically throbbing like a blood-pressure device squeezed far too tight. I couldn’t find my phone, but someone lent me his and I called home. My wife was just about to go out for a walk. I told her I had tripped and fallen and needed to get to the hospital. I was lying on the grass off Route 22 a mile south.
This was not the first such call I’d made. I broke my wrist in an accident involving my bike and some sand upstate years ago. I broke my collarbone close to home some years ago while I was cutting from the sidewalk to the street. Always the left-side; I’m right-handed.
People asked if I was OK, and I said help was on the way. My wife soon arrived, and the guy with the phone helped me into the back of the car. We drove to Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville with every bump sending pain shooting through my arm. Then I couldn’t get out of the car. I don’t remember exactly why, but I couldn’t get up for a while. Eventually I got into a wheelchair, in my shorts and t-shirt. X-rays, and I almost pass out as they maneuver the arm. Soft cast, some painkillers, call your orthopedist, it should be OK.
I try to walk to the car with my wife, but I almost collapse in the ER driveway, and my wife makes me go back inside with her, instructs someone on staff to keep an eye on me, and gets the car. I get in upon her return.
Thankfully our house has a screened-in porch and a wicker sofa. This sofa would be my home during the day for a while, but at this point I’m expecting to be back at work on Monday. I didn’t lose time with the broken wrist or the broken collarbone, so how bad could it be?
My orthopedist was away, so I make an appointment with another one in Bronxville for Thursday. Get a call Wednesday afternoon from the ER. My wife is told that it might be a tad more complicated than they originally thought. Just a head’s up.
“Oh my God.” This is not the first thing you want your doctor to say when she looks at your x-ray. This is what my ortho said. Turns out that I landed on my wrist (hence the broken watchband) and the force shoved the bone in my lower arm into a bone in my upper arm, pulverizing the top of the former and splitting the latter. Surgery. Things were stabilized so it could wait a few days. Saturday it would be.
But not before a CAT-scan. This may have been the nadir of the experience as I was forced to lie on my stomach with my arm over my head. And hold it. It hurt, but nothing like it hurt when they tried to get me up. Somehow two people got me on my feet. Blood work. See you tomorrow.
Saturday. Wait in ER and then taken up to the OR. Now I am nearly blind without my contacts or glasses. I cannot even see a blur where an eye chart is. Been wearing glasses since I was one. So off go the glasses and I am a blurry alter-universe as I wheeled up. When they did my shoulder, I was knocked out before going into the ER. This time they took me in. First problem: Getting the wedding band off. It had only been off twice before, once on the honeymoon, once when I broke the wrist. Now they couldn’t get it over the wrist. They knock me out, and apparently using sutures they pull it off and give it to my wife.
The next thing I remember is waking up in my room. The operation took a couple of hours and it seems that when I woke up in recovery — I recall none of this — I said “shoot me.” Twice. The doc put a pair of plates on either side of my upper arm and then a series of pins to connect them. The idea is to hold the bone together until it heals and to allow the pulverized part of the lower-arm bone to regrow.
So it’s Saturday, August 23. Not only is this my brother’s birthday, but it is also Sunday in Beijing. The final day of the Games, and the marathon is on. So I watch that race on this tiny screen. And then I watch the final track events.
Anyway, no boring details about the hospital stay, which lasted two days. Home on the couch on the porch listening to WFAN most of the time during the day and dozing off. I had been told not worry about the painkillers, and I didn’t, at first taking one every four hours and an Ambien before bed. I lessened the dossage graudally.
Of course my 25th anniversay was August 27, so there was no celebration for that and the September trip to Paris would have to be moved to May of this year. The NY Marathon was gone.
Back to work, but some bad days when I just couldn’t go in. At first typing with just my right hand, and eventually if clumsily using my left again. At times I felt good enough to start walking and would do that for half-hour and then a full-hour. Showers with plastic covering my arm. I was longing for the day when I could take a shower again.
Eventually I was able to take the cast off (it did not completely encircle the arm) and take a shower and then the doc told me I could run again. He was quite sympathetic. The first run was short, but it almost killed me. But they got longer and longer.
As winter approached, the issue of running at night arose, and I agreed with my wife not to chance it. So we bought a treadmill. It was tough and I still don’t like it and a 7 minute pace on it feels infinitely faster than a 7 pace outside but I got used to it.
Physical therapy started, thrice and then twice a week. There was a limit to how much range of motion my arm had. And my hand had swollen dramatically and barely worked.
After a while it was clear that some cleaning up had to be done on the elbow. So back into surgery I went in January. The decision was made to leave the plates and pins in. They did a bunch of things I won’t get into, but in essence they cleaned out a lot of scar tissue and stuff and were able to move the arm straight out. After an infection scare, I left the hospital after 4 days.
Back to PT, and back to running. As I’ve posted, I have had somewhat of a hard time getting back, culminating in my recent decision not to race NY this year. The arm still won’t straighten out although I’m done with PT. My doctor is very very pleased about how it has done, telling me how lucky I am. It seemed simple, but turned out to be anything but. I scoffed when I was told it would take at least a year to get better, and here we are a year later and it’s getting there, but it hasn’t arrived.
A final note. I could not have made it this far without the support of my wife.