Back in 2010 I had the opportunity to coach my son's football team. At that point I had coached a few seasons and things were going pretty well. After one of the games that a family member recorded I was watching the recording and noticed someone and thought, jokingly, "who is that fat guy." That is when I realized the "fat guy" was me. At that point I was a little over 190 lbs. For some people this may not seem like a lot, though you have to take into account that I naturally have a small frame. To help put this into picture, my senior year I was 5'9" and weight 116 lbs. I was on the wrestling team so I was not skin and bones, in-fact I was quite muscular at that point in time. Needless to day I felt like I needed to make a change in my life to get healthier.
My first thought was to join a gym. My wife, kids and myself went and looked a few gyms and found one that we liked and were making an effort to make some changes. We were trying to eat better, and spend our free time getting exercise instead of sitting around. After about a year, I was feeling much stronger and I felt healthier, but i was not losing much weight. I still held much of the fat that I had acquired over the years.
In talking to my brother, Scott, he had been trying to convince me to take up running. At that time he and a few friends were training for a marathon. He had done participated in a few events and felt strongly that this would help me as well. I had mentioned that I would think about it, but really had no desire to take it up. I mean, I ran at the gym right? Though the running at the gym was usually short for short durations on a treadmill in an effort to warm up my muscles before lifting weights. In my mind, running was not something normal people did for fun.
Growing up, I had the opportunity to participate in different sports. I played soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball and many made up sports that kids come up with growing up. For most sports, running was a means to an end. Typically you run short distance to accomplish something else. In soccer, you run to get to the ball. In Baseball, you run to get to the base. In basketball, you run to get to the hoop. When in practice, the only times we ran was for a short distance to warm up or if we got into trouble and the coach punished us by making us run. So, from my perspective. Running was not something done for fun, it was something forced upon us.
With this frame of mind, I was placating my brother in my responses but had no intention of running for fun. I mean, if I had time to get exercise I would rather play basketball, lift weights or pretty much anything else.
In 2013, I gave in to my brother's encouragement and decided to try some short distances. It was primarily on the treadmill, though I was starting to go to the gym just to run and at times completely forgot about lifting weights. At the gym it was nice because I could still watch TV and do my run without anyone bothering me. After about a few months, I was able to sustain a good pace over a decent time and was feeling good about my progress, though around march most of my runs ended with a bit of soreness in my right shin. I did not think much about it, thinking that it was just sore. It did not feel anything different from soreness in my muscles after a good workout. In March of that year a friend recommended to me to try using leg sleeves. I bought a pair and it was wonderful. I was still a little sore after the runs, but not like I was. Nothing I could not manage.
Fast forward in time to November of that year. Our family went on a Disney World trip and every night when we got back my leg was really sore. Again, it did feel like pain. I have split my head open, banged different parts my body against things, played tackle football in the street and this did not feel like any of the injuries I have had in the past. It just felt sore, a bit uncomfortable and would go away after sitting for an hour or two. Up to this time, most of my runs were normally between 6 to 10 miles and I would do them three to four times a week. So, I did not think anything was wrong, I just thought I had strained something. My wife had a doctor's appointment planned for when we got back home and recommended that I take her appointment and get my leg looked at.
When I went to my appointment, I saw the nurse. She looked at my leg and since I walked in fine without any pain she did not anticipate any issues. She probed the sort area with her hand. There was a slight bump on the front of the tibia, though other than that there was not much. No purpling or darkness to the skin. To be on the safe side she scheduled an X-Ray for that evening. So, I walk into the scanning center and get X-rayed. The tech that I talked to did not anticipate anything to come from it because, again, I walked in without any issues and did not really feel any pain. That night around 11:00 pm, I got a call to tell me that I needed to get off my leg now and needed to start using crutches. The lady on the phone said that I had a fractured tibia and that if I did not get off it, there is a good chance it will break all the way through. This scared me a bit. So, we scheduled an appointment with an Orthopedist to get it looked at. He had mentioned that my bone had a stress fracture that was halfway through the bone and most likely will not heal on its own. The shin bones get so little blood compared to the rest of the body that many times these types of stress fractures need additional intervention. He said that I could get a cast and it might heal on its own but there was no guaranteed. The other option would be to get a rod put into my tibia and after about six months I would be able to be active again. I chose the second route and started an interesting journey.
Everything from the surgery went well, and like the doctor said, about six months later I was back on my feed. I was cleared to start exercising again. I had a group of friends that I played basketball with and was happy to start attending that again, and I also started to go back to the gym. Even though I was cleared, I was still trying to take things easy. I had, unfortunately, gained some weight during this process. Prior to the surgery, I was down to about 170 lbs. After the surgery, I was back up to about 180 lbs. Not a big deal, but it was enough that my legs were not use to the weight and my knee was still sore. For those that are not familiar with the process of putting the metal rod into the tibia, the process include severing the patella ligament (not sure if it is a partial or complete severing) putting in the rod in and sewing things up. Needless to say my patella ligament was still sore and healing so I needed to take things easy initially. Another thing to note is that after a major surgery like this the knee is still swollen quite a bit. The doctor had mentioned that it can take up to a year for the swelling to come completely down.
About year after my surgery, I went in to see the Orthopedist and he said that things were looking quite good and that I should be able to get back to what ever activities I wanted to do. I said great and went on my merry way. My running, obviously, was not in the same strength that I was prior to my surgery. Up to that point I had not tried to do any long runs and have kept my pace small. It does not help that my job is computer related and I sit almost all day long while I work. My muscles and endurance was lacking. With the all-clear, I started to get back into things. Unfortunately, I was starting to feel some significant soreness my knee. It felt like it was right behind my patella. The patella itself did not hurt. Since I was a little nervous about my interpretation of soreness and pain, I was not sure if this was something I should worry about or just fight through it. I scheduled an appointment with the Orthopedist again and he did some scans and said that everything looked good. He said that we would try a steroid shot and that maybe there was some irritation in there causing the issue. The shot felt great, I had no pain, and I was going again. About two months later, the effects of the shot was gone and the pain returned. I went in again, and we tried the shot again, and the effects lasted for about two months and then the pain returned again.
The next thought was that maybe some of the screws that he had to use on my surgery might potentially be causing the pain. As part of the surgery they put in four screws to help anchor the rod in the bone to keep it from spinning in the bone and irritating the nerves inside causing more pain. One of those screws was close to the patella ligament and could potentially cause some irritation when doing activities that required side-to-side stabilization or hard-impact activities. We then scheduled another surgery to remove three of the four screws from my leg. The fourth one is left in there to provide stabilization as well as to provide an anchor point in case the doctor needs to remove the rod in the future.
Again the surgery went without any issues and I was sent home to recover. This surgery only had about a three month recovery time. I decided to also take some physical therapy with this one just to make sure that I was not doing something to make things worse. Recovery went well. I was getting stronger and things felt good. After I was cleared, I got back into the swing of things. Unfortunately, once the swelling went down, the pain returned. I went in to see the Orthopedist again.
At this point the doctor said that the bones and ligaments looked fine, though maybe there was something else that was wrong. So he scheduled a MRI on my leg. After the MRI, the scans came back clear and everything was looking good. He was baffled. He then took a much closer look at my leg and he said that there was a small bone spur on the top of my tibia that was digging into the fatty pad in my knee. It was small enough that it was easy to miss. The problem is that there are so many nerves in that area that even a small item such as that could cause a significant amount of pain. He had recommended that I hold off on another surgery since I have had two major surgeries within a short period of time. It has been about four years since my initial surgery. He told me that there is no damage being done by the bone spur. It might bring on arthritis in the knee earlier if I was prone to that but, that is about it. Really, he said, I could be as active as I could withstand the pain. The funny part is that the pain from this bone spur is significantly more than the pain I ever felt from the stress fracture.
At this point in time we are in the summer of 2017. My exercise level has been pretty low and to be honest, I think that as a result I stress ate which made things worse since I had gained more weight. I was around 190 lbs to this point. In addition to the pain of the bone spur, both of my knees as well as my leg muscles did not like me doing too much exercise. Not being one to be forced into any specific action, I though I would try getting a knee brace to see if that would help reduce the pain caused by the bone spur. I did a lot of research and found a brace that had good structural support that kept helped protect the knee from a lot of high-impact stress. It is the kind of brace that many football players use to help reduce impact stress on their knees. This helped but not as much as I would have liked. As a result, I was getting exercise, but not as much as I should have or wanted to.
At the beginning of 2018, I was not really liking how I felt or the state of health I was in. So I decided to try a different kind of knee brace. I did some more research and found once that is a special compression sleeve-type brace but modeled around parts of the knee. From the research I had done, it had helped many other people since similar situations and was recommended by a few doctors. It was not cheap, but I found a good price on Amazon and purchased one. Similar to the other brace, it helped, but not as much as I would have liked. The first brace helped with the up and down motion and this new one, helped with the side-to-side motion. Frustrated, I was starting to give up on being able to be as active as I would have liked without having to suffer through the pain. In October of 2018, I had an idea of something I wanted to try and see how well it worked. I tried pulling on the compression-type brace and then pulling the structural brace over the top of it. I went to play basketball that evening and for the first time in over four years, I came home from basketball without any soreness and pain. It was a wonderful feeling.
Using this new approach I started ramping up my activity and every once in a while I have some soreness in my knee though it is not the stabbing pain I had been having and it was easily manageable.
That brings us to the end of 2018. My brother, Scott, and I had been talking and I had come across this challenge to run/walk 2019 miles in the year of 2019. Jokingly, I mentioned that we should do it. For those that do not know Scott, he is always up for a challenge. In fact, the harder the challenge the more excited he gets about it. He was all in and talked me into it as well. I knew that attempting to do this would require a lot of dedication on my part, and support from my family. My wife, ever the lovely woman that she is, has always supported me in everything I want to do. I think that she has also noticed how I have struggled with trying to get to a better state of health and wanted to support me in this.
After the first month of working on this challenge, I had the thought that I should document in some way how I got to this point, and my experience through this challenge. I am not sure if anyone else will ever read what I am writing, though I think it would be good for me to get it out of my head onto "paper". I guess it is a bit therapeutic. Let's see how this goes.