At the time of my last post in this series I had just passed 3 months from surgery to repair a fracture of my right hip. In the 3-month checkup with my surgeon, he figuratively showed me a Stop sign and advised me to go only halfway until the 6-month point, specifically no half marathon and no skating. Following the checkup I reduced my weekly walk totals to 16-17 miles and deliberately slowed down my pace to reduce the impact on my hip. I limited myself to one weekly “long walk” of 5 miles or less for the next 2 months, with just one exception: I had signed up for a 10k (~6.2 mile) event and decided to complete the full distance. I did my best to avoid the usual race-day adrenalin rush and limit my walking pace, and I completed the event feeling really good about how I walked.
I went on a few short/easy hikes, including one during which I went off-trail and encountered some poison oak. I took a few extra days off from walking during the height of the rash, but otherwise continued walking and physical therapy exercises several times a week.
For over 25 years I have skated with an adult group called the Dull Blades, and we skate a program in the end-of-season show at the Winter Lodge, an outdoor ice rink and community treasure in Palo Alto. This year I knew I wouldn’t be able to skate the full program in the show, since the show dates were literally at the 6-month point after my surgery. But I asked the coach if I could be a decoration, presumably just off-ice and wearing sneakers rather than ice skates; she was delighted to incorporate this into the program. This actually worked out rather well, since the group was going to be paparazzi (skating to the Lady Gaga piece). Having a token movie star would just make the program theme more obvious to the audience.
When the computer assigned me the 6-month checkup appointment with my surgeon, I was shocked, and then amused, to note that it was the same week as the skating show, between the dress rehearsal and the performances. Since I had been shown a Stop sign twice in previous checkups, I tried very hard not to get my hopes up about the outcome of the visit, even though I felt great and thought I was making the right progress with healing. During the visit my surgeon and I discussed returning to a normal (for me) level of activity. I had one more set of x-rays taken, just to be sure that everything looked ok – and it did. Finally, I heard the golden words of advice I had hoped for: it was ok to resume activities (“use your judgment”). I could start preparing for a half marathon (“but not in 2 weeks, you need time to prepare”). And it was ok to skate (“be careful”). Clearly the encouragement and implied cautions applied equally to hikes.
This checkup visit was last week, and I’ve been on cloud nine ever since. The next morning I went to the rink to try skating, decked out in padding around the hip and tailbone area to remind me to be careful and avoid falling. I must say that being on skates felt a little unfamiliar. But I went back the second morning, the day of the first show, to skate again and this time I felt much more secure. I decided to go ahead with a plan I had come up with after my coach asked me to do my cameo role from the back of the ice, just in front of the curtain. If I felt secure enough I would skate out a few yards to do my poses. This worked out very well, and it was wonderful to be able to actually skate, even just a short distance, in the program during the show. The rest of the team was extremely supportive and excited that I could be a part of the number. I also skated out, with an escort on either side, for the traditional show finale. It was a terrific way to celebrate the 6-month anniversary of my surgery!
After so many months of restraining my walking pace for daily walks, I was ready to try letting go for a short (3-mile) walk in training mode: walking at the pace I felt like and pumping my arms. I must have had a lot of adrenalin, because I almost literally flew along my route, nearly exactly at 13:30 per mile (a sub 3-hour half marathon pace). I am eyeing a local half marathon event in early August, since my surgeon indicated a distinct preference for an August rather than July time frame.
As for hiking, I am planning to participate in a first-of-the-season group hike next week in the Auburn area. The planned route is 8-10 miles with, at most, a moderate amount of climbing. Because of the elevation I will pay special attention to staying on the trail and out of range of vegetation.
I will note that I have been experiencing a low-level aggravation of my hip flexor, probably due to certain exercises I’ve been doing. I have contacted my physical therapist and gotten new stretches to do, as well as advice on how to modify my exercise routine to avoid new aggravation of this muscle. She mentioned that sometimes it’s surprising to discover the amount of internal healing that is needed following surgery. In other words, this is no big deal and I will get through it.
Overall I continue to feel great. The most difficult part of my journey of recovery is complete, and it’s a relief and joy to be returning to normal levels of activity. Finally I’m moving forward again.