The trial of miles; miles of trials.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

End of the road...

On Friday May 6 at 5:09 AM I suffered a devastating injury to my low back.  It was my Friday Pace run; the last long pace run before my last long run.  The taper was to start on Monday.

My back has been off and on for the past several weeks, but nothing out of the ordinary for me.  This past week the pain had moved to the lower right side and localized over my sciatic nerve.  I had experience shooting pains down my right leg and had been feeling a constant ache in my hip.  In hindsight this pain was more severe than normal, but I had dismissed it as something I could run through as I treated it with ice and anti-inflammatory meds. 

I had actually lost sleep the night before the injury tossing and turning and trying to get my leg/back comfortable.  When my alarm went off at 4:30 AM I was happy to jump out of bed and get after what I had considered my most important run of my marathon training.  I spent some extra time stretching before heading out and felt pretty good.  When I first started, I noticed that my back was pretty tight, but told myself that it would loosen up in the first mile and I would be fine.  I was feeling pretty good as I headed down the dark creepy hill on my approach to Muskrat Lake when suddenly I experienced an excruciating explosion in my low back.  The pain shot horizontally from right to left.  I stopped dead in my tracks and doubled over, hands on knees to prevent myself from falling.  My first thought was that I would have to walk home and that my most important run of the past 15 weeks would be lost.  Then the pain dissipated.

Call it stubbornness, call it diligence, lunacy, tiger blood, whatever...I started to run again and felt surprising well.  Most of the shooting pain in my right leg was gone, my hips felt aligned; I pressed on.  I held down my race pace and enjoyed the remainder of the run.  Upon my return home, immediately after I stopped running, I knew something wasn't right.  I could barely bend at the waist and had a very difficult time removing my shoes.  I tried to stretch, but couldn't.  I sat down and my right leg immediately fell asleep.  When I stood up and tried to walk I was very much off balance and nearly fell down.  Maria took one look at me and said, "Are you ready for physical therapy now?"  My stone faced reaction; "Yes, absolutely.  Anything!"

After I got myself together, I sat down to put my socks on.  It was then that I realized that I could  not dorsiflex my foot.  As hard as I tried I could not lift my toes off the floor.  It was that moment which I realized my dreams of the 2011 Bayshore were dashed on the shores of despair.  Everything I had worked for over the past year and most importantly the last 15 weeks...lost.  The 3:30, 4:30 and 5:00 AM starts, the cold lonely roads, the darkness, the bloody wind, all the pain and was all for not.  I had pissed it all away...  I collapsed on the couch with my hands over my face, completely defeated.  My 6-year-old brought me her favorite blanket, EE.  It was touching, but at that moment there was nothing anybody could do to make me feel better.  I had to wallow in my self defeat... 

The good news is that my medical team stepped into immediate action.  Less than four hours after the injury I was seen by my physical therapist and underwent a two hour session of intense PT.  McKenzie extensions, ultrasound, heat, traction, ice and e-stem therapy.  Plus I was started on Prednisone and Parafon Forte.  I feel privileged to have access to such immediate quality care.

At this point the L5 distrubution (outside of leg and top of foot) of my right leg is still numb below the knee and I am experiencing foot drop.  The nerve damage is hopefully acute and is caused from the massive amounts of inflammation around my spine.  I can walk, but it is more of a shuffle.  Symptomatically they think I have a herniated disc, but time will tell.  I could have ruptured the disc.  If things don't get better with in a day or two I'm going to have an MRI.

The prognosis is unknown at this time.  Best case, things heal very quickly and I'm able to run in three weeks, but I'm not holding my breath.  Worst case, back surgery.  As it turns out, Maria has a close friend that works for a neurosurgeon so she's confident that she can get me in quickly should I have to go that route.  I've been instructed to lay on my stomach as much as possible, so that is what I have been doing.  It's really boring, but there isn't much I can do.  I will likely be out of work for some time.

Breaks in life can be tough and a lot of people don't have my problems.  I realize that it could be a lot worse.  I'll live to fight another day.  Wish me luck and as always, thanks for reading.

If you look close at the pace chart, you can see the exact moment it happened.


  1. Damn you Remus! Can't believe this happened. Don't think of it as the end of the road, think of it as temporarily under construction. The bridge to the other side is gone, but it will be built back up and open for business soon. It will be painful to do nothing for so long, but it is a blink of an eye in the long-scope of things. Two of the three participants of our party are done and out of Bayshore, I guess I will have to trudge on without them - even if it is only for 10K. Gives me something to try harder for now though....pregnant wife and temporarily handicapped man defeated and down. I will carry their torches.

  2. Jesus. Your living a runners nightmare. Hang in there. I can't think of what good will come of this, but I know there has got to be something..

  3. I wish this upon no man Remus. And I think you will heal quickly. Don't hold this against me, but before I read this I sent an email to Jason about how much I hate running and at the end I put "I only do it to crush Remus." I never meant it like this. I think you can still have me with your wicked pace. I just wish you weren't so obsessed to the point of damaging yourself. You are lucky to have a great medical team so be smart and listen to them. Get back to when you thought running was fun and not a tortuous, painstaking pursuit to reach higher goals. You still inspire a lot of people and especially me.

  4. I think Heath did this to you! You know running is truly a part of you when you are going through what you are going through, and the thought of giving up running for good is not even a real consideration. I feel terrible for you, I hope for the best.

  5. You're right Jack. I have the power to blow up Lumbar Vertebrae with MY MIND. It's all I've by thinking about for weeks. Bottom line: if you want to be a "runner," then you've already accepted a life of pain and potential cripple status years down the road. That's another reason I'll never be a runner. I know I have no heart, but I feel for you Remus.

  6. Hey guys, thanks for the comments. Big picture, this injury had nothing to do with running. I have an 18 year history with back problems. Sixteen year old boys were not meant to handle 500 pound rolls of carpet. This has been a long time coming and I believe my disc has been herniated for several years. Anybody who thinks running was the cause doesn't know the whole story. Thanks again for the comments. I'm working on making it right.