2018 Seattle Bike-n-Brews: Ride was scorching hot, beer was cold and going down easy

Here's the beer line at Georgetown Brewing after the ride

Here’s the beer line at Georgetown Brewing after the ride

For the first time that I can remember, I returned to my car after a long bicycle ride hot, sweaty, spent and … slightly tipsy. It was after the Seattle Bike-n-Brews last Sunday, May 6, in temperatures that reached the high 70s. I’d downed two 12-ounce beers, one during the ride and one after.

Allytics colleague Stef Hairston and me at the beer stop

Allytics colleague Stef Hairston and me at the beer stop

So, instead of driving home right away, I decided to ride a few more miles. Then I took my time getting my bike set up on my car’s bike rack. I was beat. Then I drove.

The Cascade Bicycle Club’s  Seattle Bike-n-Brews is an awesome event — you ride 37.5 miles (or 27 miles for the shorter route), mostly on trails. The course is entirely flat, fellow bicyclists are serious but friendly, and you can build speed on some of the long, straight stretches. Just watch how much beer you drink, and make sure you have some food with it. On a warm day like May 6, the beer goes down extremely easy.

This raises a question about drinking and bicycling — it’s a similar story with the Harvest Century ride in the Portland area, which has a rest stop at a Washington County winery. But in either case, I don’t think it’s a problem. As far as I can see, most people do these events for the ride, more than the alcohol.

Again, just watch how much you drink! I will, as well. Fortunately, the Seattle Bike-n-Brews limited the free beers to one at the mid-race stop and one at the finish line.

Not a ride for slouches

The starting line in front of Georgetown Brewing

The starting line in front of Georgetown Brewing

When I first heard about this ride, I figured it was a leisurely ride with a series of stops at several bars and breweries. After reading more about it online, it seemed like a serious ride, so I signed up. Indeed, it was.

Yes, the course is flat, but you can’t lollygag through those narrow trails. Riders are on your tail through most of the ride and don’t want anyone to slow them down. With the weather warm and muggy, the nearly 40-mile ride was a good workout. I finished in a slow but decent 3:30, though official race times were not kept.

About 1,000 bicyclists did the ride. We started at the Georgetown Brewing Co. patio south of downtown Seattle, and headed south to Tukwila and Kent. After a stretch along Airport Way South, we were dumped onto the Green River Trail, then a bit later to the Interurban Trail.

The first few miles were through the Georgetown area

The first few miles were through the Georgetown area

Most of the way down, and most of the way back, the course had us on the Green River Trail for a time, then the Interurban Trail for a stretch, and back and forth again. While on the Interurban, we had a fork in the road — those doing the 37-mile ride went straight and those doing the 27-mile ride turned right. I went straight.

Just south of the ShoWare Center in Kent (where the Seattle Thunderbirds play their home games), those on the longer route turned right off the Interurban, crossed under State Route 167, got on the Green River Trail again and made our way back.

Memories of the Green River Killer

The longer route

The longer route

Riding along the Green River brought back memories of perhaps the ugliest decade in Seattle’s history. Some 71 women are believed to have been murdered by the Green River Killer in the 1980s and 90s, most with their bodies dumped near the river. The killer, Gary Ridgway, is locked up for life in the Walla Walla state penitentiary.

My wife and I moved from Oregon to the Seattle area at the height of the killings in the early 80s, and had roles in covering or following this story as journalists. I was once part of a media mob waiting outside Ridgway’s house in south King County while police searched for evidence. We’ve all moved on from this, but it was a horrifying period for the Seattle region to endure.

Yes, there were stretches of the ride where I was alone or with only a few riders. However, I got a chance to converse with a couple of riders about RSVP (the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver & Party!), as I was wearing my RSVP jersey from 2014. I’d love to do RSVP again.

Bicyclists taking a break at Odin Brewing Co.

Bicyclists taking a break at Odin Brewing Co.

Finally, at 27 miles, we had a rest stop — at the Odin Brewing Co. in Tukwila. Beer and pretzels for me; I had a pilsner and it tasted great. Oh, and I ran into my Allytics work colleague Stefanie Hairston, and got in a picture with her. Great to see you, Stef! She got back on the road before me and I never saw her again.

It was only 10 more miles to the finish line, and that was uneventful. The beer at the Georgetown brewery was just as tasty; I had another pilsner. I’d rate the food as 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 10, however. The only choice for the ride’s free meal was a tamale from a food truck (The Tamale Guy), and it was simply not enough to satisfy. Still, an enjoyable ride.

Two big bicycling events coming up

The Museum of Flight is along the route

The Museum of Flight is along the route

I’m trying to rally some workmates to join me in running the Beat the Bridge 8K Run in Seattle May 20. We’ll see how that goes. I ran this Nordstrom-sponsored run for five straight years until 2007, and would be eager to see if I can indeed beat the bridge again.

For those who don’t know anything about this race, it crosses the University Bridge near the University of Washington at mid-race. Those running at a slower pace (like me) may not be able to cross the bridge before it rises for boats at around 9 a.m.

At the finish line

At the finish line

What happens if you don’t beat the bridge raising? You wait five minutes for it to drop back into place, then you continue running. The time you spend waiting becomes part of your overall race time, so it pays to beat the bridge.

Meanwhile, coming on the heels of that are the backbreaking, back-to-back rides I do each year — the 7 Hills of Kirkland (40 miles with tough hills) on Memorial Day and the Flying Wheels Century (this year, I’ll do the 65-mile route) on June 2.

Beer, food and sun at Georgetown Brewing

Beer, food and sun at Georgetown Brewing

In recent years, I’ve done the metric century (60 miles) for the 7 Hills ride and the full century for Flying Wheels (last four years in a row), but am dialing it back a bit for 2018. The RSVP in August, if I can find someone to ride with me, will be my century this year.

Thanks for reading! Left ankle is doing fine. Knock on wood.

Posted in 7 Hills of Kirkland, 8K, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Harvest Century, RSVP, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 All in for Autism 5K: Great to return to the back of the pack

MyTEAM TRIUMPH racers started the 5K before others did at the All in for Autism run

MyTEAM TRIUMPH racers started the 5K before others did at the All in for Autism run

I’m back doing races again, and the situation when I’m running is all too familiar. I find myself at mid-race in the back of the pack alongside the people who both run and walk the race.

Bellevue High cheerleaders cheered on the finishers

Bellevue High cheerleaders cheered on the finishers

They zip past me at a good clip, then stop some distance ahead of me, tire out and break into a walk. I keep going like the Energizer Bunny in slow motion and catch up with them. They then start running again and repeat the process. For many, I serve as their “rabbit.” They see me again and figure it’s time to get it in gear and start running.

While this can be frustrating for me, I guess I missed it. It felt great to be back running a race again when I did the All in for Autism 5K in Bellevue on April 29. I finished without much pain as I recorded one of my slowest 5K times ever. There was no pain the next day either. It was a good test of my recently fused left ankle.

Ah, the finish line!

Ah, the finish line!

Getting through my first post-surgery race like this makes me feel that the Dec. 18 surgery was a smart move. It was only a 5K, but I got a workout, and being able to do shorter races is going to have to be good enough. I’ve done 21 marathons, but No. 22 is pretty darn iffy. We’ll see about getting to 40 half-marathons — I’d like to; I’m at 38 now. Point is, I can run more years if I don’t try to do many longer races.

Was this race longer than 5K?

This race, organized by the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club, has had different names in the past. I ran it in 2013 when it was the Bellevue 10K/5K and pretty much the same course. You start at the Downtown Park near Bellevue Square and do a triangular loop, running east toward Interstate 405, then south to the Mercer Slough, and the north again up Bellevue Way to the Downtown Park.

The course is largely flat with two tough hills, including the final stretch up Bellevue Way to the finish line. The Bellevue Way stretch is very familiar to me and brought back memories — it was the final mile of the old Seafair Marathon that I ran four straight years (2005-08).

Dogs were allowed, and I didn't trip over any

Dogs were allowed, and I didn’t trip over any

I ran the entire distance and finished 372nd out of 897 finishers, which sounds good, but it was a slow field overall. In fact, I could have stopped for breakfast at mid-race and still not finished last.

My time was 45:27, which beats previous times for only those races where I walked part or all of the course. According to race results, the pace was 13:29 per mile, but that is wrong. Such a pace would have meant a faster time. The pace was wrong for everyone in the race results, unless the distance was longer than a 5K, which it felt like. Full results are here.

Regardless, I will start working to get my 5K time under 40 minutes again. My 5K PR, run in 2005, is 24:32 (7:53 per mile), by the way. Thirteen years and two surgeries later, I am a lot slower.

Directions given at the starting line

Directions given at the starting line

The weather for the race was great — dry and temperatures in the high 60s. A combined 1,250 people finished the 10K and 5K races, and the event was for an important cause. Proceeds went to Kindering, a Bellevue-based organization that provides education and therapy to children with disabilities. It was perfect for my first race since last July (and my 214th race since 2001).

What’s next? Bicycling

The Starbucks booth was bustling post-race

The Starbucks booth was bustling post-race

I plan to run another race in May, and am still deciding which one. In the meantime, I am doing the Seattle Bike-n-Brews bicycle ride coming up this Sunday. It’s a 27- or 37-mile jaunt through Seattle’s industrial district and points south, and starts and ends at the Georgetown Brewing Co.

Yes, I may have a beer at a brewery rest stop or after the race. But the real appeal is that it’s a relatively flat ride, is around 25-30 miles, and is an event I’ve never done before. I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading! Hard to believe I was on a scooter only a few months ago. Very grateful to be able to run again.

Posted in 10K, 5K, ankle surgery, Bicycling, Marathons, Running, Seafair Torchlight Run | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 Emerald City Bike Ride: First ride back is last ride on Seattle’s viaduct

A wet and cold ride was made better by the chance to ride the Alaskan Way Viaduct a fine time before it is demolished

A wet, cold ride was made better by the chance to ride the Alaskan Way Viaduct a final time

The weather gods were in a foul mood for my first post-surgery bicycling event on April 8, as rain and wind made for a wet, chilly Emerald City Bike Ride. But I got the chance to ride one last time (traffic-free) on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which rims downtown Seattle.

The 12-mile course

The 12-mile Emerald City Ride course

I also got to return to bicycling. This was only a 12-mile jaunt around Seattle, but it was my first bike event since last June, when I did the Flying Wheels 100-mile ride. My newly fused left ankle got through it just fine.

For those who don’t live in the Seattle area, a huge tunnel is being constructed to handle traffic and replace the 64-year-old viaduct so it won’t come crashing down during an earthquake. The opening of the freeway tunnel and the demolishing of the viaduct are both scheduled for early 2019.

So the days are numbered for this scenic viaduct, which overlooks Elliott Bay and the Puget Sound. It provides incredible views of the waterfront, ferry boats, the Seattle Great Wheel (big ferris wheel near the water), the Olympic Mountains in the background, and more.

Perhaps I will do a last run on the viaduct in July, because the Seattle Torchlight Run 8K usually has a long stretch on it unless they change the course this year. We’ll see.

But the fun of doing an untimed bike ride on it, when all traffic is diverted from it, is the ability to stop and take pictures. I took my share, and so did many other riders, so the ride took me an hour and 30 minutes.

Fairly easy ride, but almost missed the I-5 cutoff time

Just under 7,000 bicyclists did the ride, a slight decline from the much warmer 2017 ride but still likely the biggest Cascade Bicycle Club-sponsored event of this year. This event — which also includes a shorter 3-mile course — draws families with young kids on small stingray bikes, plus occasional riders who end up walking their bikes up the tougher hills.

The view from the I-5 bridge over the Montlake Cut

The I-5 bridge over the Montlake Cut

The hills, however, weren’t all that tough. The course, which started and ended at the Pyramid Alehouse near Safeco Field in downtown, had numerous flat stretches.

We started by going up the viaduct and then through the Battery Street Tunnel on Aurora (State Route 99). After crossing the Aurora Bridge in Fremont, I stared at the long, steep hill ahead — the same seemingly endless hill that I ran up a year ago in the Hot Chocolate 15K. Riding that hill might have been even worse than running up it, but … we ended up turning off Aurora to ride along the north shore of Lake Union.

There was drama here, however. Because I started the ride just before the 8:45 a.m. cutoff to ride on the viaduct, and because I stopped many times there to take pictures, I had mere minutes to get to the 9:30 a.m. cutoff for getting onto the Interstate 5 express lanes. I stopped to use a porta-potty anyway. Some things can’t wait.

Having the freeway for bicyclists only is cool

Having a freeway for bicyclists only is pretty cool

A group of us were momentarily stopped at a red light and then had sprint up a hill to get to the I-5 express lanes, where two volunteers were manning the entry points — and looking at their watches. They let the rest of this group onto the I-5 lanes, but because I was slightly behind the others, told me I couldn’t continue on the course and had to find another way to the finish line.

But I kept riding, defying their order and mentioning that I was part of this group (I wasn’t). I felt bad about doing this, but I realized several riders in back of me were doing the same thing. We all got on.

And when I did, I saw that no one was moving very fast. It was more like a parking lot of bikes and riders stopping to take pictures from what is the I-5 bridge that spans the Montlake Cut between Lake Washington and Lake Union. Again, nice views.

Second ride and first run coming soon

Car traffic was diverted from the express lanes for the ride. But after the bridge, the express lanes of bicyclists ran side-by-side next to the main freeway lanes full of cars. As a bicyclist, it’s pretty awesome to have a freeway stretch to yourself.

Riding safely along the cars on I-5 near downtown

Riding safely along the cars on I-5 near downtown

The rest of the ride back to downtown and the Pyramid Alehouse was pretty uneventful, but it was nice to finish a ride — short as it was.

Unlike what I said in my previous post, this year’s Emerald City Bike Ride stayed in Seattle and did not cross the bridges into Bellevue and back — as last year’s ride did. A big reason why is that the Interstate 90 express lanes (last year’s route from Bellevue back to the finish line) are closed for the construction of a light-rail line.

Just getting back on a bike again for a big group ride made it worth it. So did the chance to reminisce about the viaduct and all the different road runs I’ve done on it — the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, the St. Patrick’s Day 5K runs, and the Torchlight runs, to name a few.

Ah, the finish line

Ah, the finish line

I just signed up a second Cascade ride, this one the 27-mile Seattle Bike-n-Brews ride on May 6. So I will be back riding again soon. (I’m skipping the 63-mile Ride for Major Taylor on April 22 because I am not quite ready for a longer ride yet.)

In the meantime, I’ve also signed up for the All in for Autism 5K Run in Bellevue April 29, for my first post-surgery run. I ran the 10K in this event a few years ago. (I’m skipping this Sunday’s Seahawk 12K/5K Run for the first time in six years so I can train a bit more.)

I’m running once or twice a week now, bicycling once a week, and walking lots most of the other days. Trying to slowly, methodically ease back in the groove without putting too much stress on the ankle. So far, so good.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in 10K, 5K, 8K, ankle surgery, Bicycling, Flying Wheels, Marathons, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Seafair Torchlight Run, Seahawks 12K Run, St. Patrick's Day Dash, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back running again — doctor says, ‘You’re good to go’

There's still some swelling in my left ankle, but the doctor says it will decrease over time

There’s still some swelling in my left ankle, but the doctor says it will decrease over time

It was a bit of a surprise. In my latest visit to my ankle surgeon on March 14, he pronounced my recovery virtually complete. He said he didn’t need to see me again until a three-month follow-up in June, but otherwise I was free to resume running, bicyclng and other activities without restriction. So I have.

“I wouldn’t go out and run a half-marathon right away,” Dr. Eric Powell said after reviewing my latest X-rays. “But you can get back to running and walking and whatever else you want to do, unrestricted. Your recovery is essentially done, and you’re good to go.”

Nothing was said about physical therapy or anything like that. I asked him about resuming the ankle exercises I did before the surgery, and he said with a straight face, “Well you could, but you don’t have an ankle anymore, so …”

Back in the game a lot sooner

I’m surprised mainly because of what I went through after my first ankle surgery in August 2011. That was a lesser surgery, in that it was more of a “cleaning out” of scar tissue and bone spurs around the ankle bone in my left leg. But it sidelined me for much longer, as far as walking and running goes. I remember a work colleague at Microsoft telling me around November that year, “You look like you’re walking better now.” I didn’t run for about six months, and mostly walked races throughout 2012.

Another shot on the I-90 express lanes, which will soon be closed for light-rail tracks

The Emerald City Bike Ride is a rare chance to ride across I-90 and other Seattle-area freeways

My latest surgery Dec. 18, 2017, was a fusion of my leg and foot bones, and so I truly do not have an ankle bone anymore (it was already worn down anyway). But I was out running three miles within three months of this surgery, with my doctor’s blessing.

To be fair, my ankle area is not completely healed, as there is swelling after runs and long walks, and some stiffening if I sit down for long periods (such as at work). But this is destined to improve over time, Dr. Powell said.

Bottom line: I am thrilled that this major ankle surgery did not have major complications, and that the recovery was relatively quick. I believe that some of that is because I went into it in fairly good health, and that I used a scooter to get around rather than crutches.

Also, I believe that peddling up to 10 miles at a time on my stationary bike during my recovery helped strengthen and toughen my ankle and foot.

First organized ride: April 8

While I plan to be smart about resuming fitness activities, I do have five pounds to lose, thanks to being forced to spend time on the couch.

I started bicycling again in February and have ridden about 60 miles over three different rides. I’m certainly not in bicycling shape, based on my laboring to get up the hills in those rides, but it’s great to be back riding.

So I signed up for the relatively flat Emerald City Bike Ride on April 8. It’s a 12-mile loop ride over I-5, State Route 520, the Lake Washington trail and I-90 in Seattle and the Eastside. This is a fun and popular ride, and the only time all year that major Seattle freeways are closed for a morning bike ride.

Another April ride is the Ride for Major Taylor, an event for a good cause — to help fund the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Major Taylor Project that promotes youth bicycling in low-income communities. I did this ride last year when it was a 24-mile jaunt through the South Seattle suburbs. But this year’s ride April 22 has been expanded to 63 miles long, a loop from West Seattle to Tacoma and back (including ferrying to and from Vashon Island). I’m not sure I’m up for this long of a ride yet; we’ll see. There are more rides in May.

First race: April or May

While I sneaked in tiny bits of running, including a one-kilometer run, in the week before my March 14 appointment, I was careful to avoid any tweaks before seeing Dr. Powell (and potentially incurring his wrath). I wanted to see how running felt. Also, after my first surgery, I was afraid to break into a run. Not this time.

The Seahawk mascot, Blitz, performs a pre-race dance to Blue Thunder music at the starting line

The Seahawk 12K Run is April 15. I probably will wait to do my first post-surgery 5K run in May

After seeing the doctor and getting the official clearance to run again, I’ve done four weekend runs totaling about 15 miles (with another coming after I finish this post). Boy, am I slow. The doctor, after watching me walk a bit, told me my stride appears to be shorter — which means it will now take me more steps to cover a distance. So my expectations for race times remain pretty low.

But my ankle does feel much stronger when running, and I am recovering from initial swelling much faster. I only feel the loss of up-and-down movement when running up hills (I land flat on my left foot; not able to land on just my toes as I am with my right foot). Mostly, it just feels good to be active again.

I’m considering doing the 5K race at the annual Seahawk 12K Run on April 15, one of my favorite events. We’ll see. I may hold off until May, and do the UW Bothell’s Husky 5K Run on May 19, to give me more time to build up a little more speed. I’ve been crazy busy at work at Allytics these days, and hoping that eases up enough to be able to train on weekdays.

Again, I’m very happy to be exercising again with limited pain, and am pleased this surgery did not keep me on the disabled list for very long. But … knock on wood.

Thanks for reading. Happy Easter, everyone!

Posted in 5K, ankle surgery, Bicycling, Running, Seahawks 12K Run, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye, scooter! What I will miss and won’t miss about you

Our elevator at work has an open top, and so Dunya could look down on Cassi and me being struck in it to take this shot.

Our elevator at work has an open top, and so Dunya could look down on Cassi and me being struck in it to take this shot.

My seven-plus weeks on a scooter ended last week, and it feels good to be walking full-time again. I’m supposed to still be in my walking boot … but, well, I discarded that a few days later. Sorry, Dr. Powell.

Just don’t tell my very fine ankle doctor. I see him again Feb. 21, and will probably wear the boot in, just to stay on his good side. But I stopped wearing it because left me sore in a number of places just moving around in it. And it became clumsy to wear (or I became clumsy wearing it). Plus, my left ankle is getting stronger without it.

The Dec. 18 ankle fusion surgery seems to have been a success. So far. Knock on wood. There’s still many weeks to go before the healing is complete. And my ankle feels a slight bit wobbly and still swells up after walking moderate distances, which means nagging pain.

On the positive side, I’ve been riding my stationary bike on weekends for about a month now, and can do more than 10 miles at a time. Also, last Sunday, I took advantage of the dry, somewhat sunny weather in the Seattle area and went on a bicycle ride along Lake Washington — 16.24 miles with a few hills.

No Chilly Hilly for me this year

I forgot to get a picture of my scooter. Here is what it looked like.

I forgot to get a picture of my scooter. But here is what it looked like.

There’s more bicycling ahead, but I have decided not to do the Chilly Hilly ride around Bainbridge Island on Feb. 25 (the first time since 2011 that I will miss it). I’m just not ready. Instead, I’m targeting two Cascade Bicycle Club rides in April — the Emerald City Ride April 6 and the Ride for Major Taylor April 28.

As far as running goes, that’s a ways off. Maybe late spring. We’ll see.

But before looking ahead any further, I need to look back on my seven weeks on a scooter (loaned to me by Jennifer White, our head of HR at Allytics).

Here are what I will miss and not miss about daily life on a scooter, which allowed me to get places without putting any weight on my ankle.

What I will miss

  • The scramble to open doors for me: From time to time, people at work and elsewhere would see me coming, and rush to hold open a door for me. This didn’t happen all the time, but it did happen, and it won’t happen anymore at all.
  • Getting me coffee: Yes, Cassi Frickelton, our administrative assistant at work, got me coffee upstairs a few times, though she may deny it, and others offered to. This was when our downstairs coffee pots ran out.
  • Having a guaranteed seat: The scooter turned into a seat when I wanted it to; I’d just sit down in the cushioned area where I’d otherwise put my knee. Saved having to go get a chair in our small conference rooms.
  • The “weee” factor: I got nervous about riding fast down steep areas, fearing a spill. So I used the brakes on the scooter or used my right foot to slow down. But on some smaller inclines, I let the scooter roll and enjoyed the ride.
  • Vinyl floor at work: Similarly, our workplace at Allytics has a vinyl floor throughout the lobby and main hallway. It made for a fast roll, and it was my guilty pleasure to whiz through there a few times a day.
  • Riding our elevator at work: We have a freight elevator at work that is rarely used, and it was the only way I could get upstairs. Cassi had the dubious task of working the elevator to get me upstairs, and we got stuck in it for several minutes the first time, due to not flipping the right switches. Cassi was clear — she did not enjoy having to do this. But she did it anyway and I thanked her, and finally got to ride in what could be the world’s slowest elevator. Our president, Dunya Riechelson, was so amused that she grabbed her phone to take pictures of it all.

What I won’t miss

  • Transporting the scooter in my car: What a pain! It barely fit in the back seat, and I always had to take the front basket off and fit that in too. My commute to work took up to 15 minutes longer just to get this contraption in and out of the car.
  • Turning it around in tight spaces: So many times I would scoot into a room, only to have to get off it to manually flip the scooter around so I could go back out. It was as bad as having to turn a car around. My bedroom, bathroom and laundry room were the worst spots.
  • The threat of tipping over: Early on, I learned that I had to carry my computer bag and other heavy items on my back. Putting them in the front basket, and then leaning forward, would mean a full 180-degree turn onto my head (even worse if carrying coffee). I managed to avoid that after a few near-misses.
  • Cracks in sidewalks and roads: After being able to get out and walk and run for so many years, I got cabin fever just sitting around working. So I got into doing daily “scoots” of up to a mile. I learned about all the rough spots in sidewalks and roads to avoid.
  • Sore hamstring after longer scoots: Kneeling for 20 minutes to a half-hour on a scooter gets to be uncomfortable and even painful on my upper left leg after awhile. So I didn’t try to do more than a mile at a time.
  • Needing to ride our elevator at work: Yes, I will miss the chance to take the elevator, but I won’t miss being forced to. It’s nice to be able to walk up the stairs each day to get the stronger coffee on the second floor. Cassi also is happier about this.
Two days after being able to walk again, I attended an Oregon-Washington women's basketball game, and saw an injured player on a scooter. Here it is, parked while she signs autographs.

Two days after being able to walk again, I attended an Oregon-Washington women’s basketball game, and saw an injured player on a scooter. Here it is, parked while she signs autographs.

A big thanks again to Jennifer and Kevin White for letting me use the scooter that got their daughter Emily around after her foot surgery a few years ago. It’s now safely back in their garage. I’m so glad I didn’t crash or spill, so I could give it back to them in good condition.

When I meet with my doctor next week, I may learn more about any physical therapy or  rehab plans he has in mind. Onward.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Running, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Post-surgery recovery: The waiting is the hardest part

Ugly, perhaps. But my ankle surgeon says my left ankle is healing nicely.

Ugly, perhaps. But my ankle surgeon says my left ankle is healing nicely.

I’m happy to say that my ankle surgery Dec. 18 went smoothly, and so have the last three weeks of recovery time. My pain is so minimal that I can’t complain (yes, sometimes I still do). And my ankle surgeon says he likes how the ankle is healing, even if it looks swollen and purple.

I now have a month more of getting around on my scooter and crutches before I visit my surgeon Feb. 7 to see if I can start walking again.

So I must wait. However, I am back at work, exercising as much as I can without putting (much) weight on my left leg, and catching up on my reading. In other words, I’m trying to make the most of my time with reduced mobility.

The surgery seems like a long time ago now. My surgeon, Dr. Eric Powell, said he was surprised at the mess that was inside my left ankle. He had to remove considerable scar tissue and other debris before setting up the fusing of my leg bone and foot bone. To do that, he used tiny screws and other metal devices — which I know are in there but don’t really feel.

Net-net, he got the job done. I have a much stronger left ankle. When it’s all healed, I will have to handle the limited movement and flexibility. That was the payoff for a healthier ankle and reduced pain long-term. I agreed to it. As I explained in my last post, ankle replacement surgery, rather than this ankle fusion surgery, was a more complicated and costly option, with no guarantees of success.

I wear my boot everywhere; it's the same boot I wore after my 2011 surgery.

I wear my boot everywhere; it’s the same boot I wore after my 2011 surgery.

When I ran races in the last six years, my running motion from right foot to left foot felt like, “Ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk, ker-plunk,” as I moved along. That type of motion will now be permanent. I knew that would be the case, and can deal with it. No, I will never be seen on any running videos teaching people correct form.

But the ability to run again will be awesome, if I can make it happen. First up is walking, however. (Then bicycling.) Baby steps.

Life on a scooter, and more

Here are some random musings from my last three weeks:

  • The first four days after the surgery were pain-filled, though I managed the pain with Oxycodone pills and slept most of the time.
  • But on the fifth day, the pain seemed to vanish. I got off the opioids, started sleeping normal hours again, and felt much better.
  • The people from my workplace, Allytics, sent me flowers the day after my surgery. It meant a lot.
  • I had a cast on my ankle and foot for about 10 days, then a wrap for a week to protect the stitches. When I got my stitches out Jan. 3, I was able to shower again without wearing garbage bags around my lower leg. What a relief!
  • Getting around on my scooter is interesting. I have to be vigilant about watching for curbs, sidewalk cracks and pavement issues, etc., to avoid spills. So far, so good. (Knock on wood.)
  • Loaned to me from our HR director at work, Jennifer White, the scooter includes a front basket that is a godsend. It looks funny, but I put just everything in there so I don’t have to carry things.
  • That said, loading the basket with too much weight, and then shifting my own weight too far forward, causes the scooter to tip over forward. This has happened (fortunately, I wasn’t carrying hot coffee).
  • Also, the scooter doesn’t make U-turns or go in reverse as well as I would like.
  • Speaking of weight, I have barely gained any, despite an inability to get much exercise! Boy, was I happy to see that when I first weighed myself more than a week after the surgery.
  • Yes, I have been exercising some. Instead of walks or runs, I do scoots — jaunts of less than a mile on my scooter. I feel calories burning; I also feel my left hamstring and hip getting sore from kneeling on the scooter too long. Surprisingly, this is more work than you think.
  • I just started riding my stationary bike this last weekend. I did five miles on Saturday and again on Sunday. Don’t tell my surgeon; he may not approve.
  • And I’ll be frank. My scooter and crutches can’t get me through tight spots in my bathroom and bedroom. I find myself putting limited weight on my left ankle, as it does not hurt. I try hard to be careful, but still, don’t tell my surgeon.
  • Last but not least, I have to thank my wife Liz for carrying stuff for me, opening doors, and getting me through this. Thanks, Liz!

The reason I need to stay off my left ankle is to let the fusing process play out. It takes about six weeks, according to not only Dr. Powell, but everything I’ve read online. Since I want the fusing process to be a successful one, I am careful. But it seems impossible to avoid putting some weight on the ankle.

The waiting, as Tom Petty once sang, is the hardest part. Fortunately, time is passing quickly.

Will I be ready to ride in the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Chilly Hilly on Feb. 25? It would be 10 weeks after my surgery. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Running, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy holidays! Mine will be spent on a scooter

No one will confuse me with Richard Sherman, based on how I played defensive back in high school. But I will soon be getting around on a scooter like this.

No one will confuse me with Richard Sherman, based on how I played defensive back in high school. But I will soon be getting around on a scooter like this.

In the four months since I last posted about what I said could be my “last hurrah,” I got my surgery plans squared away. It took a few tests to determine what kind of ankle surgery would be best. Now we’re set.

On Monday, Dec. 18, I will undergo ankle fusion surgery at Swedish Medical Center’s First Hill campus in Seattle. I may spend the night there and be pumped full of painkillers for a week or more. I will get through it, undergo a serious rehab, and quite possibly be running again in 2018. We’ll see.

The type of surgery I’m having is a change of plans. Originally, I was to undergo ankle replacement surgery, where a metal device would be inserted to replace my ankle joint. But an ankle scan found that my ankle bone is too deteriorated and peppered with cysts to make this an easy surgery, according to Dr. Eric Powell, my surgeon.

Ankle fusion surgery is the conventional alternative for the type of erosion of the ankle joint that I suffer. It is a fusing of the lower leg bone and foot bone, with the end result being a decidedly limited range of up-and-down movement in the foot. That is precisely what I have now. The surgery, according to Dr. Powell, will make permanent the lack of movement that I have now.

Me finishing the Eugene Marathon in 2007. Will I be doing this again?

Me finishing the Eugene Marathon in 2007. Will I be able to do this again?

There may be other complications, such as having to step sideways to get up and down stairs. We’ll see. But I shouldn’t have to have another surgery, and I should be done with ankle pain. And I have a chance to run again, though it is unlikely I can make the Olympic team (I will settle for being able to do marathon No. 22, or even race No. 214).

By comparison, ankle replacement surgery would return some of that ability to lift my foot up-and-down. But it is a more complicated surgery, and things have to be right for it to be successful. While my surgeon offered to give it a try, he said it would require two surgeries to complete — one this year just to get my ankle ready, and a second one a year from now to insert the metal implant.

Even then, there are no guarantees of success, and I would not be able to run again. Running would threaten damage to the implant.

No thanks.

Ankle fusion surgery is more conventional, yet it has its own risks. There’s a long healing and rehab process (at least several weeks) before I can even put weight on my left leg. I will be moving around on a scooter, loaned to me by Jennifer White, our head of Human Resources at Allytics (thanks, Jennifer!). I can drive and work, but going up and down stairs will be interesting. Fortunately, I had ankle “scoping” surgery in 2011, so the rehab process is familiar.

The stationary bike will be my friend during rehab. Maybe I will be ready for the Chilly Hilly bicycle ride in late February. It’s uphill until then. Have to be able to walk first. Yes, baby steps.

Thanks for reading. Wish me luck, and see you on the other side. Happy holidays!

Posted in Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Eugene Marathon, Marathons, Running, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments