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.
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.
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!