The Surgery

After very little sleep Wednesday night, Ellie drove me from Sedona to Phoenix where I caught a rather uneventful flight home to Orange County. My father-in-law picked me up and I tinkered around at home for an hour or so before going to the surgery. The procedure was to be done in the Orthopedic Surgery Center, which is just off PCH near Fashion Island in Newport- not a bad neighborhood. When my time came, I was called out of the waiting area and instructed to strip to my underwear and put on the oh-so-fashionable hospital gown. I then took my place on a rolling bed so they could take my vitals and stick some IVs in me.

For those who don’t know me, I have an irrational reaction to things touching me in areas where large veins can be found- my wrists, inside my elbows, inner thighs…you get the picture. It causes me to get cold, clammy, and deathly pale. My blood pressure drops too. When applying the rubber band tourniquet to my right arm before inserting the IV, I got clammy and pale and the nurse called another nurse over to “distract me”. Unless the distraction was going remove the feeling of a tight rubberband, mid-arm, stopping blood from flowing to my hand, it wasn’t going to work. However the nurse was quick and the IV was in the back of my hand & tourniquet removed before I did someting embarassing- like pass out.

Next came the blood pressure cuff. After 7 failed attempts to register a blood pressure, it came back extremely low. The nurse joked that despite the low reading, my talking proved I was still alive and apparently after talking with the doctor and anesthesiologist, I was alive enough for surgery. They started rolling me to the operating room a few minutes later and the anesthesiologist took a position behind me as we entered the room. I felt suddenly tired and asked the doctor if I was going to be “going black” soon. He said “No, just something to relax you.” I wondered what that was that about as I could feel my consciousness leaving me. The last thing I remember was moving from the rolling bed to the operating table and knowing that the “tired, fuzzy feeling” I felt meant that I was going to be unconscious in seconds.

I came to about 45 minutes after they rolled me out of the pre-op area. It was nice to be awake, but I felt like I was waking after a long, long nap and wanted another 20 minutes. They let me rest for about that long or longer before a nurse gave me a drink and helped me get dressed. It was a little wierd having someone put on my socks, put on my shirt and help me buckle my pants. But with a new cast and bandage on my hand, I wasn’t going to get myself ready in any reasonable amount of time. Dr. Ip told me that the ligament was torn and they were able to repair it. Good news! They then had me sign some discharge papers and rolled me out the side door in a wheelchair where my father-in-law was waiting at the curb in my truck.

After fasting 18 hours, I was hungry so we stopped for a burger on the way home. My mouth was so dry that I choked on the fries, despite drinking almost 32 oz. of lemonade. I couldn’t generate spit for almost 24 hours- what a wierd, uncomfortable feeling! I always took the saliva part of chewing and swallowing for granted- not anymore. I slept off and on for most of the next 14 hours with just a mild sting and decent throb in my hand before rushing back to the airport for the flight back to Phoenix.

At the time of this posting, it has now been 5 days since the surgery. The pain is completely gone and aside from a few Motrin Saturday and Sunday during our drives to Albuquerque and Denver, the recovery has been drug free. I am anxious to get the cast off and start some serious exercise again. Dining out with family and long hours in the car with snacks has made the pleats in my pants tight. 🙂

Pre-Surgery Workout

I had a family vacation already planned for this week in Sedona, Arizona, so I’ll be flying back to Newport for 24 hours on Thursday to go under the knife.

Since anything I might do to mess my hand up will be corrected during surgery and the cuts from my mountain biking accident being mostly healed, I decided on Wednesday that I ought to take advantage of the water for the last time in a few weeks. I did some swimming in Oak Creek, which caused a little throbbing in the hand, so I decided to just put on my thumb brace and do some cliff jumping and diving. Man, I’ve missed the water…


Friday Run & Surgical Opinion

After being in Denver during the first 4 days of the week, I headed back home on Thursday evening. On Friday morning I woke at 6am to a georgeous Southern California day. Without the usual early summer morning cloud cover (aka June Gloom), it promised to be a scorcher of a day. I decided to take advantage of the morning cool to do a run. I ran from my home to Soka University and then down the Canyon View neighborhood to the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. At the Canyon floor I ran into my old hometown friends: rabbits, lizards, a coyote and hawk. I followed the trail and the stream up to Canyon View park and back home. It was a fun 7 mile jog in among the wild sycamores, coastal oaks, and animals as well as master planned and landscaped Orange County.

I then showered up and headed up to Huntington Beach for a Surgical consult on my hand. While the scans weren’t conclusive, it was likely that the ligament would not heal correctly without surgery. An immediate surgery to reconnect the bone fracture at the connection point of the ligament would help avoid the need for more extensive ligament grafting in a couple of months. I scheduled the first available surgery- Thursday of the next week.

After surgery, I’ll be in a splint for 2 months. After the sutures heal in 2 weeks however, Doctor Ip said I could swim again- if I have a waterproof splint made. Unfortunately, being out of the water for a month means I’ll be probably be physically unprepared for Catalina on August 21st.

Injury Update 2

The official results are in on the thumb injury. My optimism has been tempered. The injury is a Goalkeepers Thumb, a fracture of the bone where one of my thumb ligaments attaches. Surgery and physical therapy is advised to ensure full, non-painful use of the thumb in the future. A small black thumb stabilizer I’ve been wearing since Saturday afternoon has prevented the thumb from causing me much pain, but it isn’t a long term solution. I have a full doctor’s consultation scheduled on Thursday. We’ll determine at that time what the injury means in terms of the Catalina swim, but in all likelihood, the injury will require a minor surgery and some PT which will make an August swim impossible.

It seems silly that such a small injury could have such a dramatic effect on my training and plans, but I can’t change it now. “It is what it is” and I’ll just deal with the consequences, which hopefully won’t preclude the Catalina swim, but it may mean changing plans to an English Channel or Persian Gulf swim in 2009!

Injury Update

After the Tuesday evening crash, I was pretty hurtin’ for a few days. My Catalina Channel swim training pal, David Galli, pulled some strings and got me an appointment to see Dr. Cavallo, the doctor he works with in Newport, on Friday morning. The doc determined that the ligament in my hand was either torn, popped or strained and needed an MRI. I was able to schedule the MRI later that day. The preliminary results indicate a ligament strain. That is good news. It means I’ll be in a splint for a couple of weeks instead of requiring surgery followed by a month or two in a split.

Additionally, the doc noted that with all of the open scrapes and cuts, swimming was out for a week. He prescribed some anti-bacterial ointment to help keep things infection free. At the time of writing, the thumb is still splinted, but the cuts are healing quickly and some weekend swimming is looking likely.

With any water activity over the weekend introducing the risk of infection and/or slower healing, the Huntington Beach pier swim on Saturday was out of the picture. I headed to the beach to support Dave and the other Novas. The Novas had some great performances. Coach Ahelee finished top in her age group. Christina took the women’s first prize and fellow Soka swimmer, Roger Andellin, was a top 10 finisher. Dave was a top finisher as well- in 2 heats! Congrats team!


Getting Bit and Heading to the Hospital

Well, its true. It finally happened. I had a good chunk of flesh taken out of me and had to get some medical attention afterwards. No, it wasn’t a shark- it was the Mt. Falcon trial near Morrison, CO. Instead of saying the trial bit me, it is probably more accurate to say I ate it.After getting off work on Tuesday evening and making a few phone calls, I followed my googled directions to the Mt. Falcon, a trail recommended by Ken Brumm, another consultant on my project and moutain biker from here in Denver. It turned out to be only 10-15 minutes from where I am working in Littleton. I quickly changed into my biking gear, donned my helmet and pulled my bike out of the back of my rented SUV. I figured I had a couple of hours before dark and a 4 mile ride should be easy doing despite a 2,000 ft elevation gain. The going was tougher than I had anticipated as I didn’t have clip-ins and it is the first time I’ve ridden anything technical in almost a year. However, the views of Denver and the Rocky Mountain peaks to the west were incredible.

Click on the pict below to see the skyline of Denver from Mt. Falcon. Wow!
Coming down, I was having a blast. I begin to think I was finally getting the hang of it: bouncing over rocks and flying off the trail breaks that divert the runoff. I was going 20-25 mph on the bumpy singletrack. A half mile from the trailhead I got a couple of bumps in rapid succession and hit the wrong (front) brake after landing with my front wheel twisted in an attempt to correct a trajectory that would send me off the trail. The bike responded by turning even more, digging in the front wheel, and stopping rather abruptly. I did not.

I caught the initial impact with my left gloved hand and left knee. I tried to lessen the impact with a roll, but instead of rolling, my twist only caused my right hip and arm to dig into the gravel with my full weight behind it and skid along the dirt and gravel trail for 10 feet. Can you say no wind? Can you say hamburger?

Embarrassed and wind knocked out, I scrambled to get off the trail and rested in the weeds on the right of the trail in a relatively flat section of the route. Though covered in blood and dust, I told the biker following me by about 20 seconds who inquired how I was that I was fine- “just got the wind knocked out of me”. After a few more questions, he was satisfied I was going to be OK and continued down. Afterwhich, I picked up my unhurt bike and continued down much more cautiously.

The rapidly coagulating blood mixed with dirt and gravel from the trail made nice black and red patches on legs, arms and left hand. As I got into my hot car with cold blowing AC, the sting finally hit. Ouch! I decided to find a clinic where perhaps a nurse could help me dig the gravel and dirt out of my arm and knee and get some antibiotics to prevent infection. A call to a project buddy, Todd Pittman, who had the unfortunate opportunity to use a local clinic a few weeks before revealed that after 8pm, my only option was a hospital.

The nice folks at the Adventist Hospital in Littleton cleaned my wounds, x-rayed my hand, splinted my thumb, and sent me back to my hotel. They also advised me to stay out of the water for few days until the wounds had stopped bleeding and oozing. Probably good advice. I guess my plans for Chatfield reservior this evening are not going to materialize.

(After cleaning off the blood and dust, it looks like I could be healed enough for Saturday’s ocean swim, but if you click on the arm you can see what my “cleaned hamburger” looks like. I’m going to spare you the unbandaged knee.)

Saturday Morning at WAC

It was nice to be able to sleep in until 7am before heading off to Wollett Aquatic Center (aka WAC) in Irvine for the Nova workout. Coach Michael Collins called the set:

1 x 300 warmup
1 x 300 (Free, Back by 50s)
3 x 100 (Free, Back by 25s)
6 x 50 (Free, Back by 25s)
5 x broken 600s specifically:

5 x 100 on 1:25, 1 x 100 on 1:20
4 x 100 on 1:35, 1 x 200 on 2:40
3 x 100 on 1:45, 1 x 300 on 4:00
2 x 100 on 1:55, 1 x 400 on 5:20
1 x 100 on 2:00, 1 x 500 on 6:40

2 x 150 on 2:00
2 x 100 kick on 2:00
200 warmdown
=4,900 yards

Swimming in the Dark at San Clemente

This morning I got up to do the 5:45am practice at Soka University with Coach Ahelee. She gave a good 2500m set of drills and sprints with fins. She will be staying with Novaquatics and Dave and I couldn’t be happier.

The real story of the day is the story of the night. At 9pm, Dave, Ahelee, Carolyn, Brian, Scott and I met up at the San Clemente Pier, put on glow sticks and red flashing divers lights and did a 2 mile swim up the coast in the dark. Since the Catalina swim will be done 75% in the dark (we’ll start at 11:30pm and should end at 9-10am), we wanted to get used to swimming in those conditions. I’ll confess, I was a little nervous all day. Though I figured it would be fine, I still wondered how the marine life would respond to our lights. I had heard that lights attract fish. Adding to the concern was the fact that in the past several days there had been some agressive great white behavior 2-3 miles to the north at Doheny and 20 miles to the south in Oceanside and Carlsbad. (See reports here.)

A small sliver moon was out, the sky was clear, nice shoulder high waves were hitting the beach, and the wind was almost non-existant as we entered the surf. The water was a nice mid-sixties. The heavier waves forced us to start stroking soon after we went in since we had to duck under the large ones. As we started to swim north, something hit me in the back. I though Scott or Brian had thrown something at me, so I looked up. They seemed to be paddling along, so I kept swimming. Next I hit some kelp. I had no warning since it was dark, but I knew kelp was harmless and determined not to panic. Next I noticed how my arms were creating blue glowing bubble clouds- apparently the red tide was going to produce some nice bioluminenance light shows as we stroked and kicked in the dark. It was quite surreal. Then a fish hit my arm.

It was a small bait fish…no need to panic.

More strokes, then a small fish hit me in the cap. Again, I determined not to think about why bait fish break the surface. For the next mile, I got hit in the chest, arms, hands, head, shoulders and face by the flying fish. A few times the fish jumped out of the water, landed on my back and flopped their way down my back and legs before re-entering the sea. Dave was having a similar experience and the Scott and Brian were watching hundreds of these small fish jump out of the water all around us and dive back into the ocean leaving blue luminescent trails in the water.

After the 8 or 9th time getting hit by the fish, I settled into nice long strokes and had a wonderful 2 mile swim. While we all kept feelling the fish hit us, we watched the strange glow of our bubbles and kept an eye on the headlamps and glow sticks worn by our paddlers, Scott and Brian. We also kept close proximity to the flashing red diver lights mounted on the goggle straps of the other swimmers. It was a wonderful swim. As we returned to the pier, we followed the bright strobe light Carolyn was holding for us on the shore. I caught a wave that propelled me at great speed the last 100 yards. Nice body surf ride to end a great swim.

Fun, Surreal, Wild experience. Looking forward to Catalina!

Thanks Ellie for giving me the evening off to do this after being gone for a week. Thanks Dave, Ahelee, Brian and Scott! That is an experience you don’t have on your own!

Swimming in the Rain

I tried to get some extra shut-eye on Wednesday morning, so this morning after a very unappreciated 5am alarm and very wet trip from my hotel to Highlands Ranch in heavy rain, I started my workout at 5:45 inside. Coach Susan Williams moved us outdoors when the lightning/thunder was not deemed a threat and the rain had lightened up.

I felt a little short of breath and I had some fatigue in my back and arm muscles after only a few hundred yards. It has me concerned. I expected at this point in my training AND after a day of rest that it would take 5-6,000 yards to get me feeling fatigued at normal pacing. Maybe it is the altitude or perhaps a lack of sleep. Whatever the reason, I’m going to work on hitting the sack early enough to get 7 hours of sleep every night versus the 5 I’m acustomed to.

The workout:
1 x 200 warmup

1 x 300 pull
1 x 100 kick

Pyramid consisting of: 25,50,75,100,125 and back down 125,100…
Going up, first 25 yards of each distance drill
Coming down, first 25 yards of each distance FAST

10 x 200 (3 on 2:40, 2 on 2:30, 3 on 2:40 pull, 2 on 2:30 fins)
1 x 100 easy

Repeat twice:
100 kick
8 x 25 on :30 (3 Fast, 1 Easy, 3 fast, 1 Easy)

1 x 200 warmdown
= 4,250 yards

Tuesday Morning Mile High Workout

After flying back to Colorado on Monday, I was ready another good pool workout Tuesday morning. Kylie, a local pro triathlete, gave the set this morning.

1 x 200 swim
1 x 150 with pull buoy only
1 x 100 kick

8 x 100 (1-4 descending on 1:30, 4-8 90% on 1:25)
10 x 50 (1-4 first 12.5 FAST, 5-7 first 25 FAST, 8-9 first 37.5 FAST, 10 FAST) on :50

Repeat 2 times:
2 x 150 (first 50 FAST, 100 pace) on 2:20
2 x 100 (first 25 FAST, 100 pace) on 2:00
2 x 100 (1500m pace) on 1:20

1 x 100 kick
6 x 75 pull on 1:00
1 x 200 warmdown

=4,000 yards