Crunch, swish, crunch, swish. These were the sounds of the dry leaves on my front porch as I waded through them on my way to the garage. Usually by now I’d have gotten out my rake and ushered all the old foliage to the curb to be sucked up by the township’s vacu-wagon. This year, due to post-surgery convalescence and rehab, I was relying on friends to make time to come do my essential yard work.
My friend Andy had come once already and cleared the leaves with his industrial strength leaf blower but now it was the peak of deer season and Andy and others were in far-away places. As I walked through the leaves, I closed my eyes and imagined I was with them, crunching across a frosty, oak-covered hillside. I had gone to “hunting camp” after Thanksgiving as I have done every year for 24 years. I look forward to seeing some of my oldest friends at deer camp. It is always a memorable and fun part of the year that I wouldn’t miss for anything. There are many jokes and misconceptions around “deer camp” but it is a time honored Pennsylvania tradition that I am privileged to be a part of.
At my last check-in at Vincera Institute, I specifically asked Dr. Coleman about the feasibility of hunting during rifle season. I explained that our hunting spots are fairly remote and require several miles of hiking with pack, and rifle. The answer was a definitive NO. With that in mind, I made the decision to leave my deer hunting equipment at home and just enjoy a couple days in camp with my buddies.
So here I was on the first Saturday in deer season wading through the leaves on my front porch. I could hear the steady drone of leaf blowers around my neighborhood and a quick glance showed only one yard still covered in leaves: Mine. I had been feeling pretty good with only occasional tightness around the hip and groin first thing in the morning. I grabbed my rake and began attacking the dried pile on the porch and front yard, slowly moving them to the curb. As I worked my way back and forth, things felt okay for a while but eventually I could feel the twisting motion of raking adding up. I decided to finish the front yard and call it quits. I brushed the last bit of leaves to the street and retreated to the house for some ice, a nap, and college football.
Monday morning I stepped out of bed and still noted a little more stiffness and soreness than had been around for the last couple weeks. Healing is such a gradual process I’m not sure if it has continued to improve or not. As I moved around going through my morning routine I winced in pain now and then as I moved my left leg and hip. I hadn’t winced in days. I suddenly felt a bit dejected hoping I didn’t make the wrong choice in electing to get the surgery. This thought stayed with me as I pedaled on the spin bike and through rehab exercises around the gym. The doubt grew in my mind as I showered and dressed still experiencing the same pain in my left adductor and groin when lifting my leg. But wait, is it the same? Hasn’t it really slowly, steadily improved? The persistent ache in my lower abdomen is gone. I can ride in a car or sit comfortably now. Looking at the calendar shows that as of tomorrow I am seven weeks out from surgery. Only seven weeks. It seems like surgery was months ago. In reality, I probably just shouldn’t have been out raking leaves.
As I watch my running friends run races around the country, my hunting friends enjoy one of the best seasons in years, and the numbers on the scale continue to climb, patience is wearing thin. I think about my running past. Did I really run the Boston Marathon just this year? It seems long, long ago that I completed an Ironman or was even capable of a half-Ironman. Today I can’t even rake leaves for a half-hour without giving up and running for the ice pack. I wonder how difficult it will be to start running again? Or if I even want to? I’ve seen it before when former endurance athletes go through an injury or other event that forces time off and they are never able to establish that drive to push themselves again. It’s easy to say “That won’t happen to me” but it has been a long time since I struggled to breathe as I jog/walked around my neighborhood, fat and out of shape.
I cant do anything about that right now though. I’m not a doctor but I’m certain any and all remaining soreness regardless of activity will need to be gone before I get the green light to do anything more strenuous be it marathon training or raking bigger piles of leaves. Patience remains the order of the day. I went to the best doctors, I am seeing the best therapist (IMO), and have been careful and diligent in my recovery. Seven weeks out from surgery is not all that long. Sports-specific rehab starts in another couple weeks. Still, I’m anxious for the bits of soreness and stiffness to be gone for good. Life will have a more hopeful outlook then then.