Last winter I got back on the (relatively) hardcore running horse after a difficult several months of agonizing paint and stiffness directly resulting from a surprisingly horrific tumble I took in February of 2010. The full details of that fall, by the way, are in another story I am long overdue in posting here, but one thing at a time. The fall wrenched my neck at a grisly angle, completely destroying what little poor spinal alignment I had left. At the time, I was more focused on the head injury, and it wasn't until months later that I realized just how badly it had thrown the rest of my body out of whack. Late in the summer, I tried to start running, taking baby steps by starting with the treadmill. It was impossible to make much progress, however, as I would run barely a mile before my legs began to throb, and one of my hips clicked and popped like a music box with the tines broken off. I would walk as much as I could, but after about 20 minutes, I had to give in to the excruciating pain. After a decade of considering myself a runner, this was a frustrating feeling of defeat.
In September, I had picked up a couple of smaller projects leftover from the house remodel, including replacing the closet doors in the master bedroom. Instead of buying cheap, shitty doors at Home Depot, I was inspired by a website selling custom closet doors to build my own. More accurately, the fact that the website was charging about $1,500 per set of doors was an inspiration for me to say, "Fuck that, I can totally build those myself!" Defiantly, I bought the necessary tools and assembled the first set for about $160 in materials. Near the end, however, the constant kneeling, crouching, and bending over to work on the door frames took their toll on my already weakened back, and I completely threw it out while picking up a bolt of canvas. Seriously. My back was completely seized, and I was barely able to walk for a couple of days, forcing me to call in sick to work. Even when I was back on my feet, it took me nearly a week before I could move without pain or near misses in seizing it up anew. I was 34 and felt like I was 64.
When October rolled around, I took a long-planned trip to Chicago to visit Jen and Rich. Unfortunately a weekend of fun and relaxation turned into a slightly less fun weekend when on Saturday morning, I threw my back out even worse than before. My mistake this time? Bending over slightly to adjust the water temperature for the shower. There I was, as naked as a congressman's cock on Twitter, frozen in place by horrid pain. There were a few moments when I thought I was going to have to call poor Rich in to help me out. What he could have done, I don't know. Cry at the sight my hairy bent-over man ass and throw a blanket over me? "Best of luck, Jeremy. My only regret is that I only have this very loosely knit afghan and not a thick wool blanket or blackout curtain. You'll be ok if I turn the light off, won't you? No sense wasting electricity. Oh, and I'll close the door, too. The dogs have your scent, and it looks like you had a difficult time wiping. See you when I get home." Thankfully, it didn't come to that, and I was able to hobble around after a warm bath (incidentally, I now know that a warm bath or heating pad is NOT recommended in that situation - ice that shit down!)
On Sunday, I awoke around 6:30 am and attempted to get out of bed to use the bathroom across the hall. I was staying in the bedroom of Rich's son, who was out of town that weekend. Not helping my back situation was the fact that this bed had a rather poor mattress (which they have since replaced out of mercy for all involved, not the least of whom, Rich's son), and was on a frame that comes up to my ribcage. So I rolled over to get out of bed and threw my back out yet again. This time was a killer. I couldn't so much as roll over without my back completely seizing up or trembling in a manner that threatened to. I was stuck but good. Without exaggeration, I spent the next 45 minutes desperately, yet slowly and gingerly finding a way to maneuver myself out of that bed. Finally I had my feet hanging over the edge and had to bite the bullet and throw myself to the floor. Of course, my back seized up all over again, and it took me another 15 minutes to straighten up enough to hobble to the door. After using the bathroom, I spent the next hour pacing their living room, sitting, standing, stretching (if you could even call it that), and otherwise trying to work out the kinks so I could walk. An acquaintance of Rich who worked for Google had invited us to a tailgating party and the Bears vs Seahawks game at Soldier Field, and I was god damned if I was going to miss out on an opportunity like that (admittedly I was more excited about the prospect of seeing what kind of crazy-ass shindig Google threw than the game, and their giant RV full of booze did not disappoint). In the end, I was able to hobble my way through the rest of the day, but it was crystal clear to me that professional medical intervention was necessary.
For months, seeing me hobble around in various states of discomfort, my coworker Jameson had relentlessly tried to convince me to see his chiropractor. It wasn't that I didn't think it would help, I simply kept procrastinating in calling her. No more. The day after I returned from Chicago, I called and made an appointment. Dr. Nicole, as she goes by, was working temporarily out of a basement in a residential neighborhood in Burnsville. $40 a visit, cash, no insurance. Considering my damned office co-pay is $45, that was fine by me. Now the basement part might sound a little shady, but she came highly recommended, and it was clear from the start that she knew what she was doing. I limped pathetically to the first appointment with my right foot jutting away from my body at a right angle, my lower back sending quivering threats to seize up at any moment, and a neck that I could barely turn more than a few degrees. I filled out some paperwork, including a medical history and questionnaire about my symptoms, and she threw down a back cracky that straightened my leg and had me walking confidently, albeit still slowly and somewhat painfully, back to my car. Over the ensuing weeks and months, the adjustments continued, and I was soon running several miles at a time on the treadmill with no pain.
In February, Dr. Nicole and a partner opened up a practice in Eden Prairie, and I didn't blink an eye in making the trek over there to continue my appointments. Of particular interest, her new office also had a physical therapy area, and I was given a full range of exercises to build my core strength to help maintain my adjustments and reduce the chance of injuring my back again. This is where the real work started. No longer was I going in for a passive back cracky, I was in for a grueling addition to my normal workout routine that included dreadful lunges and crunches. But I continue with them because they clearly are doing the job.
In the spring, once it wasn't snowing in May anymore (what the fuck was that?!?), I started running outside, increasing my distance and pace, and decided to sign up with Jen for a 5k race in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago. I had already been running 4 to 5 miles in a stretch, so I knew I could do it (5k is 3.1 miles), but to me the challenge was getting myself ready to run a set distance on a set course at a date and time set in stone. I had to be prepared, in shape, and rested ahead of time. Sure, it's no marathon, but I had never done anything like this before, so it was a bit of a daunting, but exciting prospect. So, this last Sunday, I awoke at 5:45 am in Chicago, rode in the car with Jen and Rich to Highland Park, and Jen and I ran the shit out of that race. We managed to average a 10:12 mile. Yes, it wasn't so many years ago that I could run 10 miles simply because I felt like it, but especially after a huge setback like my fall, I'm still proud as hell, and I don't feel like I pushed myself to the brink to do it. Next stop? 10k!