I’m not selling anything with this blog, which affords me the privilege of being as honest as possible regarding my values and experiences, whether that is related to veganism or running. I don’t try to romanticize my experiences or ignore the negatives in order to falsely represent either, and so it goes that I will give you the downsides of veganism should they present themselves, though that seems to be confined to the animals, and I will give you the downsides of running too, which I loathe to admit become apparent more than I would prefer.
And so here I am, after an epic weekend of running, now four days without taking a single step.
I am, without reservation, without skepticism, without grey area, injured. This is how it went down.
I ran 30 miles on the trails of Brown County, hammering the ground at every chance I could take, sometimes pulling, often getting pulled, by friend and ultra runner Scott Breeden. We were preparing to set him up for an attempt at the 100 mile world record next month at the IT100 in Northern Indiana. I was going to be his pacer. Despite getting dropped the last few miles, everything went smashingly and I walked away from the run with greater fitness and an even greater confidence.
The next day I took to the treadmill for an easy 10 miles, using the comforting give of the treadmill to allow my quads to rest and build. I followed that run on Monday with another easy 12 on the treadmill, continuing my rest, and walking away from the effort with no concerns of physical ailments what so ever. I rode to the coffee shop, drank too much coffee, got some work done, then rode home to make dinner. That evening, however, my stomach turned on me. It felt like I had cramps all over my abdomen, as if the coffee was revolting, but I suspected gas or something food related and planned to sleep it off. I, however, did not sleep much. No position was comfortable and the pain was consistent if I moved even just a small amount. I woke the next day and noticed I was relatively hunched over walking throughout the house, my stomach muscles tightened in on themselves, unwilling to let go of whatever they might be clenching onto. I instantly called into work and let them know I couldn’t make it, figuring a day of rest and another night of sleep would take care of everything.
That night I felt the same discomfort and awoke with the SAME level of discomfort Wednesday morning, greatly spiking my concern that this wasn’t merely a run-induced muscle fatigue and soreness that simply needed rest, but something more problematic. That’s when I noticed the bump on my navel.
Now, it should be mentioned that I’ve had a small protrusion around my navel for quite some time now, I’d estimate over a year now, which I gave little thought to as it wasn’t painful to the touch. I actually assumed that the core workouts I had been doing strengthened my abs to the point that they pushed my navel out a little bit.
This time, however, I noticed the bump was protruding a little further, had grown another small bump to it’s side, and was now discolored. This couldn’t be good, I thought to myself. The concern that I had a hernia became instantly apparent and so I did what any obsessive runner does when they have a run-stopping issue…I went to google, asked my friends in the medical community and put out a call for theories on Facebook. The answers were resounding consistent….I had an umbilical hernia.
For those of you unaware of what that means, it’s basically a tear in the abdomen walls, often caused by repetitive stresses, allowing parts of the intestine (don’t google image search it…it’s gross….and mine is NOT that bad) to push through the abdomen wall creating small bumps or disgustingly huge bulges to show themselves. This is obviously a problem it its own right, but there is a greater concern for “intestinal strangulation” and other problems that can cause very severe issues in the body.
I had to get a professional assessment on this, of course, but in just talking to knowledgable friends, I was quite concerned. There was enough of an urgency that they wanted me to go to a hospital immediately, but I was confident enough that I could wait until the next morning, which is what I did.
I called up my friends at the St. Vincent Sports Performance Center here in Indy, who I’ve mentioned in past posts. Every single employee of this organization are the most genuine, caring, friendly and knowledgable people I have ever had the privilege to work with. Maybe I shouldn’t admit to it, but when I have a physical issue that I know will end me at St. Vincent’s….I’m actually excited. I KNOW they will give my concerns full attention and will give me not only a solid diagnosis of what is going on, but will explain to me how it happened in the first place….and then corrective procedures. So, without reservation, I reached out to my contacts there, who went out of their way to help me get in and get moving on dealing with this issue.
I walked into the facility this morning and within 15 minutes of being in the exam room was told my assumptions were correct, that I had an umbilical hernia, and was very quickly sent to a general surgeon for further consultation and scheduling. This was no joke.
So onto the next hospital facility where a surgeon sat down with me and did a little poking and prodding at the area of concern. Now, far be it from me to question the expertise of a practiced and studied medical professional, but if I’m being blunt here, and I am, I was not enthused with this surgeon. His level of expressed concern was lower than I would have preferred and his questioning of problematic activities was almost non-existent. He did very minor poking and prodding, not even asking me to get out of the chair I was sitting in and felt that it might NOT be a hernia, though did not offer any other possibilities or explanation as to the greater abdomen pain I was experiencing. Again, he may very well be right, but I felt his assessment of my situation was simply not as thorough as it should have been. Regardless, we established a plan of action.
He, rightfully so, didn’t want to go in and just start cutting, which I appreciate, and so determined I should have a CT scan to get a better visual of just what might be going on in there. If the CT scan doesn’t give an unreserved image, literally, of a hernia or knowable issue, he said he will make a small incision under my navel, lift the skin and get a direct visual of what the protrusion may be and then proceed from there depending on if it’s a hernia or something else. So, it sounds like I’ll be going into surgery (next week?) for one reason or another.
The quick assessment was unceremoniously ended and I was sent to a woman down the hall for scheduling of the CT scan. I sat in her office, feeling myself getting sucked further and further into the medical wormhole of process and fear of increasing debt, despite the comfort that comes with understanding an issue and having a plan of action. This was all happening so quickly and I think the realization and seriousness was finally catching up.
I will say this, I am INCREDIBLY grateful for all the individuals who took extra steps to help alleviate my financial burden through this initial process. They saw that I did not have insurance (it doesn’t start with my new job until 6 months in) and so either waved the consultation fees completely, gave me discounts at the Medicaid level or made calls to find the cheapest scanning facility or those with payment plan options. None of them had to do that, but they did, without me asking.
And so here we are….waiting until Tuesday for a CT scan and a more detailed plan of action, which may very well end up as a surgery appointment next week to get this taken care of.
And for some reason I’m not as concerned as I thought I would be in a situation like this….to be honest…I’m somewhat relieved, almost excited.
I’m relieved and almost excited, because something has been wrong lately. Something has been wrong with my running and I simply couldn’t figure it out. I’ve had a general feeling of weakness in my abdomen, sometimes discomfort, sometimes pain that I have run through. I’ve run through it because it hasn’t been consistent and I’ve been more concentrated on the issues I’ve had with my right leg more than anything else. And I’ve run through it because it was nothing pointed. Sometimes I thought it was related to my new smoothie breakfasts and I just needed to adjust. Sometimes I thought it was related to all the fruit I started eating at my new job. Sometimes I thought it was running hard workouts in the winter, in the dark, in the morning. Sometimes I thought it was just bad digestion for one reason or another. Sometimes I thought it was just winter season weakness. Whatever the reason, I was just waiting, waiting for it all to turn around, fix itself, the weather to break, etc. etc. etc. I CERTAINLY never thought it was related to a (potential) hernia though.
But then this week happened. And now I KNOW something was off. It wasn’t just poor fitness, abdominal weakness (my core workouts have been better than ever!), or any other concern…it was a possibly progressive and unavoidable physical ailment. And now I know what it is, what to do about it, and how to proceed.
The question begs, however, WHAT caused this? I instinctually, and understandably, start questioning my running, the stresses I put on my body and if I’ve gone over the edge too often. Hernias can be caused by repetitive stresses, yes, so it makes sense that the repetition I subject my body to could have caused this. Maybe. Who knows? Hernias, however, can also be genetic. The weakness in the abdomen walls, or increasing weakness, can be a genetic trait that is passed along and become problematic under certain circumstances. And then I consider lifestyle changes. I’ve taken on a new job that is VERY physical. I lift 30 – 75 pound bins repeatedly all day, carrying them from delivery van to doorsteps and back all day. The work at the warehouse also involves constant, repetitive lifting. And I also sold my car, so that I ride my bike as transportation now. Maybe, with the stresses initially caused by my morning runs, my body just started to break without rest. The past few months I’ve felt like I’ve been going non-stop without any respite at all, just going and going and going. I haven’t felt fatigued, mind you, and was actually surprised how well I was able to handle everything…but then this thing happens.
Again, who knows what caused this, whether it was directly related to running, an issue developing over time, genetics, new lifestyle stresses, bad luck, etc. etc. I don’t know…but it did happen, and considering all these circumstances is important in making sure this doesn’t happen again.
But I’m relieved. I’m relieved because although running has been going well and I’ve been progressing, there has been a constant, nagging “annoyance”, to put it lightly, holding me back physically and mentally. I haven’t been enjoying my runs as much as I used to because there was something there, something accumulative, something quiet, but noticeable, always there and always giving me concern. It was almost just quiet enough to not be noticed, or at least not enough to pay attention to. Or maybe I just deliberately blocked it out to continue progressing physically, hoping it would give up and go away. I don’t know, but to have this happen now, keeping me slightly bending forward in pain as I go about my day, screaming instead of whispering, gives me great relief that I wasn’t failing as a runner…that something deeper was happening. And now it’s come to the surface and I can take care of it and move on.
Practically speaking, hernia surgery is relatively non-invasive and recovery is incredibly short. Some are back at it in a month, others in 2 weeks. Those on my side has suggested my running strength will have me on the latter timeline. I don’t know, but to finish this procedure, begin the recovery and get back out there with just a minor break is both relieving and exciting, because I’m hopeful that this will only turn out well, that I’ll be fixed up, stronger, rested and ABLE to run to my potential when this is all said and done. Yes, I’ll miss some epic experiences I was just getting fired up for, but the long term benefit will be more than worth it.
I am grateful for the community of friends and acquaintances who have concern for my well-being, have offered words of support and encouragement, and even physical resources or knowledge. I can’t excessively-express the overwhelming feeling of appreciation I have for those that feel compelled to offer support to me in both good times and bad, and I hope I offer something of value in return.
There certainly are the negative experiences that come with this running story, undoubtedly, and I will continue to be honest about mine, but the positive experiences have consistently out-shined the former. This minor setback is just one part of the cumulative narrative, and for whatever reason, I feel enthusiastically hopeful for the next chapter.