Journey to Recover by John Young

Photo of John Young at the finish line of the marathon course.

Crossing the finish line at the Myles Standish Marathon

On November 18th, I did what I never thought I could when I completed my first marathon, the Myles Standish Marathon in Plymouth, MA.  The race was a quick replacement to the NYC Marathon that was cancelled 2 weeks earlier due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

The race was an amazing experience and my race report can be found here.

Based on this race, I managed to qualify for the Boston Marathon as an AWAD runner.

When I started competing in triathlon 3 years ago, I never imagined I would be preparing for and then completing a 26.2 road race.  Contrary to what I was being told by MANY of my seasoned athletic friends, I chose to honor a commitment I made to run in the “Feaster Five” in Andover, MA on Thanksgiving Day (4 days after the marathon) and then in the Jolly Jaunt 5K in Danvers, MA  on the first weekend in December.  A friend of mine warned, his only injuries have occurred during very short races following LONG races.

Well, that’s exactly what happened.  Two or three days prior to the Jolly Jaunt, I bent over one morning to put on my socks, and “tweaked” my lower back.  As a consequence of my achondroplasia (dwarfism), I have a narrow spinal column in my lower lumbar region.  I have tweaked it a number of times and figured this was no difference.  Following the Jolly Jaunt, I made appointments with my chiropractor and massage therapist hoping to get a quick fig.  Well, a couple of appointments turned into a total of 4 visits to each specialist with little relief.  So I here I am 7 weeks later.

I have not been able to run since the beginning of December and it is now less than 3 months until Boston 2013.  I was planning on resting during my Christmas holidays where I would start back to running on Boxing Day.  Instead, I spent most of those 17 days sitting on the couch or floor rotating between ice packs and heating pads.  I have been on ADVIL and luckily that was kept the pain at bay.  I have also managed to swim and use my bike on the trainer.

It’s just so hard to get motivated.  I have not felt like planning any other races as I feel that might jinx my recovery.  Today marks 12 weeks to go until Boston and without any running yet, I feel there is little chance I will be running.  Again, if I do this right, there will be MANY more races in my future.

I did connect with an orthopedic doctor and met with him last week.  He sounded confident after I listed my symptoms that this might be something that can be handled without surgery.  I had an MRI on Saturday morning and meet the Dr. again on Wednesday morning to discuss options.  I am praying that surgery is not the option.

You see, 5 years ago, prior to any of my triathlon racing, I did the same thing to my back.  I have memories of the pain being much worse and I was getting very little sleep.  I met with an orthopedic surgeon as well as a neurosurgeon in Boston and they were recommending a laminectomy.  That procedure is a common but risky surgery for many with achondroplasia.  It involves months of recovery and sometimes does not alleviate the pain and discomfort.  Rather than having the surgery, I continued with chiropractic therapy along with some acupuncture, while I also continued to swim.  Without the surgery I started to regain strength in my legs and then the back pain vanished almost as quickly as it had come.

Of course, I am hoping for the same outcome this time and since I am much more physically fit than I was 5 years ago, I feel it should be as likely to happen again.  Right?  Am I asking too much?

I would have to admit, that as an athlete, this has been the most depressing 2 months of my life, with the highest of highs, along with some deep and dark levels of despair.  My family has been so patient and helpful.  Owen often includes me in his evening or bedtime prayers and has on a number of occasions kissed his hand and then touched my back to help it feel better.  I am SO blessed to have such a beautiful family.  At times, I really wonder what I did in my life to deserve such support and love?


7 thoughts on “Journey to Recover by John Young

  1. I know if you are meant to get back to running and triathlons you will. You have more strength, determination and passion than most. I have faith you can do it. In the meantime, don’t lose hope and don’t stop believing in yourself! We certainly won’t!

  2. You deserve the best John. Fred and I have both had back problems. We found physical therapy and exercise (stretching techniques) were most helpful. Stay positive. You’ll make it through.
    Love to all.

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