To Herepai peak and back

Date: 23 October
Distance: 12.7k
Time: 4:22

Just when I think we are back on track, running regularly, slowly building up the kms, something happens (in my head, I guess) and the enthusiasm dwindles. Perhaps the knowledge that my body is out of alignment, causing all sorts of semipermanent issues, is resting heavily in the back of my mind. The surgeon’s words keep repeating in my head; ‘better find yourself another sport’ and ‘forget about running’. A small part of me still thinks it is fixable, but that would involve a knowledgeable person/s (in terms of bone, muscle and fascia) who can work with me to iron out the wrinkles: lateral pelvic tilt, hip dysplasia, femoroacetabular impingement, weakness and knee pain, fused vertebrae, mild scoliosis, and the list goes on. None of it is life-threatening or so bad that normal life has to come to a halt. Pelvic instability is probably a fair name for my ailments. But I firmly believe that with the right help in terms of strength and flexibility in the right places, the ball of my femur will stay put and not fumble about in the socket causing pain. I do not see FAI as a death sentence or nearly as bad as surgeons make it out to be. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Surgeons want to cut – that is their bread and butter.

The times that I have put in the effort – spending a lot of time on foam rollers, balls and other tools that can release some fascia adhesions, and also doing a bit of strength training around the pelvis area – things were definitely better. But it is very complex and I simply don’t have all the knowledge about the multitude of muscles, as well as the nerves, fascia and bones that are involved in the hip joint and pelvis, to know what to release and what to strengthen. I might sometimes release fascia that don’t need to be released (potentially causing problems), or find it impossible to reach other places that are in dire need of some attention. Doing strength exercises the wrong way can also cause issues. Maybe I’m overthinking everything.

That said, I stubbornly still think I’m indestructible and can go galavant in the mountains, and run hundreds of kilometres. When a friend invited us along on a short quick outing in the mountain that we have been planning to do for ages (we even drove there a while ago, but turned around in the carpark due to inclement weather) we decided to go.

I knew that after more than a month of hit and misses on the running front (only covering around 20k per week) I would be slow. And even though I was out of breath often on the uphill, it was the realisasion that I’ve lost a heap of strength the past two years and aren’t as agile as I used to be that broke my spirit. Lack of agility and strength, of course, makes running downhill very dangerous as I keep on picturing myself getting a foot stuck in a root that would sent me flying down the hill. When one is strong enough, there is room for error and you can correct for a slip or trip. I fear that I don’t have that anymore and some serious effort to gain strength, flexibility and agility is the only solution to my predicament.

We started a bit before ten on a windless, overcast, cool day. The first kilometre follows a stream (Ruapae?) on the true right which is reasonably flat. Shortly after a swing bridge crossing the stream the incline became more steep. The forest seems typical (to my untrained eye) of all NZ indigenous forests, with the usual mud and tree roots surface underfoot. The gradual incline for the first couple of kilometres, gains momentum and gets steeper nearer the hut. At 3.5k a T-joint in the track leads to either Roaring Stag Hut to the left (3.8k) or Herepai Hut to the right (1.5k). Taking the turn towards Herepai, I was huffing and puffing up the mountain.

Arriving at the hut, there were seven other trampers and a dog having a rest and a bite to eat. The guy with the dog had a gun and was probably a hunter or trapper. The other six (three boys and three girls) were on their way to Dundas Hut.

We set off on the final kilometre and a bit to reach the peak. This section was particularly streep – gaining 350 metre elevation per km. The first couple of hundred metres we were still below the tree line with only the forest in all directions to see, but finally we peaked out above the trees and could see what the world looked like around us. It was a beautiful day; partially overcast and almost no wind. Not even really cold. Lower down in the forest was a bit cooler than at the tops, where I regretted not bringing gloves.

Once at the top (1125m) and at the cross for Stan Evens, we stopped to admire the view while having a sandwich and an apple. We could see more trampers on the ridge up ahead making their way to Dundas, and others heading our way. I was almost sorry we weren’t one of them as the weather could not have been more perfect for the ridges. It is often rather windy and feels like one will be blown off of the mountain.

I could have stayed there all day, but it was time to head back down and I was glad for the few days prior without rain. The track was still very muddy and a couple of bum slides ensued, but overall it could have been far worse. With my disappearing muscle strength, I was a bit overcautious going down, but it still went a bit quicker than the uphill.

Back at the car we were muddy and wet up to our knees. I’ve gained a few more bruises and was well aware of my muscles. Glad to have done this little bit of the Tararua Range we drove back home where a warm shower awaited.

Just like that – hip hip (not) hoorah

hip

For almost two years now (since I’ve been diagnosed with FAI) I’ve been working on my mobility by spending a fair amount of time on a foam roller, a ball, or anything else that helps break up the fascia adhesions and tightness that hinders mobility. I’ve discovered that releasing the “knots” in the quad of the FAI hip brings instant relief for any discomfort or pain, and therefore started to focus 99% of my energy on that area. During this time I’ve also taken up some body-weight strength training in the form of lunges, squats, hip thrusts, deadlifts etc. I was unfortunately not very religious about it and my routine was rather haphazard. Things were going okay until last summer, but as with most things in life, when things get tough or life gets busy, looking after oneself goes out the door. Admittedly, I’ve been rather lax the past few months about my hip. I didn’t have much pain, and when I did experience some discomfort, breaking up the adhesions in my quad did the trick. This happened a few times a week, and apart from that I didn’t bother to keep up my maintenance and conditioning in any of the other areas of my body, let alone balancing out left and right. This has turned out to be a big mistake. Continue reading

Hip rehab

hip-tools

Instead of going under the knife, I’m trying this colourful collection first. 🙂

In the early evening of 12 December 2016, I got up from the couch to have a look at the jam I was cooking, when suddenly I had excruciating pain in my right hip area. Hunched over holding on to the couch, I knew that something was badly wrong. Even just breathing had me in agony, and with gasps and involuntary tears in my eyes, I found my way back to the couch. Several hours later and with the help of a handful of pain pills and Voltaren, I could manage to get myself into bed where I promptly faded into a deep sleep hoping that everything will be better in the morning. Continue reading

Catch-22

hip

Once, on day four of a five-day event, I was just knackered. Luckily I could pull myself together and still made the cut-off for the day. This pretty much resembles my current state of mind.

Any person doing any form of physical activity is bound to have some form of injury at some point. That’s just the laws of nature. Some people are lucky and hardly ever get injuries or niggles, while others are plagued by problems. It is what it is, and what will be, will be, to quote Allan Karlsson from the Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson.

So it came about that I developed a hip niggle. I didn’t give it much thought and it was presumably just another result of my misalignment (curvy spine, fused vertebrae with sacrum, rotating pelvis, leg length discrepancy, etc). It would not be the first time I battle with a niggle and will certainly not be the last. Continue reading