Search This Blog

Friday, March 30, 2012

On Top of Old Islay

Yesterday I hiked up Islay Hill, a small hill at the southeast end of San Luis Obispo. Not a huge challenge for the average person, and really it wasn't a huge challenge for me but enough of one. My fitbit tells me I hiked 44 "floors", which translates to about 440 feet, a new record for me (since I've had the fitbit, and since I've had knee surgery).

I was surprised at how well I was able to make the climb. I admit I was huffing and puffing a little, and the last portion was a bit of a strain as it is steeper, but with my trusty hiking stick I felt confident. It was only when I started downhill that my body let me know it has had better times. I felt the shock of each step at first, as I descended the steeper portion, and when it flattened more I still felt more discomfort than I'd had climbing up.

When I got home after the hike I found it funny that I did the two-step climbing the few steps into my house, after climbing so many more steps shortly before. Perhaps my joints were cooled off by then, or, likely, there was some swelling in my legs.

This morning I was stiffer than usual and at physical therapy I found some moves to be more painful than usual, particularly the hip machine when I was pushing the weight up with my bent knee.

The picture on the right shows approximately what it looks like. I don't kick my leg up quite that high - but it's something to shoot for.

I don't plan to do this hike again right away. It took me 54 minutes up and 40 minutes down. Quite slow! Others get up there in a half hour or less, and I have seen a number of persons running the trail. Well, good for them! I won't be joining them. I will hike it again, but later, later, when I feel a little stronger. I feel good that I did it, that I felt strong, even though I am paying for it now.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Alternating day hip issues?

The day after I did the stoneridge hike I was in sewing class. My hip hurt the entire time. I limped around the classroom and kitchen. I tried to walk normally but it hurt too much.

I'm wondering if my hip acts up the day after I have given it a challenge like the hike. Yesterday I did a two-mile hike, longer than stoneridge but flatter. The total amount of rise was about 40 feet, stretched over the two miles.

That hike was different in other ways, too. It was next to the coast, in Cambria. I hiked in the fog. It was wide and easy to negotiate the whole way.

The path alternates between boardwalk and decomposed granite

Sea birds on a rock in the ocean
I met several people on the trail, with and without dogs. With and without cell phones.

By the time I turned around, at the end, I was feeling a little done in. I realized that it has been a very long time since walking was completely comfortable, effortless, for me. I felt stiff and my hip pain came and went. It was a strain to walk. So although I made an effort to stride on back I can't say I loved it. I think that when I take on more challenging trails I can be distracted from the discomfort by the rocks and height, by just taking the next step. So in a way the flat hikes are harder.

But back to the question. After a hike do I suffer extended hip pain? It seems yes. Today again I am hurting and it won't go away. I went to an aqua aerobics class, hoping that it would loosen it up, but no. Then I went to Costco to pick up a prescription and partway through thought that perhaps I should have at least taken my cane.

Ghostly rocks
There are many fat squirrels out here.
My fitbit says I have taken 1619 steps so far today. My goal is to take 5,000 per day, but if I do not hike I don't usually make that goal. With my hip hurting I am not likely to hike today. I will stay home and clean up, best as I can, in short increments of time. Clean, sit, clean more, sit.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting Out There

Leki hiking pole
Finally, yesterday I went into Mountain Air Sports and bought me the only hiking pole they had, which is pictured on this page. They had several trekking poles, the pairs, but I just wanted a hiking stick. With this I can go to the next level.

And so I did. Yesterday afternoon I ventured out with my new pole to do the Stoneridge trail. This is a shortish trail that I used to do frequently. It is close to my house and not very long but is a bit of a hike up. According to my fitbit I climbed 23 "floors" or approximately 230 feet on this hike.

It was late afternoon. The hike is rocky, almost all rock. I used the pole to help me both going up and going down. On the way I stopped a few times to take pictures, but because of the way the hill is positioned it was mostly in shade. Shady rocky trail, late afternoon, not much chance for dramatic photos.

It had been about three years, maybe more, since I'd done this hike. I remember having to stop to catch my breath and to find my way through the rocks. I did not have to catch my breath so much this time and my knees, while a bit stiff, did not hurt.

California Poppy
Few flowers were out. I grabbed a quick photo of some poppies.

And climbed. In the picture below you can just see a person at the top. She came down with her two dogs, which I greeted. She was the only person I met on the way. While well-traveled, this trail does not get the hoards some other trails in the area do.

Going up went easily with the pole. I usually choose the "back way" down, and this was more challenging. I would have found it more so without the pole. At times, when faced with craggy steps down, where I don't feel stable, I have actually slid down on my butt. I am happy to say I did not feel the need this time.

But it was a bit slower going than I'd like and a few times I had to work my way down very carefully. I was glad there weren't others on the trail, impatiently wanting to get past me.

At the very beginning, which is the remains of an asphalt road, and at the end, on that same road, my hip bothered me. But in between it hardly made a peep. My body prefers the "softer" dirt, even when layered with rock, to asphalt or concrete. According to Chuck, getting my knees straight will make all surfaces friendly to me. I so look forward to that time.

I also look forward to trying a few more challenging trails but I will stick with the shorter ones for now. And by "challenging" I mean trails that some others run on. I don't have anything to prove, except to myself.

Lichen-encrusted rocks testify to the clean air.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Challenges and Comparisons

Recovery has not been a smooth path. When I ask others who have been through knee surgery what it's been like, many of them say the same thing - lots of ups and downs. Some say it was smooth sailing all the way but I suspect they are lying. Maybe not, but either way it's just different for each of us.

Sleep is still a matter of many interruptions. Fewer of those interruptions are from restless leg syndrome, I am happy to report. The amount of sleep I am getting has increased dramatically, even on days when I wake often. Last night's report:

Sleep log for night of March 9-10, 2012

You can see it was a busy night. I was up a lot. Yet the in-betweens were meaningful. I did get sleep and perhaps enough of it. I have not taken any ropinarole since some time in January and my need for it has decreased significantly. I expect to refill my prescription soon (I have been out of it, which is why I stopped taking it) and then will use it judiciously and hoard it. 

I am hiking frequently now. Easy hikes, not much climbing. I still don't have a hiking stick, so some hikes are out of the question no matter what. Usually the lengths are from one to two miles, maybe a little longer. After I did a 2.2-mile hike, my physical therapist said that he was surprised I did well for that long on bent legs. My bent knees put a lot of stress on my legs and that tires them. Yesterday's hike, which was otherwise beautiful, was maybe a mile and a half and I felt tired and aching the entire time. I just couldn't wait to be done with it. Fortunately, this has not been my most common experience with hiking lately. 

I don't usually wake with strong pain in my knee and leg. When my leg is bothering me it is closer to restless leg than outright pain. I consider this an improvement. 

I asked a fellow bent-knee patient, who has finally got his legs straight, when they actually got there and how. He said they went straight on the table about a month ago, suddenly. Out of the blue, when Chuck pushed on them, the backs of his legs touched the table.  I want this for myself. It is taking much longer for me, though. But they are getting "softer" and Chuck can put considerably more pressure on them now.  I am closing in on one year since my first operation. What an eye-opener.