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Surgery (Achilles Tendonosis / Haglunds deformity)


I had surgery today. I realize that this may be a thing a lot of people have gone through, but I haven’t.
I have been racing competitively for over a decade in triathlon. Been participating in the sport for more than 25 years, have always played other sports growing up and other then a very minor broken bone in my hand once and my foot on another occasion, I have been relatively bullet proof.

Needless to say I was a bit distraught at the idea of this and too make matter worse, I was even more concerned because as a triathlon coach I am used to being out among the athletes racing. What would happen if I wasn’t? I guess for both I still have a bit of time to figure that out but here is what I already do know for certain.

1.      I blog rarely. I have been told so many times correctly that I should tell my story more often. I used to weigh over 240 pounds, I was very out of shape, couldn’t run a mile…etc. I have since been to Kona 9 times, qualified for it closer to a dozen times. I have been 9:16 at Hawaii which I think is important not because I want to brag, but I had to figure out SO MUCH in order to get that. Once I did figure it out I was routinely under 9:30 and qualified dozens of athletes who have never been before and I was able to pass that info on to them.

Still I have never felt totally at ease talking about myself. I see some people blogs talk about how awesome they are, and good for them! To me though, it’s always felt a bit strange. I concentrated a lot on my own results, and they matter to me greatly but I have always cared MORE about my athletes and their performances. So to just write about me, felt strange.

2.      I had no time because I was helping athletes. Those who are coached by me know that RARELY are the times they do not get a response immediately. If not right away, within hours. My days were so busy. By the time I have been finished doing everything I needed to do for the day, I wanted to veg at night and typing has never been my thing. Hell, I still look at the keys when I type. LOL. I even tried to get a speech recognition software! That didn’t work well. I had to spend more time going back retyping my words to make sure it wasn’t putting down something like “I started to peel pretty fuzzies” when I was really trying to say “I started to feel pretty funny”.

3.      Some of my partners like Joe Friel, and Jim Vance write so eloquently, it can be humbling to write an article when you see some of the stuff these guys produce as well.

4.      I started a podcast! So I host a podcast semi regularly- Training Bible Coaching Podcast, This gave me a great medium I still enjoy using to get my thoughts out there.

When I started to look for information on my surgery and more importantly outcomes, the information was VERY hard to find. It would bring me to blogs where people mainly had bad things to say. This did nothing but freaked me out. My wife, Tanya who does orthopedic surgeries, and an athlete herself, would tell me not to read that stuff, but it was addictive!

So anyway here is what I am going to try to do because I think a lot of people deal with what I am going through. I am going to try my best to give a weekly update to let people know what the scoop is and hopefully give anyone searching for info a bit of a glimpse into what this is like.




My issue:

Haglunds deformity on BOTH heels along with calcification in my Achilles tendons caused by tendinosis and the actual rubbing against the Haglunds which is much like a bone spur.

My symptoms:

Chronic pain. Sharp, dull, aching, you name it and I had the pain. I would walk down the stairs especially in the morning sideways for years because it hurt so much to put stress on my Achilles. I had insertional tendonitis / tendinosis so any type of pressure at all to my forefoot and I would be in pain.

How did I let it get so bad?

Without addressing what CAUSES it yet, I’ll tell you how it got to this point. When I first had this pain, maybe 8 years ago, I went to an ortho who took an x ray and told me what was forming. He told me what caused it. He suggested ways to try to avoid it, and that for now, just let pain be my guide. So I did. Well, let’s be honest, once it would start to feel better I wouldn’t do the prehab work I was suggested to do. I would just work until it felt bad and then would do the therapies/ massage/ rolfing, etc. until it felt better. It always would feel better, than I would get lax on it again. Well what happens is that while I was ignoring the root cause, what would happen was it would be laying down more deformity. That was starting to add up so the therapies were getting closer and closer together until they were constant. Last March after Oceanside it hurt during the run, and really never stopped. It hurt me all year and I was beside myself trying to figure out what was the next “therapy” to get me through the next interval that would help me feel better.

I went to an amazing podiatrist who set me up with some orthotics. He sent me to a doctor that did a low frequency shockwave therapy. this effectively would create trauma in the area to help the body re recognize it needed to heal itself and I tried this first because I was allowed to train through the therapy. It was incredibly painful to go through. It definitely helped in the short term. It felt like a mallet was repetitively hitting my heel to create the trauma.

Another reason I was willing to try this is because it was May and I still wanted to race for the season. I mean, that was what I did in the summer and I couldn’t imagine not. Plus, I was doing Kona for my 9thtime and I was close to my internal goal of doing it 10 times.

By July I was already in pretty good pain again. Paul, my podiatrist who at this point was just doing damage control, helped me a lot with some orthotics. They got me through to where I could train OK, but I could never do the training I was used to. I was in constant pain all year. My races went like crap to be honest, I started to resent the training, but I thought if I could get through Kona and possibly qualify at Florida or Arizona then I could address this in the off season.
I don’t want to make this about my races, so briefly the season went belly up. I had a crappy run in Kona, and while I was second overall off the bike in Florida, I walked the entire run. Hence, no qualification.

After the last race we had decided to try PRP. At this point Gina Pongetti, my PT who is the most amazing PT I have been able to work with ongoing, and Paul Bishop my podiatrist had been keeping me together with duct tape and sticks. They both suggested to try to least invasive procedure first and I went with PRP. They warned me I had a structural issue that would eventually need to be dealt with, but this could buy me time. I had that don’t to both heels at the same time and to be honest thought it may have worked! As soon as I started to really try to run again though I realized I was staring down the barrel of another season like the one previously and I knew I didn’t want to do that again.

This time though, I was thinking March/May (they can’t do them both at the same time) would obviously take me out for the season. I have a faint goal of potentially being able to do the swim and bike at Ironman Florida this November but I have no clue if that’s possible, or if Ill want to, or how I would feel about going into a race I knew I wouldn’t finish. Another blog for another day.  But doing it now, yes would take me out for the year BUT I give me an awesome chance to race again next year if that’s what I choose to do. It would also relieve me of all timelines to have to get better by a certain date because now I can really let things heal and be smart with nothing hanging over my head.

What CASUSES this?!

While some of my research indicated it could be related to some genetics, basically this is caused from tight calves. Yup. Stupid huh? It’s not so simple to just say your calves are tight, WHY they are tight can be just as important.

I was not engaging my glutes when I was running which was making me run with more hips which cause my calves to tighten up under increased load. So when I say I wasn’t doing my prehab work, it goes way beyond just stretching. This is why now; all the athletes I coach I have included a strength professional to work with them to give them the work they needed. Even our Athlete Membership Program athletes get this included. Like all the other stuff I have learned along the way to make me better, this is one of those lessons and it’s critical! The problem is, it’s doing things like lying face down and lifting your heels towards the ceiling. Not fun, in fact boring, and it doesn’t even feel like a workout. So I used to skip that stuff. LOL… oops. L

It’s so important to do the little things right. Its also so easy to blow off the little things. Opt to always go for the hard ride, or run, or whatever your friends are doing. Please don’t make that mistake.

So here I am. Literally 8 hours post op. I’ll post to you the pictures of my x rays. I’ll show you in a link what they did and I promise to try to keep my blog current on my recovery.

This is getting very long so I will write later about the surgical experience. Please email me any time if you have any questions regarding this. 

As for my other concern. I have more time than ever now to focus on the athletes I coach! 

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