Saturday, May 7, 2011

Let the adventure begin

I am on a plane flying to Phoenix, Arizona where I am hoping to find a cure for my recurring and elusive leg pain.  My last blog post, where I asked you to help solve the mystery of my injury, launched me on a wild ride that has culminated in this trip to the desert.

I received a lot of good feedback from many of you.  It was clear that you were able to see the problem, but there seemed to be a split between those that looked to the foot for the cause and those that thought it was coming from somewhere higher up, like my hips.  I responded to many of your comments saying that Dr. Lau was focusing on the feet.  However, the adjustments he did on my foot, ankle and calf did not resolve the problem.  

It was at that point that I sent a message to Dr. John Ball in Chandler, Arizona.  I sent him a link to my blog post and a couple of paragraphs diagraming the problem.  I had read about Dr. Ball in a blog post by Lauren Fleshmen.  She had just gone to visit him and posted a link to his blog.  I started to read some of his posts and was really taken by his words, sarcasm and wisdom.  In particular, I found this post addressed to one of the athletes he treats, as a follow up to her treatment particularly relevant.  Like me, she traveled from out of state to seek his help.  There is a lot of great information in that post that every runner could use.

To my surprise, Dr. Ball responded to my message quickly and suggested we talk on the phone about my injury.  I called him that night and he walked me through a few flexibility tests. It became clear very quickly that I wasn't quite getting what he wanted me to do.  So, he told me to take some video footage of myself doing these exercises and send them to him.  He spent a generous amount of time explaining to me what some of the issues might be and what I should expect from treatment.  One thing that really stuck with me was that, when the problem originates in the soft tissue, it shouldn't take more than one or two treatments to see marked improvement.  He told me that, if someone is working on the same spot for more than 1-2 treatments and you're not getting better, then they haven't found the right spot to treat.  That doesn't mean that you won't go back for more treatments for them to try other things, but, when they get it right, it will be quick and noticeable. He also has some very pointed opinions on runners having weak hips as a catch all explanation for just about every problem.  As he said to me, "if you can run 100 mile weeks and a 2:45 marathon, you are not being limited by weak glutes."

I immediately pulled out my iPad, shot the video and posted it on YouTube.

He watched it immediately and sent me a couple of ideas on areas Dr. Lau should work on.  I saw Dr. Lau a couple of days later and he was happy to try what Dr. ball had suggested.  When I asked Dr. Lau if he felt weird about me going to someone else and then asking him to work on me, he assured me that he did not.  He said, "we all have the same end goal, and that is to get you back to running."  He is a class act.

Wednesday was my test run day.  Test runs are unnerving because I can't help but think about every little twinge I feel and wonder if it indicates the continuation of my problem.  Unfortunately, the pain in my left leg came on with clocklike precision, right at about 3 miles into the run.  I was not happy.  I reported back to Dr. Lau, and he told me that he was out of ideas for me.  

I sent Dr. Ball a message about the failed test run.  He said he thought this was fixable, but that he needed to get his hands on me.  He told me that Arizona was nice this time of year.  So, I thought about it for about 10 seconds and booked a flight to Phoenix.  I had free tickets on Southwest Airlines, a super hospitable coworker who is letting me stay at her house in Phoenix, a boyfriend who will love and care for my zoo while I'm away and a job that allows me the ability to work remotely.  Dr. Ball Is going to see me this afternoon (Saturday), and we'll see how it goes from there.  My return flight is booked for Thursday night. Did I mention that he treats Ryan Hall?

I still haven't found the source of my problem and I really want to be pissed off about that.  Instead I feel humbled by the generosity of strangers, friends and loved ones and their willingness to spend time helping me.


  1. Wow, that is an adventure! I'm excited for you meeting this doc, he seems really intriguing. Can't believe this is going on so long though, may he find the magic place and heal you finally. Good luck!

  2. I hope he gets to the bottom of the problem. I recall Lauren's trip and she's back training and Ryan didn't do too badly in his last race. Be careful on the footpaths - you might bump into a few pro runners down there ;)