A Break in the Action…

Begins for Ryan after our run this coming Thursday.

On Friday morning, Ryan will have surgery to remove a bone spur from his big toe. He will be in a boot for two weeks. During the pre-surgical exam Tuesday, Dr. Tentler said he should be back running with me by Christmas.

We can thank our worst run while training for the Monumental 5k as to finally finding out what was wrong with his toe.

During our easy run on Oct. 18, I noticed Ryan wasn’t running right again. His form looked similar to how he ran before he was diagnosed with an ingrown toenail.

Throughout the run, I kept asking him how he felt and if his foot was hurting him. Ryan replied each time that he felt fine and he wasn’t in any pain.

As I said in the post “Getting Derailed,” https://rueffreport.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/getting-derailed/ because of Ryan’s autism, he doesn’t feel pain like a person should. He’s not going to tell you something hurts until you drag it out of him. Even when his form doesn’t look right and I question him if he’s hurting Ryan looks at me and says, “I’m fine!”

The only time I really know he’s in pain is when he says to me, “how much farther?” That’s when I realize there’s an issue. At that point, we usually stopped running and walked taking the shortest route possible back to the house. That only happened in a couple of scenario’s while we trained for the Mill Race Half Marathon this summer.

Then he had the ingrown toenail procedure. He was given the go-ahead to run as normal from the podiatrist. We never had another issue where he asked how much farther we had to run.

After our run, I told Wendy Ryan had a horrible run. I told her the glitch in his running had returned. I took a look at Ryan’s big toe that had the ingrown toenail and called the podiatrist.

Fortunately, the podiatrist was able to get him in that afternoon. Since I didn’t think it necessary to call in for work, I gave Wendy a list of questions. I told her I would call later in the afternoon following the appointment.

Toward the end of my shift at work that Tuesday, I called Wendy to get an update on Ryan and what Dr. Tentler diagnosed.

“Surgery!” Wendy exclaimed.

“Say that again,” I replied. I swore I heard her say something about surgery. I had hoped she said something else and it was because of the noise at the airport I couldn’t hear her clearly.

“Surgery!” Wendy bellowed out again.

I had heard my wife correctly. Ryan had to have surgery.

“Ryan has a subungual osteochondroma,” she continued.

“A sub-what?” I retorted.

She said the word again. She said Dr. Tentler explained Ryan developed a bone spur. He would need surgery to remove it.

“But, it’s not cancerous,” she said.

What? Not cancerous.

First, my wife tells me Ryan’s having surgery. Then she follows that up telling me it’s a tumor connected to the bone of Ryan’s big toe. She said Dr. Tentler constantly reassured her the rest of the appointment that it wasn’t cancerous.

I tried to comprehend everything Wendy had just said.

“There’s good news and bad news,” Wendy continued as she unknowingly interrupted my thought process.

“How is there good news in this,” I asked. “You just told me my son and running partner has to have surgery to remove a non-cancerous tumor from his big toe.”

“Dr. Tentler said he can finish training for Monumental,” she replied. “You haven’t registered for either of those Thanksgiving Day races you thought about running have you?”

“No,” I responded.

“Good,” she said. “The surgery is Nov. 18. He’ll be out for two weeks.

“What about my questions?”

“I didn’t ask them,” Wendy answered.

“Why not?”

“Once he said surgery my only concerns were could he race Monumental and how to coordinate the schedule with ours and the doctor’s,” she said. “There was no need to ask any more questions.”

“OK,” I said. “I gotta finish work. We’ll talk more when I get home.”

I was devastated. My head sunk immediately after hanging the phone up with Wendy.

All I wanted to do at that point was finish my work day, go home and have dinner. Then I wanted to do one of the two things I do when I am overly depressed – either listen to David Gray on continuous shuffle repeat or watch “For Love of the Game.”

When I got home from work and sat down at the dinner table, Wendy showed me the X-ray they had taken of Ryan’s foot.

She informed me at first, Dr. Tentler had tried to file the nail. The nail was too tough to file down and he had to get a stronger instrument. When that tool wouldn’t scrape the area he concentrated on, Tentler decided he needed to take the X-ray.

The X-ray showed Ryan’s foot and this small circle protruding from the bone of his big toe. Dr. Tentler did work on the nail and made it more comfortable for Ryan. This would allow him to finish out the training and race. The ingrown toenail he suffered from back in the summer was a direct symptom of the subungual osteochondroma.

“It looks like a mushroom,” Wendy said. “They’ll do the surgery and Ryan won’t be able to run for two weeks.”

“But he can run up until the surgery,” I questioned. “That seems odd to me.”



The X-ray of Ryan’s foot. The subungual osteochondroma is what’s circled. Ryan’s surgery will be Friday morning.


Earlier in the day, I mentioned Ryan had his worst run in training for the Monumental 5k in my training logs. I have four logs – three on-line and one handwritten. I didn’t say we had taken him back to the podiatrist.



The footwear for Ryan’s left foot for the next two weeks beginning Friday.


Prior to going to work that morning, I did notify family and a couple of close friends we were taking Ryan to the doctor.

Before I had got home Wendy had talked to her parents. I also informed my Uncle Bill and Aunt Lee – my two closest relatives.

If there’s one thing I have learned from social media – before you post anything on your pages make sure you tell your immediate family, who are not on social media, before posting. It saves a lot of “Why did I find this out from so-n-so instead of you in the first place.”

One of the friends I messaged was Brian Wilson. I saw him that night at the Bible study.

It was also at this time the invitations for the 2017 Boston Marathon had been sent out. We were discussing the cutoff times for the age groups and how his training was going for the Monumental Marathon.

He then asked how the appointment with Dr. Tentler went that afternoon. My head again dropped as I pushed the code to my phone and showed him the picture of the X-ray.

“See that circle,” I said. “Yeah, that’s not supposed to be there.”

“Oh, that stinks,” Wilson said. “Especially since it’s been sounding like he’s running so well lately.”

Wilson was right and the best stretch of Ryan’s running since the 500 Mini culminated with him setting a new PR in his 5k last Saturday at the Monumental Marathon.


I got home and went into my office. I got out the training plan. I cut the mileage for the rest of the runs that week in almost half. I dropped the next week’s mileage from 27 to 20. The week of the race I kept as scheduled.

As I had for the Mill Race Half Marathon after Ryan had the procedure done for the ingrown toenail, I dropped the thought of Ryan setting a new PR in his 5k. Since he ran a 22:30 for three miles in February, I had hoped he could get around 23:00 for the Monumental 5k.

Then I turned David Gray on continuous repeat and fell asleep at my desk.

The next day we ran a tempo run. Ryan ran better than he did Tuesday. The hitch was not noticeable. His usual powerful kick though still was not as strong as it usually is at the end of our run.

During our typical off day on Thursday, I researched subungual osteochondroma and what may have caused the bone spur in Ryan’s big toe to develop. I’ll dedicate the next post about what it is in a little more depth.

I felt guilty. I blamed myself for Ryan’s injury. I thought others would say I had pushed him too hard and this was the result. The biggest concern I had was after his surgery and recovery would Ryan even want to run again.

He has assured me when I’ve asked him, “I’m not quitting. I’ll be back, Dad,” he always says with that smile he has when he runs.



It’s going to be strange not having my running buddy for an extended period of time after this week.


The most discouraging feeling was all the good that had come from him running with me since March of 2015 had been wasted. All because the competitor in me had set up some lofty expectations back in June.

For two days when I got home from work, after I cleaned up and had dinner, I closed the door to my office – my physical “Mind Palace.” I wallowed in the self-induced pity. I listened to David Gray. Instead of watching the movie, I listened to the “For Love of the Game” soundtrack on continuous repeat. I slept in my Dad’s recliner.

Of course, another thought which I had was – it shouldn’t be Ryan having this surgery. It should be me. I am the old man trying to run with the young gun.

I wanted to break our food rules and get a large Oreo and M&M Blizzard from Dairy Queen. I especially wanted to do that since it was a Thursday night and sitting in that recliner reminded me of the times I had ice cream with my Dad on those nights.



How I denied myself a guilty pleasure when confronting Ryan’s impending surgery is a miracle.


Finally, I messaged three of my running friends, who I had told about Ryan’s surgery. I told them how I felt. All of them were encouraging.

“It’s part of the deal with running,” Scott said. “You always run a risk of injury.”

“I don’t think anyone will think you caused this,” JoAnne said. “Ryan loves to run. This is obvious. Running helps Ryan’s autism. Runners get injured and unfortunately they happen. You didn’t cause this. It just happens.”

“First, who cares what other people think,” Catharine said. “Second, people know how running has helped Ryan. It’s evident how much he loves it. I seriously doubt anyone will think you pushed him too hard and this caused it.”

After receiving those messages, my confidence soared.

I brushed away my negative thoughts. I remembered what Ryan said about not giving up.

I pushed the chair away from my desk and I yelled


Ryan said he didn’t want to quit. I wasn’t going to quit either.

Dr. Tentler said he could still run and continued as normal. He didn’t say anything about taking it easy. All he said was Ryan couldn’t run after the surgery.

We still could train like normal and run the Monumental 5k.

Cue the training music from the Rocky soundtrack.

I immediately went to the GarminConnect website and plotted out new routes that wouldn’t have the inclines we usually run. This meant taking out the second part of the path we regularly run because it has a modest inclined toward the end. I looked at the elevation chart for the Monumental Marathon 5k and did the best I could to mimic it for the remainder of our training.

By doing this and also by what happened last Saturday with Ryan crushing his previous 5k PR by 2:16, I have become a huge advocate for the philosophy that it is better to undertrain than to overtrain.

It’s the same viewpoint Meb Keflezighi uses in his approach for races. In his book “Meb for Mortals,” Keflezighi talks about underpromising and overdelivering not only in regard to telling people your goals but also in workouts. The last thing any runner wants is to leave their best race during a training cycle in a workout.

Even when we did the race simulation about 10 days before the Monumental 5k, I could tell both of us had a better run left in us.


Through our own experience and reading Meb’s book, I will always take undertraining as the better option to overtraining for future races.


“Let’s just blow it out on race day,” I told him on the Monday following the news he would have surgery before a speed workout. “We might as well go into your break knowing you left it all downtown.”

After the Monumental 5k and his pre-surgical exam last Tuesday, Dr. Tentler said Ryan could continue to run until the surgery. Wendy and I gave Ryan the option if he wanted to stop running or go up until the surgery.

“I’m not quitting,” Ryan reacted with a shrug of the shoulders and a smile.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s