Battle to Overcome Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Begins with Promising Results

A few years ago, I met an older man who had been an excellent runner most of his life, but was now severely overweight. I asked him why he no longer exercised. He replied that he had such severe claudication (pain on exercise) in his calves due to peripheral arterial disease (PAD) that he had even given up walking more than a few yards from his car.

This is the wrong way to overcome PAD, as I well know, suffering from the same condition, especially severely in my right leg.

32-Week marathon training plan from All About Marathon Training.

Assuming that all will be well with my abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) stent graft upcoming CT scan (Sept. 5th), I’m pushing ahead with my plans to overcome peripheral arterial disease. I have occluded branches of the popliteal arteries. This reduces blood flow, resulting in pain, numbness, and eventually failure of function when walking or running. The symptoms indicate that the most severely affected artery is the right posterior tibial.

So! What can I do? Build collateral blood vessels through exercise.

I finished the Maine Marathon last, at around 7 hours, with numb feet and terrible pain in my calves. PAD plus under-training make for a poor race plan.

Doing Ironman races deludes you into thinking you can “wing’ a marathon – wrong!

One Month Progress Report

After only a few weeks, I’ve noticed considerable improvement in performance. I started with long walks, short runs, and one week ago commenced the training plan above. This should have me ready for the Asheville Marathon, March 2020.

For the first week or so I couldn’t run/shuffle more than 100 yards without the right calf locking up. Standing still, with the right leg unweighted, I would repeatedly undergo a fairly intensely painful process of resuming blood perfusion into that calf. Once it was about 90% pain-free, I resumed running.

Track week 1 marathon plan:

  • Day 1 – Had to stop every 200 yards to re-perfuse right calf and lateral foot. Managed to complete 400 yards on the last of 8 laps.
  • Day 3 – Stopping was less frequent, with several complete 400 yard runs without need to re-perfuse.
  • Day 5 – Managed multiple 400 yard sections and one of 600 yards (1.5 laps). I added an extra-lap and “sprinted” (10-minute mile pace) the next-to-last 200 yards, at which point my calf locked up. I smiled at the pain. Progress! It’s just pain – caution is needed as I have no interest in inducing ischemic necrosis (e.g. compartment syndrome).

The pain wasn’t fun but the running was. Main challenge with my new minimal impact running style was evident loading of the right hip flexor (psoas) and right lateral quad (vastus lateralis).

REMEMBER: Pain is your friend, if you listen and respond appropriately.

If you want a free copy of Pain, Good Friend, Bad Master, click this link, while free copies last, or click this link when they run out (where you can obtain the paperback version, also).

healthy grief for healthy aging, Frits Massee
My visit to Frits, in Seattle, weeks before his untimely death. Frits put up a brave fight! An inspiring man – thanks for the special sauce, my friend. I’ll see if I can fulfill your dream of going to the World Ironman Championships, in Kona, Hawaii. I’ll need your help in the bike.

What will happen as I increase the distance is anyone’s guess, and how about a marathon after a 112-mile bike ride. This is all about taking my friend, Frits, to Kona, don’t forget.

Wishing you happy trails,

kev aka FitOldDog

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.