Alex "Iron Doc" McDonald on His Road to Recovery

It has been 4 months since I was hit by a truck while riding my bike. When I think about how far I have come in that time I am amazed. Yet, I certainly still have a long way to go to get back to where I want to be.

I have been walking unassisted for well over a month and I feel a bit like a normal person again, and at times even athlete. The fracture in my left tibia is still not healed yet and I still have quite a bit of pain at the break site. The fracture was mid tiba (cortical bone) and it takes a long time to heal simply because there is low vascularity in that area and healing simply takes time. I have a bone stimulator (yes, that is what it is actually called), which is a device that delivers ultrasound to stimulate osteoblast activity to help build bone and speed the healing process. All in all I simply have to be patient, which admittedly, is a weakness of mine.

In terms of my activity I am not too limited because there is a titanium rod down the middle of my bone. Pain is my biggest indication of what I can and cannot do. There are some days where I have more pain than other, but the over all trend is up.

The good news is that my right knee is virtually pain free and probably does not need any more surgery. There are some minor aches, pains and twinges now and then, but I am no longer limited in my activity. There are still 4 screws in various places in my tibia and fibula that are not causing me too much discomfort or pain, but if they become a problem they may need to be address.

In terms of my training and activity I am back into a routine which feels very good. I have been swimming 4-5 times per week and cycling 3-4 times. I have taken this time to train a bit like a swimmer and focus on a single sport, especially since it is my weakness. I have been very pleased with my swimming because I took some time to reinvent my stroke mechanics during the time where I could not swim hard. I highly recommend this approach for weaker swimmers. I am also very pleased with how my cycling is progressing. I have found it great to get back on the bike and get that feeling of exhilaration. Although, I am acutely aware of how vulnerable I am while out on the road and I certainly am more cautious around cars. One step that I took to improve my comfort and safety on the road was to equip my bike with high powered lights from Dionette. These lights are battery operated which can be strapped to the top tube, on placed in my pocket and help drivers to notice me while out on the road.

Another area I have been focusing on is my recovery. Although I am back to training I still need excessive recovery because I am still healing from my injuries, in addition to recovering from workouts. Aside from my typical recovery protocols, Ultragen, ice baths, plenty of sleep and good nutrition I have added the NormaTec MVP which has been very important. My legs continue to have a significant amount of swelling and edema which causes pain and slows healing and recovery. The NormaTec MVP creates a peristaltic pneumatic compression wave from the foot to the hip which helps to remove excess fluid, waste products and improves blood flow, all of which not only aids the healing process from my injury, but also from workouts. This will continue to be a huge asset to my training, racing and recovery for a long time!

All in all things are rebounding very well and I am excited to try to start running again in August or September.

Alex M. McDonald, MD is a professional triathlete, First Endurance Research Board Member, and endurance coach at Fast Forward Triathlon. Alex's professional interests lie in coaching endurance athletes, sports medicine and exercise physiology. He obtained his MD degree from the University of Vermont. Prior to medical school, Alex graduated from Connecticut College with an emphasis on both the biological and social sciences. He currently trains and lives, with is wife and daughter, in Durham, NC.


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