By nature, Joe Vacek is curious. He spends his days as a professor in aviation at UND and works on cutting-edge developments with unmanned aircraft. He’s also a commercial pilot, and a lawyer. He’s by no means a lazy guy. He’d always been active, but had never been an athlete. He had many students who were athletes, and the concept piqued his curiosity.
“I decided to investigate the athletic mindset,” shared Joe. “I wondered, could I be an athlete? Could I run fast? Could I bike long distances? I decided that I thought I could, so I started training. I applied what I know from teaching into my training and was able to improve my fitness level rapidly.”
His training led him to join adventure races, often with his wife. These day-long challenges incorporated mountain biking, running, orienteering, sometimes even white water rafting. It was about completing a challenge as a team, and pushing himself through various physical and mental tasks.
Joe shifted gears when his wife became pregnant with their first child, Jonathan, who is now two. Joe decided to give individual competition a try and signed up for an Ironman race. It was during training for this that Joe injured himself.
Injury before Ironman
“I was running in the late winter, trying to jump over a snow bank,” Joe explained. “I hit the ground wrong and injured my leg. At first I thought it was a bruise, but the pain wouldn’t go away. So, I made an appointment at Altru Advanced Orthopedics. Turns out, I had a fracture.”
Joe was evaluated by Dr. William Haug Jr., a medical orthopedist at Altru Advanced Orthopedics. An athlete himself, Dr. Haug understood Joe’s mentality.
“He knew it was important for me to keep training and to complete the Ironman in a few months,” explained Joe. “So we worked through treatment options as well as training recommendations. He allowed me to do any training where I didn’t experience pain, so that I could keep up with it. He also sent me for physical therapy, knowing that I’d commit to that the same way I had to my race, and that it would keep me pain-free for the long run.”
Through evaluation, Dr. Haug found the fall that caused Joe’s fracture was likely related to asymmetrical use of his leg. This led him to look into an old hip injury as a root cause. To ensure that Joe could return to racing without worry of future injury, Dr. Haug and his team at Altru Advanced Orthopedics provided thorough treatment for Joe’s leg, and his hip.
“Dr. Haug and his team, from those who completed an MRI on my hip, to the physical therapists and everyone else I encountered – they were all so friendly. They were laid-back and professional, and it made the medical experience a positive one. They helped return me to a pain-free, active life.”
After an MRI, injections and the recommended physical therapy, Joe was able to complete the Ironman without pain. And, he won’t stop there. Joe has plans to complete the Tour Divide – a mountain biking race from Canada to Mexico, along the spine of Rocky Mountains. Obviously, that’s not a feat for someone with a nagging injury. For Joe, receiving proper and continued care is worth it. To him, being active is who he is.
Active for Life
“I must stay active, because it allows me to continue being active,” shared Joe. “Being active allows me to live life to the fullest. By being fit and healthy, I can do awesome things. I can bike from Canada to Mexico, or compete in intense competitions. But, a fit and active life also provides me the endurance to do the normal things in life, like house projects. My wife and I are expecting our second child, and therefore making room in our home. I’ve been installing drywall, painting, redoing a bathroom – and I can do that without getting tired. Because I’ve made an active life a priority.”