Honestly, that's the bottom line! My spine is about as healthy as one could hope for at age 38!
The spine and back do not enjoy the abuse that running puts on it, and therefore ultimately, if I wish to continue on this road of endurance racing, I need to accept the fact that pain will from time to time be present. The key is to learn the signs that it is coming on, and be willing to modify accordingly. Additionally, I need to take more time to cool down. Keep the body in motion and let the muscles cool off slower. The spine needs strong muscles surrounding it, so the cycling and swimming are strongly encouraged, along with any other low impact core exercise! Additionally, he gave me the green light to become an Ironman, but suggested that it might be something I do once, and check off the bucket list, and return to shorter distances.
He did take X-rays and there were very early signs of arthritis as well as some type of disc degeneration that is not uncommon as we age. In either case, it was money well spent just for the peace of mind to know that structurally there are no issues.
So that's it - I remain a pretty boring case - back to training - but training smart(er)!