“How’s your ankle Pete?” This question was posed by master Valley Forge trail running guide Jeff Wrenn.
It was well over a year ago as we bounded down a bit of a paved road in the National Park. I knew why Jeff was concerned. We were about to turn onto a particularly rocky and hazardous section of trail up through the woods. I had spent the last few months rehabbing a series of rolled ankles and this trail would certainly test the success of that rehab. I rock-hopped the trail successfully and completed the longish trail run under Jeff’s guidance without pain and thoroughly enjoyed the day. This was just one of several “comebacks” from injury and illness over the course of the last three years. These include severe plantar fasciitis, urinary tract infections, rolled ankles with sprains, torn hip labrums, and core muscle injuries. Set back after set back on rapid fire. Each time I have come up with a plan, gotten the necessary treatment and come back. Each time hard work and patience has led me back out the door and onto the bike, into the pool, or on the pavement in my running shoes.
Last week I posted that, after six months of post-surgery rehab, after spending a big chunk of my savings to be able to do the things I enjoy once more, I was ready to start looking at races again. My bike and swim were strong, and I was steadily adding running miles and intensity. I was being a good older athlete and giving up swim/bike/run time to stretch and strengthen. I wanted to put injury in the past and it seemed successful.
Then on Monday I went out for an easy lunch time 5 miler with ultra legend Keith Straw. I am honored to be able to count Keith among my friends and co-workers and am lucky enough to run with him several times a week.
Our Monday five was nothing special. We’d run the route dozens maybe hundreds of times. We were running a steady pace on the return leg with only a couple miles to go. On a perfectly flat, straight section of road, I felt a mild “pop” as my right foot touched down. The pop came from the instep just in front of and below the ankle. A couple more strides and I felt a dull ache begin. “Keith . . go ahead. I’m going to walk. Something just happened”. But Keith slowed to a walk and we made our way back toward work. After crossing Church Road, my foot felt better and we finished our run with an easy jog. I showered and returned to my desk to finish the day. But when I got up to leave, I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t easily walk on my right foot. I was injured again.
I started running a and trying to live healthier a few years ago because I was tired of being one of those people that always grunted and limped every time he got up. Basic life activities were hard just due to being fat and out of shape. As I shaped up I learned about racing which provided added motivation to get and stay fit and healthy. I really didn’t want to be a fat, middle-aged guy with a big belly and permanent disability of obesity and all the things that come with it.
I’m starting to think it is a big waste of time. I’ve been injured more often than not the last three years. My mobility has been impaired. I’ve had to skip the things I enjoy in life because I’ve been physically unable to do them due to injury. Worse, I’ve watched race season after race season pass by unable to really participate. And I grunt and limp every time I get up.
I’m fortunate to have medically smart people among my friends. Regarding the latest stupid foot thing, I spoke with fellow runner and triathlete Richard Oller, DPM
over the phone. He recommended wearing a lace-up style ankle brace for a few days. As he talked, it suddenly occurred to me that I already owned one. Great. I’m now recycling injury apparatus. I have ankle braces, hip braces, plantar fasciitis braces, crutches, and electronic compression socks. I could open my own medical supply. Instead of tracking running shoe mileage in TrainingPeaks perhaps I’ll start tracking hours of wear for various braces. I could start a rotation so I don’t wear one of them out prematurely.
Honestly, I don’t know how many more comebacks I have. I’m tired of being injured. Tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Tired of hearing “Welcome back Pete” knowing it will probably be short-lived. As much as I’ve loved running, triathlon, and racing, this crap is getting old. And so am I.