I Know What I Know

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I am amazed at how much less resilient my body is at (nearly) 40 than it was at 16. Injuries I would have shrugged off now lay me up for days or weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, I slipped and fell. It had rained the night before, and that meant that the trail was blanketed by wet, rotting leaves–and underneath was thick, sticky, black mud. I got to the 32nd street trailhead, took two steps into the trail, and my feet went out from under me.

I didn’t think anything of it, and went on to run 10K. I mean, I had muddy hands, but I was OK.

The next day, I took off on the same loop, but about 100 meters in, I noticed that my left ankle was bothering me. As always, I kept mental note of the discomfort, and once I decided that it wasn’t getting any worse, I limped on through another 10K.

By the time I got back, I was limping. For the next couple of days, I was limping.

The pain is odd. It’s on my left heel, just on the outside. It’s not the Achilles’ tendon. It’s sort of in between the Achilles and my ankle. I suspect that it’s either a soft tissue injury or a strain of one of the fibularis muscles or perhaps the cruciate ligament.

It just so happened that I was going out of town for a few days, so that gave me a chance to rest. I didn’t run from Sunday through the following Thursday. Then, on Friday, I tried a little 5K. I made it .3 km and decided that it was too uncomfortable and packed it in. I took the rest of the weekend off and experimented with different stretches to work the sore areas.

The nice thing has been that this injury hasn’t stopped me from riding my bike. I have a little 10K loop with a 300′ vertical drop and then rise that gives me a nice workout–and, I’m happy to report, I only feel my life is in danger for a brief stretch.

This morning, I woke up and my ankle felt pretty good. It still felt a little tight, but I wasn’t limping. I made a mental note of the level of discomfort, got dressed, and set off.

It didn’t feel ideal, by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t painful so much as it was uncomfortable. The level of discomfort seemed worse on downhills and flats, and almost unnoticeable when climbing. The most amazing thing to me is that, limping along as I was through 5K, I was still pretty much spot on with my “healthy” times/splits/landmarks (sub-10:30 from my house to 36th street; sub-15:00 to the bridge at Strong Creek; sub-18:00 to the second bridge; ~22:00 to the 29th street trailhead; ~27-28:00 back home; this is on windy trails with a ~300′ elevation change).

I’ve been mindful of my ankle all day. It feels mostly OK. I mean, it feels like it’s injured, and there’s lots of popping when I rotate it, but now it feels less like a strain or an acute injury and more like some kind of bruise that’s healing. It’s an odd sensation, although I’m becoming more and more familiar with the sensation of getting over tendon and muscle injuries, since I keep getting them.

This morning, after 5K, it felt like something that had been injured and then tightened–as if it needed to be stretched and worked. Now, at the end of the day, it feels like something that has been stretched and worked. It feels like a bruise that’s healing. It feels like a tightness that can be loosened with effort.

It’s also much easier to isolate. It’s right here (except on my left foot):


I’m not running tomorrow; I’ll mountain bike instead. I’m not planning on running on Wednesday, but if I feel like I can limp through another 5K, I’ll do it; otherwise, I’ll take another couple of days off.

I hate being injured, and every time I get hurt and have to take time off, I’m reminded of that scene in Invictus where Mandela asks Pienaar if he’s healthy and Pienaar responds with something like “At this level, you’re never 100%.” When I first saw that, I thought back to when I was a kid and much, much more athletic. I don’t think I was ever 100%. And I don’t think it’s possible to run 20+ miles a week on rocky trails and expect to always be uninjured. I’m going to trip. I’m going to fall. I’m going to strain and sprain and break things.

But I’ll get better and start again.


Written by srogers

May 1, 2012 at 6:01 am

Posted in running

3 Responses

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  1. You hear that from pro baseball players too. By July or August they’ve all got little nicks, scrapes or bruises which never quite heal.

    Wait till you get something with no apparent triggering event that just hangs around and may never, I’m told, go away: Tinnitus. Fortunately it’s just white noise, but it’s disconcerting. Aging is wonderful.


    May 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm

  2. I have had tinnitus for a long time, and it’s just getting worse. I’m often kept awake by it, and when we go to our friend’s cabin in the mountains, I find the quiet sometimes unbearable because it means that all I can hear is the sound of the wind and the ringing in my ears.


    May 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm

  3. I’m astonished that I can pinpoint exactly when it began: 10:20pm on March 20 of this year. I thought my damned sprinklers had come on. I’d just reset the timer to 5:00am after a power blip, so I was thoroughly annoyed.


    May 2, 2012 at 11:13 pm

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