Forty and Fractured

So … funny story: 48 hours after turning 40, I joined some friends for an evening run only to have one split-second decision impact the next few weeks of my life. I took an unplanned step off of the sidewalk, rolled my left foot and subsequently broke my ankle.

Just like that, my summer race plans were ruined and my upcoming trip to Mount Rainier and Mount Hood was put into jeopardy.

The little "you are here" arrow added by my radiologist points to the problem.
The little “you are here” arrow added by my radiologist points to the problem.

Technically I had a closed avulsion fracture of the lateral malleolus of my left fibula, an injury that’s going to keep me on crutches for about two weeks and in an air cast until at least the second week of July. Basically, a small chunk of my ankle bone was pulled away by a tendon when my left foot landed sideways and it will take 6-7 weeks to heal. After consulting with Dr. Adam Miller at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, I was relieved to hear that surgery shouldn’t be necessary. That said, being largely immobile for the entirety June isn’t much of a consolation prize.

When the injury initially happened, I assumed that I had just given myself a slight sprain. After rolling my ankle and tumbling to the ground, I bounced back and continued running. Once I was up and moving – and the adrenaline was starting to fade – it quickly became clear that something was wrong. I put up with the discomfort for about a half mile before slowing to a walk and limping another half mile back to my house. After trying to “sleep off” the injury, it quickly became clear that I needed medical attention the next morning.

The days following the injury have been pretty miserable. Getting around on crutches is obnoxious at best and I can’t say my ankle is really feeling any better one full week removed from the injury. I’ve been religiously icing and elevating the injury, though, so I really am hoping to be able to lose my crutches in another 4-5 days.

The morning after the initial break. My left ankle would start to look much, much worse over the next few days.
The morning after the initial break. My left ankle would start to look much, much worse over the next few days.

Things certainly could be worse. This injury could have happened before my 50k or before my spring marathon, or the injury could have been severe enough to require surgery. The fracture does leave my trip to Washington and Oregon in doubt, though, as I’m not sure how much fun I’m going to have trudging around a mountain while sporting an air cast. Considering how long this trip has been in the planning stages, I’m feeling pretty heartbroken about that.

I’m equally frustrated to be injured yet again. I’ve spent the last few years of my running career succumbing to and then recovering from a wide variety of ailments. The repetition of this ongoing “comeback story” has started to get a little old. Just once, I’d like to be able to  build off of my fitness gains from one season to the next. I felt strong after this spring’s Forget the PR Mohican 50k and Flying Pig Marathon; it seemed like some of my longterm running goals were finally within reach. I know the slow and unpredictable nature of recovery all too well, though, and I know it will probably take me a couple of months to get back to where I was after at least six weeks of complete inactivity. All because of one split-second decision.

Suffice it to say, I was almost five full months into 2019 with #nodaysoff … and that streak has now come to a screeching halt. I’ve said that this blog is meant to be a warts-and-all account of my evolution as a runner, so it looks like we’ll be dwelling on a wart for the next few posts!

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