Monday, December 12, 2011

A Twisted End to Running in 2011

So, this is what cankles look like on me.
Irony can be twisted. And so can ankles.

Saturday began as one of those perfect running days. There was a snap to the air, a clear blue sky, and the promise of chocolate chip pancakes. My running partner Rohan and I set out on the Fairfax Cross County Trail for an easy 10-miler. We settled into an early rhythm and the conversation flowed as easily as our stride.

The trail was damp and muddy and we joked (oh, how we joked) that we could consider this a successful run if neither of us fell as we slipped and slid through the patches of mud.

“Steady climb coming,” I called back to him, as we wove our away along the singletrack that would eventually switch back to the top of the hill looming above us.
“What races are you signed up for in 2012?” he asked, while we bowled along. Little did we know irony lurked near the top of the hill.
“Let’s see, I’ve got the RnR DC Half and the Backyard Burn Trail Series in March as well. I’m pretty stoked to get into a race series and….”

There was a snap! and I lurched out and grabbed on to one of the trees. I braced myself for the delayed pain. When it washed over me in one hot wave, my body flushed and I fought the sudden urge to vomit.

“We’re going back, right?” Rohan said.
“Give me a second,” I said, hands on my knees, swallowing the sour saliva. “Maybe I just tweaked it.”

Then I looked down at the baseball that had suddenly formed where my calf met my ankle. “Yep, we’re going back,” I said.

Except back was 3.2 miles away.

“Ok,” I said, starting to work this one out. “You run back to the car and meet me where the trail intersects Vale road.”
“You sure you’re gonna be ok?” he asked. And then I heard it. It was manliness calling, and I had to answer. Of course it could have just as easily been stupidity, but either way, I had to get back to the road.
“What choice do I have? We're in the middle of the woods.”

I took one step toward him to try and get out of the leaves and back onto the trail. I nearly buckled. We looked at each other. “Um, I’m gonna need your help getting out of here,” I said.

My baseball has now turned into a grapefruit.
I turned my right foot out and stepped gingerly. The pain shot up through my leg and stopped in my stomach. “I’m ok,” I said. “Just meet me at Vale.”

Rohan took off down the hill and I hoped he didn’t sprain his ankle trying to get back, but I waited to share that thought with him until later. I started my roughly one mile journey to the road. I hopped on my good leg. I hobbled, dragging it behind me like some sort of zombie-basement-of-the-science-building-type character.

I came upon a man and his dog. “You need anything?” he asked. Cadaver parts, maybe, I thought.
“Just need to get to Vale road where my friend is going to pick me up.”
“Is it the black guy?”
“He. Was. Hauling!”

I needed to move faster. I tried to remember how long NHLers were out thanks to sprained ankles and reasoned that I’d probably be out 4-6 weeks. That put me at mid-late January. I could probably still train pretty hard for my half marathon, but, man, the holidays could be dark times. Then I thought about how this would get me out of vacuuming the house this weekend. Hmm, silver lining?

I finally reached the road just as Rohan pulled up. “How’s it feel?” he asked. “Never mind, I just looked at it.”


We pulled into the ER. I hopped through the doors and to the front desk. As soon as I sat down, the triage nurse called me back. Note to self, if going to the ER, get there at 11:40 on a Saturday morning to reduce the wait. “Do you want a wheelchair?” she asked.
“I just hopped a mile on it. I think I’ll be ok.” Of course then I nearly fell trying to sit in the chair.
“We’ll get you a wheelchair to take you back to your room,” she said. “What’s the prob– whoa! How’d you do that?”


As soon as I finished my explanation, Rohan jumped in. “Do you have any petroleum jelly?” We all stopped and looked at him. “My lips are really dry.”

I just shook my head at him. He pulled surgical lube from a drawer to which they cautioned him not to get any in his mouth. Before they wheeled me back, we took pictures and I joked that I’d be tagging everyone on Facebook. Hahaha, boo hoo hoo...We laugh to keep from crying.

When I got back to my room, the nurse came in with my chart, “So which ankle is it?”
“Two guesses,” I said.
He took his eyes from the chart. “Jesus!”


Another nurse (like I said the hospital is light at 11:45 a.m. on a Saturday) started asking me some background questions. Do I use drugs or alcohol? Do I drink everyday or (something inaudible)?
“What was the second choice?” I asked.
She turned and peered at me over her glasses. “Socially.”
“That one.”
“Do you have any petroleum jelly?” Rohan cut in.
“Can this be about me for five minutes?” I asked him.
“Sorry! My lips are dry.”

The murse wheeled me out for x-rays. The tech wheeled me back. “You’re going to live,” he said.
“Is it bad?” I asked, hope in my voice.
“I’ve seen worse.”

I returned to the room to find Rohan twirling a tube between his fingers. “Check it out. Industrial strength,” he said, his lips glistening.
“I’m happy for you.”

We waited for the doctor to come back in. Rohan found a pair of socks in the drawer and slipped them on. I'm giving him a hard time here, but he certainly kept me entertained.
 “They won’t even know they’re gone,” he rationalized.
“Did you hear my ankle pop?” I asked him.
“Wait, that was your ankle? I thought you snapped a branch.”


Finally the doctor came in. “It’s not broken,” she says. I wait for it. “But.” There it is. “It’s a pretty bad sprain. You’re going to need,” I brace again. “Two weeks until you can run again.”

My face relaxed. “That’s it? I thought you were going to say 4-6 so I’ll gladly take two.”
“Darn it. I should have said longer.”

The nurse came in behind the doctor with some crutches, an air cast, and a horse pill of ibuprofen.

“Do you want a clean sock for your foot?” she asked, sweetly.
“You should take that,” Rohan said, trying not to laugh. “I hear they are pretty comfortable.”
“Is that, right?” I asked.

She rummaged through the drawer. “I know we have a pair of socks in here somewhere.”
I shook my head at Rohan. “Here we are.”

I swung through the hallway to the parking lot and climbed into the car. “Home?” Rohan asked.
“Home? I have a sprained ankle. I’m not sick. We’ve gotta get some food.”
“Thank God,” he said, reapplying the chapstick.

So we bee-lined it for the nearest diner. At least I still got my breakfast and, sticking to our original measuring stick, no one fell. I guess you could call it a successful run.

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