Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Injury to Insult

For me, injuries are the most humbling aspect of being an endurance athlete. You feel invincible, you just ran a 4-hour marathon, you just completed (in respectable time) a half-ironman triathlon, and gradually you are slowed by a pain that seems to appear out of nowhere. In reality, you've ignored it for months, hoping it will go away.
2007 was my best year ever--I set a PR (personal record) in every distance I raced, and missed qualifying for Boston by less than two minutes. I was regrouping from that disappointment when, snap!, the second metatarsal on my left foot snapped in two. I had felt pain in that area for weeks, the result of a stress fracture, but not knowing what a stress fracture felt like, I just kept on running.
The day the doctor put me in a cast I cried like a baby, and I kept crying for a few weeks, my dear, supportive husband patiently tolerating my fits. Six weeks later, the cast was off and I gingerly started a run/walk regimen. Eventually I got my groove back until first the left hamstring, then the right hamstring, then the piriformis muscle sent me screaming for the Aleve and the chiropractor.
Each time I have gotten injured, I have gotten angry about it. It just seemed so unfair, at first. But then it causes you to reassess, back off a bit and change some aspect of training, whether it's biking more and running less or working to strengthen those ever-vital hamstrings.
This latest injury started acting up some time in March. I have gotten two cortisone shots to try to alleviate the discomfort I feel at the ball of my right foot. The fact that they didn't work led the doctor to refer me to a podiatrist, who took one look at the foot and immediately diagnosed the problem.
So. . .I will be having foot surgery in December. It's not going to be pleasant or pretty, but it is necessary if I plan to keep competing. The bunion I have developed will not go away; the only way to manage it is for a doctor to operate. He has said I will be out of commission 3-4 months, but, given my obviously high tolerance for pain, it could be 2-3 months. That dashes my plans for a lot of triathlons next year--I don't want to register for races I might not be able to swim/bike/run, and the registrations close so quickly I might just be out of luck. That one we'll wait and see on.
Once I have the go-ahead I will get back in the pool, back on the bike, back into my running shoes, healthier and pain-free. So this will short-term discomfort for long-term gain; not a bad tradeoff.

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