POP goes the Ankle

‘I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them’

                                                                                                                                                Charles Bukowski

 Getting injured is not really an injustice but it surely feels like it.  I’ve seen people in casts, moon boots, splints, on crutches and various other states of being injured over the past few years, but I’ve never been on the moon boot wearing side myself.  When things are going according to plan and you come across somebody wearing a beastly moon boot, you ask them how they are, you provide a shoulder to cry on and offer sympathetic words of encouragement only to shortly after, forget about it and carry on with your life.  I’m not sure if all injured people feel as sorry for themselves as I am but the Self Pity train is heading full speed towards Sadness Station before it reaches its final destination at Dying Inside Central…

So this sad state of affairs was reached one week ago when I had my first ever ‘real’ injury. I’ve fallen off my bike and broken many bones but apart from illness I’ve never had an injury which actually had me side lined for longer than 2 weeks.  When I broke my shoulder 12 years ago I was back on my indoor trainer within two weeks training three hours a day. With my broken hand I strapped a pool noodle to my handle bar and was back on the bike the next day. I raced the 100km Carousel road race the day after I broke my collar bone and I ran the Whale of Trail 52km a few weeks after breaking a rib in 2015.  With this bull headed attitude it took me a good long time to accept my current fate.

People that know me well, know it takes something apocalyptic to get me out of bed on a Sunday morning.  Last Sunday was no exception, and I rose like a zombie from my bed to make my way to Klipriviersberg for an 18km adventure on the trails.  I’d been tired the entire week and every run I did, I felt like a clumsy, drugged buffalo. The previous day at Moreleta Kloof I basically walked the entire run because I was in constant fear of face planting on a rock or rolling down a slope.  I was a bit worried about the race the next day but didn’t want to sleep in yet ANOTHER Sunday. 

It was a cool morning and I was actually feeling more positive than expected, and I started the race towards the end of the field taking it very easy.  To my great surprise I was going rather well on the technical sections, overtaking quite a few runners only to be caught again on the flat non technical stretches.  At about 8km the dreaded drugged buffalo feeling started to descend on me and I had that common feeling of ‘O the finish is still so far away’.  Luckily Klipriviersberg is a really gorgeous reserve and I temporarily forgot how tired I was.  I hit another technical stretch and coming out of it I slowed down to a walk.  I remember thinking ‘If I carry on walking, this is going to take all day’.  I launched back into a slow trot and the next moment I heard a loud cracking sound and it felt like somebody stabbed me in the ankle with a searing hot poker.  I was lying on the ground gripping my ankle knowing something seriously had gone wrong, I wanted to cry but ended up making a shrieking sound whilst pulling a very unattractive face.  The lady that was running quite a distance behind me came up to me and loudly proclaimed she heard my ankle ‘go’.  I seriously considered lying there for the rest of my life waiting for help but rather got up and decided to walk the 4km to the next water table.  Every step was absolutely excruciating and I also had the distinct feeling that my foot was loose from the rest of my leg.  I was probably going about 25 minutes a kilometre and the slow pace together with placing my foot down awkward with every step, I was developing all kinds of cramps and aches.  I decided to phone my sister for encouragement and this seemed to help.  I felt less sorry for myself and soldiered on.

After missioning for around 3km I got to a super technical downhill where I stopped and was on the verge of crying because I honestly could not conceive how I was going to get down the steep gradient with Twisty McTwistface the ankle.  I decided going backwards was the best bet and as I turned around to attempt descending in this unorthodox way, I got the fright of my life, as three girls showed up at the top of the hill.  The one also had a tumble earlier and her two friends stayed with her.  Two of the girls acted like human crutches and got me to the bottom of the very technical hill.  I don’t know their names but in my mind they were angels. At this stage, I had probably done 4km on my sore foot and it took everything I had not to start screaming at the mountains.  I came across three ladies hiking and the one looked at me and said ‘You’ve still got sooooooo far to go’, I actually wanted to kick her in the shin, which I could not do because my foot was too sore.  I considered introducing her to every profane word in my extensive vocabulary but in the end I just carried on my not so merry way.  

My friend Marianne was at the finish and I decided to phone her and tell her to go home as I didn’t know how long it would take me to get to the finish.  This girl is definitely also an angel because her words to me were ‘I’m on top of it, don’t worry.’  Shortly after saying goodbye to her I received a phone call from the organiser asking me where I was and that I should just keep going to the water table, he would come and pick me up.  I limped about another 500m and as I saw the water table, I also saw his Volvo bashing through the bushes coming to my rescue.  I was so relieved to not be walking any more that I was still in denial about how serious the injury was.  I got to the finish where Marianne was still waiting for me to make sure I was ok.  By now I was in severe shock and had started shaking uncontrollably. I decided to get home as quickly as possible not wanting to face the reality of what was going on with my ankle.

By Monday my ankle was not sore at all and it wasn’t that swollen, but I could not put any weight on my foot so I could not walk.  A number of people told me that if my ligaments were torn I would be in excruciating pain which gave me a sliver of hope.  I almost didn’t go for my sonar on Tuesday as my ankle actually really looked good and my pain was really not that bad.  To make a rather long and boring story short, I got confirmation from a sonar on the Tuesday that my ATFL ligament was indeed a grade three tear.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, grade three is basically when you have a nervous breakdown because the ligament is completely torn off.  On the ‘bright’ side I don’t need an operation and I’m now faced with 5 weeks in the dreaded Franken boot before we will know if my ankle is stable.  If that is the case, a serious rehab and strength program will follow where after I hope I can still take part in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon in October.

I am struggling to get used to the ups and downs of being injured. Some days I want to break things and throw stuff at people who are running while I can’t.  Other days I’m quite zen thinking everything happens for a reason.  This is then usually followed by a bit of crying and then wondering if I can’t take the boot off after three weeks rather than 5.  At least once a day I wish I could just go back and not even have gotten up that Sunday morning, but that then usually leads to anger.  Putting on pants has become the biggest challenge of my day and I now know nothing can itch like a piece of skin that is trapped inside a moon boot. 

It has been very hard to be positive as I just got my fitness back after a disastrous 2017, and literally entered for the KAEM days before twisting my ankle.  Making a comeback from my health issues last year was one of the biggest challenges of my life and now I’ll have to do it all over again. At least having done it once before I know how.  Hold on to your hats, Frankenankle will not be the end of me!

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