Having been a bit on the quiet side for a month or more on my blog now, here’s an update as to why:
On the 16th September I competed in a half-marathon, the Great North Run. It’s the world’s largest half marathon, and I was running for a number of reasons, not least of which was the need to keep up fitness levels for my forthcoming trip to the Southern Hemisphere’s largest mountain, Aconcagua, in December.
I had ramped up my training to where I completed over 100 miles in the three weeks prior to the run itself. Excessive maybe (or it is for me), but I took the advice from various running forums and websites which said that that was the sort of distance I should be covering that close to the run. Sadly with one week to go, I developed a fairly intense pain below my left ankle. I self diagnosed this, after much frantic googling, to be tendonitis, and a subsequent visit to the doctors suggested the same. Armed therefore with a bunch of painkillers and some anti-inflammatory drugs, I decided still to do the run, and told my self that I could/would quit if the pain got worse during the event.
Not long after the start of the run however, something strange happened. My left foot, where the pain had been coming from, was basically sore, a dullish pain without being too bad. I thought to myself that I could live with this if this was the worst that it was going to get. My right foot however, after about three miles, began to scream at me. It was agony, and I could hardly place my foot on the ground at all. Now limping on both feet, I thought to myself how ridiculous, that it looked like I was getting tendonitis in my right foot as well.
By mile six, the pain was horrible, and I should have stopped, but just didn’t want to. Plenty of people had sponsored me to do this event, and I was running for Bowel Cancer, which means so much to me. I just didn’t want to let anyone down, didn’t want to quit, it just seemed like the easy way out. I told myself to grin and bear it. The second half of the run is all a bit of a blur, but to cut a long story short, I made it to the finishing line, and in a time of two hours and two minutes. The last mile felt like someone was hitting me on the bottom of my heels with a chisel, and I half limped and half walked in.
To cut then an even longer story short, I discovered afterwards, following first X-rays and then an MRI scan, that I had what in the medical field is termed bilateral calcaneus fractures. To the layman (which includes me) that means “two broken heels”. To boot I have a torn tendon just below my right ankle, and the right foot is considerably more sore than the left, as perhaps is illustrated more clearly by the pictures below, which are from the MRI scan:
In the centre of the above picture you can see a dark serrated line jutting down from the middle of my heel bone. That is a fracture. Bummer, as they say.
Towards the right of the above picture you will see that the heel bone has basically split – the back part is apparently separated from the remainder. That might explain why it hurt so much! As if to add insult to injury, I also have post-traumatic arthritis in my left heel, and the torn tendon in my right.
So anyway, the upshot of all this is that I was unable to even put any pressure on either foot for about three weeks. It was just too painful, and I got around in a wheelchair, even in the house. The bigger upshot is that I have since been told that I need to wait a further six weeks before I can load bear at all, and then three months before I do any repetitive strain type activities on either foot. If I told you that I was gutted by all this then it would be a ridiculous understatement.
So the biggest setback of the above, apart from the immobility and the waiting around for what seems like a lifetime to be able to walk around unaided again, is that my trip to Aconcagua is off. There was no way I could have gone, as the trip starts in less than six weeks from now. There’s also no cycling, no nothing in fact, until probably January until I can dare doing something strenuous again, and that’s if I get the all clear on my next hospital visit, when they MRI scan me again in November.
Aconcagua will therefore have to wait. It’s not going anywhere of course, but the frustration is then that I have to wait another year for it to happen. The ‘window’ to climb is only open in December and January, which won’t now happen this season obviously.
It’s all too easy to feel a bit down when you are essentially housebound, cannot walk unaided, and have had to cancel the thing that has driven you all year, i.e. the biggest mountain, at 7,000m, that I will probably ever get to attempt. My overriding emotion through it all so far though, is that in overall terms I am lucky. I have my health in overall terms, and there are millions upon millions of people out there a lot worse off than I am.
I have been helped by quite a few people in my recovery period so far, and my thanks to all of them, but very special mentions to Anna and in particular to Mel for all that you have done. I’m extremely grateful, I really am.
It’s difficult to use time productively when you can’t really go very far or indeed stand and bear your own weight, but I am doing what I can, and trying to not let daytime television get the better of me. I have bought myself a home gym, and am trying to use it as diligently as I can to at least stop too much muscle wastage on the rest of my body, not that I was overblessed with muscles in the first place. I think I’ve come to the conclusion overall though that running is just not my sport!