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Free advice: Don’t get injured seven weeks before an ultramarathon

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Lying with your leg raised above your heart definitely shouldn’t be a part of your ultramarathon training.

Let’s get something out in the open now: I’m not great at dealing with huge amounts of pain. Or minimal amounts of pain. Or mild barely-noticeable discomfort. If you’ve run with me before you know I spend approximately 50 to 65% of the run complaining about different aspects of it. No one runs with me and wonders whether I’m enjoying it or not. They always know I’m not. And they know so because I provide them with extensive commentary on the many ways the run sucks.

But even I will admit that sometimes I do exaggerate and not all runs suck. My run on Sunday, however, sucked on a large number of levels. A plethora of levels, if you want to be a snob about it.

You see, I was really looking forward to coming here and making you all jealous about how I live within a half hour ferry ride of a 600 year old volcano where I can go to do my run/complaining about running combo whenever I want. That’s precisely what I set off to do early on Sunday morning.

But then, PLOT TWIST. Six kilometres into the whole thing, as we were making our way back down from the summit, I failed to notice one of the steps and fell pretty spectacularly, flat on my face on a boardwalk, thus ending a good, hmmm, let’s see, week and a half of running without any sort of pain.

The few moments after the fall went something like this: massive crying fit, screaming, some more crying, another decent amount of screaming, wondering how in the actual hell I’m going to get down from that volcano, more crying, wondering how long until I can run again, a bit of screaming, wondering if I’ll be able to make the start line at Tarawera, another little cry, wondering why the Beatles broke up, some more crying (only partially over the Beatles) and a bit more screaming.

And that was just the initial 40 seconds.

(I know that’s a lot of detail but I need to make sure my future biographer has enough to work with so bear with me here.)

Forsyth, who was running behind me and clearly has his priorities very well defined, paused my Garmin immediately (and managed to do so while I was screaming so badly it sounded like a Rebecca Black song). Steve, who runs downhill at about 460kph (give or take a few hundred kph) was so far ahead he couldn’t hear me yelling in despair (unlike everyone else on the North Island and potentially the good people in Australia as well). A couple of hikers caught up with us while I was busy fighting for my life right there on the ground (ok, sort of) and the man walked down to find Steve. He ran into a DOC worker with a truck who walked up to meet us and offered to take us back down to the wharf. I would have hugged him with relief but, at this stage, I was still lying on the boardwalk.

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To cut a super-long story slightly shorter but still fairly long, Forsyth piggy-backed me out of the track (he’ll tell you he “carried me down a volcano” and, while not entirely untrue, you should know the truck was about 200m from where I fell) and the lovely man from DOC took us down to wait for the ferry. Since it was only 10:30AM and only losers who smash themselves on the ground need to be taken off the island so early, it was just the three of us on the ferry. The good part: according to what the man announced over the microphone thingy, should anything go wrong, they had about 75 life jackets per person on board for us and the guy suggested we could “throw them all out in the water at once and build a raft”. Instead, we spent the journey back eating cake and drinking beer while Steve and Forsyth worried about the sort of impression I was going to cause in the emergency room, with a potential broken foot and smelling of booze. But I don’t think the emergency room is the place to worry about making good first impressions so I went ahead and drank it anyway.

The hospital part of this whole adventure had some good Kiwi moments, like the nurse deciding that I didn’t need to have my blood pressure checked after all, because the machine was out of battery. “Yeah, you look alright”. I’M NOT GODDAMN ALRIGHT. I’M IN A WHEELCHAIR.

But I actually kept my cool about that. What really pissed me off was when she asked me to describe what happened:

Vera – So I was running down from the summit of Rangitoto…
Nurse (writing down on a piece of paper) – Okay, so walking down…
Vera – No. Not walking. Running.
Steve – Well… It was more like jogging, really.
Vera – I WAS NOT JOGGING.

LIES

(I was probably jogging.)

I tried to describe things a bit better in the form they gave me to fill out but, once again, Steve wasn’t much help. When the form asked me to tick the box describing the type of activity and I had to choose between things like “work”, “leisure” or “sport”, I went to put my tick on “sport”, to what Steve said: “I’d say leisure. You weren’t being that sporty.” This is the same man who also told me my description of the accident on the hospital form was “no Hemingway” and told me to “break a leg” when they wheeled me into the room for an x-ray.

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Anyway. I got myself a nice little ligament sprain on my right ankle and have had to learn to walk with crutches for the first time in my life. I’m not a fast learner and my “good foot” has banged on one of the crutches twice so far. I can’t even hold a cup of coffee and stand upright at the same time so that’s all of my good party tricks taken away in one go. Showering has also been interesting, since one of my feet can’t touch the ground (come on, don’t act like that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever told you here). So, before you ask, recovery is going swell.

The only bit of good news I have is that my first physio appointment today went pretty damn good. I got told I was doing “everything right”, which is something I don’t hear very often (or, you know, ever) and the nice physio lady told me I can maybe probably potentially go for a really short run in a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks from now will be a month from my ultramarathon so you do the maths to figure out the square root of how screwed I am.

It’s bad, you guys. I’m Keanu Reeves-sad. My last post here bragged about running over 70km in 48h and I’ve now spent the last 48h relying on people to help me do pretty much everything. I’m not the most elegant person on crutches and I’ve realised I wouldn’t exactly be a role model if I ever had the misfortune of having a permanent physical disability.

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To top it all off nicely, I finally met Julian last night while he was up in Auckland for work. Few things are worse than getting injured and catching up with a runner who’s just been given the ok to run for the first time that day after 7 weeks of injury. But whatever, it’s this sort of adversity that builds character, amirite? And also, I hopped my way into the brew bar (hopped, hops, Jesus, I’m like some kind of pun genius right now), drank three delicious beers and forgot about the pain for a bit.

But now the pain is back. And I’m still lousy on crutches. I continually bang my leg on them and continue to insist on trying to carry stuff in my hands while using the crutches which means everything I touch becomes damaged in some way, like some kind of ridiculous inverse Midas effect.

I know what you’re thinking. Poor SGG, let me send her some get well soon cookies and some speedy recovery chocolate.

Yes, you should definitely do that.

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38 thoughts on “Free advice: Don’t get injured seven weeks before an ultramarathon

  1. Definitely jogging. You forgot to mention we went running the next day and sent you constant updates….we are nothing if not caring friends :)

  2. Dude, that totally sucks ass :( I’d send you home-baked cookies, but I have no idea where you live ;) Anyway, the postie would probably steal them… (I make awesome cookies. And modesty is not my strong suit.) Rest up (totally not what you want to hear/do right now) and try not to go bat-shit crazy. Hope you heal quickly!!

  3. advice from when I was crutch bound with a broken ankle…get a small bag and hang it off your crutch handle…that way you can carry stuff without falling over!

    hope you get better soon :-)

  4. Sorry to hear about your injury, but your sharp sarcasm is still intact. Take care and thank goodness for friends who help out.

  5. In all seriousness, it could have been way worse. You could have broken your nose and looked like Marcia Brady when she got hit with a football in the schnoz. Then your friends could really make fun of ya.
    Hoping for a speedy recovery for you. I hear beer is a great miracle cure!

  6. Sad Keanu? Crap, this is serious! You may have lost your best party trick, but think of all the cool new ones you have with props! Get it-props? Because they’re crutches, but also because they prop you up? GENIUS!

  7. I’m gutted to hear this and hope you still get to run! Do all the right things and heal up quickly – think of it as an early taper!

  8. This post made me laugh and laugh. That Steve knows what it’s all about pausing your Garmin, what a legend! Hope you do recover though and think Tarawera may be off the cards my dear, what do you think? I’ve been watching all media surrounding what international runners are coming over for it, all very exciting!! I’m keen to go down just for shits and giggles actually so if you don’t end up running and want to join me in being a pom pom girl, I reckon we should do it!

    • I don’t want to believe it’s off the cards, to be honest – I just don’t think I’ll be breaking any course records (but then again, that was never on the cards anyway). But I do guarantee you that, should anything else happen, I’ll be down there with you and our pom poms!

  9. OH NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Seriously. I’m having sympathy ankle pains right now, this very moment! [OK, I did approximately the same thing trail running about 4 years ago. It sucked. Note: Do not go out for a trail race (did I mention it was actually a race, not a run?) a month before a marathon for which you've been preparing (damn well, I might add) for the last 4 months. Just FYI.]

    Three important notes, from someone who has “been there”:
    1. Be very careful with the hopping. I swear to you that I broke a metatarsal from hopping while my busted ankle was bandaged up.
    2. Find a small bag, or better yet, backpack. Use it to carry ALL THE THINGS.
    3. After hopping around the kitchen to prepare food (see above note on ‘hopping’), do note that you won’t be able to carry it to the sofa (unless it’s all put in tupperware, in which case see: backpack, above). So, the next time someone is over, have them strategically place chairs around your apartment between the kitchen and couch. Move the plate, crutch ahead. Move plate, crutch ahead. BINGO.

    Anyway, try not to dwell on the ultra too much. Thankfully, there are lots of races…and you should be healed up well for the relay by next year, so all’s good. Hang in there. And if you ever want ankle-commiseration, give me a shout out. Four weeks no-weight-bearing, four more on crutches, four more in a boot right here. The good news? Sounds like your recovery is predicted to be much quicker!

  10. You broke a metatarsal while recovering from an ankle injury?! I believe you win. Your backpack/chairs idea is amazing. I’m still surprised by the complexity of the logistics of walking with crutches. From now on, people with crutches get all my sympathy. And they can all jump queues ahead of me!

    Thank you for the advice, Holly, you’re awesome. I think I’ll be ok to at least run/walk the ultra but you’re right – there are lots of other races. I know that. My credit card sure as hell knows that too. :)

  11. OH NOOOO. You were definitely jogging. Jogging is hazardous to your health. Should’ve been running instead.

    Plot hole: how was there cake and beer on your rustic volcano island run?

    But it’s all right – Kiwis are tougher than the rest of us mortals: http://www.smh.com.au/world/man-fights-off-shark-then-stitches-himself-up-20140127-hva2g.html

    (I’ve done a stint on crutches too. This was in high school, before I started running. Four girls, one backyard trampoline…someone has to fall off…I was heavily into ballet at the time and it set me back about three months. And I concur on the backpack/ small bag – it’s a lifesaver.)

    • Easily explaining: we were meant to spend the rest of the day at Steven’s friend’s place on the island so Steve had taken beers and I’d taken cake. But of course I ruined that too!

      Crutches suck. Here’s hoping the physio lets me get rid of them today!

  12. Yikes! At least you have a cool story! When people ask why I’m in an enormous sling right now, I have to tell them I had shoulder surgery because I dislocated it falling off the roof of a parked car. Being injured really is a bummer, but you should be milking it for all it’s worth! I hope your recovery is super speedy.

  13. Bummer!!
    That is super kaka!
    You spend a good half of a year training for something like this to not be able to do it. BOO!
    You doin the 100? Knock it back a little maybe?
    Hope it gets better quick smart!
    No cookies here, only beer…. but I need that haha LUCK!

    • I KNOW! I’m still hopeful that I get to enter Tarawera anyway (and the physio seems confident too so that’s me plus someone who actually knows what they’re doing). I’m “only” doing the 60k so there’s no downgrading from that. Ah well. It’ll be fine! :)

  14. It sounds like a tragical mess but you had me laughing so much! Now I must google “Rangitoto” because I am so jealous that you get to run up and down a volcano!

  15. Ahhh! I read this on my phone and couldn’t comment. I can’t believe this has happened to you! Best of luck with the recovery, sending running recovery thoughts your way!

  16. Oh god, that sucks so hard. It’s like I’ve found myself saying more and more as of late: “The running gods giveth, and go fuck yourself.” Seriously, it feels like every time I start riding high on my running, something happens to slap me right back down to earth. I hope you heal up nicely and in time for your ultra, because that would just compound the suck if you had to miss it.

    BTW I feel totally guilty for laughing my way through your post about falling and hurting yourself. I mean, I know that was your intent, but still, I felt bad about it. Even as I was laughing.

  17. A wise man once told me “Injuries are opportunities in disguise” – I have no idea what he meant I just stared blankly at him and was like WTF dude? Maybe he meant that as an injured runner you can indulge in all the pizza and beer in order to recover faster, I mean like pizza and beer has protein right? And injuries need protein to heal right? right?..
    Anyways I am excited that I’d get to hang out with you at Tarawera, I’m not going to be super awesome and run an ultra or anything but I’ll be like screaming as you run past.. honest.. bah – injuries suck.. oh you knew that already – sorry I’ll just shut up now

  18. That sucks. Any injury sucks, but it’s especially tough when your on the glide path to your next race. I’m two weeks into a knee injury but I have 80 something days until my marathon. I’m in a bit of a PANIC! Trying to remain calm.
    Take your time, you can’t rush the healing process.

  19. Dear me, after I stopped laughing I started to feel really badly for you :-( THe bag on the crutch is a great idea, until it catches on something and your crutch stops and you keep going–only to bruise an elbow trying to break the fall. Yup. been there.

    Fanny pack. that way you can keep it in the front and not have to shift crutches to get into the back pack.

    Suck suck suck . I am so sorry!!! If you cannot do the race, at the very least you can go to volunteer. I did that when I got plantar fasciitis and couldn’t do the half marathon a few weeks ago. I was SO glad I went and volunteered. What a meaningful day.

  20. This suuuuucks!! But your story of it is just so hilarious I couldn’t help but (almost) die laughing! Thanks for the laughter, sorry it was at the expense of your injury! Really hope you get better quick snap! x

  21. OH NO!!!! So sorry to hear this!!! Hope you feel better soon!!! Don’t worry there’s always next time! :)

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