Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August lost

On Monday evening, I attempted a four-mile hike. Using an ACE bandage, I created an elastic sling for my arm to aid in stability and suspension against each jarring step. I set off walking, fighting back the initial sharp releases of pain until the impact settled. The sun cast golden light on the hillside and it felt so wonderful to just be outside, focusing on breathing and movement again. For the past four days, my thoughts have largely drifted to stillness and pain. The truth of the matter is my arm hurt a lot, and every time I moved, it hurt even worse. But in stillness I could almost be free, almost.

I held my arm away from my body and pressed my wrist deep into the sling until my shoulder burned from the effort, but by doing so I could almost achieve stillness while moving. The gray pall of pain lifted and I started jogging up hill, drinking in the saturated colors of the evening. I reached the crest of my route and surveyed the sunlit valley below. It was so incredible, so beautiful. I felt a literal, tangible tear of joy roll down my cheek. That's when I remembered that my moods were all jacked up from not having slept more than an hour at a time in four nights. Sleep had just become so difficult, because my arm constantly felt like somebody was holding a hot iron against the joint. I usually drifted fitfully to sleep only to be jolted awake in twenty minutes by sharp pain, probably spurred by movement. On Sunday night, I only slept about an hour, total. On Monday morning, I had to duck into the bathroom to quell some tears after the car dealership employee told me my three-hour wait for an oil change was probably going to extend to four. My humorously overdramatic reaction to that news only confirmed that I really needed to get some sleep, and get out.

On Monday night, I still had hope. Hope for participation in the Capitol Forest 100. Outside hope that I might even heal up enough to run a 50K for my birthday at the end of the week. These hopes were all but extinguished just a few hundred yards after I started downhill into a new barrage of burning pain. It was impossible to brace against so I just had to suck it up and deal with it. It was probably no different or worse than it has been for the past four days, but my reaction to the pain was amplified by the beautiful setting, some mounting frustration, the wild emotional roller coaster of sleep deprivation, and of course, disappointment. This injury isn't going to clear up in time for anything. Not without some sort of incredible turnaround.

I returned home to more stillness, and attempts at acceptance. This probably appears to be a humorously overdramatic reaction to road rash. The injury is actually a bit more complicated. When I hit the ground at 20 mph on Thursday, I landed directly on a sharp, quarter-sized rock that dug deep into my elbow. Then, with a puncture wound several millimeters deep, I slid a meter or so, ensuring that maximum debris was pushed deep into the wound. The plastic surgeon I consulted on Friday used terms like "bullet hole" and "shrapnel." He smiled as he said these things, and I assumed he was using hyperbole for humor's sake. But honestly, after four days of near constant pain even with the aid of Vicodin (which I was at first too proud to ingest, and am now rationing), I've become more convinced that this is what it might feel like to be shot in the elbow by a small caliber gun. I can honestly say that while this may not be the most serious, it is certainly the most painful injury I have ever sustained.

I have another appointment with the surgeon on Friday, and am really hoping for no further complications that might necessitate surgery (and maybe a renewed Vicodin prescription.) But I'm ready to accept that the rest of this month is probably going to be about a slow comeback in the form of easy hikes, jogs, upright spins on a trainer, and possibly several weeks before I have enough arm strength and stability to ride a bicycle again. That's OK, injury is part of life, and for now I'm grateful for simple things, short releases from the stillness, and a renewed appreciation for health and vitality.

23 comments:

  1. Sorry, Jill. Injuries hurt for everyone, but even more for someone whose outdoor and endorphin-generating pursuits are such a big part of their life. Hope you'll get some sleep soon, for both physical and mental healing.

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  2. Injury sucks. Hope you heal up soon!

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  3. I am fighting some emotional problems right now - and I'm realizing that acceptance is the first step to healing. I have to quit fighting myself.

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  4. So sorry about your injury, and that you're going to miss your runs. The Capitol forest is nice - hopefully you'll get another chance to make it here! For now concentrate on healing.

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  5. Bummer, Jill. That injury sounds awful. Hope you heal quickly and feel better soon!

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  6. Hope you get better soon. Odd, I think I saw you yesterday at RSA walking/running up PG&E. Today, while reading another blog I follow I clicked on your blog. When I started reading your entry I connected the dots. Anyway, stay strong and keep pushing. Injuries are a "pain", =;-).

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  7. Getting "service" at car dealerships drives me to tears on occasion too.

    Hope you get some sleep and heal quickly.

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  8. "upright spins on a trainer"

    You said, "trainer." Maybe you hit your head and hard than you thought.

    Get well soon.

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  9. I agree with Snakebite;) Also, where in the hell did you buy that car? I never have to wait more than an hour for an oil change.

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  10. So sorry about the injury, Jill! It stinks to be taken out of the game when you have fun things planned and goals to meet. But more will always be around the bend. Take the time to heal so those fun things can happen with a fully renewed albow.

    Still, my heart goes out to you in this total bummer moment.

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  11. Sorry you are having it so rough! I will send you good sleeping vibes. Hope you can get some rest!

    ...and who wouldn't cry? It doesn't take 4 hours to do an oil change.

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  12. I know how you feel. I've resigned myself to at leat another week off the bike. I rode to the pub and back on Sunday, 5 miles. I was Ok until the right turn into the pub carpark. I couldn't control the bike at all with my left hand, and it hurt like hell. Sunday night it dislocated again while I was sleeping, god know what I'd done, but I woke up in agony.

    At least we're both fixable. we'll be back out there soon enough

    Tim

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  13. I can relate to how you're feeling. I broke several ribs four years ago and tried riding for a couple of days afterward before I finally went to see the doc. Trying to keep riding was the dumbest thing I've done to this point.

    Be patient and give it time. You're fortunate to come away with just the rash and remember what you said awhile back..."Life is Good" :)

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  14. Oh, dear...pain sucks. Bad pain sucks more. Not being able to do ANYTHING through it is worst! Lets just pray you have no need for surgery, and please, please, lets be patient with our bodies we love to push so much. We kind of need them for more pushing:) Hang on, Jill.

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  15. Thanks for the well wishes, everyone.

    And yes, Vito, life is good. Honestly, three or four years ago, having to miss a long-planned mountain bike race because I crashed my bike on an easy descent and got a boo-boo on my arm would have thrown me into a full-on depression. I feel like I have better "big picture" perspective now, although I am of course still disappointed.

    And a few others have taken recent posts of mine as evidence that I am becoming unhappy in California. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do miss Alaska in a way that aches sometimes, but it's a good ache, an acknowledgement that I feel Alaska is an important key to both the person I've become and the person I hope to be in the future. For the present, I am happy because I am:
    a.) Doing meaningful work (even if it's often difficult to convince others of its meaningfulness because I define myself as "self-employed," bring in a lower income than I have in most (but not all) of my years as a professional, and work from home.) Still, I'm making progress toward my goals and I'm pleased with where I'm at, both in my life and my career. I know it's meaningful to me and that's what matters.
    b.) Spending time with a man who I love, respect, and learn from every day.
    c.) Growing as a trail runner and outdoor adventurer. (even if my recent results and crashes don't necessarily reflect this. But I do learn a lot from my failures.)
    d.) Making exciting plans for the future.

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  16. You will heal faster than you realize. And since you live in CA it's not like you're fighting a "season" like us in normal places.

    Also, if you are miserable in California as is patently obvious ;) you are welcome to come out here whenever -- I can change my ticket for SFO to here.

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  17. Julie in AK2:22 PM

    Healing takes time, more than we think! Glad you are flexible and can see the need to take it easy. You've been going really hard all year. It's never wrong to take some time and recoup from an injury. Hope you are feeling better a week from now, Jill! You'll be back out there if you give yourself some time to restore.......

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  18. Anonymous2:44 PM

    Being laid up in pain or really sick is an opportunity to do something completely different from the norm. For instance, I learned to crochet while healing from an appendectomy, and now I crochet (particularly in poor weather when I am too lazy to ride, swim, etc.) as a way to relax. Sometimes having hobbies that don't require too much physical exertion can be a relief so one doesn't go stir-crazy while they heal.

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  19. Injury allows you the time to step back and practice all the small things you thought you were already good at. Practicing those small things makes the big things easier down the road.

    Feel better.

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  20. excusez-moi de ne pas écrire dans votre langue (avec laquelle je n'ai que peu de connaissances) mais je vous souhaite de tout coeur un bon rétablissement.

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  21. Jill, you realize this may be the first and last month I will put in more miles than you!

    Haha it has only taken a bad fall and 4 yrs. :)
    Hope you feel better soon.
    Just not until 9/1

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  22. Anonymous3:23 AM

    Be Brave, Be Strong.

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  23. Anonymous4:25 PM

    With all honesty and respect, I believe you are addicted to exercise. This is a real medical condition, and you should consider it. To try to go out so soon after a crash indicates something might be wrong.

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