Unlike the other sports injuries I've had, CTS has managed to irritate all aspects of my life. With limited dexterity and almost no strength in my right hand, I have to sloppily use my left hand for eating, writing, cleaning, shopping. Driving is more difficult, typing is a mess, and don't get me started on my page design job at which I'm now at least 20 percent slower. Sleep has been fitful because I often roll onto my arm in some way that causes me to wake up with shooting pain in my three affected fingers. Although the throbbing and tingling comes and goes, there's nearly always a low level of pain, despite taking four Aleve per day (my "prescription" from a physician I consulted in Nome.)
It is getting better, slowly, which is encouraging. The Nome doctors urged me to wait a few weeks before taking more drastic measures, since my case seems likely to be an acute injury. Since we're moving to Boulder at the end of the month and I'd need to switch doctors/physical therapists/hand specialists anyway, patience seemed like the sensible choice.
More on the acute theory: One week before the start of the ITI, I went over the handlebars during a fast descent and landed hard on my right side. Most of the initial pain radiated from my shoulder, but there were cuts on my palm indicating that I also landed on my hand, which would have impacted my wrist. With plenty of other pains and pre-race anxiety to distract me, I may not have noticed any initial compression. It's possible I started the race with a minor acute injury, and handlebar throttling and stress exacerbated it. Further crashes on ice (I had a bad one in the Dalzell Gorge that left my whole lower arm swollen) also could have added to the inflammation. It's one theory. Overuse doesn't really explain why I had problems from the first day, or why I suddenly have such an advanced case when I've never experienced nerve damage from any other long bike ride I've done.
The bad news from Dr. Google is that a majority of people with CTS, acute and repetitive, don't recover from it without surgical intervention. Especially with more advanced cases where mobility is severely impacted. Dr. Google always manages to bring me down. First he got into my head with all the lung studies, and now this. I should stay away.
One aspect of this injury that I haven't mentioned yet, perhaps because it hurts the most, is not being able to ride a bike. Beat thinks I am being smart about recovery, but really my hand hurts when I touch anything, so the temptation to ride is not there. Beyond the CTS, I can't say I feel too many after-effects from the ride to Nome. My sleep is poor, but that's because of CTS, and I'm still more hungry (All. The. Time.) than is warranted. But my energy levels are normal and my legs feel great, which is why I'm glad to have running in my life. Running keeps me from sliding too deep into post-adventure blues.
I took Tuesday off because both of my shins were sore after Monday's run (see, restraint.) Still, I was chomping at the bit to get out today, even though there was a heat wave and it was 93 degrees, and just one week ago I was overheating at 65. I went to San Francisco to meet an editor, and took advantage of the commute home to revisit one of my favorite spots in the Bay Area, Sweeney Ridge. In my long absence I'd forgotten about the 30-percent grades climbing out of Pacifica, and nearly fainted at mile six (Not exaggerating. I experienced dizziness and briefly blacked-out vision, and chose to sit down on the trail before it wasn't a choice.)
But it was a beautiful day, even in the hot hot heat. I intend to use these final weeks to revisit some of the places that I'll miss the most. California has been my home for more than five years — it's difficult to fathom, as it feels as though I just moved here, especially with Alaska vistas so fresh in my memory. This realization of "leaving home" was enough to cause me to tear up as I descended toward a sweeping view of San Francisco, the Bay, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Crystal Springs Reservoir, and Mount Diablo. I was listening to a song by Darlingside that I'd played on repeat during my second day on the Yukon, when I was surrounded by the white expanse of the mile-wide river:
I stood above the Rocky Mountains
where Colorado touches New Mexico
And I could see a hundred miles
but I was many thousand miles from home.