Sunday, April 29, 2018

Broken toe

 Well, I've acquired another spring injury. This mishap was even more "Jill" than my trail-running crash in April 2017, when I face-planted near the top of Mount Sanitas and ripped a deep wound into my left knee. Or April 2016, when I slid several yards on greasy mud in Walker Ranch and ended up with a painful shin hematoma that persisted for more than a month.

No, this one happened on a bright and beautiful Wednesday morning, when temperatures rose into the 60s while I excitedly prepared for a five-hour ride into town. Before heading out, I moved an overflowing basket of clean laundry from the basement to the closet. While carrying it across the bedroom, I somehow cut a wide-open route too short, and slammed the edge of my left foot against the wooden base of our bed. I'm proprioception-challenged, so I tend to collide with stationary and easily avoidable objects on a semi-regular basis. As such, I stub my toes with some regularity. This one didn't initially hurt too much, so I wasn't worried. But as I packed up, the pain of walking increased substantially.

"It'll go away," I thought as I stuffed my now reasonably swollen foot into a shoe.

If you're going to ride a bike through a bunch of foot pain, it's nice to have pretty animals to watch
The pain did not go away. I grimaced through 20 miles of strained climbing until I reached the highest and furthest point on my route, where I stepped off my bike and involuntarily yelped. Ouch! I set the bike down, hobbled forward, and confirmed that I could barely walk. At that point, my quickest route into town required pedaling 15 miles of the rolling Peak to Peak Highway through Nederland before climbing and descending the length of Sugarloaf Road (because I will not ride a bike in Boulder Canyon if I can help it in any way.) Two and a half more hours of pedaling through pain. Not ideal. But, I did choose this.

By the time I met Beat at work, I was close to tears. "I think my toe is broken," I told him. It was just my pinkie toe, a small and useless thing, but capable of so much pain! Sure enough, at home I removed the shoe to find a swollen and purple toe surrounded by bruising that spread across the top of my foot. A visit to a doctor the following morning confirmed this toe was most likely broken — I opted out of the X-ray, because the doctor expressed his confidence after the examination, and said his recommended treatment would not change. Treatment: Buddy tape around two toes, and an orthopedic sandal to keep the foot immobile while I hobble around. Likely no normal walking for at least two weeks. No running for at least four.

 Well, shoot. I was just getting back into running! It snowed for most of the day on Tuesday, and I was able to escape for an hour-long romp through the heavy spring powder. I had so much fun with this run ... since returning from Alaska a month ago, this was the first time the motion felt natural. I bounded along blissfully, and managed to keep a reasonable pace despite ankle-deep, slippery snow. I excitedly planned training strategies for the Dirty 30, which is a 30-mile trail race that I signed up to run on June 2. Dirty 30 is the closest thing we have to a local 50K here in Boulder, taking place on the steep and technical trails in Golden Gate State Park. I signed up in 2016, and had to DNS when my carpal tunnel release surgery was scheduled the day before the race. I didn't sign up in 2017 because the race fell too close to the Bryce 100. Surely I'd have a chance in 2018?

The broken toe is a non-starter. If I can't run for four weeks, my best-case scenario is starting the Dirty 30 on no specific training. Four years ago I would have happily run a 50K off the couch, but I have more respect for my limits now. My endurance will be fine, but my technical trail-running skills — iffy on my best days — will be unworkably rusty. At best, I'll be slow — likely too slow to stay ahead of the cut-off. At worst — and also likely — I'll injure myself. I was already thinking I'd have to DNS the Dirty 30, again, when Beat realized he also signed up for the Bryce 100, which is the same weekend. After some deliberation, we've made arrangements to travel to Utah that weekend, which will prevent me from racing the Dirty 30. Decision made! I'd be lying if I pretended I was more disappointed than relieved (although I am disappointed.)

 This photo is what we woke up to Wednesday morning — a few hours before I broke my toe. It was 23 degrees, frosty, gorgeous. I stood on the balcony in my bare feet, breathing in the crisp air, giddy about this April snowfall even though I knew it wouldn't last. Five hours later it was 60 degrees, all of the dirt roads were bogged down in wheel-sucking peanut-butter mud, the air was thick and muggy, and I was grinding out slow miles through increasing foot pain.

Life comes at you fast. 


  1. Damn. As someone whose little toes are seriously deformed due to my tendency to slam them against furniture on a regular basis, I empathize. I hope it heals quickly!

  2. Going to Bryce sounds like a great plan B.

  3. Andrew broke his metatarsil whilst on a ski trip. However he was making a cup of tea in the kitchen!

  4. Sometimes the "rainbow" is hard to find...
    You are a creative athlete, I'm sure you will find a less painful way to train. Perhaps the weight room??? I know, yuck. Outdoor Jill stuck indoors...

  5. Oh eyes are watering just thinking about smacking my pinkie toe (who HASN'T done that?) Wishing you quick healing, and also knowing that you will be out there way too early anyway (despite the Dr's orders). Enjoy Bryce!

  6. Just tape it to the next toe and you should be good. I broke my little toe in a similar, graceful fashion, and hiked across the Grand Canyon with it - you should be able to muddle thru.

  7. Thanks! I already hit the weight room twice a week. May bump that up to three for a while. ;-)

    I also can ride my bike ... I rode on Sunday while wearing a big pair of hiking boots with Vibram soles. It went well. I was worried because I have a habit of pedaling with my toes (long-time platform user), but I favored my right foot so heavily that by the end of the ride, that foot hurt from smashing my toes against the hard leather toe box. My broken-toe foot felt fine.

    Running ... I'm not likely to chance it anytime soon. The foot still hurts, and I'm a big baby when it comes to pain. Relative pain intolerance, I believe, is how I've managed to avoid overuse injuries all of this time. Of course, I acquire far more than my share of mishap injuries and traumas.


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