I've trained all spring and summer for a fall marathon. Getting up at 6am every morning to get my run in early, sometimes even 5:30; sometimes 5— on Saturdays! I've monitored my diet, gone to bed early, and foregone other activities in order to keep my training routine. An "evening out with friends" was redefined to mean going to the track for speed and tempo workouts with like-minded lunatics— I mean, other runners seeking to improve their pace, strength, and speed. I chose the Steamtown Marathon, in early October, and the Bird-in-Hand Half-Marathon as a really fun training run, next week.
When I went to Maine for a several day hike on the Appalachian Trail with my daughter and the Venture Crew, (see previous post) I figured that my marathon training would have prepared me for the trail. I was certainly glad that I'd been training as much as I had, but only hiking prepares one for such a trail. Instead, before we were done, I decided that the trail was aiding my marathon training. Doing lunges and squats with a 45 lb weight on my back for 10 hours at a stretch, up and down mountains, learning to ignore the screaming of the muscles and press through the pain because "we're not there yet." Marathon/schmarathon. I've got this.
Once off the trail I was so glad to be out of my boots and into my comfy flip-flops. Oh, the relief! My feet may even speak to me again! I'm not sure where we were, but at some point I brushed some ants off my feet after realizing that something had bitten me. No worries; I had just survived mountains! What's an insignificant little ant bite after the adventure we'd just had? Time to get back home and resume the training after a couple of days rest.
But don't you know, that ant bite was itchy. It was directly above my outside ankle bone on my right foot. In fact, I may have scratched it open a time or two while scratching to relieve the itch. But, who doesn't do that? Happens all the time.
And then a week after being bitten, my ankle began to swell. Friday afternoon I noticed the swelling, so that evening I kept it elevated and on ice. (Well, frozen mixed vegetables, they do the trick in a pinch.) The next morning I slathered some antibiotic cream onto the now-tender bite, slapped a band-aid onto it and went for an 8-mile run. Afterwards it was still tender, but more ice/mixed veggies and elevation calmed it down enough that when Isaac and Erin were ready we all went to the site of our new church building and helped with the work going on out there. Around 4 pm I realized that the swelling was worse than before and the silly band-aid was flopping around uselessly, so I sat in the car with my foot up on the dashboard while the kids finished up. Home to mixed veggies and elevating it some more— how long will this take? It's beginning to get annoying. I need to be running.
Sunday morning my ankle wasn't as swollen, but, boy, was it ever tender and sore at the point of the bite. And that was getting bigger too. Jim helped to doctor it up with antibiotic cream and more serious bandaging and I had it elevated all morning at home while the rest of the family went to church. We began to think that this was perhaps a spider bite. Ant bites don't do this, after all, but we've heard about how horrible spider bites get, we've seen the photos, and this was starting to look like that sort of awful.
By Tuesday I was unable to walk or stand, the pain whenever Jim would change the dressing was becoming nearly unbearable, and the wound itself was looking more than icky. Jim took me to see a doctor who pronounced the wound "impressive." He prescribed some pain relief, Tylenol-3, an antibiotic specific to skin infections, and told us to come back should it get worse.
It got worse.
Evidently, I have a pretty high threshold not only for pain, but also for a nasty-looking injury, provided it stays under a bandage. Saturday Jim took me and my nasty wound back for the doctor to have a look, finding him at home with his doctor wife. They both bent over my ankle and peeled back the bandage... After asking a few questions about the progression of the wound and calling another doctor friend for a brief consult, I heard Mr. Doctor ask Mrs. Doctor, "Do we have a scalpel here at home?"
The quickest way to wrap this up is to skip to the Emergency Room. After a reasonable(?) wait time I was called in to see the P.A. on duty who, after asking all of the same questions and looking closely at the nasty wound, outlined precisely the same course of treatment that Mr. Doctor had described in his dining room. My ankle was x-rayed just to be safe— it was fine— and we proceeded with the treatment, which I won't describe here. You're welcome.
I'll just say that I was a good patient, and my high pain threshhold came in right handy. They gave me a far more powerful antibiotic and Vicodin, a far more powerful pain-killer. Because of the treatment I'd just received they had me take two Vicodin right before rolling me out in the wheelchair to the car; warning Jim that he may need to carry me into the house if its full effect hit me before we reached home. I was wobbly when we go home, and still able to have a quick bite of dinner (3 hours late) before needing help to get up the stairs and to bed. Evidently, I was rather entertaining; at least, the kids and their neighborhood friends who were here seemed to think so.
So, within two weeks I went from climbing mountains to being unable to climb the stairs; from running 18 miles to being unable to walk across a room.
From anticipating running a half-marathon next week and a full marathon a month later to running neither.
That's fine; really, it is. As much as I hoped to run those races and as enjoyable as I thought they'd be, my primary purpose in registering for them was to keep me exercising all summer—which I did. I've made new friends and had some really neat times out on the trails and roads. I'm probably in the best shape of my life physically, and the self-discipline that I learned spills over into other aspects of my life. I may be grounded for now, but once I can move again I'll lace up my shoes and hit the road again.
I'll even re-register for that marathon for next fall. After all, October is a gorgeous month for a nice long run.