Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ankle Sprains Suck

Or alternatively I would like to title this, "To Big Sur, Or Not to Big Sur"

First off, after hopping around on one foot last Tuesday in fairly significant pain, I awoke on Wednesday able to bear weight on my left leg. I was so amazed at the rate of recovery from Tuesday to Wednesday. However, things have been improving much more slowly ever since. I feel comfortable walking around. I would dare say that if I could guarantee my ankle would not roll, I could probably even run with no pain right now.

My ankle yesterday -- The swelling has gone way down but there is now a nice subtle black and blue color to the whole area. All those lines on my skin are from the non-stop compression junk I've been using.

I've mentioned the fact that I have sprained my left ankle in the past. In late 2007 I planted my left foot poorly and twisted my ankle. It was not as serious as this one (I never felt the need for crutches) though it was bad enough I took a week off from running. I got myself an ankle brace that you can run in, and trained for months for my first Goofy Challenge wearing that thing on every single run. It actually got to be more of a mental crutch than a physical one.

I didn't wear the brace during the races. It looks stupid and my ankle hadn't given me any problems for a while. At mile 26 (right by the infamous Gospel Choir) of the marathon I mildly rolled my left ankle. It was the type of roll that you would normally just catalog as a misstep with no pain, but with my ankle being weak it did hurt and it took me more than a few strides to shake it off. That incident really scared me. What if it had happened at mile 2? Could I have finished the whole race?

When I started running again after Goofy, the brace went back on. I ran Napa in 2008 a couple of months after Goofy (PR, baby) and this time I didn't leave the brace at home:

I mention this because once I start running I guarantee I'll be wearing that brace again for months to come. Sprained ankles are terrible in that they don't hurt at all with a forward running motion, but if you misstep and roll it, it can literally stop your run dead. With things like shin splits you know what you're dealing with, but an ankle twist or misstep happens suddenly.

There must be something about my running form which is off because I roll my left ankle 99.9% of the time. I rarely roll my right ankle. And as this incident shows, it isn't as if I am landing on uneven surfaces when it happens. Sometimes, something must be not working right because I just don't plant my foot flatly down.

I know from the past that I will have set backs in the coming months. I'll be out for a run and will roll the damn thing and and will take a few steps back in recovery (both mentally and physically). It will probably be a year before I am mentally clear of this ankle baggage. As such, I am rethinking my race calendar in the future.

First on the agenda, the Big Sur Marathon is 4.5 weeks away. I am at a minimum giving my ankle one more week off. That leaves 3.5 weeks to go from not running for two weeks (and it wasn't as if I was in great marathon shape pre-sprain) to 26.2 mile shape. It can be done but it won't be pretty. I have the option of downgrading to a shorter distance (9 miles) which I know is the smart thing to do. The race has given me almost a month more to submit my decision and I'm thinking I'll wait at least a week or two to see how it goes.

Part of me thinks I should downgrade now while the healing is good. I wouldn't even have to attempt anything longer than 7 miles for a month if I went that route. Another part of me is stubborn and refuses to believe I left both Oakland & Big Sur out on the pavement that day. Thoughts?


cliff said...

i have no experience w/ ankle sprains (so i don't know how long it takes to heal). you know your body though, and if you can put weight on and run on that yucky green tinted ankle, then i guess it's ok. not sure i'd do the marathon distance though. ask yourself if you think you'd be able to enjoy the run? i'm pretty sure the big sur race will still be there next year and the year after that, if that's any help.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

word verification "curing"
Running on an incompletely healed ankle could, and I stress could, only could, set you up for problems many years from now, if not sooner. The body likes gentle normal movement for healing. Once again the question is what is important? the now or the later?

Rabbits' Guy said...

Perhaps a Physical Therapist/podiatrist specializing in running could diagnose that rolling ankle problem. Sounds more like a mechanics thing which might be helped with a special orthotic or some high-tech ankle support on that foot.

Tough decision.

naomi said...

i don't know what to tell you other than i'm glad that you're feeling better. i know you'll make the right decision for you, although, maybe the course getting washed out is a sign?!???

Glenna said...

I'd go to an orthopedic dr. for a consultation and referral to a physical therapist. I would ask the Dr. about the advisability of running before the ankle is fully healed (I had a badly sprained ankle and was told 6-8 weeks minimum), and I'd ask the pt to show me strengthening exercises. I wouldn't do the race, personally, and agree with Diana's assessment. Disappointing, I know.

Marlene said...

How frustrating! I hope your ankle is feeling 100% again soon, and that it doesn't mess with you mentally for too long. Good luck with the decision. I vote: smart!

Nicole said...

Boo! Rest up! Im thinking of you!

Average A said...

Whoa, that is a massive bruise! Glad it's feeling better, but I still wouldn't push it, especially since you know how it's treated you in the past.

Honestly, if I were you, I'd knock down to the 9 for Big Sur. I'm sure Tara would love a partner, but really... what happens if you do roll it again? Brace or no brace, hopping into THAT marathon after time off is going to be rough on your body AND your ankle.

While I know you don't want to have to shelve two races in a row, I'd take this time and let it heal before pushing it again. Just my two sense -- I know how stubborn you are, though. :)


Forward Foot Strides said...

Same problem, same ankle for me. I know we're all different, but I kept running with a mild sprain, and with that whole rolling thing you mentioned, it got worse and worse.

I'm now doing physiotherapy, and part of my therapy includes increasing my strides per minute. (Something to do with it leads to less opportunity to injure it.) Hard to explain, but when I run, it feels right.

I'm doing shorter distances than I had in mind for this year at my physiotherapist's recommendation, but like I said, we're all different, so if you can get into one maybe he'll have some good advice.

Wishing you speedy healing!

Anonymous said...

I'm with D. Moll. While normal, basic movement can accelerate healing, without adequate rest, the ankle doesn't have time to fully recover, and is prone to further injury down the road.

If I were you, I would give it a week, and follow some sort of ankle rehab program, to help stay on schedule. You'll be that much farther ahead in the end!

Wade Faerber said...

I know it’s been a while now, but I think you should just wait for your ankle be completely healed before you rush to the race, because the activity might reinjure it or even worse, greatly affect your active lifestyle.

Wade Faerber

Mark Wallace said...

I agree. An ankle sprain can really be frustrating for someone who lives an active lifestyle, just like you. It keeps you from your training regimen, and most of all, from running laps. Anyway, it’s not advisable to move frequently when you've sprained your ankle because that might cause further damage.

Mark Wallace @ Chiropractic Memphis