Beyond Iron
Life … when the training is finished

Positive Traction?

Heidi and I (as Frida Kahlo and Tony Stark) – Our kitchen – October 23, 2010 - Pre Essex/Iverson Halloween Party

Houston, we have a problem.

Remember that “low shin muscle bruise that seemingly came from nowhere” I mentioned yesterday in my post? It’s getting worse. Considerably worse.

I’m not sure what I’m dealing with here. A shin splint? Muscle bruising? A stress fracture? I don’t know. But I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t have me scared, and concerned. We’re 7 days away from Ironman, and despite the fact that I’ve largely been sitting on couches, and airplanes and at my desk, I’ve somehow develop what is quite possibly the scariest injury since I wiped out on my road bike more than 2-1/2 years ago.

This one is freaky because I don’t really know where it came from.

Sometime Wednesday  morning, I noticed that a very small spot on a muscle or the bone on my left front shin was sore. It felt like I might have bumped into something, or pulled it. It concerned me, but it was so minor, I didn’t think too much of it.

Thursday, the pain didn’t seem much worse. Friday, it seemed to be the same, or maybe a little bit better. This morning I barely noticed it.

Late this morning, with my cold subsiding, I opted to go for a light training bike/run combo – a 30 mile bike ride, coupled with a 3-mile run. The bike ride in the beginning was tough – my chest is still full of crunk n’ junk from the cold, but my legs and quads responded strong. Lots of power, despite a 10-15 mph headwind. Great speed, good strength. “Despite the last 10 days of sickness,” I observerd, “I was easily biking far stronger than in my previous Ironman.”

“Jeez, this is a good sign,” I said to myself.

I biked from Mill and Broadway up to Shea and around 56th Street. Piece of cake. Felt about as easy as sipping a beer and watching football on the couch. Turned east, headed out to Pima and turned for home. Beautiful day, sun shining, happy people everywhere. “God, I love Phoenix in the fall,” I thought. Sunshine and light breezes and beautiful mountain backdrops. I even passed a classic car rally. Model T’s decked out in candy apple reds, and bikini yellows with tops down.

I rode home – 30+ miles in the bag and no exhaustion whatsoever. I put on my running shorts, tied on my shoes, said goodbye to Heidi and went out the front door to run.

Walked across the front lawn, got onto the pavement. One step, two step, start the light warm up jog. Uh-oh.

Stop. Walk. 10 more steps. Light jog again. Pain shooting up the leg. Pain shooting down to the foot.

So I walk back home. Tell Heidi I won’t be running. “Leg hurts. Same spot,” I say. “Have to rest.”

Then I forget about it. ASU is playing Stanford. Going to the game. Friends are coming over. So I eat some lunch. Offer to help cleanup the house. I eat lunch. Go out and buy some beer.

Come home. Play some bocce. Ride my bike to the game.

All is good. Injury forgotten about again.

Then, as I’m leaving the game, walking down the exit ramps of Sun Devil Stadium, the pain in my left leg spikes. Bad. To the point where I’m almost limping. I can walk through it. Walk normal. But it hurts.

I come home and start testing my leg. Flexing the foot up and down. And the pain is intense. There’s crunching in the muscle (bone?) when I flex it up and down. I touch it. And it feels like things are crunching in there.

What. The. Fuck?

So that’s where I’m at. I’ve read up on the symptoms. All signs point to shin splints. Or, worst case, some sort of stress fracture/injury – excessive use of muscles, constant pounding on the bones, pushing the body to extremes. I’ve done all the things the medical journals say causes these injuries.

But to have it come now, when I’ve largely been resting?

Why now? And furthermore: How?

The only thing I can point to is that early on during my cold, in New Jersey, say day 1, and day 2, I was still in that “must train every day” mentality. I swam and biked a week ago Thursday; and swan and ran a week ago Friday. Both days, not realizing the severity of my cold, I came home and told Heidi: “That seemed excessively difficult.”

I’m a crackhead, so I chalked the swim difficulty up to the increased density of water at lower altitudes (Tempe, Arizona, elevation 1,110 feet – Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, elevation 57 feet) [seriously, it’s true, it’s why water boils at lower temperatures at higher elevations], but I now realize, those workouts were difficult because I was really, really sick – and dealing with the emotional exhaustion of the funeral.

But that Friday, I also ran hard – really hard. Did I injure it then? Or did I injure it somewhere else? Did I bump into something and forget? Did I sleepwalk and damage it? I’ve done that before. Hell, I once sleep ran (true story – 6 miles – I also sleep drove that same night, over to my running partner’s house). I really don’t know.

But the prognosis is less than encouraging. Most medical sites on the web suggest my injury – if it is, indeed, some form of shin splints – will take several weeks to heal. I don’t have weeks. I have 7 days.

I’m sure I’ve commented before that many Ironman competitors will tell you that just getting to the start line in good health and good shape is an accomplishment in and of itself. And now I’m reminded of that.

In the past two years, I’ve watched two of my greatest sources of inspiration – two athletes whose skills and dedication are far superior to mine, Dominic Petrocelli and Eric Jelinek – drop out of an Ironman race due to injury. And with 7 days left, I hope I don’t have to do the same.

Dropping out after so much time dedicated to training is almost as difficult as doing the race itself. Imagine you spent 20 hours a week for 8 months, prepping for something, and then, all of a sudden, you had to give it up.

I don’t think I’m there yet. But now, the reality is, that I have to ask myself: At what point to do you listen to your body and realize something – however unexpected – may be wrong?

With shin splints, athletes who ignore the symptoms run the risk of creating stress fractures as the damaged muscles slowly pull apart the bone. Is that what’s going on in my body? I don’t know. If I don’t notice some substantial healing by Monday, I’m going to call a sports medicine specialist and try to sneak in an emergency appointment.

This has all happened so fast. I’m still stunned. Eight months of insane biking, running and swimming, and now that I’m relaxing, I get hurt? It doesn’t make sense.

My biggest fear is that I’ll claim I’m okay come race day and push through it, only to create a major problem out of something minor.

My hope, is that it’s just a bruise, and that this is nature’s (or maybe Grandma’s) way of saying: “Rest, Ed. Wait until race day. And then go out there and kick the shit our of this thing.”

Faith. And quick healing. That’s what I need right now.

I promise to keep y’all posted daily from here on out.\

– Ed

P.S. I just reread this for edits before I posted it and reading it, I thought, man, people are going to think: “This came out of the blue.”

I feel the same way.

I’m hoping with all the hope I have that this is just a bruise, and that I’m overreacting, and that super quick healing comes my way.

I’m ready for this. I hope, come race day, my left leg is, too.

One Response to “Positive Traction?”

  1. Go straight to the doctor and have him prescribe PT. My biggest mistake was trying to heal myself. If you get into PT on Monday they could possibly help you out by race day and they will definitely know what is wrong so you don’t have to guess. I have my fingers crossed for you.

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