Today was my first return to “Peroneus Brevis Hill,” as I now call the hill upon which I sprained my ankle badly while running at the Delaware Water Gap ten months ago.
There’s a picture of it to the left. It’s a bit steeper than it looks in the picture. It’s covered with loose gravel, shale, and other stones. (Click here to read a fascinating article on the geology of the Delaware Water Gap.) It was a wobbly stone that did me in last year. It may have been shale. It may have been sandstone. It was hard to get a good look at it while falling down the hill. I already wrote about that fall. You can read about it here. Right now I’m going to write about the path I’ve been down since injuring myself, some of what I’ve learned a long the way, and how good it felt to be running in the woods again.
Et tu, Peroneus Brevis?
Who is this one, Peroneus Brevis, of whom I speak? He sounds like a Roman of treacherous character, one who would betray and murder the emperor.
Peroneus Brevis is one of the tendons that runs from a muscle in the outside of the calf around the outside of the ankle and attaches to the outside of the foot. It everts the foot. Which means it pulls the foot to the outside.
Mine betrayed me. It tore when my ankle rolled.
(There is also the Peroneus Longus tendon in the same area. Peroneus Longus is a man of noble character.)
Here are a few ways in which I feel betrayed:
- Betrayed in my physical fitness – I went from 100 mph to zero in regard to my physical fitness. I had been logging a good amount of running miles every week. Then suddenly I could not run at all. I had done several races in the few months before my injury, including the Hyner View Trail Challenge (photos here), the Asbury Park Half Marathon, and a race on ski slopes (photos here). And then everything stopped.
I also gained 21 pounds while dealing with and recovering from this injury. That was largely due to being depressed over my situation and being lazy about doing other types of exercise. The appetite I had developed to sustain all the running I had been doing did not diminish. It increased as my self pity increased. It wasn’t very long until I began overeating and stuffing my face with lots of junk. (But those Wise potato chips are SO GOOD!)
Half way up that mountain today and I regretted every potato chip, cookie, and cheeseburger I had ever eaten. This is how it felt:
- Betrayed financially – My wife said, “When I told you to go out there and crush it, I was not referring to our deductible!” This injury took me through months of physical therapy, 73 sessions all together. That’s a lot of copays! Plus, seeing as my ankle had a torn tendon and was not simply sprained, it needed surgery to put it back in working order. The bills came rolling in. In the beginning, my doctor had me go through two months of physical therapy to get the swelling down. Healing wasn’t progress as well as hoped at the end of those two months. He sent me for an MRI. (Another bill.) When he saw a tear on the MRI results he said, “Let’s try four more weeks of PT to see if that does the trick.” It didn’t. He then had me see a surgeon who quickly determined I needed surgery. One month after surgery I went back for more PT. The new year came and brought a new deductible to be met before PT was finished. Bills, bills, bills. I had no choice but to go through the treatment.
- Betrayed in my goals – At the time I injured myself I was registered for several races. I had a 50K scheduled just six weeks from the date of my injury. It would have been my first. I attempted it and couldn’t finish. I wrote about that here.
I was registered for the Runner’s World Festival in October. That’s where I ran my first half marathon in 2014. I was looking forward to being there for my third year in a row. I had to defer to next year. By October I was deep into the Wise potato chips.
Another race from which I had to withdraw was the Hyner View Trail Challenge, which actually took place today.
All that talk about Peroneus Brevis and his Brutus-like betrayal being said, the difference between me and Julius Caesar is that Caesar died. I on the other hand am starting to make a comeback.
The thing that motivated me to get out the door early today, indeed to prepare my running clothes last night, was the thought that today the Hyner race was taking place and I could not be there, BUT I could make this the day of my return to my favorite training grounds. I was so excited last night that I had a hard time getting to sleep. It was like that nervous excitement like one gets the night before a big race. On my way to the Water Gap this morning, at mile marker 19.8 on I-80 west, where you get the first glimpse of the Gap, I felt that nervous excitement like butterflies in my stomach, something my wife refers to as “a wee in her belly.” There it was in the distance and I couldn’t wait to get there.
It was wonderful to be in the woods again! It was wonderful to plod my way up 1,100 feet of elevation. It was wonderful to feel the rocks under my feet. The first time I tweaked my ankle, which smarted not just a little, I remembered what my surgeon said when I saw him last month: “That tendon is healed up. It’s fixed. You can return to whatever activity you want. You have to build up strength in your ankle again. But no activity you do now is going to harm that tendon.” So I carefully and happily continued on. I went down Peroneus Brevis Hill as if my little injury never happened. By the time I got back to the parking lot I was feeling so good that I ran out to the bridge on I-80, across to Pennsylvania, and back, adding another 2.7 miles to the 3.3 I did on the mountain.
I still have a way to go in recovery and much farther to go in training. But I’m back in the game. And by that I mean I signed up for that same 50K I couldn’t manage last year. I’m hoping for a much better experience this year.
Oh yeah, and I lost 9.5 pounds so far.