Friday, February 16, 2018

Hubris and Cursed Boots

Everything was going great, until it wasn't anymore..

Winter wonderland once more!

I saw my osteopath on Friday evening for some TLC on my left ankle, and he tore my chronically tight calves apart  in an effort to settle them down. He wasn't terribly confident I'd be up to running the next day, but bad could it be?

The 4" of fresh snow overnight didn't help, nor did the fact it was still falling when I arrived around half past noon for the Valentine's Fatazz fundraiser for the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. I'd hoped to get in 5 laps at Huron Natural Area from 1pm-5pm, but from my first few strides I knew that would be tough to manage.

Very pretty, but not conducive to fast running.

When all was said and done, I did get in 4 full laps for a total of 26km, finishing with seconds to spare before the 5am-5pm window designated for the event closed. I also helped to raise around $900 for mental health research and initiatives!

As well as getting myself thoroughly snowy.

Back home that evening and feeling pretty good (if rather tired), I spent some time getting ready for the next day's adventure: I waxed up our decks to head out to Chicopee to go snowboarding for the first time in 5 years!

I still love my 2004 Lamar Cruiser 149 and 2005 Burton Cartel bindings.

It took some time to get them sorted out, but I finished by about 9:30pm and was just packing everything up into our snowboard bags to get an early start the next day when suddenly my fingers were greasy. Where the heck was it coming from? It turns out my 13-year-old Burton Ruler snowboard boots had reached the end of their lifespan: some plastic plates on their exterior were breaking down to their petrochemical components, exuding greasy droplets over their whole surface and cracking in several places when even lightly flexed. Looks like I needed new boots, but everything was closed.

I did some online window shopping and found a pair of likely-seeming boots on sale at a shop that would open at 11am the next morning. Well, that would still give us a few hours of decent riding time (I was under the erroneous impression that Chicopee still closed at 4:30pm on Sundays) - we could go pick them up after we got dressed to ride.

Down to the mall the next day after some fortifying breakfast, and I pulled on the pair of boots I'd had the employee put aside for me when I called before we left. 

Little did I know they were cursed..

Cannot confirm or deny that all units are cursed, but the ones I ended up with?

I pulled them on, and they felt a bit snug, but my perusal of reviews said the liners would pack out pretty quickly and they'd gain almost a full show size. They didn't have any larger sizes, either, without being ridiculously huge. So, I figured I'd give them a go. They cut the hell out of my hands while lacing them: tearing huge flappers on the last 2 fingers of my right hand, and blistering my left pinkie as well.

But, we were on our way. Arrived at the hill and I headed in to get our lift tickets, just as it started absolutely POURING with freezing rain.

Woo hoo.

I was starting to wonder about the whole business, but I'd waxed for "moist" conditions and we'd already sunk $85 on non-refundable lift tickets. I checked the radar and it looked like the rain would pass within 30mins or so, so I bought Tanker a beer (and myself a coffee), and we headed to the upstairs patio to wait it out.


The rain thinned out, and so did the crowds - by the time it stopped completely, the lift lines were reduced to almost nothing! Off we went to the not-quite-bunny hill (Tenderfoot) to see if we remembered how to do this..

Tank looking confident

Three runs on Tenderfoot and it was all starting to come back, though I couldn't get my bindings reefed down as tightly as I'd have liked. The new boots really did feel too small; both on my feet and for the length of my binding straps. I had a tool to make adjustments, but it was in the car and I didn't really want to waste precious riding time. So, I made do, and then we decided we were ready to head to our traditional favourite run - a blue slope called North.

Which provides a pretty decent view toward Kitchener.

We got a decent run in, but I was feeling a little shakier on the steeper grade - the rain had iced things up a bit, and it was perhaps hubris on my part to think I could jump back into snowboarding on legs that had run 4hrs the day before in deep, shifting snow. Come to think of it, I'd actually run almost 78km in the prior 7 days, bracketed by long runs in fresh snow at Huron Natural Area and Dundas Valley the previous Sunday.

Fun times on the lift.
Still, we were having fun, and when Tank suggested we go try a little more aggressive slope right next to North - another blue called Easy Rider that starts out quite steep then flows - I had some misgivings, but didn't want to wuss out and hold him back. After all, I'd been snowboarding since I was 15 years old - I should be able to handle this.

Let's give'er.

So, I get into my bindings, and have a look. It's been scraped down pretty badly and there are drifts of snow around on the icy slope, so I'm not very happy that I can't get my bindings as solid as I'd like, and my feet are feeling really cramped in the too small boots.

I drop in anyway, trying to carve to shave off some speed and avoid an errant child. Hitting one of the drifts a little too fast, I went slightly airborne, then landed on my toes with my legs almost straight - kryptonite to proper balance.

I knew I was going down, but I had no idea how hard. WHACK - something feels like a sledgehammer hitting my right snowboard boot as I bail and flip from a hard hit on my back over to my front. I get to my knees wondering if I'm ok, then look downhill and see my water bottle sailing down the hill, having fallen out of my snowpants' pocket. Without thinking further I get up and go corral it with my board, dropping to my knees to pick it up then finishing off the run.

OOF - ARGH - awww crap..

My water bottle making its break for freedom and its retrieval are all that Tanker sees, as he was trying to get over the lip at the top to start his run. He has no idea anything has happened apart from me dropping my bottle.

He reaches me at the bottom and asks if I'm ok, and I have to respond that I'm not sure. He sounds confused until I explain that I biffed hard and I guess my board dug into the snow while my body was whipping around, so my foot stayed put while my leg twisted hard, ratching my ankle pretty badly. 23 years of riding and I've never had anything even remotely like this happen.

Just effin' OW.

He makes me take my deck off and walk out to the car, which goes ok with my foot still laced into the cursed boot. I use my tool to adjust my binding, and decide to give it another go. I paid 85 bloody dollars for lift tickets - I'm getting in more than 5 runs. Back to the not-quite-bunny hill, and it feels ok when I'm actually carving; skating and having the board hang from my foot on the lift aren't comfortable, but I can deal. We go back to North, and I even managed a clean run on Easy Rider with my foot better locked into the binding now. 

Some redemption, at least.

Another run on North, though, and all the other stuff is getting more painful - we decide to call last run after just 2hrs, finishing off with Easy Rider. Tanker bails on that one but doesn't hurt himself; I offered him one more so he could finish on a clean run, but he said he was good to go.

We manage to return the cursed boots to the store, then head out to get groceries. By this time it's clear I'm NOT OK - hobbling around in horrible pain as my ankle - the one that was supposed to be the strong one as compared to the chronically sore left one - swells in multiple places. Get home and put it up, then make a comment in a facebook PM thread with some runner friends trying to get a bubble soccer game together that I don't even know when I'll be able to run again. Moments later my phone is exploding with text messages from my amazing RMT/ultrarunner friend asking me what she missed and if she has to use her #sternface on me. I explain what happened, and she tells me I need to get my foot in a bucket of cold water for NO MORE THAN 11mins and get in to see my osteopath ASAP. I do a 10min soak, keep it elevated for the rest of the evening, then go to bed early.

This has been my view for a lot of this week.

I can't sleep at all Sunday night. Can't get comfortable for more than 5mins at a time - the ankle is touch-sore all around it, and it hurts to flex, extend, and tilt my foot in any direction. I can feel the pulls in the muscles and tendons right up to my knee, and haven't felt pain like this since I broke my wrist.

It still looked this bad by Wednesday.

Call my osteopath's office after another cold water bucket soak Monday morning, and he can get me in at 6:30pm - hallelujah! I spent a miserable day at the office trying to put my foot up on my desk when I could, taking turmeric and ginger to fight inflammation, vitamin C, B12, B6 and gelatin to stimulate collagen synthesis, and laving my poor ankle in arnica. I was just barely able to drive and using a cane to limp awkwardly around as little as possible, especially since my left ankle was now getting really sore from having to take most of my weight. After some ultrasound, a bunch of manual therapy, then some electrostimulation with an acupuncture needle in the ankle drainage point up near my knee at my osteopath's office, I was a TON more comfortable. Still hobbling with a cane, but with a little bit of range of motion and almost no remaining touch soreness.

I've also been receiving a fair bit of tactile therapy of a different kind.

This week has been all about small victories. Tiny ankle circles and toe taps (flexion and extension) on Tuesday. Able to stand on one foot long enough to put on my underpants. Able to do some gentle, seated ankle rotations, tilts, flexion and extension with my wobble board, and balance for 1 minute. Wednesday I was finally able to walk normally as long as I went very slowly and took small steps, and can climb stairs without using the cane. As of Thursday I can even do tiny little calf raises again, and this afternoon I made it 3 full minutes on my wobble board.

Wednesday night I even got out for a little walk around the block; a Valentine's stroll with my sweetheart. I took my cane - especially since the ground was covered in lumpy snow and ice - but I managed not to hurt myself! When we got home I did another cold water soak before bed, then remembered I'd heard lavender oil was helpful for ankle sprains. As I rubbed some in I was sad to notice the bruising on the sides of my heel was worse in the harsh light of the bathroom than I'd thought, and I wondered if I'd made a mistake by going walking.

Thursday morning, though, I woke up to a small miracle: not only had the bruising subsided significantly, but the swelling was almost gone! I also had the least stiffness in the ankle I'd had yet when getting out of bed; basically no pain as long as I was careful about my hobble to the bathroom.

Holy crap I have two almost human-looking feet again!

So, I'm holding out hope that this won't mess with my season too badly. I'm sure the fatigue from Saturday's run is probably a factor in the damage done - the ankle probably could have stood up to that tumble better had it not been beaten up in the soft, shifting snow for hours on end. Still, I don't think my conceited belief that I could go snowboarding for the first time in half a decade on tired legs was truly my downfall - ain't nothing gonna help you if you end up with a pair of cursed boots.

I'm incredibly grateful that I've been able to make such strides (heh) in recovery this week, largely thanks to two caring professionals in my RMT (who has been requesting daily updates and celebrating my small successes with me) and my osteopath, whom I'll be seeing again in less than an hour. I'm also seeing the rewards of my consistent weight training over the past few years (to build bone density, preventing a fracture), and the last few months that I've dedicated to improving my balance and strengthening the supporting musculature around my ankles. This certainly isn't the way I'd hoped it would pay dividends, but I'm sure it's helping me as I work toward my return to pain-free movement once more.

So much for the 100 runs in 100 days challenge, though - today is day 64 and I had managed 64 runs as of Saturday, so now I just get to watch myself fall behind..

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