Alright, folks - here's the continuation of the story that will make up the Introduction to the book. I'm hoping to finish off this part of the book over the coming weekend, and will post it here as well. After that, I'm not sure how much I'll post on the blog, and how much will only be going out to my Advance Reader List.
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The Road Back to Sun Peaks
A week after breaking my ankle, I was at Mt. Seymour for the Spartan Race Vancouver Sprint to support the team. Julia, Kyle and Scott were running, while Dillon and I sat on the sidelines.
Aside from the physical pain from my foot being crushed inside the too-tight cast from the ER, I was suffering deep down inside over not being able to run the race with the team. It was a pretty bleak time for me, with the pain having made it difficult to sleep all week, and worrying about the possibility that my racing season was over before it had even begun.
I’m allergic to most pain medications, including all NSAID’s (Non-Steroidal-Anti-Inflammatory medications, like aspirin and ibuprofen) and codeine (so no Tylenol-3’s for me). Basically, I can take Tylenol, or morphine, and just about nothing in between. Having never broken a bone before, I had no idea what to expect in terms of recovery, and I certainly wasn’t aware that the level of pain I was still experiencing a week after the accident was abnormal. I was feeling like this was just the beginning of a long period of pain to come.
Right after the accident, I had done some research through the awesome online resources of Precision Nutrition to formulate a supplement plan to hopefully accelerate my healing and recovery, and mapped out a theoretical plan to maintain some level of fitness while my ankle healed. I put a brave face on it, and talked as positively as I could about the prospects of getting back in action by our next scheduled Spartan Race, the Red Deer Super on Labour Day weekend, but deep down I didn’t believe it.
The pain level in my calf and foot was a constant 9 or 10 out of 10, feeling like my leg from the knee down was being crushed in a vise. That pain made it impossible to sleep until I’d get so exhausted I would literally pass out, and within no more than an hour, I’d be awoken by the throbbing, crushing pain again. I felt completely useless at home, unable to help with anything and needing to be waited on for anything I needed. Like I said, I was in a pretty dark headspace at that time, and while I tried to remain outwardly positive for the team and my clients, I had little confidence that I would ever be able to walk normally again, never mind getting back out running on the trails or doing the other physical activities that had become a part of my identity over the last several years.
So there I was with Dillon, watching others do what we both wanted so badly to be out there doing ourselves. I struggled around the festival area on crutches with Dillon limping along beside me while the rest of our team tackled the course. We figured the Sprint would be relatively slow-going, with a lot of people on the shorter course, and it proved true, with the team finishing in 1:48:29.
The Spartan Addiction
The Vancouver Sprint was Kyle’s first-ever Spartan Race, and like the rest of us, he was hooked immediately. I’m pretty sure his first words to me as we started the drive back home were, “So – when’s Red Deer?” That was quickly followed by, “Is there another Beast nearby I can do for my Trifecta?” (we had already established that Sun Peaks wasn’t going to be possible for him, due to a work scheduling issue).
It’s funny how something so physically demanding and potentially frustrating can just instantly draw you in for more. Sun Peaks 2015, for me physically, could only be described as horrifically bad. After feeling OK for the first hour or so, my legs seized rigid, and I fought constant muscle seizures in my legs for the next six and a half hours up and down the mountain, but the whole time I was thinking in my head, “I’m DEFINITELY coming back and doing this again!” OK, I tend to have a little bit of a masochistic tendency from time to time, but this was far and away the most physically-challenging thing I had experienced in my life to that point, and being a short, densely built, explosive power kind of guy, I am damn near the worst-suited physical type for dragging my ass up and down a mountain, yet I found myself thinking that this…THIS was what I was meant to be doing. Weird, but true.
Anyway, Kyle ended up signing up for the Red Deer Super in short order, and our team continued to expand. My cousin, Richard, had already signed on to the team for Red Deer just before I broke my ankle (with a semi-trash-talking message saying, “I don’t need to train – I could run it right now” J), so along with the brothers, we were up to a team of five. I needed to get back on my feet, and fast!
Finally – Some Light At The End of The Tunnel!
I continued to suffer with the too-tight cast for another week or so until I finally just couldn’t take it anymore, and back off to the ER I went. The attending doctor immediately identified the problem, and thanks to the great work of the cast technician at Abbotsford Regional Hospital’s Cast Clinic (I don’t know her name, but if you’re reading this – THANK YOU again!), I was fitted with a much more comfortable cast, and was instantly relieved. My pain level dropped from a 9-10 down to a much more manageable 3-4 right away, and I could start pulling my mind back from the dark hole I’d been in since breaking my ankle.
With my next follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon/sports medicine doctor (Dr. David Lee – same name as my father-in-law – LOL!) scheduled for the following week, I started to make plans for my comeback. The switch to the Air Cast after that appointment really opened life back up for me, and the despair and pessimism I had been feeling previously started to give way to a grim determination.
The First Steps
As my daughters’ summer holidays kicked off, we went up to Sundance Guest Ranch near Ashcroft, BC so that Raina and the girls could enjoy some horseback riding while I convalesced. Though still on crutches, I had been told I could experiment with a little bit of partial weight-bearing, building up to full weight-bearing by the last week of July..
While they rode horses, I slowly, gingerly, and painfully made my way around the boardwalks of the ranch with my crutches, trying to put just enough pressure into my ankle to get it moving without reinjuring it in the process. Thankfully, Dr. Lee had told me the broken bone was lining up nicely, so I had confidence that so long as I didn’t overdo the load on it, I shouldn’t do any damage. It was painful and frustratingly slow, and I had to consciously make an effort to make my body put weight on the ankle, but it was something.
It was the first week of July, and I had two months to go until Red Deer.
Towards the end of the month, the week before my next follow-up with Dr. Lee, we were on a camping trip with our good friend Steve and the kids (Steve’s wife, Tanya, was tied up with work, but managed to pop out one evening to hang out). Trying to use the crutches while maneuvering around the campsite and in/out of the tent trailer we had borrowed was getting really, really annoying. While my family and friends were down at the lake, I decided to try a couple of steps unaided at the campsite.
I had tried simply standing on my own two feet without any support a number of times, and I knew how uncomfortable the load from that was by itself, but I didn’t know how my ankle would handle the dynamic loading from stepping. The answer? Not too bad! Don’t get me wrong – it was still painful, and I was nowhere close to walking normally. Again, I had to deliberately will my foot to move in order to take a step. I was limping severely, barely taking the load into the injured leg for a fraction of a second before shifting it back, and just a few steps were enough to exhaust me, but it was progress.
I made the decision then to switch to using a cane instead of the crutches, and try to get a bit ahead of the curve with my recovery for the first time. I was starting to look forward to the coming weeks.
OK - so there's part 2. It's funny how many words it seems to be taking me to get the story down, considering it has been only five months to the day since I broke my ankle. I did take a couple of small detours off the storyline along the way, but that's just where my mind went. :)
Again, not sure how much more of the story I'll publish on the blog. If you want to make sure you have access to all of it before the finished book is produced, click the button below to sign up to my Advance Reader List.