Sunday, October 7, 2007

You Can't Kill My Dolphin

Ah, injuries. You either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. I, personally, hate them. Some people love them. These people made a movie called Jackass.

As some readers may have heard, I sustained an injury in a Half Ironman triathlon a couple weeks ago. Before you judge too harshly, this injury did not occur from a bike crash. Contrary to popular belief cemented since my first bike related hospital visit when I was 12 years old, I actually have good bike handling skills. They are not as good as my numbchuck skills, but they are good.

The technical speak for my injury is “peroneal tendonitis”. Anatomically speaking, the peroneal tendon is the large band of tissue that extends down the left spine of the Ukrainian wood ferret, but in humans is actually found on the lower leg. The best way to describe this injury is that it feels like an ankle sprain on the bottom of your foot. No, my ankle is not on the bottom of my foot. It’s right where I usually leave it, directly above my foot. But it feels like if I were to sprain my ankle and then pick that sprain up and put it underneath my foot, I would reproduce this injury’s general feeling. And by reproduce I don’t mean that I have any sexual feelings about my ankle. Damn! This is getting hard to explain. And I’m kidding about the ferret. Moving on…

Since the pain became unbearable several days after the race, especially when I tried to run, I grew very apprehensive about “being ready” for Kona World Championships. Seriously – being barely able to walk 2 weeks prior to the biggest race of your life is like being a quarterback right before the world series and being barely able to swing your racquet, to use a popular sports metaphor. Or like a horse jockey being barely able to find proper drycleaning for his or her colorful horse riding garb.

So over 2 weeks, I threw every therapeutical modality but the kitchen sink at my injured foot – ice massage, regular massage, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, magnetic therapy, topical anti-inflammatory, and bedtime stories. Nothing seemed to work. I couldn’t run but 20 feet without shooting pain. Furthermore, it was beginning to hurt even when I rode my bike, especially when I rode without a saddle on my seatpost, which I do sometimes to make myself tough, or when I’m constipated.

Finally, Dr. PZ Pearce, who is the greatest sports medicine doctor on the face of the planet, suggested a corticosteroid injection into the peroneal tendon sheath. The idea is that the cortisone acts a type of stimulant to my body, giving me enormous biceps so that my arms can handle the rigors of performing an entire Ironman in a wheelchair. No, just kidding. It accelerates the healing response and significantly decreases inflammation.

We injected the foot just 2 days before I was to leave for Hawaii.

And then, while picking up a set of dumbbells in my physiology lab, I threw out my back. Injury number two. Later that night, I had a reaction to the cortisone injection and my peroneal tendon became swollen like a golf ball was lodged in my foot, with intense shooting pain traveling up my entire leg.

So there I was, unable to walk, unable to bend, unable to move, unable to swim, unable to bike, unable to run, 9 days until Kona World Championships. Talk about bad mojo. You never really realize what you take for granted. All that I needed to complete the scenario was for my endangered pet dolphin, Edward, to be struck by a lightning bolt. So I transferred him from his giant outdoor aquarium to the safety of the indoors bathtub.

But I digress.

The painful reaction to the cortisone injection, I was later informed by Dr. Pearce, is normal.

Ben: “Dr. Pearce, I think that I may be dying, my foot is swollen about the size of a large adult rat and I have intense shooting pains up my leg with a blood red skin surface on my ankle and complete paralysis of my entire left side.”

Dr. Pearce: “Oh, that’s normal.”

Touche. But as he promised, the foot began to slowly feel better over the next 2 days. So I continued my intensive treatments literally until stepping on the plane (much to the mortification of FAA officials as I attempted to pass security with a portable electrical stimulation unit in my backpack).

I also treated the injured back very intensively, with ice 5x/day for 30 minutes (yes, that was an entire DVD of The Office), electrical stimulation 2x/day, light massage, and topical analgesic as frequently as possible to relax the spasming muscles.

Just prior to heading to the airport this morning, I tried to run. There was slight pain, but I was able to slowly shuffle through almost 4 miles. I’ve felt a few twinges of pain in both the back and the foot while walking about the various airport terminals throughout the day, but nothing incredibly debilitating.

And so this blog entry is being composed as we near the final descent to Kona. The Big Island awaits. Will I be able to run an entire 26.2 mile marathon in six days? Will my back snap during the 2.4 mile ocean swim? Will Edward survive the rigorous trip in his travel aquarium, lodged in the underbelly of the plane? Only time will tell.

Over and out.

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