I received this particular diagnosis just under a week ago, though I have suspected that I have had this problem for a number of years. Since somewhere around 2013, I have been experiencing sudden, intermittent ankle pain that would surface and disappear with no known cause or justification. Early on, this pain was a mere irritant that did very little to interrupt my training. Over time, however, the pain would get more and more severe, and it would often cause increasingly longer and longer layoffs.
When it would act up, I would spend days monitoring arthritis forecasts, because there seemed to be a loose correlation between the onset of the pain and the weather. During this past year, though, that correlation deteriorated as my ankle started to hurt during all kinds of weather, no matter what the season was. This past July, after a routine long run, my foot exploded with discomfort that never went away. I haven’t run for months, and I will not be running for many, many more.
Last October, when I turned 40, I wrote a quick blog post for Coach Kiprunning that discussed how good I was feeling despite officially entering the master runner phase of my career. What I wrote there was true, but it was also a lie. My right ankle was hurting on that day, and it would eventually lead to a four-week rest period due to what everyone thought was just a sprain.
At the time, even though I was in pain, I just was not not going to run on my birthday. I knew it was not the smartest thing to do, but I needed to run, and I wanted to run, so I ran.
This particular mindset—stubbornness, you might call it—is fairly common among athletes of all kinds. When our bodies fail us, we rebel and do the exact things that our bodies are telling us not to do.
Running last October 30th did not do this to my ankle, I know that much. However, what I also know is that I will not be running on this October 30th or on next October 30th.
The recovery period for this injury is expected to be a calendar year at a minimum. Some estimates even stretch out for eighteen months. We will just have to see.
In colloquial terms, I do sort of have arthritis, or what would soon become arthritis, which means that my forecast monitoring wasn’t totally misplaced. Essentially, I have a small fracture in my talus bone that my body has rather unhelpfully filled in with a cyst. There is also some damaged, loose cartilage floating around in there, making my ankle click as a result.
This has all been quite lovely, let me tell you.
All that junk needs to be cleaned out, and then I will be injected with all kinds of transplanted bone marrow and cartilage grafts in an effort to repair the defect. I can’t be weight bearing for the better part of six weeks, and then my ankle will be immobilized for a while, and then I will have all kinds of PT, and then maybe I will eventually be able to run again . . . when I am 42, at the earliest.
During this interminable period of time, I will continue to update this blog to track my progress and to try to ensure that I do not go completely bonkers.
Feel free to read along! I’ll be happy to have your company.
–October 14, 2018