It was the day after our first meet of the indoor season. The night before, I’d gone 2:18.4 in the 800m – a lifetime PR. Despite my emotional exuberance, my body felt dog tired on our 7 mile long run that Saturday morning. It felt a bit fast in places, and with dismay, I realized at the end that we were only averaging 8-minute mile pace.
“My legs are sooo tired; I think I’m just going to lift upper-body,” Colette announced as we peeled off our cold wet clothes in the locker room.
“Mm-hmm,” I responded. Internal translation: “Yeah, my legs feel tired too, but I’m going to lift them anyway because I’m awesome. Yeah.”
I threw on my usual workout gear – bright running shorts and a sleeveless running top. Not because the outfit was going to keep me warm in the drafty weight room, but because it enabled me to see my muscles bulge in the mirror as I lifted. I know, I know, I’m so vain, but I figure I’ll only have them while I’m young, so I might as well enjoy them!
I tooled around for a bit, chatting with friends and other runners. When I stepped outside the weight room for a drink, I caught sight of an Ole runner stopping by to use our restrooms. So un-Kosher! What the heck! I gave him a hard time, and then darted back into the room to start my least favorite lift: step-ups. Best to get them out of the way as soon as possible.
Don’t get me wrong – step-ups are great for building leg strength and it’s the one lift that has a solid aerobic component to it, in my opinion. They just go on forever. Up-up 1, down-down up-up 1, down-down up-up 2, down-down up-up 2, down-down up-up 3…you get the idea. I put a 30lb barbell on my shoulders and began, trying to listen the the dull hum of the music over the loud-speakers, trying to watch my reflection out of the corner of my eye in the mirror.
At some point, I thought to myself, “Man, this is hard. I’m just going to do 10.” And with the last up-up of my 10th rep, I felt my right ankle give out. I fell backwards, screaming a long, slow, drawn-out obscenity. My left leg smashed into the ground and the momentum of the barbell on my shoulders threw me backwards into the weight rack. At some point, I dropped the barbell and it came crashing down, almost landing on my ankle. I then collapsed haphazardly to the ground, growling in pain.
A group of adults and my teammates crowded around me, telling me they were going to call security, that I could take an ambulance to the emergency room. I remember gasping and then slowing down my breathing, managing to sputter, “I’m sorry and no offense to security, but what are they qualified to do here?” Apparently they could call the ambulance or put me on a transfer shuttle. I refused the ambulance, and Kayla, a sweet freshman sprinter, graciously offered her aunt and uncle’s car – they lived in town and could come right away.
They lifted me on to a cart and wheeled me over to the door. My back and neck were screaming in pain, but everyone seemed super concerned about my ankle. As they brought out a pair of crutches, I started to cry. Why God, why? I have my whole season ahead of me! I just PR-ed last night! Why this? Why now?
Kayla offered to stay with me, riding with me to Northfield’s Urgent Care. It became a waiting game, filled with forms, icing, elevation, x-rays, and an uncomfortable shot in my butt that was supposed to help me relax. And all I could think was This could be the end of my indoor season. This could be the end of my senior track season. And it only just started. I prayed so furiously for this not to be the case.
And then – good news! Nothing was broken. My back and neck were only bruised – my ankle was just sprained. Here, take this brace, avoid running for a few days, and you should be fine.
Determined to come back, I managed one workout on the track the following week, made possible by SO much icing/elevating. Whenever I could, I’d put a bag on it or stick it in a trash can full of icy water. That weekend, I was able to compete in the 1000m at Mankato, running a reasonable 3:03 (no PR, but that was to come later).
At the end of the day, the lesson is: don’t lift legs if they’re tired.
Also, icing and elevating works. It really does. Oh, and my community that took care of me – so awesome. Despite this one momentary setback, I was able to carry on with my season as if nothing had ever happened.
Give it time; it will heal.