I sat on a kitchen chair. My right foot was buried under the cubes in a cooler of ice water. My left foot soaked dreamily in warm saltwater. I can handle ice water, though it is never comfortable. I submit to it just like the other “good” pains of training. I did wonder, though, how the competing hot/cold sensations would reconcile in my nervous system. This strikes me as an interesting experiment in phenomenology. If you want to participate, stop reading and go try it yourself. That way my results won’t confound your experience. OK. Stop now.
If you are like me, you should have gotten a nice surprise. I was more aware of my warm left foot so that the sensation in my right foot was more tolerable than usual!
The saltwater soak was an attempt to relieve the pain in my left big toe. For the first time I hurt a toenail during a run. The nail turned white in the week after States, and some fluid had leaked out from the nail bed at the top. I suspected pressure under the nail was causing the increasingly acute pain. So I heated a paper clip on the stove top until it glowed red and then bore a hole in the middle of my nail. I expected a spray of fluid as the pressure found an escape, but instead I felt the heat of the metal. Had I cauterized the hole and closed it prematurely? If so, I hoped the concentrated salt water would draw the fluid out. I know just enough to be dangerous. After the soak the pain only intensified. So much for armchair physics. The good news is that my toe has finally stopped hurting.
The right foot was cooling off to counter the pain in my heel that started so early at Western States. At the time I thought the pain would probably shake out after some running, but it persisted and got worse, so that I took aspirin when I met my crew at the Duncan Canyon aid station. This seemed to help the pain for a couple of hours, but I had to take more pain relievers later. I didn’t consider it at the time, but in retrospect I probably added to the burden placed on my system with the anti-inflammatories. The pain in my ankle required it, so I didn’t give it a second thought at the time. I was able to manage that pain effectively, but I may have contributed to the later difficulty in managing my food and fluids.
Even after the run, as my ankle became tender again, I expected that a few days of rest would remedy the injury. After more than two weeks I am still unable to run. The bad news is that I partially ruptured my Achilles in that ankle. It’s now clear that I will have to rest it for several more weeks before I start training for fall races. If I recover and retrain in time I may enter a couple of 50s before a late fall or early winter 100. I’d entertain any suggestions.