Up until a week ago, my training in Ottawa had been going well. I had been doing diverse, intense training and logging the hours I was supposed to. I had just started to settle into a regular routine when a contagious bug started making it's rounds through the ski team. I was hoping to avoid it, but I wound up getting a bad cold. This made me tired, irritable and unfocused. I cut back on training right away, dropping everything but easy zone one training. I focused on eating, monitoring my heart rate and sleeping well. This seemed to have little effect on the severity of my cold, but I knew it could get a lot worse if I pushed it. This was especially important as this weekend was the North American Orienteering Championships in upstate New York.
This weekend of races is part of the qualifying process for the 2009 World Junior Championships, and I was aiming to place well enough to ensure a spot on the Canadian team. This meant it was even more important for me to recover from my illness in order to perform my best. Towards the end of the week I felt that I was capable of racing close to the best of my abilities. Unfortunately, fate was about to shove a stick in my spokes, the night before I was supposed to leave.
Thursday the 25th was a pretty good day. My friend from the Yukon, Lee Hawkings had arrived in the morning to go to New York with me. He had brought my new race skis for this winter, and I was feeling good as I headed out the door to bike to Carleton. After a day of Athletic therapy for my elbow, and a biology lab in the afternoon, I left Carleton to head home and prepare for the trip. I was biking and as I left campus, I decided to take a route that avoided crossing Bronson which takes at least five minutes if you miss the light. I weaved through the back roads along the Rideau River, thoroughly enjoying the lack of traffic and a beautiful fall day. As I approached the underpass of Bank street, I swerved to the inside of the corner to avoid a large pothole, and as I came whipping around the corner, a man with his son in tow was right in front of me. I didn't have my hands on the brakes, and it probably wouldn't have helped much if I did. In order to miss the other bikers, I careened off the paved trail, into the trees. I was moving pretty fast, and as a branch caught my handlebars, I started to keel over. I put my foot out to break my fall, only to have my toes mashed into the front of my shoe as it caught on the quickly moving ground. I managed to catch myself on a branch for a moment before it gave way and i twisted around, hitting the ground awkwardly.
I pulled myself out of the tangle of branches, limbs and metal bits to the concerned calls of the man I had almost run over. He had come screeching to a halt to see if I was alright and if my bike was going to be okay. With adrenaline, and probably a little bit of shock running through my veins, I waved him off, told him not to worry about the bike, and got on my way. About five minutes later, I realized something was wrong. My right big toe was sending pain-filled messages to my brain with every pedal stroke I took. I made it home, and found I couldn't walk without pain from every step. I made it upstairs and peeled of my sock to reveal a swollen toe that I put ice on immediately. My first thought was: would I be able to run? after the swelling had been reduced, I tried putting on my runners. Before I had even laced them up, I realized there was not a hope in hell I could run in less than 24hours.
I googled my symptoms and came up with three possibilities: a broken toe, a fractured toe or a sprained toe (a torn ligament). The level of pain and mobility I had made it look like a sprain, albeit a bad one. I decided to go to New York anyway, with the hope that I might be able to run on the last day of competition if I healed quickly. The day after, we packed into a mini van and headed to New York. I decided to walk/jog the first course. I managed to get around it with a funny gait, but the effort leveled me for the day. Over the next two days, I didn't complete either race, as it was impossible for me to run, and thus impossible to be a competitor. While I didn't race and it was frustrating being sidelined for the three days, I managed to enjoy myself. I got out on a few of the courses and enjoyed the stories of other Orienteerers, some of which included: getting lost in swamps, falling in creeks, getting chased off by irate backwoods people and meeting camouflaged hunters stalking deer with bows and arrows, ATV's and beer.
I don't know how long it will be until I run again, but I think a week will be the minimum time before I am fully able to run. It is unfortunate to miss training for injuries and illness, but it's much easier to recover quickly and train hard later than prolong a problem or even make it worse. In the mean time, I plan on finding alternative forms of training (i.e. stretching, core strength and low-impact exercise) until I make a complete recovery.