Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Hurt Your Hand While Running

A funny thing happened on my way to finishing up my long run yesterday - I tripped and fell and really hurt my hand.

So, let's back up a bit.  The long run.  Yay!  I successfully completed a really long run finally, and I am over-the-top excited about it.  Was it perfect?  No.  Was it the best thing I could have done for my body? Probably not. The hip still hurts. It was slow.  But I got it done.

For me the day started bright and early to meet a friend at 6 a.m.  I got to the park where the trails were, and I was blown away by the early morning beauty.  The sunlight shining through the trees made an amazing mural on the wooded pathways, and coming into the park and having to slow down to let a wild turkey cross the road (brought a certain chicken joke to mind) and then startling some deer as I parked, were all a great way to start the day.  Once I met up with my friend P., we got ourselves organized, and then headed out at a slow trot.  P. had run a 10K race the day before, so she didn't mind when I suggested doing a Galloway-style run/walk.  I still think we probably headed out a bit fast for the first section, but I'll never know since I didn't start my GPS until we were a good 30 minutes into the run.  It was fun to have the distraction of conversation and be able to act as tour guide.  I've run this particular park so often with Hubby that I feel I know it almost as well as my own backyard.

At about 45 minutes into the run, we ran into friends from our running club's regular Sunday morning running group.  They usually meet for their run in town, but they have been of late occasionally taking their show on the road - well, in this case the trails.  There was some talk of maybe permanently moving the run out to the park, which would be fantastic.  We'll see if they do it.  In any case, we ended up running with the group for the next hour or so.

During the run, I would say my hip/hamstring hung in there and did well for about the first hour and a half.  Then they did start bothering me.  During the entire course of my run, I stopped back at the car no fewer than four times and rolled my piriformis on the softball I had brought with me, and that seemed to help.  I sure got some strange looks though.  I wonder what people think when they see someone sitting on a softball in a parking lot in the shade of their car...

Talking to N., one of the more experienced runners in the group, he gave me a lesson in what he thought my problem was.  "It's the P muscle," he said.  Now if that's not funny right there, I don't know what is.  Any woman who has been advised to do Kegel exercises is not going to first think of the piriformis as the "P muscle," but that is what he meant.  After I got over the nomenclature, I was actually able to listen to what he had to say.  After demonstrating a good stretch on the trail he suggested the name of a chiropractor who helped him out with just such an issue a few years ago.  This was the second time in as many days that someone had suggested a chiropractor to me, so I figure after my trip this next week, if the problem is still there, I might give it a try.  As for yesterday, while the pain was still there a bit, it seemed not quite so bad as in previous weeks and easier for me to mentally manage.  I am not sure how to explain it, but the discomfort seemed more encapsulated to that part of my body, rather than to seem so overwhelming.

Anyway, though, I am super excited that I managed to keep moving for a total of about 3:20 minutes for about 16 miles.  Since my watch didn't get started right away and I missed about 30 minutes of run time, as well as another 15 minutes mid-run, I am speculating a little bit on my totals.  What I do know, though, is that it is a damn sight farther than I have gotten in previous weeks, so pain in hip/hamstring aside, I will take it.

So, the trip and fall...  After about 13 miles, with my running peeps having long since gone, I decided to give Hubby a call and see how things were going on the homefront.  He hadn't gotten any treadmill work done yet like he had planned, so I suggested he make a lunch and haul the kids out to the park.  My reason for this was twofold: one, to be the caring wife and get him out the door for his run, but also to let me squeeze in a few more miles while I waited for them.  Unfortunately, this would turn out to be my undoing.

Heading out for my last three to four mile loop, I still felt strangely fresh.  My legs were tired of course, but I had perfected this run/walk shuffle to the point that I felt I could carry on all day. Mentally, I had had enough distraction that I didn't feel bored at all - I was really finding that elusive JOY again.  So, skipping down the wooded path, fa la la, wasn't it a massive bummer when my toe caught the edge of a root or rock or something and down I crashed.

Here's the part where
 if you are squeamish 
or have a vivid imagination 
you shouldn't read further....

As I fell, I couldn't get my tired legs under me, so basically I fell over like a tree being harvested for timber. In an attempt to arrest my fall, I threw my right hand out, but apparently I didn't do it well.  Because as I landed, I had a clear glimpse of all the fingers on my right hand hyperextending backwards, and that was just before my bodyweight crashed down on top of them finishing the job.  I heard a clear cracking sound, too.  As I rolled off my hand, I was almost surprised - albeit pleasantly so - to find that my fingers were not in fact pointing the wrong direction.  As I sat in the dirt, I had to force myself to try to move them, because the pain was like no other I had experienced in a while.  Wiggle them I could though, so from my years of medical school training of watching numerous medical-themed TV shows, I knew that they weren't broken.  They sure hurt, though.

Now it is safe to read again.

So, cradling my hand to my chest, I gathered up my water bottle and sunglasses, which had flown off, picked myself up and started to walk back the way I had come.  I got about 20 yards down the path, however, when I thought to myself, This is dumb.  What am I going to do?  This is clearly not a medical "emergency," so I might as well finish my run.  And, I did.  Holding my hand a bit awkwardly, I admit it, I managed my run/walk back to my car on my originally planned route.  As it turns out, I got there just as Hubby and the kids pulled up, and I was greeted with not so much concern as a "You look horrible" from LG and "You know they have showers down below, right?" from Hubby.  Granted, this was before they knew I had hurt my hand, but still.  Can you feel the love?  I know I could.  In their defense, I did look a mess - with black dirt caking entirely one half of my body.  After our picnic, it was time to head home and clean up.  A shower was never such a welcome sight.

Behold the glamour of trail running: The trails were really dusty, so I was getting a bit dirty anyway.
The fall just made the filth more complete.
On a side note, there were a couple of things that have occurred to me since the fall.  One positive thing that came from it was that for fully two miles or more after the incident I didn't notice my hip or hamstring issues.  So, lesson learned?  If you are trying to work through a running injury and they are bothering you, just try to hurt something else worse.  You'll forget all about your running injury; works like a charm.  One negative thing that has come from this is that - all jokes of "at least you can still run" aside, I am starting to realize all the things I CAN'T do - some of it running-related.  For example, yoga and foam rolling have now become significantly more difficult if not impossible to do.

Today, the hand is a bit better, but not much.  It is still swollen and it hurts when I try to make a fist, straighten my fingers, or spread them apart.  I clearly did something to the tendons or ligaments in there, so I am following the RICE protocol of any soft-tissue type injury.  Luckily, for the blogging world, the half-curled shape that seems most comfortable for the fingers works just fine for mouse wrangling and typing.

Yesterday's fall has prompted me to think about all the times I have tripped or almost tripped while running trails.  This is surely the worst outcome of a fall I have ever had.  I think of all the times before Pikes Peak that I would run one particular trail along the lip of a ledge, because I wanted to get used to seeing drop offs.  I don't think I'll be doing that anymore.  I'd hate to think my trail-running confidence is shaken, but I have to believe at least for a while, I will be more cautious.  In a way, I am glad I completed my run yesterday, because I think I would be even more worried if I had just limped back to my car in defeat.

So, what is the worst non-running related running injury you have ever incurred? 

1 comment:

  1. Ouch, ouch, ouch. My fingers (or my whole body) tensed up while I was reading that. That could not have felt good. I'm thankful that of all my falls nothing really stands out as the worst. Though they all had potential! My worst running injury was from CEP socks that fit my calves but not my foot, so I lost a toenail. I am still mad at those socks. I actually just gave them away because I know they'll never fit. And those dumb things are not cheap!