If you know me or have been following my social media, you’ll know that I’ve been nursing a broken big toe for the last 11 weeks. While I’ve dealt with my fair share of chronic or overuse injuries, this was the first one that was truly acute, caused by catching my toe on a root trail running. To make matters worse, the break was at first misdiagnosed as a sprain. It wasn’t until 6 weeks in when the sprain should have been healed and still was causing a huge amount of pain that I got x-ray images and found out it was in fact a break (spoiler alert, the follow up x-ray at 11 weeks showed that the break was even worse than the doc originally thought). Luckily, despite the distal end of my bone being displaced by a millimeter or two, it should fully heal without surgery. In the meantime, and for the last 11 weeks, I’ve been learning patience: taking time off, sitting out of team games, easing back into activities aggravatingly slowly, and most challenging, literally sitting still for 20 minutes to ice.
Top-view x-ray of the break at 6 weeks post injury.
I’m not going to lie, the last 11 weeks have sucked. With last year being a low snow year and spending quite a bit of time in quarantine, I didn’t get my fix of skiing during the winter. Never before in my career have I been excited to rollerski; somehow this year I was, but couldn’t rollerski due to the silly broken toe.
Reflecting on the last few months, surprisingly a lot of good has come out of this injury:
First, I took the closest thing to a real vacation I’ve taken in nearly a decade. My best friend and I went to Hawaii with my mom to celebrate our graduations (BS Biomedical Engineering 2020 for both of us, plus MS Mechanical Engineering 2021 for me). Since my toe couldn’t handle much, I took the week off aside from some light beach strength, chill hikes with a walking boot, and a few of the most beautiful swims of my life.
Post hike “smashers,” aka peanut butter jelly sandwiches that have been stuffed in a backpack.
There’s a reason she’s my best friend.
Next, the injury almost perfectly aligned with new-bike-day. Since my bike shoes have a really stiff sole, they were the most comfortable and safe footwear for my toe. I’ve been saving for a long time and had a ton of anticipation around getting my first full suspension bike. As the only mode of training that didn’t cause pain, I lucked out and was able to ride my new bike just about every day without feeling guilty for skipping ski specific training.
If you read my last post, you’ll know that I love my dog Bo more than just about anything in this world. Well, Bo graduated from Mandy Camp the week I broke my toe, which would have left me dogless and sad, except that my sister saw how great Mandy Camp is for black labs and decided to send her black lab Louie up for a training block. Lucky for me and my broken toe, Louie is a bit of an old man, and his happy pace was a lot closer to my casual hike pace than Bo’s spastic sprinting.
The last positive I took from this broken toe ordeal is a lot more faith in my self perception of how what’s going on with my body. When I first went to my trainer to have it looked at, I let their diagnosis overrule my instinct that it was worse than a sprain. Trusting my gut likely would have led me to an x-ray, and a proper reset of the bone, and a much better long term result. While I can’t change my outcome for this injury, moving forward I’m going to trust my feelings for acute injuries just as much as I listen to my body to help prevent the chronic ones.