You know you’re recovering from Ironman if you go to the podiatrist’s office with a handwritten list of things you need to ask him about.
Monday evening, after work, I sit in the office. Socks are off. I pity the next person that walks into this room as I have the world’s smallest and smelliest feet. (I have said it before – if you find yourself face to face with my bike shoes it is best to lay down and play dead – do not attempt to fight the stink – DO NOT)
Anyway, the nurse comes in and asks why I’m there. Number one on my list – please kill this ingrown toenail that has been ingrowing itself on my right big toe for the past year. It is sneaky and infects itself at all the wrong times – like the week before Hawaii where it was red, inflamed, filled with goop and left me wondering if 112 miles crammed into a bike shoe would make it just plain fall off.
“So you’re finally ready to get it done?” the nurses asks.
We are talking about an ingrown toenail, right? The tone in her voice suggests I’ve taken on something much bigger than a big toe.
“It’s just a week off my foot, right?” Even though I hadn’t done anything for a week and didn’t plan on doing anything for another week, I had to know how long my sentence of inactivity would be. It’s one thing to choose inactivity. It’s another thing to have it sentenced to you.
She replies - “A week!? Ha! Try three to six weeks!” With that, she walks out of the room.
Help? There I was, alone in the room. Sockless and confused. Three to six weeks? Want to know the fastest way to make a runner sh*t their pants? Tell them they can’t run for 3 – 6 weeks. Nurse? Receptionist? I need out. OUT OF THIS ROOM. I started to panic. I started to cage pace in the room. I start scheming on excuses to get me out of there, ingrown toenail and all, just run myself out of here fast and NOW (and I really probably shouldn’t be running right now).
The doctor comes in and must have sensed my fear. Tried to distract me by asking about Ironman. Fine, fine, it went fine…I see through your distraction trickery now tell me how do I get out, get me out of this chair, get away from my in your green scrub garb, just take my checkbook, take your copay, let me keep my toenail, and set me free. NOW!
He looks at my toe. Asks if it’s been giving me trouble. Are you not a doctor? Come on, just look at the thing. Two black toenails, one red toe origin unknown, calluses, bunion, and remnants of angry ingrown toenail from two weeks before.
“Ok, we’ll cut it right out.” Cut it right out? Sure, make it sound quick and easy but the nurse said three to six weeks.
“Liz, you’ll be back to running in 3 days.”
Oh. So what’s with Nurse Ratched, her sinister laugh and her three to six weeks? Was that really necessary? My heart rate hasn’t been that high since the climb up to Hawi. I was ready to run out of here sockless and shoeless and never return. And the coach said no running for at least another week.
“Liz, with your pain threshold it will take three to six days.”
Well it’s about time. Finally my freakish endurance for pain has paid off. Ok, you can have my toenail. Take anything else on my feet too because I trust you again. How about taking a few black toenails?
“Those will just fall off.”
What about the plantar wart on the bottom of my left foot from too many toxic puddles on the deck of the pool?
“You’re so rough on your feet it will probably just die on its own.”
How about the pain in my heel that was there but is not there anymore.
“Tight plantar fascia. Just stretch it several times a day.”
You mean that’s it? My feet aren’t slowly dying a post-Ironman death? They survived all those miles? They are ok?
“Let’s move to a different room and get working on that toenail.”
Again, the distraction technique. I find myself in a new room with a tray above my lap. A tray filled with tools. Sharp tools, needles, little swabs of acid, gloves. All tools pointing in the direction of potential for MAJOR PAIN. All of a sudden I’m scared. I run 26.2 miles on piping hot pavement and a few swabs, gauze pads, and sharp tools are scaring me.
The doctor leaves. Doctor? Sneaky from behind the door, Nurse Ratched reappears.
“Ever had an injection in your foot before?” she asks. Caring question in disguise, I sense there is some underlying evil to it.
I confess, no. Just injections in my arms or mouth. Nothing could be worse than the shot in the mouth, I say to her.
“Well just so you know, it hurts like hell,” she said looking at me with needle in her hand. Semi-crazy look in her eyes. Muhhhwwwwaaaaa….muhhwwaaaaaaaaa. She didn’t really say that but I think I saw those letters flash across her eyes.
And oh god, there’s more…….she says “And whatever you do – don’t jerk your foot.”
Could you imagine this nurse in a dentist’s office? She would make a grown man cry. I was ready to cry. Or pee my pants. I was scared. What if I jerked my foot. WHAT IF I JERKED MY FOOT! What would happen? Would it fall off? Would the entire toenail come out?
The doctor comes back and the nurse leaves. He then prepares me for the shot.
The nurse was right.
It hurt like hell.
Not the needle – no – but the medicine that felt like someone was burning a hole in my toe. Make it stop make it stop make it stop. I’m gripping the arm rests and wish there was a way to eat the pain. Know what I mean? You want to bite down to make the gut turning pain go away. But all of a sudden I feel silly because at that moment I remembered how my legs felt at mile 22 of the marathon and thought compared to that this is nothing.
The doctor distracts me further with stories of some of his patients that are ultramarathoners (“even you would think those guys are crazy,” he says). While doing this he is also working on my foot but at this point I can’t feel a thing. Ten minutes later, my toe is wrapped like a large cartoon thumb and I’m on my way home.
Later that night, I lay on the couch with a numb foot in a world of pain. Chris revels in the opportunity to call me Frankenfoot and refuses to assist me in getting faraway things (may I have a glass of water – to which he says “it’s right over there” about half a house away).
The next morning I wake up with a pounding in my toe wondering what I walked into during the night but then memories of needle and Nurse Ratched come back.
I spent the day at work walking around with one shoe and one flip flop. No one noticed which must mean they have gotten used to the crazy girl that shows up with numbers burned into her arm, goggle marks under her eyes, and now a sockless flip-flopped Frankenfoot. The pain subsided throughout the day and by evening it felt almost normal again.
But fear not in a few hours I will replace it with a new pain – I’m getting a little surgery on a scar. You would think after 10+ hours of racing pain I would just give it a rest for awhile. And I guess I have filled the training pain hole with a whole lot of new pain. But really, did you think after eating long distance training pain for over 4 months that I would be able to give it up that easily?
Come on, that’s as ridiculous as giving up coffee.
I can’t believe I even said that. I hope coffee didn’t hear.