Sunday 22 March 2009

Is someone trying to tell me something?

I fly to Chile on Wednesday to take part in the Atamcama Crossing. In December I was diagnosed (through MRI) with a cartilage tear on the back of my left knee, and also with Patellar Tendinosis on the same knee. After consulting an orthopaedic surgeon, it was deemed that I would need corrective surgery, but I would not recover from the it in time to take part in the race, if I had it done at the start of the year. So, I decided to get the survery done in April (the 21st, two weeks after I get back from Chile), but cut back my training, and just do what I could, and try and keep the knee in good enough shape to make the start line. My training since December has been well below what I would deem an acceptable amount to take on the Atacama Crossing.

Exactly 1 month ago, I experienced foot pain during a 12 mile training run, which I confidently said I knew was a minor problem with my Peroneus Brevis, where it attaches to my fifth metatarsal. I took a week off running, but still attempted a 30 mile event 2 weeks ago. I failed to complete, having to short-route because of the foot pain. Since then, I have not run a single step. Even walking hurts. Strangely, it has been getting worse, not better in the last week. The pain, though in the same area, is now on the sole of my foot, underneath the fifth metatarsal head. I had some physio treatment this week and a painful lump was found under my foot. A pretty small, very localised spot, which is causing me all the load-bearing pain. No one has been able to tell me what it is. The two best guesses are either:

a) A callus formed over a healing stress fracture.
b) A ganglion; a kind of cyst that forms on tendons; sometimes after an injury.

It could be either one, or it could be neither. Whatever it is, I can't walk far without discomfort. When I say not far, I mean a couple of hundred metres.
This last week I have only been able to use the cycle machine in the gym. Even then, I have had to adjust the toe clip to stop my foot going well onto the pedals, ensuring that all the pressure was through the ball of my foot. Any further back was too painful. I once tried to use the cross-trainer, trying to keep the sole of my foot planted on the device, but even doing that, after 20 minutes I had to stop. I've done quite a bit of the bike this week, a good few hours in total, plus yoga, and my usual strength training, but not load bearing running or even walking. So, not only am I horribly undertrained, right now I'm not sure I could make it to the first checkpoint on day 1. Oh I forgot to add, this foot injury is the opposite leg to the meniscus tear.

So, just to add insult to injury tonight, I've spent most of the evening in the bathroom, I assume courtesy of food poisoning from the restaurant I ate at about 8 hours ago, celebrating Mothers day. No one else ate the 'Penne Arrabiata', so I hope everyone else is ok. I feel sick as a dog now still, so it may not be my last visit to the bathroom tonight.

So, I think someone is trying to tell me something. Along the lines of 'stay at home'.

Tomorrow I have an early morning appointment with the knee surgeon, to discuss my operation. I might beg and plead that he take a quick look at my foot (as well as the knee of course) and give me his best guess at a diagnosis. Either injury (if it is one of those guesses) means trouble to be honest, but I am hoping that it is the second one, or something similar. The fact that is has been steadily getting worse for a month doesn't bode well though. Stage 1 of the Atacama Crossing will be over this time next week, so I don't know how much improvement (it could always get worse of course) I can expect.

Oh, I mentioned I'd ask my doctor for Diamox, the altitude sickness drug to help since I sleep so badly at the best of times on events, the last thing I need is altitude induced sleep apnoea. Anyway, the doctor has refused; Diamox is not licensed for use as an altitude sickness drug in the UK. So, everything is stacking up against me at the moment. I've weighed out my kit and checked it fits my bag etc. I'll make another blog post, maybe tomorrow with the details, assuming I feel up to it. I'm sure this food poisoning will be purged by the morning.
EDIT: It's now 'the morning' and after some doses of immodium, and a good nights sleep I'm fine, so I can fairly conclusively say it was food poisoning.

If you are taking part in the Marathon des Sables and flying out in the next few days, the very best of luck to you. I'll send me wishes to a few of you personally of course. If it helps you, just think, you could be as rough as I feel!

Have a good week. There is always someone worse off than you are! I'm looking around frantically for that someone, I need the psychological boost!


  1. Rich,

    I know you're mentally very strong, but it sounds like your physical problems are mounting up. Are you sure you're doing the right thing? There's no point killing yourself.


  2. I'm all paid up, so if nothing else I get a weeks holiday. I'm just hoping that by Sunday if nothing else I can at least walk it. I'm certainly not going to be competetive, not that there was a great deal of danger of that anyway! I'd just like to finish it, or I'll have to come back and do it again next year.