An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

I am an orthopedic nightmare

You know I’m just making up these injuries, right? I need content for my blog. It’s the same with the kids. Leta and Marlo don’t actually exist. I make up the stories, and the kids in the photos are actors. When we hired Leta we were like SCORE, because how much does that kid look like Jon?

We’ve thought about buying a life-like animatronic cat, but damn, those things are expensive. And then I’d have to make up a story about Marlo jumping on its back and breaking it, and then we’ve spent all that money for one blog entry? NO.

There I was climbing a hill at mile 8 in The Other Half Marathon in Moab on Sunday, feeling so incredible, so in love with running and with the idea of racing that I almost started singing church hymns out loud. But I didn’t because that would have wasted precious energy, and I was being smart! SMART, I TELL YOU. I knew I wasn’t going to win the race, so I decided to be the valedictorian of energy conservation.

I was fueled up, keeping a steady, brisk pace, eager for another mile. I had studied the route and the elevation of the route prior to the race, and I knew that we’d have to climb several hundred feet between miles 7 and 9. But I didn’t know that smack in the middle of that elevation were three giant hills. Like, straight up. Hold out your forefinger. Point to the sky. Now imagine running up your finger, except your finger is 500 yards long.

I hadn’t practiced hills like that before, and I noticed that most people around me were were slowing their running to a walk. But I found it easier to get up the hills by continuing to run. Here’s where I’m trying to figure out what happened, because I didn’t twist my ankle or turn it or step on a rock or ANYTHING. I was just running. I didn’t do anything stupid. VALEDICTORIAN OF NOT DOING ANYTHING STUPID. I have a certificate, and everything.

Suddenly, a few tenths of a mile after completing those hills I came down on my right foot and I thought I had stepped in a puddle of upturned knives. Sharp, squealing pain flooded my ankle and up the outer part of my lower leg. Burning. Throbbing. I looked down and expected to see fire erupting out of my shoe.

For the next few tenths of a mile I continued my pace even though the pain continued. I used that time to weigh my options. Do I stop and wait for someone to pick me up? How long would I have to wait? Maybe I should just run as far as I could so that walking to the finish line was an option. But walking was going to be as painful as running, so why not just finish the race? Of course! DUH. I’d finish the race.

Valedictorian of denial.

If you asked me how I could ignore that kind of pain and continue to run almost four miles, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I don’t know how I did it. The pain was there, it shrieked every time my right foot touched the ground, but somehow I pushed it to the periphery of my brain. It’s a lot like parenthood.

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 2 hours 7 minutes 19 seconds. That’s nine minutes faster than when I ran the same distance at the end of September. I credit that progress to carbs, the racing environment, and really, really wanting to see a doctor.


The medics wrapped my swollen ankle with a bandage, loaded me up with ibuprofen and told me to see my primary care physician once I got home. And I did that last night, but the x-rays didn’t show a damn thing. So I’m off to the orthopedic clinic AGAIN because I can barely walk, let alone run. I’m trying to stay calm and not go back and read those comments where people are all, I’ve been running for twenty years and never had an injury! You must be doing something wrong! YES. Obviously I’m doing it wrong. IT IS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT I AM DOING IT WRONG.

But, dammit, if I have to walk that marathon on crutches, that is what I’m going to do.

  • MichelleD

    Running is really hard on the body and bones. I understand the appeal because I did it for a while. I loved the fresh air and how it enabled me to forget about things for a while. I had to quit it because it was just too tough on my knees. Never wanted to marathon though because I KNOW I’d be one of the ones that crapped my pants.

    I do know a guy that walked two marathons though. Came in dead last in one but you know, he FINISHED, and that, I appreciated because it was dedication and follow through. Fix yourself up best as possible and go for it.

  • seaweedla

    I once ran from mile 5 thru 13.1 of a half marathon with a pinched nerve in my back.
    how did I pinch it?
    being nervous about running a half marathon.

    Dumbest source of pain ever.

    A month after that, I ran another half, and did it fine, and pain free, and in a better time then I had feared. Since then I’ve done several and each one gets a little better.

    You’ll figure out a way to get thru this injury, and after that, chances are youre hooked for life, like the rest of us nutjobs.

  • catherinea

    Longtime reader, first-time commenter as well (clearly the running posts bring out the running nerds). I’m also an experienced half marathoner and am really just here to triple-echo what aeiousometimesy and desertrunner said. Your injuries are likely a result of overtraining. You need to slow down and cut out the cross training. Rest, rest, rest. I understand the feeling of wanting to finish a race like this one – and you likely will – but it’s not worth an injury that could sideline you from all physical activity for a year or more… and I know from whence I speak, having suffered a stress fracture IN MY PUBIC BONE from overtraining that stopped me from running for a full year.

    Good luck!

  • simpliSAHM

    For what it’s worth; I also recommend ditching regular running shoes for the “barefoot” style. I’ve been running in the Vibram FiveFingers for a couple years now. I’ve not done marathons or even half marathons (yet), so take it from someone who hasn’t gone hardcore with this running thing. I also feel (just as they say in the Born to Run book) that a person is MORE prone to injury in traditional running shoes than a minimalist shoe. I would often “land wrong” and twist my ankle or come close and that never happens with the shoes I wear now.

  • sugarleg

    just reminding you: Active Release Technique. please, PLEASE trust me. even though you don’t know me. look it up on activerelease *dot* com. feel better lady, it happens. 🙂

  • deborahs

    Your running issues compelled me to stop lurking. As it’s been said before, you are a rockstar for your attitude and your determination. I haven’t read all the freely-given advice but have read all of your posts. My two cents: tendon strength and flexibility could be the issue. If this is a big “no duh” moment then ignore the rest of this, but if it’s not, then here goes. If you don’t have much experience with the high mileage of repetitive motion sports, you don’t have strong enough tendons for the many miles you’re putting in. You can have muscle issues, sprains, even fractures from tendons being too weak and/ or stiff. Your hill blow-out would lend credibility to this argument; hills are the true test of tendon strength, due to the position of the foot in relation to the leg. Strength training can help that in the long-term, but in the few weeks you have left stretching, heat and cold, and Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) need to be your friend. And don’t rest. Do not stop moving on that foot. Get the swelling down with drugs (better living through chemistry), heat and cold for 72 hours, and walk walk walk. Then run like hell.

    Best of luck. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for you.

  • Kristina C.

    Heather, just want to tell you that the BEST natural thing you can do for inflammation (and overall health) is FISH OIL! And use only the best, pharmaceutical grade, ultra-refined, potent fish oil there is! In the correct quantity (starting at 4,000 mg per day).
    I have been using this fish oil for years and my husband and I love it so much, we now sell it!
    I avoided surgery on my torn meniscus due to taking this fish oil (Dr. Oz says “The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and fish protein have been show to regenerate the membrane of the meniscus”). My husband uses it for his arthritic toe (no pain!)
    Contact me!
    (you have my email address!)

  • Deckside Thoughts

    I found out the hard way that stress fractures can & do occur quickly and don’t show up on early x-rays or MRIs. I was told the pain I had in both ankles must be caused by strains. Turns out I had a stress fracture in each of my ankles & gimped around for 5+ weeks pretty damn sure I was insane until some smart doc ordered a bone scan. Diagnosis confirmed. Not cool, medical world. Not cool at all.

    You might want to consider asking for this test. Good luck, Armstrong. Regardless of what you’ve done, this is a damn shame and I know the pain you’re talking about. Ibuprophen didn’t help me either.

  • ColoradoBelle

    Well, if you need to hike that marathon on crutches, here’s some inspiration for you:

    One of the top ultra runners and a North Face athlete just had to walk 38 hours to finish his race in France (valedictorian of *stubborn*). Happens to the best of them, apparently; these guys get injured, too.

  • stationaryrunner

    I thought about giving you some advice but then realized I wouldn’t follow it myself. So never mind.

    But I do get it. It’s easy to get hooked on running, and it’s mental torture when you want to run but can’t.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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