The story of a toe

A couple of weeks ago I had an unfortunate run-in with a dumbbell. Not the kind currently trying to take over social media, but the kind that you’re supposed to use to lift weights. And before the jokes start about, “That’s what happens when you try to do strength training”, I wasn’t even using the dumbbell for it’s intended purpose.

I was in the basement looking for a particular box. For some reason I had a 10 lbs dumbbell sitting on the table next to the boxes I was digging though. As I shifted one of the boxes the dumbbell rolled off the table landing squarely on my toe. Thankfully I was wearing some sandals at the time, so there was some cushion, but it still hit hard.

Almost immediately I knew it wasn’t good. However, I never cried out in pain, or heard anything pop or snap. I finished grabbing what I was looking for and then proceeded upstairs to asses the damage. I laid down on the couch and took a look, and sure enough it was already starting to go purple. The pain was starting to increase a lot as well. I checked out all of my toes and could tell not to go near the middle one. A light touch was all it took to realize that it had taken the brunt of the impact. The other toes around it seemed to bend and move just fine, but the middle one was in a heap of trouble.

I called the nurse line to get some advice, and they suggested that if I wanted to get an x-ray and make sure nothing else was wrong, to head up to the local orthopedic urgent care. So we hopped in the car (the wife drove) and headed over. As I slowly limped into the waiting room the pain started to get more intense. Thankfully, I had taken some anti-inflammatories before we left.

The athletic trainer took a look at it, and after a quick consult with the orthopedic, I got sent to x-ray (they were deciding if they should do the whole foot or just the toes). They took some pictures of my toe, and sure enough, the middle toe had snapped right at the tip. The x-ray showed a beautiful picture of the tip of my toe, completely separated from where it was supposed to be.

Then I got the bad news that it would be 6-8 weeks for it to heal, and until that time, running was a no-no. Part of the reason I wanted to get it x-rayed was to confirm a break vs. anything else. If it was just soft tissue damage, I could let it heal for a week and then live with any residual pain while it continues to get back to normal. With a broken toe I need to be careful to let it heal and not re-fracture it with a hard running strike. If I re-fracture it, I’m back to ground zero and the waiting time starts over.

Yet, it’s not all bad news. Biking has been working just fine. I just needed to be careful about how I set my foot down when getting off the bike or coming to a stop. I don’t need to push with my forefoot on the bike (if I don’t want to), so I was able to start biking almost right away the next day. I even managed a great 50 miler today.

Walking has been really slow to come back. My first attempts to go for a walk were painfully slow as I hobbled down the street. I kept it very simple for the first few days before slowly extending my walks further and further. I’ve been walking in very stiff-soled sandals which has helped a lot. However, I was anxiously awaiting the day when I could get back to feeling some more normalcy while walking, even if I couldn’t run for a while. That day was today.

It’s been 16 days now, and each of my morning walks has gotten better and better. I’ve been slowly getting back to my normal walking pace, and my walking form is completely normal again. So this morning I set out for a long walk. I still have things I want to do this Fall, but to do them I need to keep training, and building up stamina. Therefore, even if I only can walk, I need to start upping the miles and putting in the endurance work. I headed out, not sure how exactly how far I’d make it, but I knew it wouldn’t just be a simple walk around the park.

My son joined me, and we headed out on a route that would give him a bail-out point if he wanted it. However, he opted to stick it out with me, and by the time we got back home the watch was at 6.5 miles and I felt fine (well, a couple blisters I need to deal with). We even managed to keep up a really strong pace, and my overall average was under 18/min per mile. I’m really, really happy with how well it went, and I think I might be able to get back to the type of mileage I want rather soon (albeit slower than normal). I’ll probably stick to flatter surfaces for another week or so, just to be sure.

Some of the events coming up that I want to do will involve a lot of walking, so in many ways this is still really good training. Not quite the way I wanted to get my miles in, but I’m happy as a clam to at least have an option. Plus, being able to supplement with long bike rides, helps with all the cardio endurance I need as well.

That’s the story of my toe. It’s broken, but getting better. I’ve also managed to not let it break me.