Discipline isn’t an unusual topic for a running column, or for any sport for that matter. But I’m facing a different kind of discipline: the discipline of doing darn near nothing. It’s kind of weird.
Mr. Flexor Illusive Brevis Tendon is torn. Not torn between two lovers, he’s literally torn. Fortunately he’s not torn all the way through. He’s torn more or less down the middle, a linear tear that weakens him but hasn’t severed him. He’s so weak that he’s gone on strike and Mr. Big Toe has been shut down. And as with any strike, the effects cascade. With Mr. Big Toe out, there’s a hole in the whole idea of pushing off with any sort of efficient, effective stride. I had plenty of scabs before, but there’s no substitute for Mr. Big Toe.
That much you knew, save the actual name of the tendon, if you’ve been following this adventure. You also knew that I had the choice between surgery and simple immobilization. Being an engineer, I think in terms of action – after all, buildings (or in my case, networks, *yawn*) don’t just build themselves – so I had all but decided to go for the surgery, despite the risks. It just doesn’t seem logical to me that such an injury will heal itself.
Score one for reality, zero for engineering zeal. I learned this week that Doctor Foot Doctor couldn’t book the surgical repair until early December. Early December?! That’s five weeks out! Part of the issue is that both he and his partner, Dr. Partner Doctor, both want to be there for the big event. It seems that after circulating my case among his national network of peers, Dr. Partner Doctor found that what I’ve done is pretty rare. Hey, I’m a case history! Another 30 seconds gone from my allotted 15 minutes of fame. Obscurity must be just around the corner.
And so it was time to drop back ten and punt. Back to Plan B, immobilization, which was forecast at four to six weeks, and I’ve got five till my date with Mack the Knife, so might as well see if the thing will heal on its own, and hopefully avoid the slice. So off I trundled on Thursday and came home with a delightful air cast.
And this is where it gets weird. If your truck hits a tree (gee, anyone we know?), you get hurt, you get treated, you lay up, you recuperate. If you undergo surgery, you become a couch potato for a while, you heal up, you rehab. If you’re laid low by the flu, anthrax, or Ebola, well, you get the picture. Something has happened to you, and it’s perfectly logical to do nothing and recover.
Well, something did happen to me, but heck, it happened three weeks ago, 50 yards into a marathon and I finished the marathon (not quite in one piece, but you know that story). I’ve been running – limited, but still running – since. I’m not in pain. All is well, except for that pesky Mr. Big Toe. And while I do want him back, I’ve gotten by without him. Otherwise, I’m fully functional. So it’s very weird to walk into the doctor’s office as a fully functional person and walk out an administrative cripple. Essentially with a stroke of the pen, I’m in a cast for five weeks.
Well, this won’t be a big deal, I figured. I can take it off to shower, I can take it off to sleep, I can walk in it. Heck, I told the doc I didn’t want to do a full marathon in it, but a half shouldn’t be so bad. So I’m a little slow getting around. No biggie. I won’t be a totally useless drag on society.
I wore it for two hours, then got in the car to go pick up the kids. No problem! Slip it off to drive (of course it’s on my right foot, but since I drive stick it wouldn’t much matter either way), slip it back on, piece of cake. Except for one little thing. Next time you get in your car, pay attention to what you do with your foot. You do a lot more than you think. It dawned on me that this was not a good idea. My foot and ankle were flexing all over the place. I hadn’t noticed until it had been immobilized for two hours then suddenly set free. This is not conducive to healing. OK, nix the driving thing.
Dr. Foot Doctor had told me that plans A and B both carried about the same healing and recovery time. Meanwhile, I’m not running, and Boston is only, well, heck, it’s less than six months away! My worst case scenario is extending that recovery time. So if I’m going to wear this foolish thing for five weeks, I’ve got to make it matter.
It’s just plain weird. Any moment I choose I can take this thing off and go run five miles (ten does get uncomfortable due to my altered stride). Any moment I choose I can take this thing off and climb up and clean the gutters. Any moment I choose I can take this thing off and drive the kids to wherever.
But I can’t. I have to force myself to be a totally useless drag on society. OK, perhaps that’s being a bit hard on myself, after all, I do work from home, I don’t need my foot to work, but you get the idea. My Catholic guilt sets in and makes me regret not doing things I need to or would like to do for my family, making my wife scramble for transportation logistics and so on. But if I don’t stick to this plan, and stick to it hard, I’ll be out of commission twice as long, and she, as well as I, won’t like that a bit.
Resist temptation! Do virtually nothing! Discipline of a weird sort.