Week 16: On Hold
Almost as soon as I was home, I was mentally playing out what more of the trail I could complete depending on the injury. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to go back to the trail, but how could I not plan on it?
My first doctors appointment was with Morgan, the wonderful woman behind Blaze Physio. You may remember my mention of a PT who traveled along the trail in a van from one of my early posts. This is her. Despite being on vacation with her family across the country, she still made time for me to have a virtual appointment. We chatted about my symptoms, and she said it could be a ligament sprain or a stress fracture. In either case, she thought that it was very possible for me to get some more miles in this year.
Since I already had an in-person appointment set up, she suggested that I do the exercises for a ligament sprain for the week (ish) that I had before the other appointment. Then, if I was still in pain, go see the doctor, and they would more than likely order an X-ray.
The first handful of days of exercises, I had to modify some because I couldn’t keep my leg from shaking and it hurt so bad. Now, after a little over a week of exercises, I can do all of them with no pain in my foot. Knee pain has reared its ugly head, but I’ve since modified the exercises that caused that. For the last two days, I’ve gone on three-mile walks in the nearby state park in my hiking shoes and had nearly no pain.
Honestly, I really don’t understand how toe yoga and calf raises have made most of my pain go away. I just don’t get it, but I love it. So, the only piece of hiking advice I have offered yet: if you have tiktok or instagram, go find Blaze Physio. Follow that PCT goddess and do toe yoga. Can you raise just your big toe, while keeping the four little ones down, and vice versa? I have yet to meet someone who can do it on both sides. It took me several days to get my left foot to do it, but I’m a pro at that move now.
With all that said, I will still go to the other doctors appointment. I am slightly concerned that I may have some point tenderness in my left foot. This could indicate that not only did I have a sprained ligament, but also still have an unresolved stress fracture. I kind of doubt it, since it doesn’t hurt when I walk anymore. But I don’t really want to leave something unsolved, go back out there, and screw it all up again.
Space to Breathe
By the time I got off trail, the PCT felt like a job that I hated. Before I began, one of the reasons I wanted to do the PCT was because I am my best self in the outdoors. I hadn’t been feeling that in a while. Perhaps the last time I felt truly strong and confident and powerful and whatever else it is that makes the outdoors my favorite place was descending into Boulder lakes back before Etna. I had rocked up a tough incline, been chatting with Storytime, and had chosen a stunning location to camp. I was pushing my body to do big miles, but it was still fun. My foot was in pain that day, but I could still be present and appreciate where I was and what I was doing. There was still no place I’d rather be.
I’ve had those awesome moments from time to time since then, but they became fewer and further between. By the time I bailed off trail, I’d have rather been anyplace else (and a whole host of other unhappy feels that I just am not going to get into on this very public blog).
So, for me to go back to the trail, I’ve had to put some conscious effort into thinking about why I felt so negatively about it all, and what changed in my journey to make me feel that way. I am still picking through some of those factors. When I do go back to the trail, whether this year, next, or further in the future, I will return to my original goals. I will see the beauty. I will spend time in the place where I am my best self. I am more than happy to be miserable at times, and let it be type 2 fun. I am even more than happy to have some type 3 fun. As long as it doesn’t transform the forest from a place of mental refuge into a place I’d do anything to escape, I am game.
Assuming the next doctor’s appointment gives me an all clear, next week I will go on a short backpacking trip with family. If all goes well with that, I should be headed down to Cascade Locks soon after that. There, I will peacefully ramble through the woods and up and over some of the toughest terrain yet. But it’s my home turf and I think I am ready for it. In the end, maybe my body knew what was best. This time off trail has given me the space not only to heal my foot, but also forced me to acknowledge that I will not finish the entire trail this year. Without this, I may well have blasted through just as fast as my feet would go. That is right for some people, and maybe even me in a different year with different goals, but not this year.
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