Sore Ankles & Winter Trail Running

Diagram of the AnkleTwo weeks ago (Jan 3, 2010) on a Sunday afternoon a friend and I decided to go for a run in Toronto. It was with excitement that I drove downtown with the snow softly falling. There were not many people on the roads allowing me an easy and safe passage to my destination. I was headed for a 16 kilometer (10 Mile) run that purposefully avoided roads and focused on experiencing the green space that Toronto offers for free. Today was extra special because of the weather: we were experiencing one of the only snowfalls we have had so far this winter. I actually was thinking that the mild winter season really helped ease me into my first year with winter running.  So as I was driving to the run I was quite excited to appreciate the full beauty of a winter snowfall while enjoying a good run.

Winter has always been a time of reflection within the stillness. I have had many fun filled experience strapping on snowshoes and going for a long walk during a snowfall. I assumed that the the silence would have provided a space in which to practice running samadhi. In the past I used to enjoying to experiment with mindful awareness during walks with my dog. It became part of my practice and exercise before I started to enjoy running. But as luck would have it the experience I had was not what was expected.

We started to run shortly after I arrived and with our Yaktrax on to help keep our footing on the icy trails. To begin with we started slow to warm up and I worked to try to get into a focused state of awareness. I began to find as I was putting each foot down that the snow was not a reliable surface to plant and push forward the momentum. After each step my foot would slide depending on what was below the fresh snow.

The trail ended with a nice uphill push to finish the 16 K. The run was not as easy as I expected it was going to be. Due to the cold wind, I decided to take a balaclava with me but my friend decided to pass. I wore it for most of the run but took it off in parts. In once part when I had it off I distinctly remember running through a open field. There were families out for some good times with the toboggan and I smiled to think of the fun times I have had going down the hills with my family. All of a sudden the wind started to blow and its strength whipped up snow and cold air.  I quickly raised my running jacket as a wind block for my face but my good friend enjoyed a good blast of our Canadian winter. It was really serene to be running in this environment.

I found that overall my feet felt slightly off during the run and I did my best to find sure footing for each step. Despite precautions taken I found I was left with very sore ankles several hours after my run. While I have enjoyed trail running for many months now, the uneven surface left me thinking. As I drove home a few hours later I found finding a comfortable spot for my left leg was difficult. At that time I thought it was only a matter of a little rest to return back  to normal. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case.

I decided to take a few day off from running so I worked out on Wednesday with the cross trainer and some intense swimming to burn all the energy stored up from a few days off. My test run on Thursday the following week after was not enjoyable at all. After 3 days off from running I thought it would be fine to go for a slow run but at 5K I called it quits due to some pain.  At the fifth day on Friday I was staring to think this was going to last for a while and I needed to accept that I overdid it on my trail run.

I was researching what might be the problem and assumed my issue was with my achilles heel as it was quite sore in the area near the heel of the foot meeting the tendon. As I read more I realized the seriousness of this condition and if it continued to get injured it would impact my ability to run.  During my research I was very fortunate that I stumbled across Active Release Techniques which claimed to be very effective on soft tissue issues. I  quickly ordered a book on ART and ready it the night it arrived.  I was reading about how effective it was supposed to be on my supposed problem. ol to get people to go get the treatment and did not offer any real solutions for someone with a do-it-yourself mentality.

On Friday afternoon I was mostly limping into the office of my chiropractor who just happened to have a member on staff who has been trained and certified in ART. I entered the session contrite assured I had gone too far and would be forced to rest and fall behind in my training for the Chilly in March.  After a short review of the problem, I was given the summary of what was wrong. As it turns out I was assured my Achilles tendon was fine and the problem was actually the ligaments around the ankle. After a fairly short treatment of ART I was told that I should run this weekend. I have to say my jaw nearly dropped open when he said that given the state I entered into this office.  So I said with a chuckle that I was planning on running 12K the next day and he said that I may need 1-2 more treatments but for the most part it would be fine. He also recommended I replace my shoes that were starting to get a bit too old.

So the next day (Saturday) I was running a 12K with new shoes and my ankle was fine. I scaled back the intensity due to my brand new running shoes. All in all it was a fine Saturday morning run and I was thankful to be back running. I am still amazed at how quickly I was able to go from being quite unable to run to being on the road only 16 hours later. It only took  a few short minutes of treatment with Active Release Techniques to solve the sore ankles I developed when running the icy and snowy trails in the Canadian winter. It really worked in my case and if anyone else has similar trouble when winter running then it might be worth some investigation.

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