Chemical-Conjunctivitis-Induced Ankle Rolls


Rutland, VT is a trail running paradise that almost nobody knows about. Not only is there Killington–the 2nd highest peak in VT–but also tons of local trails within the city limits.

Unfortunately, Rutland is also where I learned about the power of castile soap to chemically burn eyes.

Take heed, dear reader, and dilute that stuff should you ever decide to use it as a face wash. If you don’t dilute it, then at least keep your eyes closed, because it stings like nothing else. For context, I had just come back from a run during which I caught a toe and elegantly somersaulted into a patch of stinging nettles, where I inadvertently rested for several moments, accidentally allowing their stings to wash over me like fire ants. The castile soap incident was much worse because the pain was dramatically greater and because it sealed my fate for a second, more annoying injury.

The primary symptom of my chemically burned eye was extreme wateriness, which made it tough to see, which made running on technical trails slightly riskier than it already was. Nevertheless, that is what I found myself doing the following weekend near Garrison, NY. I decided to spend a few hours at Sugarloaf Hill, which is a decent, steep climb and descent packed into a 3-mile round trip. My plan was to do 5 laps. The first lap was done family-hike style, with me carrying 20-30 pounds of baby-filled backpack. I used poles so I could keep up with my wife and preserve my energy, and everything was fine. Huck was there too. My left eye was watering a lot,  but we were moving slowly.

Moving slow was smart, I would later think to myself angrily.

The family-hike part took about an hour. Everyone went home, and I continued with what I expected to be a long day, during which I would make an attempt at the Strava CR. I took my first solo lap with a reasonable level of effort–not too much, not too little–and came within 1:01 of the CR. Pretty good, I thought to myself. I descended to my car, which I had transformed into an aid station, took a drink, had a Gu, and headed back out for lap #3. I  felt great on the way up, setting a strong pace with minimal effort and taking 4 seconds off my previous lap. I turned back to descend and decided that lap 4 would be the CR lap.

I was eager to begin my 4th lap, so I pushed hard down hill. My mind drifted to Strava glory while the ability of my left eye to detect dangers was compromised by chemical wateriness. My feet flowed absent-mindedly over the loose rocks and ruts carved out by the heavy rain we’d been having, and as I came to a spot where the trail banked down and to the right, I reached up to wipe my left eye. Suddenly, my left ankle buckled beneath me. It scraped against the ground before popping back up. I hopped on one foot and leaned on my poles. After a few steps of walking, I tried running, but my ankle was in too much pain, so I hobbled back to the car, which was over a mile away.

The long-day had been cut short, and I was pretty angry at myself. How could I be so stupid as to let my mind wander while pushing it on a gnarly section of downhill?  I limped into the Appalachian Market for a consolation sandwich, which, while delicious, did not quell my frustration in the least.

It’s hard to stay off your feet when you have a one-year-old, and it’s almost impossible to do so while keeping your foot elevated, so I wrapped my ankle in an ace bandage and got on with the day. By Sunday, my ankle felt good enough to mow the lawn, and every day has been a little better than the last. Now it’s Friday, six days after the roll, and I’m using KT Tape to (hopefully) speed up the final stages of healing.

I’ll be fine as long as I don’t do anything stupid like hobble through a 20 mile run tomorrow, which I’m technically supposed to do, but I almost never do anything stupid. Sure would be fun though.



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