• Photo above 2019 Ceevacs Cowichan Challenge Ellen assisting in transition with Janis

I was injured Sunday, March 31, 2019. The weather was ideal, the energy was great, and the trails were just as I had remembered them. I was running an out and back trail through the Gowlland Todd Provincial Park with two friends. I’d missed Gowlland Todd and its mix of terrain and amazing viewpoints. Here is my story of accident and recovery.


We’d been out for about 1½ hours enjoying the freedom of the trail and running at a good clip. We were on our way back when my run partner flung her arms backwards. I wondered, “What is she doing?” She heard my foot pattern change, knew something was wrong and was trying to prepare for my falling down the hill. At the same time, I was lifting my right leg ready to plant my foot down, when I felt a strange sense of nothing in my leg. These words raced through my mind “Oh no, this is going to hurt, get into a tuck; maybe it won’t be so bad.”. As my foot landed my leg gave way. I rolled hurting my right wrist and knee. I thought, “There’s no torn skin or blood, probably not that bad. Ohhh, it was so painful.” My friends carried me the kilometer back to the parking lot. It was not an easy trek for any of us.


We stopped at a friend’s place where I waited for my husband to take me to the hospital. I left with a brace that was adjusted to fit my mangled knee, a huge bag of ice and a choice of pain medicine they had on hand. At the hospital, x-rays indicated a broken wrist and fractured tibialis plateau, torn medial and lateral meniscus, damaged posterior cruciate ligament, and swollen ankle. I was going to need surgery but not that day. We headed home with tensor bandage, fabric cast for my leg, hard cast for my wrist, some pretty powerful medication and instructions to call the orthopedic surgeon the next day.


I saw the surgeon on Friday, April 5 for CT scan and MRI in preparation for surgery on April 9th. The surgeon asked what I expected from the surgery and I said, “I wanted to run again.” Three days after my surgery with a plate and 6 screws in my knee, I got out of the fabric cast and into an adjustable brace. Wow! That was fast. My orders were to perform range of motion exercises as much as I could manage but no weight bearing for 8 weeks. That’s a long time for a runner and someone who’s used to moving.


I was lent a wheelchair, crutches and food and plants were dropped off. My husband pushed me everywhere in the wheelchair and caring friends were a great help to me emotionally. But all I could think about was “What could I do to promote my fitness, get moving and run again?” I began reading everything I could on the recovery of athletes who had a fractured tibialis plateau. It was pretty dismal. They lost their sport and many never made a complete recovery.


I’d been training for a trail race and was in the best shape I’d been in for years. Being fit turned out to be of great benefit to my recovery. I needed someone who believed in me and could help with a plan and someone to give me constructive positive feedback. I found a physiotherapist who was ran and after explaining about the accident her first question was “What is your goal?” “I want to run again.” She asked, “Do you have a race in mind?” “Yes” and we were off to a great start. I was going to run again.


From there we made a plan and despite being incredibly tired, fragile, and requiring a lot of rest, I was able to exercise in bed and eventually stand up with no weight on my right leg. It was exhausting work, trying to move without weight bearing. I learned to be very gentle to my body.


While my attitude was to keep on moving, pain and rest were issues. I meditated and learned to visualize my body healing, handle pain and within a very short time I was no longer taking pain medication. However, at night I would wake up and my leg would be aching. Even though I was still in the brace I could go for gentle rides on my bike trainer. Cycling very slowly and easily for 15 minutes or so and then returning to bed with raised leg and ice helped me sleep much better.


On April 26th, almost one month after my accident, I made the leap from bed to alternating wheelchair with “gutter armrest” crutches, which supported my broken wrist. I was thankful I had a number of people who believed in me. My running friends understood where I was coming from and how important it was to me to get back to moving, walking and eventually running. I thrived on their encouragement, positive language, and invitations to get out and meet for coffee, and attend meetings.


I had to use my wheelchair most of the time, but I began to prepare to head up the transition area for our local Cowichan Challenge Triathlon at the end of May. I worked harder every day and began doing squats hanging onto the sink and other upright exercises. By the end of May, I was able to welcome triathlon athletes into the transition area wheelchair by my side. Finally, after 8 weeks, my surgery incision had healed and in June I began to pool run with a float belt that would allow me to keep an upright position similar to running. My doctor said I could begin progressive weight bearing using my crutches, and to tiptoe and heel walk in my wheelchair. I increased the amount of weight I used on my right leg by ¼ each week slowly and carefully. I refused to limp. If I began to limp, I slowed down, or rested in my wheelchair. I was lucky to live in a community that had an outdoor pool. I increased my pool running to 5 days a week for 1 ½ hours a day and began walking more easily. By July, the doctor agreed I could begin walk running.


On September 7, 2019, five months and seven days after my accident, I was able to run The Lake to Lake ½ marathon out of Shawnigan Lake. I completed it in 2 hours 45 minutes! I thought I had made it back. I thought that once I was walking and running again that all would be back to normal. Not in my case. This wasn’t the end of my recovery.


Unbeknownst to me, I had a lot more work to do. I could run on easy trails and in the pool but swimming, yoga and cycling out of doors was still beyond me. Over the next three months, I slowly added more stress onto my knee and finally in December was able to swim freestyle, sit cross-legged in yoga, perform tai chi moves and ride my bike up small hills. I grew stronger each day by going to the gym, strength training and slowly and gently demanding more of my knee and wrist. I ran the Thetis Lake Relay with my club on November 11, 2019. I felt great! Finally, on Sunday December 22, 2019, after 8 months and 22 days, I was able to accompany my friends on a hike and very demanding climb up our local mountain, Mount Prevost, via Bings Creek. In the dark!


In 1978, Dr. George Sheehan wrote in his book, Running and Being that “If you don’t have a challenge, find one.” Well, I found my challenge and each and every day I will be challenging myself to run gentle, cross train and care for myself so that I will be able to run for as long as I can. I will keep moving. I will find another way. I will take small steps forward and smile with every step. Never give up! See you out there, my friends.

Watch Facebook and Instagram (Bill) for pictures and stories. If you have questions or ideas of what you want on this blog, please let me know. The email address is connect(at)ceevacs.com

Smile. Run. Be safe.


SMILE! Photo above courtesy of Lois DeEll – Ellen at the 2019 Comox Valley Half Marathon