Toenails: Just . . . No

If we’ve known each other for less than an hour, you might not know that last yearish, I had toenail avulsion surgery. If you’ve known me longer than 60 minutes, you’ve probably heard this story, because I suffer PTSD from this most painful experience of my life (trumping TWO natural childbirths and a whole gross array of cutting, blistering, even charring injuries from my life as a chef), and that forces me to tell and retell it to everyone I meet.

My friends, the toenail thing was the only pain (physically speaking  . . . ) I’ve ever experienced that actually made me crawl around on the floor and beg for death. But this post is not about that day. 

The Reader’s Digest version for you new friends: Doctor inserts needle the size of a marinade injector into nerve branch of left big toe to administer numbing agent, twice; doctor uses dull surgical instrument to pry off toenail; numbing agent wears off in the middle of the night; wake from sound sleep to experience sensation of compression bandage on open, traumatized nail bed; weeping and gnashing of teeth, begging for merciful termination; healing; toenail begins to grow back . . . toenail grows back wrong; toenail is half inside my toe, in a bad way. 

So that’s where I am now. Apparently, this is pretty common. Toenails rarely grow back nice and pretty and “normal” (for toenails). I guess it’s like revenge. Once you injure the toenail down in the nail matrix and then run hundreds and hundreds of miles while it’s growing back in, you can pretty much kiss your dreams of a matching set of 10 toenails good-bye.

It’s been sore for a couple of weeks. No big. I do the things they say to do ~ cut it square across, yadda yadda . . . But being a hostile alien of a toenail, it’s uncooperative. Instead of growing up and out, it’s growing down and in. Which would be problematic on its own ~ obvious to anyone with a toenail and a central nervous system ~ but I am registered to run a 12-hour race in 3 days. With shoes on.

So this morning, I’m going to engage in a little DIY toenail surgery. I’ve done some Googling (ALERT, ALERT: DO NOT GOOGLE ANYTHING RELATED TO TOENAILS UNLESS YOU DISABLE IMAGES) and I think I can fix this by “gently lifting my toenail” and shoving a wad of cotton underneath. Failing that, I’ll attempt to tie the thing up and off the nail bed with dental floss, which is somehow supposed to relieve pain. 

And if those methods fail, on race day, I’m going to lube that sucker up with Anbesol and duct-tape it. The run must go on. Even if the toenails fall off.


If you’re wondering why I’m sharing this with you, it’s because that’s what friends/ultrarunners do. We share. We overshare. Plus, misery loves company. If you have any suggestions for me and my incredibly unfortunate prerace-toenail debacle, I’d love to hear them. 


Thoughts? Do share.

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