Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Short stuff

I can't stop thinking about an unpleasant encounter I had yesterday in my clinic. I try really hard to put visits like this behind me, but this one really struck a chord with me. Yesterday, a 2 year old was on my schedule with "growth concerns". I found it odd, since I had just seen him and his 5 year old sibling a few weeks earlier for physicals. They were new patients to me and to my clinic, but were healthy children and the visits were uneventful. I made a plan with the mother to see the 2 year old in 6 months for another check up.

Prior to entering the exam room, I reviewed the growth chart. Everything looked normal, and the child was growing appropriately. When I entered the room, the mother explained to me that the child's father was concerned about his size. When the father entered the room, he basically took control of the visit.

Maurice Jones Drew, 5'7 former running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars; now with the Oakland Raiders
"He's small and I'm concerned about that", he said, talking about his 2 year old son. He went on to tell me that he knows how small boys have problems and he wanted a workup done to make sure there was nothing wrong with his son. After all, he pointed out to me, he himself was 6'1 and their mother was 5'7. He felt that it was not be possible for him to have a small son. He also told me that he wanted his boys to be athletes, and short men just aren't good athletes. He compared this boy to his older son, who is big for his age. He just didn't understand why his younger son wasn't growing like his older brother. Another concern was that his son is a picky eater. He wanted to know what he could do to maximize his son's growth; to make sure he reaches his "full potential". He wanted to know about growth hormone.

I don't know how I kept self control during this visit. I think part of me was so shocked that words like this would even come out of a person's mouth. And believe me, I hear it all, and it takes a lot to shock me. I looked at his adorable 2 year old son with the big blue eyes who was running around the room while we talked.

But what I did was put on my clinician hat. Reviewed the growth chart and showed him his son's linear progression along his percentile curve. Talked about normal eating habits of 2 year olds. Talked about differing growth patterns of siblings. But this dad was having none of that. So reluctantly, I ordered an xray to evaluate bone age and gave him a referral to an endocrinologist. I did all this, even though there would be no work up, no intervention in a 2 year old child. It is simply too early to predict what this child's growth would be. I told the dad this. He still wanted to proceed with the work up.

I thought a lot about this on my drive home. This visit troubled me so much. I try not to personalize encounters like this, but I couldn't help but think about my 2 sons. One, who is tall and lanky, the other who is short and still growing, but probably won't be taller than 5'8, if I could predict...who has the heart of an athlete and gives his all in every sport he plays. He has a great self esteem in spite of being smaller than most of his peers and is extremely well liked (a little too well liked, he needs to focus on his school work more than his social life!). But he's happy and well adjusted. This conversation with that father made my heart hurt for my son.

This is my son, #80, tackling, in a game last fall.
And I thought a lot about all the runners I see on the road when I run races. The last race I ran, the 10 miler, a woman who probably was 4'6--almost a foot shorter than me-- kept pace with me most of the race. When I ran Chicago, people who were twice my size were passing me! My husband always expresses amazement at all the runners who "don't look like runners" but sure can move. There's no denying size matters to a certain extent, but it isn't the only factor affecting athletic ability! Athletes come in all shapes and sizes.

And how many of us or our kids, are going to be good enough to play professional sports? What about participating in a sport for the camaraderie, the physical benefits, the confidence... taking pride in personal achievements? Being the best that we can be?

I took a leap and asked this dad what he would do if his son turned out to be small? I told him basically "you get what you get" when it comes to your genetic makeup. That it would be important to have self confidence and self esteem.

"Oh, of course", he said. And asked me where the endocrinologist's office was located.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Hawk

I woke up early to a loud thud. My youngest son fell out of his bed. He told me he had a dream and rolled onto the floor. I laid awake for an hour after that, and finally got out of bed. I had a long run planned today, but it was a gray, wet morning, and combined with my lack of sleep, a long run didn't seem at all appealing to me. I knew I was going to have dig deep to find the motivation to do this one.

Today was a planned 12 miler. I have a half marathon coming up in 3 weeks, and I needed a long run. I wanted to run on the fitness path where I did a lot of my training over the winter. The entire path is 11 miles from my house and back. I figured I could add on an extra mile at the end, traversing through my neighborhood.

I sipped on my coffee and checked this morning's weather. The current conditions and forecast didn't help my lack of motivation.
It wasn't the temperature that scared me, it was that wind. 

Living near Chicago (even though I'm 15 miles from the lake) means that a lot of our weather is affected by the winds off Lake Michigan, which is due east from where I live. Weathermen often refer to that wind off the lake as the "hawk". Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell wrote an essay about the hawk earlier this spring. Wind traveling across the lake is cooled by the water temperature and blows cool--heck cold--pretty far west, depending on the strength of the wind. When the wind direction is in the east or the northeast, I can count on a pretty raw feel to the air. I have to plan my route accordingly. I suppose I could drive an hour west and find much, much warmer conditions. And yes, I'm a weather nerd. In case you were thinking that.



The fitness path I wanted to take is west of me, and the returning 6 miles would be directly into the wind. Knowing that I didn't want to run that hard on my way home, I changed my plans, and decided to run the other direction to the local retention pond, which is east, dealing with the wind mainly the first half of my run. I knew that the wind across the lake water would be tough to deal with too. So I picked what seemed to be the lesser of the two evils.

The first 2.5 miles to the park were as brutal as any I can remember in recent history. The wind, which was blowing right through me, would occasionally gust and I felt like I was being pushed backwards. Truly. It also started to lightly rain. Sure, why not? I felt like turning around and heading home. It would have been easy, and the wind would be at my back, pushing me home.

But no. Must run....

I got to the park and as I approached, tried to gauge the wind off the lake and decide which direction I wanted to run. With the wind blowing straight east across the water, it didn't seem to matter which way I ran, so I followed the posted rules and ran in the pedestrian lanes. The lake is a mile long, and so I plodded along with the wind at my face. I kept thinking that I had to do this 2 more times. I kept telling myself that the wind would be at my back very soon. Hang in there!

At the end of the north side of the lake, I rounded to the other side and voila! the wind was at my back. I fairly zipped along as my run felt effortless. I felt great! My legs felt light! I felt like a Kenyan! Ok, not that fast...but still! I passed some walkers bundled up like it was January, not late April. Of course they weren't moving very fast, probably not working up a sweat. 

I believe that I looked like the wicked witch of the west with the wind at my back--it was blowing all my hair forward. And there were whitecaps on this little lake!
I made one trip around, and continued on to my second lap. Back into the wind. Hating running at this point, I felt my legs slowing down but I kept pushing forward. As I rounded the end of the lake, I saw a rollerblader coming towards me. There is a small hill down and around the corner and I thought he was going to wipe out. Arms flailing, he righted himself and shuffled along. No helmet, I thought to myself. Not good. Now with the wind at my back again, I picked up speed and headed towards the park shelter, where I could get water and take a gel, with the hope that I might get a little boost.

About halfway down that side of the lake, my stomach began to rumble. Good thing I decided to run to the park today, because there are bathrooms. Looked like a pit stop was in order. I took care of business and took my gel. I decided to change directions for my final loop, rounding the lake in the opposite direction, hoping that maybe, just maybe the wind would be calmer on the the south side of the lake.

Nope. Grumble, mumble, grumble, I pushed ahead, into the wind. I approached the end of the lake again, and happily left the wind behind. As I ran my final lap towards the shelter, I came up behind the roller blader. He was still flailing and taking choppy strides. All I could think to myself was that he was going to hit the pavement and I was going to have to stop to help him. I pictured his cracked skull and blood on the path. My mind went wild with this scenario. Not at all up for that challenge, I picked up speed and shockingly, I passed him. So not only was he dangerous on wheels, he was slow too. I felt like a total stud, passing someone on wheels. When does that ever happen? I wanted to say something to him, tell him to get a helmet or some lessons or something, but I pushed ahead, relieved that he would no longer be my problem. 

I completed that lap, and crossed the street to another little park and headed towards home. The path in this park takes me over a creek and out to a very busy suburban arterial road. I had to run east briefly and that wind! the hawk! almost brought me to my knees. Thankfully the rest of my run was with the wind at my back. I ran on the sidewalk and came to a busy intersection. The traffic signal was green, but as I approached I kept praying: please turn red, please turn red. I wanted to stop and catch my breath. But noooooo, it was green and so I plodded through the intersection. The next light turned red and I took that opportunity to breathe and stretch out my hamstrings, which were starting to complain.

The other body part that began talking to me at this point, which was mile 10, was my toe. Yep. My toe has been behaving itself, occasionally reminding me that it is still angry, but hasn't sent any signals to me lately. When I started to feel it twinge, I adjusted my gait. It occurred to me at that point that leg fatigue certainly affects my stride, and that maybe I'm landing too hard on the toe. Once I had that awareness and made some adjustments, the toe quieted down again. 

I got to the park in my neighborhood. Mile 10.3. Decision time. Do I go home and call it a day at 11 miles? Or do I push on for the 12 I set out to do? I thought about my upcoming race. I knew I would do okay even without this long run. But I made a commitment to myself to do 12, and I'm a woman of my word. It would be a mental victory for me as well. So I circled around the park, and headed up the frontage road for one more mile. I ran past the church, where the masses are in Spanish and the parishioners pour in. I went to mass there once with the people I used to work with. The mass is exactly the same except in Spanish. So I knew what was going on. The funny thing was, the priest spoke to me in English when I went to receive communion. How did he know? 

I finally turned onto my street.

Wouldn't you know it, my Garmin read 11.95 when I got to my house? So I ran an extra block, got to 12, and told my OCD to hush. 

I was surprised at what I saw on my Garmin: 


That run was hard. But I'm happy with that finish time! My fastest split time was mile 8, when I passed the inept rollerblader. My slowest split time was mile 11, when my toe started talking to me. 


Glad I got it done. I hope I can bring it to my half. And I hope the hawk stays away.

Anyone do a long run today? How was it? Do you have to plan your running route according to the weather? How many weather apps do you have on your phone? 

Monday linkup #bestfoot




Saturday, April 26, 2014

Taking out the trash

I recently read an article titled: Rethinking Junk Miles. The article caught my eye, because the term "junk miles" really gets under my skin. For the article, the author redefined the term as "recovery runs". He discussed how so-called recovery runs can be useful to runners who run more than 4 days/week or who have high weekly mileage. Apparently even Kenyans use these long, slow runs to aid in "freshening up the legs" after hard workouts.


Ok, that's good and all, but let's go back to the original term "junk miles". Because that's where I get stuck. I have to admit that most of my runs are without purpose. I head out the door on my runs with a mileage goal, but I let the rest of the run be dictated by how I feel. So does this mean most of my miles are what are considered "junk miles"?

I don't stick to a formal training plan. Seems too much like work to me. The only planning I do is when I'm training for a race. I throw in a long run every week because I need the miles. And because I do like to run far.

I don't do much speedwork, unless the weather forces me onto the treadmill. Which happens at least once/week during the winter. Those intervals really help break up the monotony; makes the time pass quickly.



Tempo runs? Or as Runners World calls them: "comfortably hard runs"? An oxymoron if I've ever heard one. I don't purposely plan on on tempo runs but I guess I do them, because there are days when I hit the pavement and feel like I'm flying. And fly I do. Once I get going, I push myself to maintain that speedy pace. Never planned, but mission accomplished, in a way...



Fartleks? If I eat something obnoxious before I run I have GI issues...oh wait, TMI, that isn't a fartlek. Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play". I suppose I do fartleks too (lol!--sorry, farts are funny) --sprinting fast to a short destination, like the sign or tree up ahead, and then taking time to recover before I do it all over again.


But truth be told almost all of my runs are unplanned. I go with what my legs give me that day. I run because I love it. I run because I think it's fun. Some days, obviously, it is not. Some days it really sucks. But there is always the next run. I look forward to my runs as a release, as time to lose myself in the pace and the music, and as time for myself.

And would following a training plan really make a difference in my finish times? I'm not discounting training plans but I'm not an elite athlete. I followed a training plan for my Chicago Marathon, and look where that got me. Crashed and burned. Hindsight may be 20/20, but I seem to do my best when I listen to my body.

I get it, too many easy runs can affect a runner's finish times. But we need those "easy" runs, if for nothing else to remind us of why we became runners in the first place.

Junk miles? I hate to think of any of my miles as junk. Junk implies that those miles are garbage, worthless, useless. No matter how I run, fast or slow, short or far, my miles never feel wasteful. Sorry. Running isn't my job. It's my passion.



Ok runners, how about you? What do you think about "junk miles"? Are you pretty strict about your training? Or do you just wing it, like me?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Never satisfied


Truth.

But what if your dream comes true, your goals are achieved, but you want more?

That would be me.

I don't know what makes me tick, but I have always been one to push my limits--in running and in life.

Big life goals I've achieved so far include becoming a mom twice after 2 IVF cycles; becoming a nurse practitioner; and running a marathon. A lot of people my age are starting to sit back and take stock of their lives, slowing down.

I haven't gotten to that stage yet. Maybe I never will.

I've talked about my dissatisfaction with that one marathon, Chicago, where I crashed and burned. This week, watching all the drama surrounding the Boston marathon, I started to toy with the idea of another marathon. Actually, I've been toying with the idea of another marathon for a while.

Huge goal alert:
What I'd really love to do is BQ. I can just hear my husband groaning in the background. Actually I haven't even told him this. I won't. And I don't think this is a goal that is achievable for me. At my age, the BQ qualifying time is 4:00:00. My PB for a half is 1:54, and that was a few years ago. Even using my most recent best half, last November, which was 1:58, my predicted marathon time is 4:07. That would be under the best of circumstances, weather perfect, nerves under control, training impeccable, no injuries.

I just don't think a BQ is in my future. It will never happen. 



But I can't lie. I have Boston Envy.



Do you?

How do I move past this? My dissatisfaction with my one and only marathon, my desire to achieve the unachievable, accept my limitations, and be satisfied? My husband always asks me that question: why can't you just be content?

Can I? I wish I could! Or should I push it?

I'm running my best of my life right now. I laugh...who does that at 51?

My husband and I talked about this tonight. His response: "I really hate to say this but this is most likely the best it is going to get. You need to prepare yourself for the downside. You aren't always going to be able to run like this."


Yep, I'm married to Debbie Downer. 

But inside of me, a little voice tells me he's right. Hard to be an aging runner. Hard to be aging period.

The whole aching toe thing seems to be a sign...

But I say to him...who runs their best at my age? I should have peaked 10 years ago. What's changed? Why now?


Because I'm just not ready to hang it up. Because I took up heavy lifting. Because I refuse to grow up.


Here's the plan. I'll run my planned halfs this year and go from there.

If it all goes well, and I keep running like I have been, then maybe, just maybe, I'll talk to Becky about training me for a spring 2015 marathon. With a goal of 4:00.

You all know I've been doing crossfit. I believe that is what has made the difference in my running. At this point, I don't think I can do traditional marathon training. I need to preserve my body. The longest run the crossfit regimens do is a 16 miler. Yeah, I know all about the mental advantage of the long run. Been there, done that.

Yep. I've made up my mind. I have nothing to lose.

So if I continue to run strong...I'll go for it. If not, I'll accept that it isn't in the cards and move on. I guess.







Thursday, April 24, 2014

Liar liar pants on fire

THIS POST HAS BEEN EDITED/UPDATED

Yesterday, while perusing my running pages on Facebook, I came across this post:


Look closely. What do these 4 runners have in common?

If you noticed that they are all wearing the same bib number, you are a winner!

The story behind this post is that the runner in all her excitement about running Boston, posted her bib on Instagram the night before the marathon. Yesterday while going through her race photos, pictures of these runners along with her pictures came up. At that point, she realized what happened. Obviously, these 4 runners made their own bibs out out her picture and ran the race. And took medals at the finish! 

Now being the intrepid journalist that I am, I looked up her finish time, and it was a very respectable 3:31:41. But whose finish time was it, really? Actually, the bandits wouldn't have been timed because they didn't have a chip. But still?

Who does this?

Runners are notoriously honest. To a fault, when asked our finish times after a race, we quote it down to the last second. For example, a runner would answer about a marathon time like this: "oh, I finished that race in 3:14:159265359". Because that's how we are.

But there are dishonest runners, just like any other sport. And so I bring you:

GREAT LIARS IN RUNNING HALL OF FAME

"Why run when I can take the train?"
In 1980, Rosie Ruiz completed the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:31:56. Apparently after starting the race, she hopped on the subway and exited close to finish line, where she crossed first. Suspicions mounted as no one on the racecourse recalled seeing her run. In addition, stories swirled about her qualifying race in the New York City Marathon as well.

"You wanted bling?"
Outside magazine named this man, Dean Reinke, the shadiest man in the racing business. Reinke has a road race company, USRA, but has failed to deliver several times, taking runners' money and cancelling the races. Races that have been run log long lists of complaints from shoddy race amenities to failure of USRA to pay its bills and the charities it promotes. The article is long but a great read.

"No one remembers their first time"
Paul Ryan, who ran as Mitt Romney's VP candidate in 2012, is not shy about his dedication to fitness. He ran Grandma's marathon in 1990, and when asked about his finish time, claimed to not remember his exact time, but estimated it was "under three, high twos". After an investigation by Runner's World magazine, he actually admitted to a finish time of 4:01.

"In my mind, I've run a marathon in every state"
Kip Litton is a Michigan dentist who has posted multiple impressive marathon times; sub 3 hour times. The problem is that other racers never saw him on the race course. The New Yorker wrote a lengthy but again very interesting expose on Litton. In addition to multiple disqualifications for shortcutting races, some of his reported marathon finish times were for races that never happened; races that were made up! Nothing has ever been proven but his marathon prowess doesn't seem to add up.
***************************

There are other stories, but these are the most notorious of late. And how about bandits? Peter Segal, a regular Runners World contributer, confessed several years ago that he has banditted many races. His argument is that banditting is not equivalent to theft, that there are no victims, and that since running is all about fellowship, he just was joining in the fun. Sigh. I don't agree. And I'd say these runners who stole the bib number are pretty stealthy bandits indeed. Amby Burfoot, probably one of the most well known and humble distance runners of our time, wrote a beautiful essay several years ago for the New York Times. And I quote: 

"For true distance runners, to lie about time or distance is to lie to ourselves, to diminish the importance of the many sacrifices we make to reach the starting line. Focus and discipline form the core of a runner’s being; they are what make us put on a reflective vest and run six miles into the sleet at 6 on a dark winter morning."
and

"As aging marathoners, we know that our slowing times don’t diminish us. Like many of our friends, we run and compete for personal reasons. We have learned to take the measure of ourselves, and not to let others define who we are."
and this:

"When we run, we will ourselves to be the best we can be. That is all that matters. Our tribe expects nothing less."

Runners who cheat, who lie, hurt all of us. Wouldn't it be great to see this?




What do you think about runners who cheat? Do they hurt all runners, the sport of running, or just themselves? Have you ever banditted (is that a word?) a race? How do you feel about people who bandit? 



Sunday, April 20, 2014

CARA Lakefront 10 miler race recap

The CARA Lakefront 10 miler is hands down one of my favorite races. First of all...the distance. I love the 10 mile distance. I don't know why. But it feels good to me. I can go all out and still function the rest of the day. And second of all, it's a relatively small race--this one had less than 1500 participants. But the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) puts on a quality race for its runners and this year was no exception.

When I ran this one 3 years ago, it was a gloomy, rainy, 40 degree day. Not so this year. The sun was shining and it was 45 degrees at race time. There was a brisk northeast wind off Lake Michigan, and we were all pretty chilled while we waited for the starting gun to go off. The national anthem was sung beautifully, and unlike my last race, no one talked through it. After that, we were off!

We first headed north on the lakefront path towards Foster Beach. I ran gingerly, as I was so afraid of the return of that big toe pain that plagued me earlier in the week. I almost didn't run this one, because I feared that I would suffer a serious injury to that toe. I consulted with the sports medicine doctor at work, who agreed with me that it was a flare of arthritis. He prescribed Volaren gel, which is an NSAID, much like ibuprofen. I started using it, but didn't really notice much of a difference. Later in the week, I worked with Becky at my weekly crossfit session, and she kinesio taped my foot, hoping to promote lymphatic drainage from the toe. Heck, I would have tried voodoo at that point. I took it easy the rest of the week and hoped to run my race. I've never DNS'd or DNF'd and I didn't want to start now. Although there is a first time for everything, right?



Fortunately, today was not that day. Initially, I found myself running gingerly for quite a while. I was very conscious of my feet placement the entire race. I watched the ground for anything that might throw me off. I cautiously ran the tangents, not to strain the inside of my left foot. As the race progressed, my confidence grew. I felt myself letting go as the miles passed.

One of the "highlights" of the race included some random hill after mile 3. It was either a garbage hill or a dirt pile covered with grass. It was weird, because we ran off the path, through a field, and up this very steep hill, and back down to the path. Worried about my foot, this "trail run" made me nervous. Chicago is really flat, so the course planners must have had a little fun with this one. Once we were back on terra firma, I felt better. We circled around again and finally headed south towards Lincoln Park. As we passed the Peggy Notebaert nature museum, just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo, around mile 6, I stopped to gel. I had no trouble ripping open the package, which I had forgotten to cut prior to the race. But as it was cold out, the gel was really thick and I had some issues choking it down. When I took sips of water, the gel solidified in my mouth, and it was not a pleasant sensation. I finally got it down and began to run again, but cursed myself for wasting most likely 2 minutes with this process. I have to learn to gel!

Source: chicago park district website

We headed back north along the lakefront path and through Diversey Harbor. Although there were very few boats in in the harbor, there were 2 guys rowing skiffs and a guy in a wet suit on a standup paddleboard! Getting a head start on the season, I suppose. As I ran through this beautiful part of the city, I reflected on how lucky I am to live near such a great city. While I had these thoughts, my legs felt lighter than ever, and I began passing people! The gel must have kicked in and I was glad I took the time to choke it down. I passed the people I had been running behind prior to stopping to gel, and kept going. At mile 9, I kicked it into high gear, and flew to the finish line. I don't know where that came from, because in all the years I have been racing, that has never happened to me before! I saw the clock at the finish line, which read 1:29:30 and pushed even harder. I crossed the finish line triumphantly with a huge smile on my face.



My chip time? 1:28:38. Good enough for 8/61 place in my age group, 166/743 of all women, and 507/1531 overall. I could not be happier!



The post race party was great with food from Noodles and other suppliers, but for me the highlight was the post race beer, which was Lagunitas IPA. Yep at 930am, too! I rarely take advantage of the post race beer because it is usually something crappy like Michelob Ultra or Miler 64. Really, why bother? The Lagunitas was fantastic. There is a tasting room in the works for Chicago, and I plan on visiting it very soon.

Final reflections on this race and in general: This is one of the few races I have done more than once. The course wasn't bad, my only complaints were that weird hill in the middle of no where, and some crazy looping around. Once we were running south towards Fullerton, it felt like I could really let loose. The lakefront path is beautiful, but a little dicey at spots where the pavement is broken up. There is a limestone section which is great on the feet. The views of the lake and the Chicago skyline never fail to mesmerize me, even after all these years!



And from a personal perspective, I feel so lucky that I was able to run this race yesterday. Whether it was my new shoes, the kinesio taping job by Becky, the Voltaren gel from the sports med doc at work--I'm so grateful that I could get it done and have a finish time I'm proud of!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Agony of da feet (groan)

I love puns! I seem to have a very juvenile sense of humor, which works out well for me in my job as a pediatric nurse practitioner. As an adult, not so much...



Moving on to the subject at hand...I mean feet...



Most runners complain about their knees, their hips, their IT bands. Yes, I've been bothered by issues with those areas, but my biggest issues affecting my running have been with my feet. Today, as I sit on the couch with a ice pack on my foot, I feel defeeted (-sorry couldn't help myself, there I go again).

Over the past year or so, I've developed pain in the joint below my big toe (aka first metatarsal joint) of my left foot. My podiatrist, who I saw more than my husband a few years back, did an xray but couldn't figure out what was going on with that toe. He chalked it up to osteoarthritis and built up my orthotics to take some of the load off of that joint. My trainer Becky also has been working on strengthening my hips and glutes to give me more power and balance so that I don't come down so hard on that toe. And it all has been working. Until the past couple of months. The pain has gradually increased in that joint and today, after a fabulous 8.3 mile run, was pretty bad.



The good news is that once I get moving, the toe doesn't bother me much when I run. Walking is a different story. Which is a problem since I spend all day at my job on my feet.

I'm trying to decide which way to go. Do I go back to my podiatrist? Or do I take up the offer of our sports med doc to try a steroid injection in the joint?

Now, as I mentioned, my podiatrist and I have spent a lot of time together. Three years ago, while training for the Chicago marathon, I developed pretty severe plantar fasciitis in my right foot, which led to heel pain. At that time, my podiatrist, as all podiatrists are wont to do, put me in custom orthotics. I knew that there was going to be an adjustment period, but those orthotics rocked my world. I almost gave up on them, because really, I have a pretty neutral gait, and they were making me miserable. Anyways, after about 6 weeks, I got used to the orthotics. In the meantime, I was seeing him weekly for evaluations. One nice benefit of seeing a sports podiatrist was getting my legs and feet massaged every time I was there. The massage therapist was this 60 year old woman who had a hard body like a 25 year old. The first deep tissue massage almost brought me to tears, but after I knew what to expect, I could handle it. And the relief I felt after the treatment was amazing. My heel pain did not go away though it did improve.



After I ran Chicago, I waited for my family near the finish line. I could not stand on my feet. I was in so much pain, and not just in my heel. My feet were angry at me for all the abuse I had heaped on them throughout the past 16 weeks of training. As I recovered from the marathon, my feet were slow to forgive me. I continued my visits to the podiatrist, and as things got better, he eventually discharged me. It felt weird, after going to his office so much!



Several months later, my family and I were at the beach for a spring break trip. The Gulf of Mexico was particularly wavy that year, and we had fun body surfing and jumping the waves. One wave was so strong and I hit the floor of the Gulf with my right foot. I felt a pop and knew immediately that something broke. Being the compliant medical professional that I am, I refused to seek treatment in Florida, and hobbled around for the rest of our trip. When I got home, I resumed my relationship with my podiatrist. Yes, I had a stress fracture in my 3rd metatarsal on my right foot. He put me in a boot for 6 weeks. I was able to keep working, wearing the boot. My patients were really concerned for me, which was kind of endearing. After 2 weeks of healing, I was allowed to begin cycling. I actually tested road bikes wearing my boot. Clearly, I needed an intervention!



Once I healed and began running again, my old nemesises (nemisi?) PF and heel spur flared up. This time, my podiatrist got serious with me. We talked about options: steroid injections, PRP (platelet rich plasma injections), shockwave therapy, and surgery. I immediately ruled out surgery, and went home to do my research on the other treatments. For that heel spur, shockwave treatment made the most sense to me. The shockwaves are pulsed vibrations on the affected area, which can break up the scar tissue. The best analogy I can think of is when my father, who is very practical, took a mallet to his heel when he was suffering from the same pain. Although I can't recommend his method for breaking up the scar tissue, it was very effective.

I received 3 rounds of shockwave treatments to my heel. Each treatment was preceded by a nerve block, which was extraordinarily painful. According to my podiatrist, the shockwave treatments would be very painful without the nerve block. Plus, he could bill for the nerve block and not charge me for the treatments. I was all over that. I sucked it up and got through the treatment.



Since receiving those treatments, my heel pain has not returned. I do still have PF after I run, and wear my Feetures PF compression sleeves on a daily basis. This has replaced rolling on an ice bottle or a golf ball.

And so here I sit. I have a race next week, a 10 miler, and a half marathon in May. I was going to take some time off after that--well, ok, cut back a little on my miles and cross train--to let my feet recover. I'd love to wait and see what happens. After today, I just don't know if I can do that. I don't want to risk injuring that big toe joint, but if it is just arthritis, I can learn to live with it. Guess I'll have to wait and see what happens this week.

And to add insult to injury...looks like I'm going to lose a toenail...


Feet don't fail me now!

What injuries have plagued you? Do you have feet issues? What do you do to keep your feet happy?

I'm linking back #bestfootforward! Share the love! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring is here! Spring is here! Did I say spring is here?

I run outside all year long. This past winter was the worst I've ever run, in my 20+ years as a runner. Never have I been so cold and frustrated by the weather. Looking back, I truly can't believe how few times I actually had to take it to the treadmill. I used the cold weather as an excuse to do weekly intervals on the 'mill, otherwise my 3 other weekly runs were outside. I logged some pretty significant mileage too, as I was training for my spring break half marathon, the Florida Halfathon. Training in cold, snowy weather isn't really adequate when you are planning on running in a tropical climate. But I did get the miles in and that's that. You do the best you can, right?


But now, it seems like the weather is finally turning! We've had a string of seasonal temperatures this week--could it be the real thing? This morning I ran outside for 6.5 miles. It was 58 degrees when I started, and I was wearing shorts and a short sleeve t-shirt. Clearly I am not acclimated to even these temperatures and the first mile was tough as I struggled to find my breath! But as I eased into a nice sub-9 minute mile pace, I listened to my music, relaxed, enjoyed, and made some observations about spring in my neighborhood.

1. Early spring is UGLY here. The trees are bald, the grass is brown, there are patches of dried mud everywhere. But the daffodils and tulips are peeking through the dirt. The grass is, as my father in law likes to say, "greenin' up".

2. There's a lot of garbage on the ground. Everywhere I ran in my neighborhood, the parkways were clogged with crap. Coffee cups, pop cans, beer bottles, airplane vodka bottles, cigarette packs, condom wrappers, dog poop...you name it. Do people throw this stuff out of their cars? Well, except for the dog poop. Oh, but I did find 30 cents on the ground, so they can keep throwing money out the window!

3. Spring is WINDY! Warmer weather comes on the flow of gusty winds from the south. My mile splits reflected this. Any time a large portion of my run headed south or west, my mile times were a little slower. With the wind at my back, I flew like I had wings! I should have gone point to point today. Don't know how I'd get home though...


4. 58 degrees here is not the same as 58 degrees in Florida. When I ran on those cooler days in Florida, I still heated up quite a bit. Not so much here. It has to do something with the position of the sun in the sky, I'm sure.

5. The geese are back and they are leaving poop everywhere! My neighborhood route takes me by a small apartment complex where there is a pond, and the geese congregate there. Running on that sidewalk is an exercise in agility as I try not to step in any goose droppings. Ick. And if I get too close to the geese, they hiss at me. Sssssssss....



6. On the other hand, the mallard couples are sweet. They walk around in pairs and don't seem to be as annoying as the geese.

7. Today was garbage day. AKA squirrel feeding day in my 'hood. There are a ton of very obese squirrels in my neighborhood. They make a huge mess, digging through the garbage bags. And they are aggressive. My dog barked at a squirrel one day and that squirrel gave poor Cleo a piece of his mind. She came back to the house, tail between her legs.


8. Mrs Kravitz alert: Newspapers are piling up in front of the widow's front door across the street from me. She's always been really unfriendly to all of her neighbors and none of us know where she is. I hope she's ok.

9. The landscape trucks are back. The workers were doing a spring clean up in someone's yard. They were mowing and the fresh cut grass smelled good!

10. Moms and little kids were at the parks, swinging on swings and playing on the climbers.

Like the slow arrival of spring, I'm hoping that I too will acclimate and be ready for my summer races and running. It sure felt good to be out there today!




Has spring sprung where you are? What are seeing now that the snow is gone? How long does it take you to acclimate to the warmer temperatures?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Disappointment


What happens when you've had a bad race?

You've done the training. Your training went well. You feel well prepared.

You line up with the other runners. A little pre-race jitters, nothing more than usual. You begin to run. 

But you know, after a few miles, that this isn't going to be one of your best. Not even close. What do you do?

Do you stop? Or push through it and try to salvage what you can? Maybe start to analyze what's happening and try to learn from it?

We've all been there. I've had a few bad races myself. Most recently, my Florida Halfathon, which was one of the hardest races I've ever run. Heat, humidity, and travel all combined to make it my slowest half marathon. This one didn't disappoint me too much, though, because in spite of my poor finish time, I finished strong. I found some inner strength that I didn't even know I had! So in spite of a bad day, I found something to be positive about. 


Contrast that with my one and only marathon, the Chicago Marathon that I ran in 2011. I did the work and yet crashed and burned. I blamed it on the weather, which was hot and humid. I blamed on on the leg cramps that plagued me from mile 14 onward. I blamed it on my nerves. I blamed it on my lack of sleep, my parents' 50th anniversary party the night before. Oh, there was plenty of blame to spread around. But really, it just wasn't my day to run a marathon. I fell apart. I called my husband, crying, at mile 19, to pick me up. I walked. A lot. It was not pretty.



For months after that race, I was in a tailspin. My confidence was shot. And yes, I ran a marathon, but not the race I wanted to run. Not the race I envisioned. And not the race I trained for. When people asked me what my finish time was, I always gave a vague answer: "oh, 5:20-ish". I was depressed.



Post marathon depression is a real thing. Jenny Hadfield wrote a great article in Runner's World describing the 6 signs of PMD: 

  • Comparison shopping and minimizing your marathon accomplishment
  • Lacking interest in setting a new goal
  • Feelings of sadness, pessimism, and worthlessness
  • Feeling lost without your training
  • Not able to see the light through the fog
  • Rounding your marathon time down--"I ran around 5 hours for a 5:55 finish
Well, doesn't this sound familiar?!
It took me a long time to get over myself. Adding insult to injury was a stress fracture that I developed in my foot several months after the marathon. I was in a boot for 6 weeks, and there was no running. I bought a road bike, and began riding long distances, which really helped me feel better. There's nothing better than going fast! 

I was also diagnosed with Lyme disease that summer, and that really impeded my return to running. But by November, I completed my first 5 mile run. It felt great and I was ready to take on some new challenges! I signed up for the Wisconsin half marathon for the following May. The race was tough for me, but I finished in a respectable 2:01. 



I've run a few more races since then. Today, I feel good about where my running is at. Yet I still have that BAD marathon hanging over my head. I'd love to redeem myself, but everytime I finish a half, I remind myself that a marathon would be another half more! I don't know if I have it in me to run another marathon. And what if that one is disappointing too? Do I want to commit to the training time, to the punishment that marathon training puts on my body? Would it be worth it?

How do I accept that I did my best, even though to me, my best wasn't good enough? 

That even though my finish time was slow, I can take claim to being a marathoner?

I quote from Jenny's article: One runner's personal worst is another's personal best. 

Ultimately, no matter how far we run, how fast we run, every finished race is an accomplishment.