Thursday, October 27, 2016

Having a Moment

I've been having a rough week. It's been stressful at work, I have been having crazy nightmares so my sleep hasn't been good, and after-work hours have been chock full of obligations and activity too.

To top it off, Gertrude is complaining at me very loudly. After success last week, I decided to increase to a 2:1 run/walk interval. Monday went great. That evening, no pain. I was thrilled with this development and for the first time, started to really think that maybe I'm moving forward and truly putting this whole nightmare behind me.

On Tuesday, I made a poor footwear decision and by the evening I was paying for it. I didn't panic yet, chalking it up to the bad shoes and nothing more.

Yesterday morning, my goal was to run a continuous half mile. When I got out of bed, I was in pain. When I got to the track I was filled with trepidation but went ahead. I completed my 30 minutes, including two half-mile segments accompanied by a dull underlying pain at the same level of what I experienced on my first run/walk sessions during week 1.  As the rest of the day wore on, it hurt more and more. By the time I got home around 7:30pm, I was in a very foul mood in large part because of the pain.

While I was sitting on the couch with an ice pack ace-bandaged to Gertrude to try to shut up her wailing, I surfed Facebook to kill time and came across the story of ultra runner Dave Mackey, whose leg was crushed during an accident on the trail. He has gone through 13 surgeries, none of them particularly successful, and is reduced to hobbling with a cane. Basically, he can't take it anymore and has decided to have the leg amputated to be free of the pain and says he looks forward to a return to running (and life) with help of a prosthesis. I immediately felt a kinship with him and cheered his brave decision.

Of course I know that my situation is nowhere near as dire as Mackey's, but there have been numerous times over the past months where I have said that I'd rather just cut this offending off and get a prosthesis. Everyone of course thinks that sounds absolutely crazy and many probably think Mackey is crazy too - but I get it. After only 6 months of dealing with my issue, I am ready to be done with it. I am MORE than ready. I already feel like it will never end.

I wonder if I will ever be able to wake up in the morning and not dread getting out of bed because I know how much those first steps are going to hurt - reminding me that I am broken and feeble where I was once strong and unstoppable.

Will I ever not have to pick my work footwear according to which pair of comfort shoes will look the least ridiculous with the rest of my outfit? Will there come a day when I can walk past the shoe section of a department store and actually be able to try on the pretty and fun shoes that I used to love so much? I'm only 33 years old - much too young to be sentenced to the comfort shoes that I detest - that make me feel frumpy, short, and dull.

Will I ever be able to plan a recreational activity without having to wonder if there will be too much standing involved or too much walking and if there is, whether or not there will be seating so that I can rest? Or if there will be too much sitting which will result in awkward and painful steps when I go to leave?

Or NOT be the person bringing up the rear of the group - the one who everyone else is waiting for?

This morning my alarm went off at 5:15am and I lay in bed, pointing and flexing my toes and stretching my calf even though I knew it would be of little use. I steeled myself and put my feet into my shoes then hobbled painfully through the process of getting ready for spin class. Before surgery, my foot never hurt like this in the morning. All of my pessimistic thoughts from the night before hit me full force and then some, leading inevitably to the question of what I'm supposed to do in April.

"This is just ridiculous, there is no way it's going to happen. You can't even run a half mile without suffering. There is no way you're going to run 26.2 miles in six months. What are you doing? You're done. Hang it up."

I can't stop these thoughts. 

This morning was Becca's spin class. I love Becca because she yells at us (in an encouraging way of course) to keep us motivated. She reminds us to ask ourselves why we came. Why are we here? What's your goal? Where do you wanna be?

For nearly 2 years, the answer to that question has been Boston - that I'm using spin to get stronger and faster. Before I qualified, it was to get that BQ. After I qualified and didn't get in, the answer was to give the BAA a big old middle finger by beating my BQ by 5 minutes. During my down time, it's been to fight to retain some shadow of my former running self, using whatever I can to maintain fitness that would hopefully translate back into running.

This morning, I told myself that it is still Boston, mainly because I am trying desperately to convince myself it's possible and not just a crazy pipe dream. That I won't forever be in pain. That this wasn't a huge mistake and that I'm done.

And who am I kidding... the other reason I was in spin was because I wanted an Old Bay Cheddar Biscuit from Early Bird Biscuit Co this morning and needed to feel like I earned it.

Boston and biscuits.

I'd like to say that my spin class -in which I really kicked some butt, I must say - and biscuit made me feel more like I will run Boston in April. But sadly, it didn't. As soon as I get up from this chair, I will quickly be smacked back down to the reality that yes, while I have a Confirmation of Acceptance postcard with a return address of Hopkinton, MA, I am no Boston Marathoner at this moment.

And at this point, I don't know if I ever will be.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Yesterday I logged into my Garmin Connect account for the first time in months. I was poking around in my history trying to remember what I ran last year on Thanksgiving (of course I hadn't been keeping faithful to the blog at this point and if I had been, I would've been able to figure it out in a matter of seconds) and fell down a black hole of reliving past runs and races. Then I came across the PR section of my profile.

When I look at those numbers now, they feel like a lifetime ago - or that they must belong to a different person. On April 24 during the Carytown 10k, I ran my fastest 5k at 21:36, a pace of 6:57/mile.

Fast forward to this morning. I found myself solo at the track for another stimulating 30 minutes of run/walk intervals. My goal for these has nothing to do with pace or distance; the focus is to try to run as normally as possible without favoring or adjusting my gait to accommodate my foot*. To quote the great Han Solo, I just try to

I wear my Garmin during these workouts only to keep track of elapsed time and intervals. Today when the two mile indicator chirped, I looked down and realized that I had just hit the 20 minute mark. Thus far, I haven't been anywhere near that pace and decided that I would challenge myself to fit in another mile before my 30 minutes were up. Then, I did it.

Being extremely excited about breaking the 10 min/mile barrier is not something that I anticipated for myself. Six months ago, this would have represented a catastrophic run. But today it was a huge achievement.

This is one of the tiny positive things about side-lining injuries - when you finally get to come back, all of your goals must be recalibrated and things that once felt routine become accomplishments. 

I used to joke that I wouldn't even get out of bed for less than 5 miles and that I wouldn't use the qualifier "long" on any run unless it was 17 miles or more. A seven mile tempo run was child's play and any pace over 8:30 may as well have been walking. A week logging less than 20 miles was a week wasted. Basically, I had to work really really hard to impress myself.

This isn't to say I'm belittling any of those things; it is simply a reflection of where I was as runner and what my personal standards were at the time that I consider my peak fitness to date.

Honestly, it's kind of nice to be thrilled by 3 miles of run/walking. 


For those who've expressed concern or told me to be careful, I appreciate it. Let me reassure you that there are few people who are as cautious as I am when it comes to recovery. I have not gone through all of this just to turn around and ruin it all by being foolish at this point. There is far too much at stake.

Right now, I am five weeks post op and am well within the prescribed time frame for a return to normal activity (based on my specific procedure). I am not pain free but each time I run/walk, Gertrude hurts less both during and after. This is a good sign.

BFF Steve has told me that when I do my run intervals, I need to do what feels comfortable and that the biggest enemy/danger to recovery is not in my pace but the amount of time on my feet and total mileage. Ramping up mileage too fast is what most often causes relapse. During my 30 minute interludes, my run/walk ratio is increasing but I'm really not going much further than 2 miles of total running each session.

For me, being comfortable means running at my normal pace... my normal pace being something that starts with a 7:xx over short distances. Kit recently observed that I apparently have only have two speeds: fast and boot. He's pretty much right. If I try to adjust to run slower than what I am used to, I become hyper-aware of everything and think far too much. My gait suffers and I compensate; things become unnatural, awkward, and yes - painful. If I relax and let my legs do what they know how to, things are great.

I'm just going to keep doing that until they aren't. 

*I'm so tired of writing "my foot" that I've decided to refer to it as Gertrude from here on out.

**I know half this entry is blue. I've tried to fix it but Blogger is being stubborn and I don't have the time or patience to figure it out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Long Road: Zero to Boston 2017 - The Rest of Week 1

[Note: these are lengthy and boring. These are also mainly for me so that hopefully in 6 months, when I'm sitting in a hotel room in Boston on April 16 freaking out, I will be able to remind myself how far I've come.]

Monday evening - I got home, iced, stretched, donned my compression sock, and rolled my foot/calf. A lot. I even wore my night splint to bed. Yes, I admit that my foot and calf progressively hurt more as the day wore on. It did not hurt more than it ever has previously and let's be real - I haven't run in 5 months and just got off doing next to nothing for 4 weeks. This is not going to feel good and stuff is going to hurt.

Tuesday - Woke up, stuff hurt. It was really chilly outside in the morning, which made me want to go to deep water running class even less, but I did it anyway. It's really strange but for some reason my calf is always more achy after I do that class, which makes pretty much zero sense. Anyway, at class the instructor thanked me for working hard (not sure what he was insinuating) and my reply was, "I don't have much choice and besides, I don't get out of bed at 5:15 am to come get in this pool and do this for fun!"

While we were "warming up," I chatted with two other injured runners banished to the pool. One has recently been diagnosed with a stress fracture in her hip and I told her it's GOOD that it's a fracture and not soft tissue. Be GLAD that's what it is because you've got a finite time line as to when bones heal. It sucks now, but in 4-6 weeks, it will be healed and you'll be back on your feet. Her goal is to try to BQ in the spring. I told her she definitely can. I wish I was as confident in my own recovery.

I had planned to go to yoga that night  but as the day wore on my foot and calf bothered me more and more. It had turned into a gorgeous day so I asked Kit if he'd rather meet me for a walk after work down on Belle Isle or the Canal Walk instead. I had noticed that everything hurt the most for the first few steps that I took and thought that maybe a nice walk would help things loosen up more. Plus, there was no way I was going to be able to do any balance poses on my left foot.

It wasn't too hard to convince him, so we met at Tredegar and set off toward the pipeline. As predicted, things started to feel better. I haven't been on the pipeline in months and months - I honestly can't remember the last time. Of course when we got onto it, all I could think was that I wished I was running it and not walking it. That led to a whole bunch of "what ifs"...

What if Wrightsville was my last marathon?
What if I never run Richmond again?
Or have a snow run?
Or one of those runs when it feel so awesome that you just keep going and going?
What if from now on, I will always only be watching other people run?
What if it is over?

And that's when I started crying - a big old ugly cry too. It had been a good month since my last ugly cry, so it was due. I felt terrible, because my intention for going on a walk was for it to be an enjoyable and relaxing thing and not including me sitting on the pipeline sobbing like a child.

What ifs are terrible things. I try not to dwell in the realm of what ifs, but it has been impossible lately. What if I had just taken off for 2 weeks back in May? What if I had just gotten the cortisone shot instead of the Tenex? What if I didn't run that half in Chicago? Or had transitioned to lower drop shoes back in the spring when I said I would?

Past what ifs are bad because obviously those are all decisions that have been made and nothing can be done to change them. I made the choices that I did, I am in this place now, and there's nothing to do about it but keep going forward.

The worst thing about them, though, is that if you spend a lot of time wondering what you could have done differently, it makes you paralyzed to make decisions in the here and now. What if I wait another two weeks to start running? What if I hurt myself again? What if I just stop every time it hurts? Where will it lead me? Which is the right choice?

I'll never know the answer to any of the what ifs that I face - and neither will you. That's life. We can all only try to make the best choices we can, learn from them, and live with them.

Wednesday - By some miracle, on Wednesday my foot felt 100 times better than it had on Tuesday. (Side note, I'm already really sick of writing "my foot.") After work, I met up with Marcey and Kit at Runner's Purgatory the vita course for another stimulating 30 minute session of 1 minute running/1 minute walking. I am so out of the habit of running that I had neglected to pack a sports bra in my change of clothes and had to first go home and get one before meeting up at the vita course.

I felt creaky during this outing, but also determined. During the last lap around the ~1 mile course, I let loose a bit. I stopped thinking, shortened my stride, relaxed, and just went. I pulled ahead and remembered what it feels like to run fast. 

When you run fast, something happens in your brain. More accurately, what happens is that your brain turns off. You stop thinking and just go. During my 4 or so minutes of running fast (and yes, I admit it was truly fast - the first number of my pace was a 7), I stopped concentrating so hard on how I was landing with that left foot (was I favoring it? was I not? was I overcompensating?) and like magic, it felt fine.

Or maybe I just too busy being disgusted with my loss of cardiovascular fitness and didn't notice the aches anymore.

Thursday - Things flared up post-run and I felt it in the morning when I dragged myself out of bed to go to spin class. We had a substitute instructor for spin who literally had just happened to be walking through the Y and plucked from her normal routine to fill in last minute. She didn't have a plan and winged the class. It was good, but it seems that her default was hill and hill after hill. My quads were very tired. Not sure if that impacted how my leg and foot felt for the rest of the day or not. They were both sore, but not as achy as they had been on Tuesday so I'm going to count that as net positive.

Friday - New and improved strength routine in the morning with Kit. We've been doing this set of ten moves for a few months now with a few additions including a variety of planks, leg lifts, and tricep work. Now we've added in clam shells and wall sits and eliminated the scorpion for the time being. Before Erie and my surgery, we had really made a lot of progress in all of these exercises but lost a lot of ground during about 3 weeks of down time. This was the third session back and it finally started to feel a little bit easier.

I got off work a bit early and it was just a glorious day, so we met up after work at Tredegar and this time did the Belle Isle loop for the 30 minutes of one on, one off. It didn't feel great this time, but I was very thankful to be out and running (as it were) after work, on a beautiful fall afternoon. When I do these work outs, I always use my Garmin for all of the intervals to make sure I'm sticking to the correct timing. This time, Kit only cut his on when we were doing the running intervals. At the end, he informed me that I had run a total of 2 miles at an 8:18 average. I was SO HAPPY.

2 miles.

Saturday  - NADA! Unless you count moving your fork to your mouth as a work out. If that's the case, I did plenty of that.

Sunday - It has been 5 weeks since I went on a good long bike ride; since I've really felt that I pushed myself hard and long during a work out. Today was the day for that, at long last. The morning was chilly and the sun isn't coming up until 7 these days, so that's when I met Kit for the 40 mile round trip to Ashland.

Within the first 5 miles, I felt tired. This isn't completely unusual for me. No matter what I'm doing, I often have a slump during the 20-30 minute mark and then revive. Despite being tired, I couldn't help but love taking in the scenery around us. The city had been clear but as we got further out on less well-traveled country roads, a thick fog appeared. It was beautiful to ride through the quiet country side and watch the mist settling on the fields. My helmet collected a bunch of condensation, as did my shoes and Astrid too.

The way up to Ashland had many rolling hills. NOT being a cyclist, I'm terrible at pacing and powered my way up them like a mad woman. When we were about 5 miles out, I looked down as we sped along a flat and saw that we were going 21.7 miles per hour. That's pretty darn fast for me. And it felt good. We passed some abandoned farm houses, still shrouded in mist. A field of low plants (I am not a country girl and have no idea what they were) was dotted with perfect spider webs that were easy to see thanks to the water hanging on them. It was so terribly autumnal that it almost felt like a movie.

We stopped briefly at Ashland Coffee & Tea for a drink before setting off again, back toward Richmond. My legs were very heavy and very tired; I'd spent all of my energy on my mad dashes earlier. Kit was tired too, lagging behind me which is strange. He is always faster than me on the bike. I refused to give in though. "We don't have time to be tired, Kit!" I yelled over my shoulder and continued on. I make it sound like I was flying, but in reality it was around 14-15 MPH with some 17s thrown in once in a while.

About 10 miles out, I started to get hungry. REALLY hungry. It has been a very long time since I worked out to the point that I worked up a good appetite. All I could think about was how hungry I was and how much longer it would be until I could eat. By the time we got to Richmond, I was downright delirious with hunger. We planned on going for breakfast, but I didn't know if I could hold out that long. I asked Kit if he had anything that he could feed me RIGHT AWAY in his apartment. I said I was so hungry that if someone gave me a banana at that moment, I would eat it. Thank goodness he had just bought a whole bunch of trail mix and nuts. We got off our bikes and went straight up and I pretty much ripped into the contained of mixed nuts like a starving person and devoured a mozzarella stick too.

I can't remember the last time I was that hungry. I think it may have been a year ago at the Richmond marathon, where all I could think about for the first 13 miles was how delicious my salted caramel gu would be once I allowed myself to eat it at the half way point (significant because I hate Gu and normally eat them very begrudgingly) and then for the second half, nothing but the finish festival pizza filled my mind. I ended up eating four pieces.

Despite the desperate hunger and tough ride back, it felt really really good to go for a long hard ride. For the first time in forever I got a great dose of exercise induced endorphins. It was fantastic.

As for my foot, it hurt a lot yesterday (Saturday) until about 7pm when for no apparent reason, it suddenly felt better. Today it has continued that trend, even post-ride.

Week 1 Summary
3 runs, 30 minutes each of 1 min run/1 min walk intervals
1 aqua jog session
1 strength session
1 long ride

Foot Status: Pain level currently a 1/10

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Long Road: Zero to Boston 2017 - Week 1, Day 1

[Edit One: I realize I haven't yet posted about the injury itself and the reason I haven't run for five months. It was a sudden, acute, and as BFF Steve says, "rip roarin" case of plantar fasciitis. Eventually, it led to surgery in an effort to fix it. I could write a tome on the experience - and trust me, I am. That post will go up soon but I don't want to get behind in documenting my journey back, from the beginning.]

[Edit Two: I also realize that I haven't officially "announced" that I was accepted into Boston 2017. There will also be an entry on that whole experience at some point!]

This week, I decided that it was now or never when it comes to getting back to running. It has been four weeks since my surgery and by all accounts, I should have been able to do some run/walking by this point anyway. Two weeks ago, even the surgeon told me to give it a try but I was not ready - physically or mentally - to do it yet.

Since that appointment, things have been steadily improving for the most part. There have even been two days in the past week when my foot felt almost normal and pain free. The pain that is there is mostly centered on the flat bottom of my heel and shows up only when something hits the area - for example, when I wear my shower flip flops at the Y and the sole slaps onto the sole of my foot. Or sometimes when I stand for an extended period. It also hurts first thing in the morning but what hurts is the outer edge of my foot, no doubt from over correcting when I walk and seemingly not PF pain.

At this point, I've been told there is nothing I can do in terms of disrupting the healing from the surgery or "ruining" it. Either it worked or it didn't, and there is no way to truly find out except to go test it by running.

My plan is to start with a 30 minute session of run one minute/walk one  minute on the soft surface track at Munford or the Vita Course. I hope to be able to do this three times a week, plus one day of spin, one day of deep water running, one to two days of strength, and a return to yoga.

I keep vacillating between excitement and terror; at any given time the percentage that I'm excited versus the percentage that I'm terrified varies wildly. Last Friday, my foot hardly hurt at all during the work day and I was 75% excited, 25% terrified. On Saturday, it hurt all day for no given reason and thus I was 40% excited and 60% terrified.

On Sunday morning, I watched CBS Sunday Morning and the lead piece was on the placebo effect and how powerful it is. I immediately decided that what I need to put this injury out of my mind is a placebo. Truly, I do believe that most of the residual pain now is simply my brain refusing to believe that it will ever get better. That night, I decided that my placebo is going to be running. If I can convince myself that getting back to my normal activities will fix me, maybe it will work.

This morning (Monday), for the first time in months, I got out of bed before my alarm went off. I only do this when I'm meeting someone for a run. Otherwise, I have to draaaaaaaaaaaaag myself out of bed because I dread what's coming.

I put my feet into my shoes and tried to take a step.

Enter terror.

It hurt and I suddenly became very afraid of what was going to happen at the Munford track.

I kept moving though, hobbling to the bathroom and then getting dressed in my running clothes for the first time in what felt like forever. As I left the house and walked down the steps to my car, my stomach was in complete knots. What was I doing? Why on Earth did I think this was a good idea anyway? I'm not ready yet and maybe I'll never be ready.

And that's precisely why I had to do it anyway.

Kit, gracious as ever, had agreed to meet me at Munford for the maiden voyage of Left Foot 3.0. Why any able-bodied runner would voluntarily do 1 min run/walk intervals is beyond me, but I was grateful that he was there. If he hadn't been, I'm pretty sure I would have just given into my fear and gone back to bed.

He greeted me with an enthusiastic "Good morning!" I just said, "Kit, I'm scared. Really, really scared."

We walked to the track and I asked that we start by just walking a lap. As we neared the end of that lap, he offered to help me stall some more by stretching. I declined; I had already used my super duper stretching jobber at home and I couldn't just keep finding ways to avoid what I needed to do.

Off we went. The first minute of running was not pleasant. My foot wailed at me and I concentrated hard on not accommodating it, not compensating in my gait. As the intervals went on, it stopped wailing and toned down to a loud murmur. Other things woke up and protested - strangely, my right quad and glute were the most vocal. A bit more than half way through, I said I wanted to run a little longer, so we did two 90-second intervals. For the last run interval, I said I just wanted to run one lap the whole way - .25 miles.

One. Quarter. Mile.

As we ran that lap, I reminded myself that a month ago I could not take a single step. My husband was literally carrying me around the house, or I was crawling on my hands and knees. A quarter mile is nothing in distance running, but this morning it was everything.

When the 30 minutes were up, I had covered just under 3 miles.

It's a start.

At home, I stretched my calf and massaged the heck out of my foot before heading off to work. Despite that, I am paying for those three miles, though not nearly as much as I paid for it when I tried to run over the summer. After sitting at my desk for a while, my first few steps hurt but after 5 or 6 strides it became manageable with little favoring or limping. It's not any worse than it has been over the course of the last 4 weeks and most of the discomfort is in the bottom of my heel and not in my arch or the usual PF hot spot.

Hopefully with some ice and massaging tonight, it will be back to "new normal" by tomorrow morning and I can try again on Wednesday.


A Long, Sad Summer - Part 2: The Injury

The last time I was here in April (geesh...) I was triumphant. I had redeemed my terrible Monument Avenue 10k with a PR at the Carytown 10k. I felt pretty invincible and fantastic.

5 months later, this is my situation.

And this is really just the tip of the injury iceberg.

What happened you ask?

Two simple words: Plantar Fasciitis.

Actually, let's make that three words: Acute plantar fasciitis.

My last good run happened on Wednesday, May 4. Kit and I ran a north side route flat and fast - 8 miles at a 7:29 pace. I specifically remember being very happy with it because I had felt kind of sluggish for a few days and this was the first time I had enjoyed a fast pace that felt comfortable and giddy. I thought, "Finally, I'm back to my old self."

If only I knew what was in store for me.

The following Friday night, at 3:30 am, I startled awake thanks to the most excruciating calf cramp I have ever experienced. It was the kind of pain that makes you feel like you're going to throw up or pass out; the kind that makes your mind go blank and takes over everything. I was writhing and literally crying out in pain, which woke up Husband who tried to massage my rock hard left calf into submission but it just wasn't having it. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the muscle relaxed. The episode probably lasted 2 or 3 minutes. I was absolutely covered with sweat and gasping for breath.

What caused this cramp is a mystery to me. I had not been doing anything out of the ordinary in the days leading up to it. I have had this calf cramp up on me at night before, but only two times that I can remember and never to this level.

My calf was sore for a solid two weeks after that, but being a runner, I continued to run through the discomfort. I did go see BFF Steve and had him do some massage on the calf.

In mid-May, Husband and I went to Chicago. Admittedly, I did not take very good shoes with me (by good, I mean supportive). In fact, a few hours after we arrived we hit a Sketchers store and both of us ended up buying new shoes that would be better for touristing. It just so happened that there was a half marathon going on while we were there - entirely coincidental, I swear! - so I had signed up for it. I ran the race on Sunday the 22nd.

At first I wanted to run it all out but I ended up slowing up quite a bit because it turned out to be a very warm day, the lake front offered nothing in the form of shade, and because my calf started bothering me around mile 8. So at the turnaround, I decided to just chill and be a tourist runner. I stopped a few times and took some pictures of the Chicago skyline and then at mile 12.5, I was coming up behind a male runner who was obviously in distress. He was weaving, barely staying upright. I immediately pulled up next to him and slowed to a walk, putting my hand on his arm to steady him and asking if he was ok. His arm was freezing cold - never a good sign on a 70 degree day. I ended up doubling back to the nearest aid station and then staying with him until medics showed up.

Despite all that, I finished in 1:46. And the medal was totally cool.

The Ferris Wheel spins!

Our agenda for the rest of the day included a walking food tour, which covered about 3 miles. By the end, I was trailing behind my husband and our friends because my foot and calf were hurting, but I chalked it up to trying to be all crazy during the first half of the race. Besides, my feet had been hurting since pretty much day one - again, I had written it off to being out of practice when it comes to playing tourist.

That night, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. When I tried to get out of the bed, I almost fell on the floor thanks to an intense, shooting pain stemming from my left heel. It felt like a knife was in my heel. I hobbled to the bathroom and prayed that by morning it would be better. It wasn't, really, but we still had two more days of sight seeing to do so I hobbled through the Art Museum, Wrigley Field, and the Willis Tower.

Back at home in Richmond, I foolishly continued to run. I thought that it would work itself out. Then, during a run with Kit and Lauren on Wednesday, June 1, I was in so much pain by the end of the run that I was literally in tears. It was mostly my calf, which felt rock hard, and by extension, my foot.

At this point, I knew that I needed to stop running and give this thing a chance to calm down. Even though it killed me to do it, I did not run on the first day of MTT (the first Saturday of June). I rode my bike to the stadium for orientation and to meet my new team - I had been assigned to Orange - the second fastest team in the program, and I was really excited about it. Besides, the first day of MTT is like the first day of school and I was eager to at least say hi to all of my running friends. I was ok during the pep talk but once the teams started to run from the stadium and I was left behind, it felt like my heart being yanked from my chest. I sadly rode my bike home and hoped beyond hope that with some rest I'd be joining in on the next weekend's run.

But by the second Saturday of June, it wasn't better. At all. I was starting to wonder if maybe my foot was broken again - this time the heel. I ended up seeing Dr. Cutter on the 14th, where I promptly failed the "squeeze test" on my heel and the Good Doctor ordered up an MRI suspecting a heel fracture. The next day I was in the MRI machine and completely convinced at this point I was looking at a stress fracture and 6-8 weeks of a boot and no running. I was hoping beyond hope that it was not fractured and merely a case of plantar fasciitis. At that time, my naïve self thought that a soft tissue injury would be easier to get over and I'd be able to continue running through it. It seemed the lesser of two evils.

When I went that Friday to my diagnosis appointment, I didn't wear mascara because I was certain I was going to be told I had a fracture and therefore, I was going to be crying. When Dr. Cutter said it looked like a case of PF, I was overjoyed.

"The face of a runner who was just told she DOES NOT have a stress fracture."
Initially, the prognosis was to take 2 weeks off from running to give it time to calm down. As it turned out, it just so happened that my sports doc was considering purchasing a pulse ultrasound device and was in the midst of a mini clinical trial on selected patients to see if it did indeed have a positive affect on plantar fasciitis. He wanted me to get the treatments, which for most patients, resulted in a drastic reduction of plantar fasciitis pain. Better yet, I was going to get the treatments for free.

My first session was on June 29th. I was nervous but not terrified - it didn't involve needles, so in my book it couldn't be THAT bad. A very nice sales rep named Conner did the treatments, which were about 10-15 minutes long and involved me trying not to jump off the table while he used this ultrasound gun to pummel my foot.

The first level would be a "warm up" for about 3-5 minutes, followed by the intense stuff for 3-5 more minutes, and then the finish with a massager that was supposed to feel good (it never felt good to me). He used the thing on my entire foot but concentrated the most on the spots that were sore. The idea is that these very deep ultra sound waves would penetrate deep into the inflamed tissue to encourage blood flow and stimulate healing.

It hurt - a lot. I would have to brace myself to not involuntarily scooch backwards away from him and/or jump off the table. It always hurt the most when he was concentrating on the tender area, but when he went nearer to my toes it made my foot bones feel like they were going to shatter. I was pretty convinced it was going to break my foot again. It brought tears to my eyes more than once. Conner did his best to distract me and told me that it would all be worth it; that it helped so many people and it was going to make me better. He found it really hard to believe that it hurt more than a tattoo (it did - a lot more!) and also more than running a marathon (A LOT MORE).  He would tell me that some of the other patients he would treating felt nearly pain free when they got down from the table and took their first steps after a treatment.

That never happened for me. It would hurt the same (or worse). After the standard three treatments (once a week), I told Conner I didn't think it was doing a damn thing and he said he would treat me two more times to prove that it worked.

It never worked.

Meanwhile, I was attacking the thing with everything I could: regular old PT with BFF Steve, stretching, night splint, icing, shoe inserts, a new rolling stick, and fancy calf stretching device. Oh, and of course no running. The whole no running for 2 weeks prognosis stretched on in to July as none of the treatments worked. Steve encouraged me to try out running to see what would happen, so I did the beginning of July. About a mile into the very slow run, my foot didn't seem to hurt so much. But I ended up paying for that little 3 mile run with excruciating pain later that day and being barely able to walk. That earned me two more weeks on the bench.

At the end of July, I made the decision to defer my entry into Marine Corps Marathon and transferred my MTT registration to the Half Training Team, thinking that if I could get back by the second week of August, I could probably run the half.

During all of this time, I was an emotional wreck. I wasn't getting my usual endorphins, I wasn't hanging out with my friends, I didn't have anything to look forward to. None of the treatments were working and just walking caused me serious pain. Something as simple as driving on Riverside Drive made me misty-eyed. Seeing runners created instant tears. Every time someone sent me an encouraging text or checked in on me, I would weep. The worst was at night when I would lay in bed, my foot in a splint and my foot throbbing, knowing I wasn't waking up to run and wondering if I ever would again. At least once a week throughout July and August, I would have at least one ugly crying jag - the kind where you get a giant headache, go through 50 tissues, and then can't breathe through your nose for hours.

I tried to do other things to stay in shape and recapture some endorphins. First, I bought a class pass to SwimRVA and started going to aqua jogging - which, as my friend Sarah says, sounds really lame so I should really call it "deep water running" - but I can never remember to call it that. Anyway, aqua jogging is a fantastic workout but it is also immensely boring and maddening. There is nothing more frustrating than pumping your arms and legs are hard as you can and going essentially nowhere. But I have kept to it faithfully, going at least once a week to the 6 am class. One morning, I watched a beautiful sunrise while standing in the parking lot of the aquatics center. I texted Kit, "You'd better be outside running this morning, watching this sunrise." A woman - another injured runner - who was in class with me often saw me standing out there and when I came inside she said, "You were wishing you were running, weren't you?"


Second, I started cycling long on the weekends. I had inherited a road bike from my friend Barbara, so I hauled it out and hit the Capital Trail with Kit on Sundays or did a route I felt relatively safe on in the mornings before work. I started buying cycling stuff - padded shorts being the first investment, followed by gloves and then clip in pedals. One Thursday night, I spent almost 45 minutes in my driveway trying to teach myself how to clip in. Eventually my friend Mark met me at a local cycling hot spot known as West Creek, where he helped me get the hang of clipping in and took me on my first successful clipped in ride. I was extremely proud of myself for not tipping over and smashing my face in.

Then, Mark let me borrow his wife's bike one weekend. Her bike was a carbon fiber road bike and after riding that beauty, I simply had to have one. On my way home that morning I stopped by a local bike shop to see how much an upgrade would cost me and was surprised at how relatively affordable it could be. I went home and talked to my husband about buying the bike and that afternoon, I went back and bought an aluminum road bike with carbon fiber fork. I named her Astrid then called Mark and told him he owed me $800.

I started doing longer and more challenging rides, hitting 40 miles on the weekends. But I refused to be called a cyclist or even entertain the thought of taking up triathlon. (There will be an entry on that one of these days). And I declare that I still strongly dislike it. It's just so much of a hassle. When I'm going cycling, I have to make sure that my bike rack is on the car, find my helmet and my gloves, my bike shoes, check my tires, wrestle the bike onto the car (which isn't so awful since Astrid is pretty light). When I get to where we're cycling, it takes me at least 10 minutes to get the bike off the car, change my shoes, get my gloves and helmet on, etc.

Running is so simple. You put you shoes and clothes on. You get in the car and 30 seconds later, you're running.

It's also not a very social activity. When you get going, the wind is too loud in your ears to really be able to talk to the person you are with and unless you're on an empty trail you can't ride next to each other either. I also find it terrifying. If you fall off a bike, you are really going to get screwed up. Yes, I've hurt myself falling while running but the amount of damage that can be done when taking a tumble off a bike is much worse. It didn't help that Mark told me tales of his epic bike crashes - one including being taken out by a deer! - or that I am already a nervous cyclist to begin with.

Anyway, cycling didn't help me with endorphins much, but I am grateful that I had it so that at least I was getting some kind of outdoor exercise. I got to know Mark much better as a result and also got to reconnect with Ed, who I used to run with on the Edge of Midnight during my first year of MTT. I always loved Ed's company and had missed him, so it was nice to ride with him (or more accurately, chase him because he's one super fast cyclist!).

I admit it was fun to reach new distance PRs and to cover so much ground in one morning. Saying I rode to Charles City Courthouse was a big achievement for me and one time Ed took Kit and I with him on a route from West Creek that took us far into the country. I had no idea where I was and it was kind of awesome. I still don't know, for the record.

And I do love Astrid.

Third, I did yoga faithfully on Tuesday nights and strength training with Kit on Mondays. By the end of the summer I could do 10-12 push ups, had mastered side planks and wild thing, and even my warrior three pose was much better (I hate warrior three). One day, I challenged Kit to a plank-off and beat him. My proudest moment, to be sure.

Despite all of this, I was still miserable.  I felt like I was falling further and further behind and losing all of running fitness. I desperately missed my friends. By early August, I was reaching the end of my rope. Nothing was working and I was ready to try the next level of treatment, so I started researching my options and narrowed them down to: 1) cortisone shot; 2) platelet rich plasma injections; 3) dry needling; or 4) a new outpatient surgical procedure called image guided tended treatment - otherwise known as Tenex.

Here is where I'll end part 2. I think it is worthwhile to tell you all about my researching and decision making process.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Long, Sad Summer - Part 1

There have been many, many, many days in the past few months where I wanted to sit down and try to put into words what has been going on. I've started and abandoned so many entries that it borders on pathetic. Truth is, I just haven't had the words.

There are many reasons why I created and kept up with this blog. First and foremost, I started it mostly for myself. I have always kept some kind of journal. Among the things that I found in boxes of my childhood belongings are diaries (complete with cheap brass padlocks) from as far back as third grade, followed by spiral bound notebooks that I traded back and forth with my best friend throughout high school. In college, LiveJournal exploded and I started writing my daily thoughts and experiences on the web in 2003. I still thoroughly enjoy going back and reading old entries, which cover college, grad school, epic break ups, meeting my now-husband, and the start of my career. If not for those records, many memories would be long gone.

My last real entry in LJ was written in November 2011. By that time, LJ was a dinosaur akin to Myspace and Blogger was the new it platform, so I jumped format and RunEatPlayRVA was born. Much like that old personal journal, this blog is the place that I love to go to relive the past few years, to remind myself how far I've come; of the good times, bad times, silliness, and the hundreds of memories that have come from my new life as a runner in Richmond.

The secondary reason for starting this blog was that at the time, blogging was taking off and I really enjoyed finding out about other people's experiences in running through the medium. I wanted to get in on the conversation. I had always loved writing and interacting with people via my personal anecdotes, so it was natural.

Five years of blogging is an eternity in Internet years. I constantly scold myself for letting my poor RunEatPlayRVA sit abandoned. I regret having not turned to these digital pages to note my feelings, thoughts, and training over the past year (and then some) and for not sharing the many non-running adventures I've had in Richmond, because I love this city.

So what happened? Mainly, I got a demanding job where writing was my primary activity and it took all of my brain power to get through the days. When I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was write some more - it just felt too much like work. I took no pleasure in it anymore and it required far too much effort. And let's face it; blogging is not cool anymore as a social media platform. (Is the world "cool" even cool anymore? Somebody help me... I'm old and out of touch.) Even when I did post, it wasn't much of a conversation anymore.Everyone's gone to Instagram or Snapchat. I do IG but I've decided I am officially way too old and boring for Snapchat.

Blogging also stopped being cathartic for me. Somewhere along the line I stopped writing in my genuine voice and starting worrying about my "audience" (as it were). I would write a sentence 5 times and delete it for fear of how the tone might be judged or interpreted. The writing wasn't organic and it was too hard for me to force it into some kind of PC version of myself.

Well here's what I think about that now: screw it. I need to write again. I need to put out there what's been going on the past few months even if it serves no other purpose than me being able to come back here in September 2017 to see how far I've come. I also hope that it might help someone out there who is dealing with the same thing and needs to read about someone's experience.

Will my entries be perfect? Nope. They'll be stream of conscious again - the way that I write best. If you don't like them, sorry/not sorry. If you don't agree with the way I've gone about trying to right my situation, sorry/not sorry. If you don't like my attitude, sorry/not sorry. I am who I am. I'm not perfect by any means, I'm not some oracle or font of wisdom. That isn't ever what I set out to be in this space anyway; I just wanted to be me.

With that, I'm signing off this entry by really not telling you anything and being all vague about what's been going on the past few months. It wasn't intentional; it's just getting late. I'm not dying (only inside) or getting divorced or moving or homeless or jobless or anything that important. Oh and I'm NOT pregnant.

It's just this.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Redemption Part Deux: 10k

I was really unhappy with my Monument Avenue 10k performance this year. It just left a bad taste in my mouth, even though I know I was sick and therefore had a "valid" excuse for it.

I think excuses are crap, valid or not.*

Over the next few weeks as I recovered from the marathon and Plague 3.0, run after run felt very slow and sluggish. I felt like my legs had forgotten how to go fast.

At the beginning of last week, I told myself that if I was able to run some 10k PR pace miles on Monday or Wednesday, then I'd sign up to run the Carytown 10k and try to redeem myself. To me, there was no point in running another 10k right now unless I was going to set the personal record that I had wanted to achieve at Monument Avenue. My standing PR was set last May at Stratford Hills, with a pace of 7:11/mile, so I was targeting 7:05/mile as the goal for Carytown.

Then, I didn't manage to run a single mile at PR pace during any of my workouts. But at the end of Wednesday morning's run, I decided to go ahead and do Carytown anyway. Even if it wasn't going to be a PR effort, I knew that it would be more enjoyable than Monument Avenue and I wanted that bad experience to be erased.

The morning of the race, my stomach was giving me some trouble so when I arrived early to pick up my bib and to meet Kit for a little shake out, I wasn't feeling very hopeful. GB was also running the race and we connected while milling around waiting for Kit to arrive, so he joined us on a little half mile warm up. BFF Steve has been having me do butt-kickers to try to get me further up into a mid foot strike, so I did some of that to loosen up as we slowly ran our warm up. It also makes me feel lighter on my feet, even though I look like a doofus.

 For those who don't know what butt kickers are...

Our warm up route took us to the starting area, where the three of us lined up together near the front of the pack. Carytown 10k is not a huge race - this year there were 785 finishers - but it does tend to attract a decently fast crowd, as most races organized by Richmond Road Runners Club do. Therefore, starting up front can be very dangerous. I did that at the Moonlight 4 Miler last August and ended up running a 6:30 first mile or something, trying to keep up with the lead pack (not a good idea, by the way). It's easy to get swept up, but it's also nice because you can just take off and run your pace immediately without tripping over the people in front of you and dodging/weaving until you find a comfortable spot and get into the groove.

Anyway, with the usual "Runners Set... and GO!" commands, we took off. Kit and I ran together for all of 2 blocks before he said, "Alright, see you at the end!" and then I found myself side by side with GB for pretty much the rest of the race. As Mile 1 ticked off, I noted that I felt about 1,000 times better than I had at the end of Mile 1 at Monument Ave.

Greg and I traded "leads" through 2, 3, and 4 with one or the other being just a few steps ahead at various points. I was pleasantly surprised at my performance thus far, which was on pace for a PR. We've never said it out loud, but GB and I definitely have a bit of a friendly rivalry going on at the 10k distance (admit it, GB). I know he was thinking, "I'm not letting her get ahead of me," while I was thinking, "I'm not letting Barch get this one." It actually serves us well and because of it, we push each other when we may have otherwise let up. This is exactly what happened during the second half of this race, where we were often running elbow to elbow, neither one of us giving in.

Then, in the last mile, we hit the tiny incline of Nansemond Street and per usual, GB got ahead of me going up the hill and I never caught him again. Not surprising; Barch is a hill beast and I don't think I have ever beaten him up one, big or small. He also has a great end-of-race kick that I can't match, so double whammy.

Excuses, excuses, Kathryn.

There is a happy ending though: I managed to pull out that personal record with a 43:30 race. Greg beat me by 15 seconds with his 43:15, also a PR. Kit rounded out the trifecta with his own super speedy PR of 41:59.


Making the morning even sweeter, Kit got 3rd in his age group and I got 2nd in my age group - a field of 72 women - and 7th woman overall. 

We even got ribbons!

My improvement was 1 minute, 14 seconds or around 10 seconds per mile. That doesn't sound like much, but for a 10k, it is actually not too shabby. Interestingly, that's nearly identical to the margin of improvement from my Erie Marathon pace (8:10/mile) to Wrightsville pace (8:01/mile).  


It's also 6 whole minutes ahead of my disaster Monument Avenue time from 2 weeks ago.

That's almost a minute a mile.

WHOA. I just now did that math.

I feel quite redeemed now.


*Only when it comes to running; not when it comes to procrastinating on house cleaning or other responsible grown up stuff.