Gone Baby Gone

Wow, almost 2 months since my last post.  Nice work!  It’s clear my motivation to write goes down the tubes unless I have something funny or enlightening to share.  And quite honestly, I was a little cranky for most of March.  It all started when my Plantar Fasciitis decided to invite more people to the party.  And by “more people,” I mean, my other foot.  I guess it wasn’t enough that I’ve been battling this shit for 20 months.  My left foot apparently wanted in on the action.  When I first started feeling the symptoms, I kind of ignored them.  But then it was obvious that something was wrong and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.  I did the usual:  Rest, Ice, Compression, Cry, Eat, Feel Sorry for Myself, etc..  But after a few Graston sessions with my chiropractor, it’s starting to feel better now.  My right foot (the original injury) is still wonky.  But that doesn’t freak me out as much.  That injury is like a familiar old friend in some ways.  It can be a total pain in the butt, but at least I know what to expect from it.  I know how far I can push it.  And I know what to do when it’s acting up.  Having the left foot flare up was more than I wanted to handle.

So.  I didn’t run for a couple of weeks.  One thing these injuries have taught me is that it’s not the end of the world if I can’t run for a few days, or even a couple of weeks.  It’s when I fear the worst — months and months of inactivity — that I start to freak out.  But I try to take it one day at a time and I’m happy to say I’m back on the mend.  Sort of.  I’m running about 5 miles a few times a week and will start to inch that up a bit in the near future if all goes well.

Anyone who has suffered from PF knows that there is not one specific way to get rid of it.  Different people respond to different treatments.  Some people swear by the boot or Strassburg Sock, but neither of those work for me.  I’ve found that stretching my hip flexors (the suspected culprit of this whole thing) and calf muscles, along with icing, foot strengthening, and regular Graston/ART sessions with my chiro have helped me the most.  I also very recently started wearing new shoes.  Yup, I’m going minimal.  SLOWLY.  My chiro finally talked me into it.  Most avid runners have been watching (and participating in) the conversations/debates about minimalist running for years now.  Because of my injury, I have always been interested, but never thought I was in a position to try it.  I’ve been wearing orthotics for the PF and thought it was counter-intuitive to wear orthotics with minimalist shoes.  Boy, was I wrong.  About 3 weeks ago, at the recommendation of my chiro, I broke down and bought these babies:

They make my feet so happy

They are the New Balance Minimus 20 trail running shoe.  I can’t explain how they make my feet feel, except they make them feel “right.”  They’re not truly “barefoot” running shoes like the Vibram Five Finger (though Vibram does make the outsole of these shoes) and they do have a very slight drop (I think it’s 4 mm).  But I like them so much, I went out and bought the newer version (Minimus 20 v2) in a lighter color.

Aren't they pretty?

I’m breaking them in slowly.  I’m wearing them all the time, but still using the orthotics about 70% of the time, and only up to 15 minutes of running so far.  Believe me, I don’t want to risk further injury.  But so far, these shoes have felt better on my feet than anything I’ve worn in a long time (I’ve been a long time Asics wearer).  I know minimalist shoes are not for everyone, but I think they are perfect for me right now.  I’d love to hear from any of you about your experiences (good or bad) with minimalist shoes.

So what else have I been up for for the past couple months?  Starting a new project which involves running that I’m very excited about, but can’t write about just yet.  I’m also about to celebrate a birthday.  And for some reason there are many people in my life who are having babies.  Like, babies EVERYwhere.  Not in MY belly, but everywhere else, it seems.  In fact, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re wearing protection or you might get pregnant too.  It’s so weird!

I promise to not let another 2 months go by without an update.  I have too many exciting things to write about…

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My Year of Injuries

So I’ve cautiously entered the world of running again.  And when I say “cautious,” I mean I was downright petrified to take those first few steps, for fear of a major setback.  A little background:  last year — August of 2010 — I was training for the Baystate Marathon.  Training was going well enough that I actually thought I might qualify for Boston.  Then on August 29th, 2010, I did a 17 mile training run.  The run went fine.  I was sore afterward, but nothing unusual.  The next day I woke up with stabbing, burning pain in my right foot.  Not the heel, particularly, more on the inner-side of my foot where the heel and leg meet.  I thought it might get better as the day went on, but it did not.  In fact, it got worse.  I remember looking at one of my colleagues, tears springing from my eyes, saying “I fear this means Baystate is out.”  She told me to stay off it for a week and I remember thinking a week was like a lifetime.  I only had a little over a month left to train, so staying off it for a week would derail everything.  But I instinctively knew that this injury was not something minor.

I went to the doctor and he took X-rays.  No sign of a fracture.  (I would later hear from a different doctor that a fracture would not be evident on an X-ray this early after the injury.)  He diagnosed me with acute Plantar Fasciitis.  I was shocked.  I’d had some minor PF issues in my running career, but nothing that kept me away from running for more than a week or so.  This did not feel like PF to me.  Still, I took his advice:  wear supportive sneakers at all times; do calf stretches consistently throughout the day, every day; and absolutely no running for 7-10 days.

Well those 7-10 days came and went and my foot wasn’t any better.  By now I had accepted that the marathon was out.  I just wanted to run again.  I got a referral for a well-known Physical Therapist in Boston and went for an initial visit in mid-September.  After examining me, he said that I had torn the fascia in my foot.  So not just inflammation, but a full-on tear.  He was optimistic that I could rehab within a couple months and get back to running.  I worked with him from September-December, and still I wasn’t getting better.  I was at the point where I could do the elliptical.  And the pain had lessened somewhat since the beginning, but if I did something as small as walk around barefoot for an evening, or wear any shoes other than my sneakers, it would completely flare up again and take weeks to get back in control.  By December, I was at my wit’s end.  I went to yet another doctor, at a different hospital, with a well-known and highly-recommended orthopedics department.

After examining me, this doctor was convinced I had a calcaneus stress fracture.  Put me in a boot and crutches right then and there.  Scheduled an MRI for the following week.  Did I mention this was December 30th?  Happy New Year to me.

A week later, I got the MRI.  Two days after that, I called the doctor to discuss the results.  (Meanwhile, I had been wearing the boot and using crutches for over a week.)  Our conversation went something like this:

Doc:   “Everything on the MRI looks fine.”

Me:  “Fine?”  “FINE?!?”

Doc:  “Yes – it looks good. I don’t see any overt signs of a stress fracture, but I do think there’s one there.  I’d like you to keep using the boot and crutches for another 2 weeks and come back and see me again.”

Something didn’t sit right with me.  Since wearing the boot, my foot had not only NOT gotten better, it felt worse.  But I figured 2 more weeks wouldn’t hurt it and I scheduled a follow-up appointment with the doctor.

Meanwhile, I had an unrelated appointment with my chiropractor.  When I showed up wearing a boot and using crutches, he was shocked.  I’ve been working with this chiropractor for years, and being the type of person who would always rather heal things naturally if at all possible, I had worked with him to heal a hip injury a year earlier with lots of ART, assisted stretching, and spine adjustments.  When I told him everything that I had been through over the past few months, he asked if he could look at my foot.  After examining it, he said he was sure I did not have a stress fracture, that I did in fact have an extreme case of Plantar Fasciitis.  He proceeded to do Graston on my foot, which was extremely painful.  I was convinced he was doing more damage to my foot, but I really trust this guy, so I stayed with it.  I left the boot off for the rest of the day and woke up the next morning and my foot actually felt better.  I never wore the boot again.  I started going to my chiropractor every week for more Graston and ART.  Slowly but surely, my foot started to get better.

Let me take a step back here and just say that running is my passion.  Running is like my religion.  It keeps me sane, it keeps me happy, and it’s something I love in a way that I love nothing else.  So this injury did not come lightly to me.  Not running for more than week was torture – much less four months (and little did I know how much longer I had).  So in between all of these doctor visits, I obsessively scoured the web for any and all solutions for Plantar Fasciitis.  I bought anything and everything I could get my hands on (a night splint, the Strassburg sock, a massage ball, a massage stick, athletic tape, shoe inserts, the list goes on and on).  Nothing worked.  Until my Chiro started doing the Graston.

My Chiropractor told me that he can usually get runners back on the trail within a month of starting Graston.  We’ve since discovered that I would end up being his toughest case.  It took me four months before I could start easing my way back into running.  And I had setbacks.  Did too much too soon.  Wore the wrong shoes.  Didn’t keep up with my stretching.  This went on for several months until August.  A full year after the onset of this injury.  Finally, in August, just in time to run the Beach to Beacon 10K in my home state of Maine, I had reached a point where I could run a couple times week without flaring up the PF.  The PF was still there, but I could keep it at bay enough to run.

Then on Labor Day I had the brilliant idea to try water skiing for the first time in my life.  Third try up, the boat shot off and my right ski wobbled off to the left, crossing over my left leg, causing me to feel a big rip/stretch in my right leg.  I fell down in the water, completely defeated with the knowledge that I had just f*cked up something and it could be bad.

Well it’s now November and after two more months of Physical Therapy for the leg, and continued Graston treatments for the PF, I am finally running again.  At the suggestion of my PT, I started out by walking  5 minutes, running 5 minutes, walking 5 minutes, etc.  I’ve never done that before coming back from an injury, but I highly recommend it.  It gets you out there – and you don’t stress the body anywhere near as much as a full-on run.  I’ve now moved up to 5 minutes walk, 10 minutes run, 5 minutes walk, 10 minutes run, etc.  and I’m up to about 5 miles of this.  Three times a week.  Three times a week, I get to run!!!  I used to run 6 days a week and 3 days would’ve been a very slow week for me.  But right now?  It’s heaven.  But I’m still scared.  I still have not fully healed from the water ski injury (same leg as the PF) and my PF is still not fully healed, but I’m out there.  I don’t want to jinx myself.  I almost don’t want to get too excited because I fear I may have a setback, which would be heart breaking.  But for now, I’m just full of gratitude for the ability to get out there and run again.

So while this injury was one of the most frustrating and difficult things to deal with, I did learn a lot about myself as an athlete.  But that is a post for another time.  For now, I will focus on the road ahead and immerse myself again in the running community – something I wasn’t able to do for a long time because it just made me sad.

Coming soon: Plantar Fasciitis:  the Evil Beast that can Teach you or Tear you Down; Why’d I get injured in the first place?  My favorite running bloggers, My training/racing schedule