Stockade-athon diary 1
Wednesday, 12:20 p.m., about three miles, bikepath, warm and humid
A couple weeks ago, I referred to my fragile feet, and based on my training since then, my quest to run a good race in the Stockade-athon in November will be as much an exercise in keeping my various body parts patched together and functioning as it will be actual training.
I've never had anything major, like stress fractures, but in recent years I've experienced plantar fasciitis, which causes heel pain and is the result of overuse and abuse of the band of connective tissue that extends from the bottom of your heel up to your toes. It's because of this that my little run today was my first since last Friday, four days off.
I was in the midst of grinding out a 10k under hot conditions at midday last Friday when my left heel just couldn't take it anymore, so I walked about a mile and a half home. I have experience with plantar fasciitis this time, though, so I'm better equipped to, if not prevent it, at least manage it (I think).
Two years ago, I was in better shape than I am now, when I went out for a 7 1/2-mile workout that was so much fun, I was giggling out loud on the way out. I felt like I was riding a horse. My legs wanted to do their own thing, and my brain had to rein them in to ensure that I'd finish the run. I needed a good one, knowing that I was going to Boston for the weekend and wouldn't be bringing my running shoes.
When I got back, I went out for a run, and about a mile and a quarter in, my right heel started to hurt in a place I had never felt pain before, on the bottom. With each step, it got worse, and I had to stop, turn around and walk home. I gave it a rest for a day, and the same thing happened. I wouldn't feel anything at first, and then right around a mile and a quarter or mile and a half, the switch in my heel would turn on, and 10 steps or so later, the lights went out on my run.
That was five weeks before the Corporate Challenge, and I "ran" the race anyway, gritting my teeth from the start and limping almost the whole way. It was brutal. Discouraged, I took many months off, but at least it went away, along with the bumps that had formed on the backs of my Achilles from tendinitis.
Fast forward to about a month or so ago. I started to feel that pain again, except this time it was in my left instead of my right. The other difference was that, instead of showing up over a mile into my run, I would feel it right away, I'd run through it for about a mile or more, and then it would settle into a dull throb, more like background noise than anything. Certainly not anything to keep me from running the way I wanted to. Until last Friday. But I'm pretty sure I just overdid it that day.
Today was kind of a lousy run, slow, short, a grind, but the most important thing was to see how my left heel would react, and although I could still feel some pain, it was pretty much like it has been all along, just something that's there that you can deal with. I just want to keep it that way.
With that in mind, I'm going to redouble my efforts to remember to wear my Strassburg sock every night. If you've ever had plantar fasciitis, you might have heard of this goofy-looking white sleeve, which I bought at FleetFeet for about 35 bucks. Before I go to bed, I pull this thing up my lower leg to just below my knee, then attach a nylon velcro strap that pulls my toes up and hooks through a ring at the knee. You know those medieval jester shoes, with the pointed toe and the bell on the tip? That's what I feel like I'm wearing.
But I believe in the Strassburg sock. It's supposed to prevent plantar fasciitis by keeping that plantar fascia stretched out and flexible. The other preventive measure I've taken is, as soon as I get up in the morning (and disengage the old Strassburg), I step into a pair of adidas soccer slides, which are pretty heavily cushioned. I bought these on the advice of Tom Dalton, who knows the ways of the plantar fascia. The Strassburg sock was recommended to me by Frank Myers around the time I was suffering through that awful Corporate Challenge.
Other stuff I'm dealing with:
Right hip pain (sometimes into the lower back) that I believe is sciatica. I've had it for a million years, and it's never been bad enough to keep me from doing anything. It's just annoying, so I just tell it to shut up.
Achilles tendinitis. Had it to various degrees in both ankles, but since I started preparing for the Stockade-athon at the beginning of April, it's been bad in my left, a companion ailment to the plantar fasciitis. It was bad enough one day that I did a half mile warmup, turned around and went home. Pinching it lightly when it's relaxed, or even touching it, hurts. It usually loosens up about a mile in, though.
Because all this stupid stuff is on my left side, my right foot has developed some pain on the outside that I've never experienced before, but it doesn't really affect my runs.
Anyone who has made it all the way to the end of these gripes and whinings, have a couple ibuprofen, on me. Anyone with suggestions about how to keep plantar fasciitis from running your life, I'm all ears. At this point, I have the luxury of time and can shut everything down for a week or whatever, if it gets real bad, but as I discovered today when I puffed my way through that lame workout, it doesn't take long to lose a piece of what you've built. I have to be prepared for the possibility that finding a balance between staying fit and staying in one piece will be an ongoing issue right up to the big race.