Sunday, August 8th – Saturday, August 14th ……After completing 14 miles on Saturday and rewarding myself with a rather generous supply of food that contained absolutely ZERO nutritional value (FYI: finding foods with ZERO nutritional value is not as easy as it sounds – and twinkies do not count because they actually have half-lives and therefore aren’t defined as “food”….they are clearly defined as “gastrointestinal stress tests”), I went to bed Saturday night feeling sore…yet content.
Sunday morning began the same as any other: with the feeling of stepping on a knife as I slid out of bed and rested my feet on the wood floor. A very pronounced limp accompanies me as I make my way to the kitchen for some water. As I continue to walk around, the limp lessens and the sharp pain is replaced by the dull ache that I’ll carry with me for the rest of the day. This has been my daily routine. Some days are more painful than others – but all contain the dull ache. By lunchtime, the ache is accompanied by a mild headache. Advil, Motrin, Tylonol….they’ve become a food group for me – and what sucks is that I cannot deep fry them. It’s called plantar fasciitis, and I’ve got it BAD.
According to all of the websites I’ve read the and doctors I’ve chatted with, plantar fasciitis is an irritation and swelling of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia is a very thick band of tissue that holds up the bones on the bottom of the foot. According to what I’ve read, the main causes of plantar fasciitis are foot arch problems (both flat foot and high arches), obesity, running, sudden weight gain, and/or a tight Achilles tendon (the tendon connecting the calf muscles to the heel). Well I’m no Dr. House, but I’m betting that my heavy dose of this annoying malady was caused by a combination of a foot arch problem and the frequency of my running. This, combined with the fact that I still have some extra weight to eject, makes me sound like a prime candidate for this annoyance. So here I am, waddling around my house the morning after a solid workout, looking like The Penguin (sans the really cool top hat and tuxedo) from the old 1960’s Batman TV show.
Historically, I’ve had a very high threshold for pain. (No need for me to list the various battle scars earned over the years – this current one is more than enough for the time being, thank you very much). However, the high levels of pain I’ve dealt with in the past have usually come with a shortened shelf life. This current issue, however, is a different animal altogether. Some of the articles I’ve read indicate that it can take anywhere from 6 to 24 months to fully heal from this injury – and that’s if you are treating it correctly (icing the heel every chance you get, stretching properly before running, wearing running shoes that support your arch correctly, wearing a specially-designed sock that holds the foot in a bent position as you sleep). While I know this is a common injury, and I also know that it won’t get any worse than it currently is…..the duration and persistence of this ailment is beginning to get to me.
I have goals set for myself this year. Serious goals that require serious effort. Thus far I’ve poured myself into my training. When I began my training in later April / early May, I felt like my goals of running Hartford, New York City, Philadelphia, Orlando, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale this marathon season were extremely far-fetched – like there was no possible way that my rather rotund rear-end would be able to handle that workload. Now here I am in mid August, and I can see and feel the results of consistent hard work. I want to continue the positive momentum I have created, and I don’t want it to stop any time soon. And now my own body has thrown me an additional challenge: deal with the pain as you’re honing yourself for your upcoming trials. I’m frustrated – but I guess frustration comes with the territory when you begin to push your own body’s envelope.
One of my TFK teammates asked me how this injury actually occurred. I told him that I first developed this injury when I ran the New York City Half Marathon a couple of years ago. The race took the runners through one full lap and change of Central Park’s Outer Loop. Then the runners were released like the bulls of Pamplona southbound down 7th Avenue. When the runners reached 42nd Street / Times Square, we were herded west, down 42nd Street to the West Side Highway. The race then propels the merry band of miscreants southbound, finishing right near Ground Zero.
I felt solid during the race, coming out of Central Park at my normal, barely-breaking-a-sweat-because-the-elderly-move-faster-than-I pace. I scurried down 7th Avenue. I hung a right on 42nd Street. I made it to the West Side Highway, more than 9 miles into the 13.1 mile course. Now the West Side Highway, unlike the other roads I normally ran on, is made of pure concrete. Concrete, as many runners know, is a very hard, unforgiving surface to run on. Well somewhere between miles 10 and 11, I came down too hard on my left foot and WHAM! It felt as like a kitchen knife was plunged into my heel. Now I’m not talking about one of those cheap knives that you can buy for $9.99 as some cheesy Williams Sonoma wanna-be place. No way. I’m talking about one of those knives that you see on the infomercials at 3am – you know…the ones that never need sharpening and can cut through a lead pipe and then dice a potato Julianne-style. One of those Ginzu, I-wanna-be-a-habachi-chef numbers. Get the picture?
The moment my foot landed on the concrete, I knew something was incredibly wrong. I hobbled over to the side of the highway and the initial feeling I had was fear. I thought I ruptured something. As I moved my foot in circles, I realized that nothing felt broken. Knowing that I was only 2 and change miles from the finish line, I walked the rest of the race, in agony. I tried to jog with 200 meters to go, but refrained. It hurt THAT MUCH. After that race, I took a lot of time off from running. The foot slowly healed….but now I think the injury never fully healed and it has come back in force.
This injury was the main reason why my times haven’t noticeably improved over the few years that I’ve been in to distance running: I have always been afraid of re-injuring my foot. This year, however, I have decided to take the chance and push myself – I crave improvement. So I’ve made a firm decision to continue to deal with the discomfort and, in the immortal words of the Disney film Meet the Robinsons….”keep moving forward”. This decision, I am sure, will not be easy to deal with – but the juice is worth the squeeze as far as I’m concerned.
After nursing my foot and taking it easy on Sunday, I went through my normal training week in preparation for the Bronx Half Marathon on Sunday, August 15th. I visited the gym Tuesday – Friday afternoons. Although I wasn’t able to make the TFK team runs on Monday and Wednesday, I did my weekly assigned mileage in order to stay on pace. Through consistency and effort, these weekly workouts are becoming easier.
I rested on Saturday in preparation for the race…and then I received some rather sad news on a very personal front that afternoon. While I’ll refrain from going into detail (because let’s face it: I whine like a mule enough already just about my running), I can say that I spent that evening on my sofa watching reruns of House and basically feeling sorry for myself. (For all of you playing the home game, I am physically in my late thirties, and mentally in my early teens…so I pout, stomp my feet and basically become a total annoyance to be around when the world doesn’t do exactly what I want it to). Now normally I would address this melancholy by throwing on my running shoes and beating the immaturity out of myself…but I couldn’t. I had to rest. Saturday evening went by in a dull, achy haze. I knew that the race would now be much harder to focus on because of the black cloud that I knew would follow me for 13.1 miles. Tomorrow will be a test. Tomorrow I’m going 12 rounds with The Tool, because there’s no way that he can resist the temptation of kicking me while I’m down. Tomorrow will feel like a title fight.
By the time my head hit the pillow, I felt worn out. And as I closed my eyes, lo and behold, there appeared The Tool. Like clockwork. He wasn’t even waiting for the sunrise to begin the mental assault. I kicked his tiny culo (it’s Italian – but do I really need to tell you the English translation?) recently and, to him, revenge was a dish best served cold (any time you can quote Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, your day just got a a little burst of sunshine). He stretched his little 4” frame out on the pillow, positioning himself next to my ear, and snickered. The last thing I heard before I drifted off was his tiny pre-pubescent voice cackling “…….when you wake up, you’re MINE….”
“You have a choice. You can throw in the towel, or you can use it to wipe the sweat off of your face.” – Anonymous