Funny bone

I don’t know how many different opinions I’ve heard in the last few weeks regarding my foot. Usually the ones I agree with are the ones I remember.

x-ray-heels

My foot is not better. It is better than it was, but it’s hit a plateau where you can see the horizon for miles and it’s just a mirage where (complete pain-free) reality starts. I’ve had bone scans and x-rays where one or the other alone would have come up with wholly different results. And after practitioners with many years of medical worth poured over my foot photos, I have Freiberg’s disease.

Freiberg’s is a progressive situation. It begins when (unknowingly) you lose blood flow in your metatarsal bone. The bone then loses durability and during activity starts to hairline fracture. The continued activity can lead to the bone becoming malformed and — in my case — you get a square stump trying to fit in a round joint. It would be funnier if it wasn’t painful. It usually happens in adolescence (which is a few generations ago for me), and if you get (as I’ve coined it– “later-onset”) Freiberg’s disease as an adult, you’re almost sure to be female. The 50/50 odds were not in my favour this time.

The surgeon I saw listened carefully to how I described my 9 month history. I felt like he understood my plight and his nodding lead me to trust he was going to give me a positive outcome with a definitive timeline. But he told me that marathons, half-marathons or any longer distance running was out of my future. When I asked if I could cause further damage if I ran in pain, he said that I shouldn’t be running at all. I didn’t hear much after that.

jackhammer

There must be a bone in here …    somewhere!

Naturally I have options, but no one is sure which one will pan out. Surgery is a last resort. I am getting custom orthotics to alleviate pain in my metatarsal arch when I walk. I’m trying different shockwave treatments in the hope that it will help mend my bones a little stronger. Shockwave is much like having a jackhammer at full throttle caress your foot: the hope is that you will find the most painful situation and then endure it. The greater the pain the more likely it is you are treating the weakest area.

I do miss running and want to get back to it. I may never run a 50km race, but I still crave the endorphins, the suffering, the elation of moving forward on only willpower that running brings. My swimming is improving and I’m starting to feel sore and fatigue as though I’m actually doing something, but a swim cap is not a replacement for a running shoe.

Who knew one little bone could be so funny?

It happened a year ago

It’s been over a year since I ran my last marathon. A year and a week or two.  I ran a marathon in Paris, then ran a half-marathon a few months later, and then experienced a lot of foot pain. I continued running through pain (because running fixes everything). I could resemble a run with adrenaline and endorphins and stubborn determination, but I was lame if I tried to walk.

So my last run was in early September. I have given up being a junior meteorologist where I would check the weather daily to ensure I was prepped for any climate anomalies during my runs. I now operate in two zones only: wet in the pool, dry and stinky in the gym.

blossoms

The weather is definitely spring where I live but I wouldn’t know it: cherry blossoms, breezy days, and sunshine. I barely go outside. I am either wet or dry.

Time is a strange progression. I recently heard that when we have established routines, or habits, our sense of time is warped and shrunk. The first month on a new job is exhilarating and tiring and overwhelming with so much new stimuli. But after five years in the same routine it’s hard to remember what you had for lunch the day before.

When I was first told to take time off from running, I thought it was to take a day off. A “miss one workout and see if you feel better” suggestion. I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken more than 4 days off in a row, let alone a week! It made me nervous, as though if I missed too many days I would forget what to do and my running “habit” would go off the rails. It was like that feeling of dreading New Year’s resolutions that you make and give yourself the obligatory two weeks to fail.

I worried about my fitness level, my sanity, and my running friendships. After the first few weeks though, I adjusted to this new measure of time: I got into a new routine. I knew I needed to replace running with something else (fitness) and give myself that me-time back (sanity). I still had my running coach, he now just also became my strength and swim coach.

DSCN0798

This is my kid a few years ago. I am still not opposed to the use of water wings.

 

I like being in the gym and doing strength work, I’m not such a big fan of swimming. Joining a group would have been ideal, but it didn’t fit with my schedule. I realized pool running (although in a group setting) was not only incredibly boring, there were also no measurable improvements I could gauge. The class I attended was full of high-intensity intervals where we were encouraged to give “100%” for the interval. It was hard to measure if my 100% had increased after 8 weeks of bobbing around in the deep end. I was tired after the workouts, but felt more drained than enjoying the satisfaction of an exhaustive accomplishment.

I have found ways to make the swims work for me. What I liked about running was that I could measure improvements (and not just that I could eat more before I felt full). Through this I found that measuring aspects of swimming made it more enjoyable and rewarding for me: increasing distances or measuring times helped me see that I had gotten more efficient.

I still like to think of myself as a runner (the clothes are so cute). I trust that my foot will heal. I am currently transitioning from an air cast/walking boot to regular footwear. But my perspectives have changed. I’d still like to run another marathon, but for now walking pain-free around the block would be nice. My swimming has improved and I am getting stronger in different ways than running would do. It will take as long as it takes, but I don’t have to stop myself to wait for it.

The day I took a DNS

IMG_4520

Signing up, training for, and getting to the start line of a race is an accomplishment in itself. Managing weeks or months of training (injury free) can make the race feel like a completely different entity. It is a finish line beyond a start line.

I ran a fun summer half-marathon. I signed up for the half-marathon when I was full of gusto and inspiration. I was losing a bit of motivation (and speed) by the time the race day came around, but surprised myself by almost running a PB (personal best). I thank the two km’s of downhill along the course for that.

After that I kept running. As usual after a race, my coach ensured I had fun, easy, inspiring, no-time-goal runs. I was reminded of why I love to run.

One day my foot hurt. It was a strange pain under the arch of my toes, like my metatarsal bones were suddenly squished. I stopped, loosened my laces, massaged my foot. It was sore, but I finished the half hour run home.

For the next weeks, between visits to physiotherapy and massage, I kept running. I limped when I wasn’t running. My foot caused me a lot of pain, but in my runner-brain I figured it wasn’t broken so I could probably keep going.

(runningonpb.com)

(runningonpb.com)

I had a marathon planned in six weeks. My mileage was not increasing. I decided that if I could work up to run three hours without altering my stride to compensate for pain, I would run the race. I was currently topped out at two hours and was (literally) limping from a standstill. (Momentum and adrenaline (and sheer stupidity) helped a lot with keeping me going).

Diagnoses were varied as I could never express my symptoms in the same way twice. It was hard to distinguish root causes from deferred pain. The top of my foot would swell (tendonitis) and the side of my foot was sore (stress fracture) and I would get pain under my toes (intermetatarsal neuroma).

I write this the night before the race. I picked up my bib today knowing that tomorrow will be my first DNS (did not start). It happens, certainly. When I talk to other runners they all have a story of the race -usually races- that they had every intention of running, but didn’t. Such is the nature of sport, and life.

Consequently, I have not spent the last week checking the weather every 15 min.

I do not have three different outfits laid out depending on how I may feel in the morning. I am not wondering how many grams of carbs and protein I am eating. I am not strategizing the least amount of time needed to optimally get to both gear check and the port-o-potty in the morning before the start. I am not counting how many hours of sleep I could get tonight. Or how many I got last night, the more important night of rest.

I am still getting up early. I plan to go and watch friends run and take in the atmosphere. I will cheer on their efforts and applaud their dedication and determination. I will embrace the DNS in a new way: as a Daring New Spectator.