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What a Pain in the….FOOT?

In running you are always warned about doing too much, too fast.  When a problem or injury occurs, it comes back to the reasoning that you did too much, too fast.  While I absolutely believe this reasoning – it’s true to many aspects of life – hearing these wise words while you are in throws of an injury is just ridiculous.  I’ve already done the damage, now what?  I don’t want to hear about what I should do in the future, I want to know what I can do right now to stop this pain.  And then, HOPEFULLY, I will remember the wise words as I ramp up training again (but, then again, I am a runner, so I might just forget them when I tie up my shoes for my next 10k training run).

So, you might wonder what my most recent rant is about, and what I abuse I have caused my body recently.  So…let’s start from the beginning….

In mid-Spring I decided I wanted lighter, faster running shoes.  I went to my local running store and talked to them about my gait, running preference, etc.  They watched me on the treadmill and came back with several suggestions.  I understand that finding the right shoe is extremely important in avoiding injuries in the future and that you need to find the right shoe for you because everyone is different.  I was up to the challenge to find my next dream shoes.  I diligently tried each of the suggested shoes.  Making repeated trips from the shoe area to the treadmill and running about a quarter mile with each new pair.  After about eight pairs and two miles on the treadmill I had narrowed down my choice to the Newton Motion V.  The shoes felt great and I was intrigued by Newton’s Action/Reaction Technology. There are lugs near that ball of your foot that, in Newton’s words, “creates a responsive, trampoline-like cushioning system that provides quicker bounce-back and loses less energy than a traditional foam-core running shoe.”   The sales person explained that this bar of lugs would improve my running form and help me to run on the balls of my feet inside of the back of the foot where I tended to run (but have deligiently been working on changing).   I admit the shoes felt pretty weird with this raised bar across the ball of my foot, but I was promised I would get used to.  I was super psyched to get out with my new shoes and I have to admit my first runs in the shoes I felt lighter and was clocking faster times.  So, I was a convert.  The Action/Reaction Technology still felt strange but I was ready to get used to it for the results I was getting.  After runs I did feel some tingling and numbness in my toes, but thought that was pretty normal and the feeling always went away, so it wasn’t causing me any concern.

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We are headed past the llamas to the top of the mountain at 15,000+ feet

Fast forward to June 2017.  My husband and I are taking our dream trip to Peru.  The plan was to fly in to Cusco, Peru, acclimate a little to the elevation and then do the Lares Trek and head to Machu Picchu.  The Lares Trek is an Inca Trail alternative that is less crowded and while it doesn’t take you directly to Machu Picchu, it takes you over a 15,000+ foot pass and takes you completely off the beaten path where you see stunning mountains, lakes and valleys and get to walk through villages and meet the people who live in the Lares Valley.  While I was most concerned about making it from 8,000 feet to 15,000 feet to the top of the pass that actually turned about to be the easier part of the trek.  (Yeah for no altitude sickness – living in Colorado really does pay off!)  The air was definitely thinner but I felt comfortable scaling the mountains to reach our pass.  The trip from 15,000 feet back to 8,000 feet is what took the toll on my body.  The trail was made up of loose rock and at times was pretty steep.  The constant pounding on the ball of my feet left me with the familiar numbness and tingling in my toes (just on my right foot).

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We came down from the top of that mountain, a 7,000 foot descent.

One the third day of our trek when we finally made it to Auguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu we were dirty and exhausted and so excited to turn in our hiking boots for flip flops.  After one of the best showers I had taken in my entire life I noticed that the numbness and tingling in my right foot was not getting any better.  I mentioned it to my better half and we decided that it was just the pounding I put on my foot as we descended 7,000 feet.   I didn’t really give it much more thought because we were in an amazing place getting ready to see a wonder of the world the next day.

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Beautiful Auguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu

Fast forward again to August 2017. It’s been almost two months since we got back from our amazing trip and we have settled back in to the dull drums of “regular” life.  Pretty much work, work, and more work.  Unfortunately, my toes were still feeling numb (just a few toes on my right foot) and I decided I needed to suck it up and find out what was going on, so I set up an appointment with my primary doctor.  My health insurance requires you always start with your primary doctor for any problem and they will refer you on to a specialist if necessary.  I completely understand the reseasoning behind this, but when it’s hard to find an hour to sneak away from work it’s even harder to find a couple hours on a couple different days to see a couple different doctors.  Anyways, I went to my primary doctor and she was a little stumped.  She sent me to go get x-rays to see if there was a stress fracture (there wasn’t) and then referred me to the orthopedic doctor.  A couple days later I found myself at the orthopedic doctor and he briefly looked at my foot and diagnosed me with metatarsalgia.  From my understanding, and the wise words of WebMD, metatarsalgia is a condition in which the ball of your foot becomes painful and inflamed and can be caused from running, jumping, or wear shoes that don’t fit right.  After my diagnoses, I decided to take it easy on my foot for a while.  I have cut down on the running and have been following the majority of the doctor’s suggestions, but I haven’t had any relief.  My toes are still numb and sometimes my foot feels like its cramping up.  Since my trip to the doctor was less then satisfactory I decided to do some of my own research on metatarsalgia and found quite a few articles about how switching from traditional running shoes to Newton’s can actually cause this problem.  While I thought it was from our hike in Peru, it turns out the problem had probably already started long before our hike and the 7,000 foot descent was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I found the following on Newton’s blog “Forefoot pain, also known as ‘Metatarsalgia,’ is a condition indicated by pain and inflammation under the ball of the foot. This is increasingly prevalent in runners who are making a change to minimal footwear, barefoot running and Newton Running Shoes. As with virtually all running injuries, forefoot pain is a result of doing too much, too fast, too soon.”  The blog then goes on to explain that I shouldn’t blame the shoes, but rather something I did, or something wrong with my foot that was there long before I switched to Newton’s.  This is kind of frustrating because they obviously know this is an issue, but no one at the running store who sold me the shoes said anything about it.  Yes, I should have done more research prior to my new shoe purchase but I was also hopefully that if this was an issue someone might have mentioned it to me.

Fast forward to today.  My toes are still numb.  I’m still trying to figure out how to make them better.  But, they are numb whether I run or not so I am going to lace up my good ‘ol, trusty Brooks (with new arch supports that will hopefully help), and get back out there in hopes I can salvage my training for the Lake Powell Half Marathon in October.

Has any one else has similar issues with their feet?  Any suggestions or words of wisdom you can share on what you did to make it better?

disclaimerDISCLAIMER:  This is not an anti-Newton’s story.  I honestly really liked mine and wish they worked for me – I just wanted to share my experience in case anyone was going through anything similar.  This experience has definitely opened my eyes to how shoes can have such a huge effect on our health and injuries and is going to change how I approach my next shoe purchase.  

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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

00000-liarIn my last blog post (remember the one WEEKS ago when I said I would write more), I wrote “if you have time to complain about being too busy, you obviously have some free time.”  Apparently writing this simple little sentence made someone, somewhere, very angry and they decided to put me in my place.  I’ll start by admitting this one of the busiest times at work.  A new semester means wrapping up an old one and starting a new, all at the same time.  It means freaked out student who need career guidance NOW.  And it means that there is so much energy and excitement that you can get caught up in which may cause you to over extend a little.  Over the past week, I have gone in early, stayed late, and worked weekends.  I worked almost 60 last week and my endless to do list just keeps growing and growing.

I haven’t gone for a run, strength trained, or been to the gym in over a week.  I haven’t felt like cooking (this isn’t much of a surprise), going out after work, or even turning on my computer to even look at other people’s blogs in the evening.  I have become a couch potato who binge watches old ABC Family shows on Freeform and goes to bed before it gets completely dark outside.  Then, the next day I am up when the sun starts rising and I start the same routine all over again.

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In just under 9 weeks I have my third half marathon in Lake Powell.  I am woefully unprepared.  I know I need to train.  I spend time each week updating my training plan, erasing the previous week when I only finished maybe one training session.  As I plan out my new training plan I tell myself that Monday I will start and nothing is going to stop me from my plan.  I will get up early and run or workout before work.  I know it’s going to feel good, that it’s going to set the stage for the rest of the day, but when the alarm goes off I tell myself that the plan can wait another day, I’ll start tomorrow – today I will just enjoy another 25 minutes of sleep and then I’ll go in to work early.

When I sat down to write this I thought I was going to prove to myself that you can be too busy, you can complain about it, and you can prove you don’t have any time for anything else.  But, instead I just feel like a whiney twit who, if they can write this post, obviously has a little free time.  So, no more excuses.  No more do overs.  No more waiting until Monday to start again.  The writing will get more regular because I realized I have a lot to share.  I haven’t even started to tell you all about our amazing trip to Peru!   So, I leave you with a picture from a Peru and a promise to fill you in on the details of our trip.IMG_5987

How Could I Forget this Feeling?!

This weekend was supposed to be a great weekend away.  I was excited about the getaway but there was a lot that needed to be done before I headed out of town to meet Brandon in Gunnison.  I had to work in the morning and host a big meeting, pack, get the house ready for the pet sitter, track down our new iPhones that were being shipped separately and by different carriers, and get out of the house so I could make the 3 ½ hour drive in time for dinner.  This was all after a super stressful work week with lots of events whose success laid on my shoulder and a 12 hour day.  There was a lot on my to do list and suddenly I notice a huge lump on our dogs ear.  Paterno had a hematoma on his ear in August that the vet drained and said either it would come back or not – it chose to come back twice as large as the first one.  So, along with everything else that needed done I also needed to run Paterno to the emergency vet to make sure it was okay to leave him with the pet sitter for the weekend.  We get to the emergency vet and were told our wait would be several hours.  I could feel the minutes ticking away and myself getting later and later.  One of the vet techs took mercy on me and told me she would look at Paterno and let me know if he needed to be seen that day or if we could schedule something for later in the week.  She checked him over and told me the hematoma was relatively small (I would hate to see a large one because this one seemed pretty crazy) and scheduled Paterno for an appointment and potential surgery on Tuesday.  I ran Paterno back home, finally tracked down our phones, and headed out the door with exactly 3 ½ hours until our scheduled dinner.  While I finally made it out the door and on my way to our mini-vacation I just felt stressed and anxious.

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Fast forward a couple of hours…I made is safely to Gunnison, enjoyed a nice dinner, and headed to an observatory to check out the stars.  As we are getting ready to leave the observatory all sorts of warning lights lit up my dashboard and stated with quite urgency that I needed to have my car serviced.  But, it was almost 10pm in a town that doesn’t have a Chevy dealership that is open on the weekends.  I tried to put the car trouble out of my mind and decided that now is a good time to activate my new iPhone 7.  To match the rest of my day the phone would not transfer my old data and just kept giving me all sorts of error messages.  Finally, I surrendered to the day and tried to sleep but spent the night tossing and turning stressing out about Paterno, the car, and the thought that I’m wasn’t going to be to have any phone access.

When the alarm went off I get out of bed and still feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  I realized I was on a mini-vacation and I am too stressed to enjoy it.  I was being snappy and mean and felt like I was seconds from a full-fledged panic attack.

img_4481Now that I have set the stage of my fragile mental state I will fill in the details about my running.  Last Friday I decided, on a whim, I was going to get a tattoo on my foot (the tattoo wasn’t a whim I had been planning that for months, waking up one day and deciding today was the day I was going to get it was the whim).  The tattoo artist said I shouldn’t run for three days but after that it should be okay.  After three days I was still nervous and decided to take a whole week off to let the tattoo heal.  For some reason I irrationally thought that running would cause the tattoo to wear off (I do realize that is not realistic, but that is what my weird mind kept telling me).  So, Saturday morning it had been eight days since my last run with the plan to go for a run Saturday morning in Gunnison while Brandon was at his conference.

So, in the midst of my mental breakdown, I decided there was nothing I could really do about any of my issues at the moment and I would go for a quick run and deal with everything when I got back.  I put on my running clothes, carefully slathered my tattoo with tattoo goo, put on some super soft socks, my shoes and headed out the door.   In Gunnison at 8am in September the temperature is 32 degrees.  I was completely unprepared for this and was just wearing my running shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt.  The upside of this was I was ready to run from the very beginning just to warm up.  Because it had been awhile since my last run I just told myself if I could make it three miles I would call it good.  I set out running around the neighborhoods and downtown of Gunnison and then headed east of town to the Western State University campus.  The longer I ran the better I felt.  The beautiful sunshine, the fresh crisp air, and the new scenery was exactly what I needed.  One mile quickly turned in to two and before I knew it I was rounding out six miles.    As soon as I get in to the groove of running I love being out there but I have to play mind tricks with myself to get started so I can get in that groove.  At an even 10k I ended my run and headed back to our hotel.

The run was exactly what I needed.  When I got back from my run I felt at peace, focused, calm, and ready to tackle my to do list.  I contacted Onstar to figure out what to do with my car and they said that it wasn’t really urgent and I should be able to make it home and I should set-up an appointment for next week (the should was a little concerning but in my new mental state I could deal with it).  While I was away I had connected my new iPhone to my MacBook and when I got back it had worked out its issues and downloaded all my data and music and was ready to be activated.   I was still stressed about work stuff and dog stuff but it all suddenly felt so small and manageable when just an hour before it felt like the end of the world.

This summer has sucked and when I should have been running the most to deal with the stress, I did just the opposite and used my running time in the morning to sleep in and try to escape reality and it just ended up compounding the problems.  This weekend was a huge wake-up call that no matter what I need to make running a priority.   Running is my natural stress, anxiety, and depression buster and I need to never forget that.  I don’t want to end up back on the verge of a panic attack because that is a horrible feeling!  I am excited about the new week, the healed tattoo, and the reminder about how important it is to take the time for yourself.  Find the activity that centers you and don’t make excuses for not taking the time for yourself.  I am so excited that I found this feeling again and I am going to work my butt off not to lose it again.img_4501

 

 

The New Norm

I want to start by thanking everyone for their kind words and thoughts last week as our family was grieving the loss of Nittany.  We were overwhelmed with how many people reached out to share with us their thoughts and memories of Nittany.  It did not take us long to realize that our family and friends may actually have preferred the company of Nittany over the company of us…and I really don’t blame you.  Nittany was by far the coolest member of our family.

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We’ve gone through a lot of the stages of grief and will continue to for a long time, if not forever, but there are more smiles and laughs than tears and for that I am grateful.  We are remembering the good times, the crazy antics and just trying to get used to the new norm of being a family of three.  The one that is probably taking the new family dynamics the hardest is Paterno.  Important Note:  Paterno is our epileptic, soon to be 10-year-old, golden retriever that we rescued from the Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue when he was going to be killed by his owner because he had a birth defect and one deformed paw.  Paterno is suddenly in the family spotlight and we aren’t sure if he is quite ready for that responsibility.  I will start the next thought by saying we were not neglecting Paterno in any way, he was always healthy and well fed, but for the past several months Nittany and her health have been an all-consuming part of our lives.  This allowed Paterno to sneak under the radar and a couple balls got dropped.  While going through medical records we realized he was a little late on some vaccines (not really the important ones) and he was possibly getting a little pudgy because he was (not so) secretly eating the food Nittany would leave in her bowl.  We also realized we couldn’t exactly put our finger on the last time he was groomed.  So, as the spotlight shifted we began “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever.”  Paterno was groomed within the week and vet appointments set to get him update-to-date on vaccines and get a good overall physical from the vet.  The last piece of “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” was to work on his physical stamina.  Paterno is not the most athletic dog in the world (having three good paws on one mediocre paw keeps expectations low) but we decided that some sort of regular physical exercise would do him good.  So daily walks commenced.  For the last week and a half the family has set out on family walks every night (except Sunday because, you know, that’s the day of rest).  Each day we have lengthened the walk and we are proud to announce we might be up to a half a mile.  Paterno is actually much more excited about the walks than the first couple days and his stamina is improving daily.  We do have a small issue with his bad paw bleeding from where he rubs it on the cement, but we are working on it.  All in all I feel like “Operation Make Paterno the Best Most Awesome Dog Ever” is progressing very smoothly.

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As Paterno has transitioned to the top dog in the house we have noticed some peculiar characteristics that we may not have fully embraced in the past.  It did not take us long to realize that Paterno is not your average dog and, in fact, there are times when we question if he is actually a dog.   Apparently his dog like characteristics were just him mimicking everything that Nittany was doing and in reality we had never taught him how to be a real dog.  I suppose this is very similar to what happens to parents and their second child.  You spend all your time and effort on your first child making sure everything is perfect and by the time you get to the second one you are just too tired to really care and you just figure it will all turn out okay.  Paterno has never been a barker, in the past his barking was always instigated by Nittany.  In the past week and a half he hasn’t made a single sound.  It’s like he’s a dog mime.  The silence is a little creepy and it’s taking a little time to get used to.  He does not ask to go outside or let us know when he is hungry.  If he needs either of these things he just silently lays in the kitchen until one of us passes through and guesses what he wants.  He does not greet you when you come home or really acknowledge your existence at all.  His complete lack of interest in interacting with us actually had us Googling the symptoms of autism in dogs (on a positive note we think we have ruled this out).  He is not excited by the arrival of delivery food and just lays quietly until the food has been paid for, we’ve had a nice conversation with the delivery man, and we get the food on to plates.  At this point he may come over to investigate further, but if he’s really comfortable where he’s laying he probably won’t.  Paterno also has no interest in other dogs.  On a recent walk we must have passed 10-15 dogs on one block and he didn’t glance at any of them.  The dogs were barking and racing up and down their yards trying to get his attention and he just moseyed by.  A guard dog Paterno is not.  Nittany did not let anyone come within a quarter mile radius of our house without her alerting us to their presence.  If someone broke in to our house Paterno would simply leave us to join their family, all Dug style from Up.

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There is a ton of adjustment going on in our family right now and I think we will all get in to the groove of the new normal but I have my doubts that Paterno will ever turn in to a real dog, and I guess that is our new norm.

How Do I Get Back on the Wagon?

Have you ever seen the movie Groundhogs Day?  Poor Bill Murray gets stuck in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhogs Day reliving the same day over and over again.***  Like my friend Bill I am feeling like I am in a bit of a rut.

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Let’s start by laying it all down.

  1.  I haven’t run a race since the beginning of September and have nothing on the books for future races.  (Even worse I haven’t run at all since before Halloween).
  2. I have absolutely no self control when it comes to food.  (Boulder Coconut Oil Chips are my current kryptonite).
  3. My motivation for most things is at an all time low. (Heading to bed before 9pm is becoming too much of the norm in my life).

I look back at this past Spring and early Summer and I was running constantly gaining strength and speed. I was eating better and losing weight.  Everything was going really well and I had the motivation to want to exercise and be healthier.  I have no idea where it all went.  Perhaps it was changing jobs, getting sick, or a million of other reasons but the motivation is completely gone and I can’t find it anywhere.

I can’t even tell you how many times I have told myself “I’ll just start fresh on Monday.”  Then Monday comes and goes and I tell myself “I’ll just start next Monday, I’ve already screwed up for the week.”  Even when I plan my meals and create a weekly exercise program I come up with a hundred reasons not to follow it and once again fall off the healthy wagon.

In August I reached my goal of running a Sub 30 5k and truly thought that would be my motivation to keep going and keep pushing myself but it made me a little lazy.   I reached the goal I had been working for so long that I can’t even fathom lowering my time or running a Sub 60 10k because it feels like it would take forever and now I have put myself back in my training by taking so much time off.   I know it logically doesn’t make sense but it’s where I am right now.

Since I currently don’t have any answers, I guess I am here to ask advice…what do you do for motivation and how do you get back on the wagon when you’ve tumbled off?

 

***Side Note:  Being a proud (?!) Pennsylvanian I did not have to Google how to spell Punxsutawney.