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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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Catching Up and Battling with my Sinuses

In September, I wrote a post about how I couldn’t possibly forget the feeling after a good run and swore that running would once again become a regular part of my life.  Turns out I am a complete liar.  Within a week of writing that post I had forgotten all about the benefits of the runner high and feel back in to a very irregular running schedule.  I quickly turned in to a weekend warrior – not doing much of anything during the week and doing a couple runs on the weekend to try and make up for my laziness.  Looking back, I am really lucky that I didn’t really injure myself during this time because from my experience doing nothing physical all week and then cranking out a 10k on the weekend isn’t the best idea.  But, I survived without major injury and am looking forward to getting back on track to a regular and healthy training schedule.

runners high

Since September a lot has happened and really nothing has happened.  But, I wanted to share some of the big events and how they have been effecting my running and my plan for what’s coming next.  I am sharing this for a couple of reasons:  1) I want to be accountable to someone or something and I also like to the idea of writing regularly.  When I think back to why I studied Journalism in school it was because I had (and have) a love for writing and want to flex those writing muscles again.  2)  Maybe if I share what I’ve been going through I might find some answers from people how have had similar journeys or maybe I can help someone who is struggling with some of the things I’ve been struggling with while also sharing successes along the way.

The biggest thing that I’ve been dealing with since September is that I have been battling a weird sinus issue that as of today, almost 8 months later, I still have absolute no answers for.  This has really affected my running.  Somedays I feel like complete crap and I just want to stay in bed forever and other days I am just so frustrated with this process for trying to get better that I also want to throw the covers over my head, scream, and stay in bed forever.  (Do you see a common thread here?!)  Since September I have been on a crazy amount of antibiotics, gone to the ENT and took more antibiotics, got an CT Scan, got tested for allergies, plus trying a ton of other remedies…all of this with absolutely no relief.  While we do have some answers about what is not wrong, we don’t appear to be any closer to finding out what is wrong.  When the MRI came back without any more information that ENT suggested that my sinus pressure could be from acid reflux and prescribed Prilosec.  (It’s important to note that I had absolutely no symptoms of acid reflux but the ENT suggedrugssted I had “silent reflux” and the acid from my stomach was going up my throat and causing inflammation in my sinuses – these are times where I wish there was a stronger word for skeptical because that is exactly what I was, but I forged ahead hoping that this weird idea was the solution to my problem).  I took the Prilosec for several weeks without any relief of my sinuses (but an alarming increase to the number of migraines I was experiencing) and to top it off when I stopped taking the Prilosec I started having acid reflux.  So that long explanation brings you to today, almost 8 months later.  My sinuses still bother me, I have pretty constant pressure in my sinuses, and it feels like my noses is always running, and I have absolutely no answer as to why.  My doctor is currently suggesting that my sinus pressure may be caused by migraines and is suggesting I start taking an anti-depressant as a headache preventative and to be honest I have no idea what to think of this.   I am actually really nervous about the idea of taking an anti-depressant when I don’t have any symptoms of depression, but there is a part of me that wants an answer, and more importantly, a solution to my problem, and maybe this is that answer.

IMG_4559On a much happier note since September our family grew by one.  After losing my beloved Nittany last July I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready for another dog.  There was such a huge hole in my heart that is still there today, but when the tears about Nittany became less often and there were more smiles and laughs about her antics I started thinking our family might be ready for a new addition, when we found the right fit.  We had fostered for the Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue and our first foster found his forever home and while we liked him we knew that he was not the right fit for our family.  (You can read about Boogie here.)  But, in late September I was looking at the Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue website showing the incoming dogs who needed fosters and I spotted Maggie.  The information said Maggie was 4-6 months old and from her picture she looked like a small chocolate lab.  After checking with the family, I immediately contacted the rescue to tell them we wanted to foster her.  On the last Wednesday in September the entire family jumped in the car and drove to Aurora to pick up Maggie at the rescues drop off spot so we could foster her.   When Maggie got out of the back of the moving truck she was so skinny and did not look like the healthiest of dogs, but you could tell she loved people and wanted to please her people, and I could immediately feel my heart start to melt.  So, as they say, the rest is history…our family was four again.

So, back to running (this is the Jolly Runner, right?!).  The winter and spring has been pretty horrible.  Like I mentioned my training plan was all over the place.  I would take time and develop a plan and one day in I had already fallen off the wagon.  I would then justify that I would restart the plan at the beginning of the next week.  The next week would come and go and I had still not established any sort of consistency with my running.  After losing over 30 lbs. since I started running the weight was starting to creep back up.  My body was used to running 3-4 times per week and I was not providing the physical activity it needed to keep a constant weight (or even lose a little).  My eating was horrible – it was all about comfort and eating whatever I wanted, when I wanted.   Not the best recipe for weight management.  Luckily, it never got too out of control and while I have only gained about 5 lbs. I still feel like a complete failure and I know that I need to get my life under control again.

PeruI have high hopes for May.  A have a new training plan in my planner.  I have a race scheduled for the end of the month (in my funk I almost didn’t sign up for the Bolder Boulder, but realized I would be even more upset if I missed this annual run, and was reminded that even if I wasn’t ready to competitively run, I can always walk it).  I am traveling to Peru in June and would seriously love to get rid of the 5 lbs. I have added over the last couple of months.  I plan to record this journey (and lots of other cool stuff) in my blog.

So, I invite you on my journey over the next couple of months.   Follow along, give me your thoughts and insight.  And if all else fails hopefully I can make you laugh along the way.

Interval Running

Since I started running I have always been an interval runner. When I was starting it was out of total necessity. I was actually unable to run a long time without a break and so with the help of the Couch to 5k Program I ramped up to my first 5k using the interval method. Two years and a half marathon later I am still a committed interval runner. But now I think it’s a lot more about my mental ability then my physical ability. I can run long intervals with just a minute rest but mentally I need to know that a rest is coming up or I just spaz out and obsess over how there is no way I can run any further. After my bronchitis I got back to a comfortable 4-minute run/1-minute walk interval and have been following it religiously.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the Runs for Cookies blog and Katie was talking about using the Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method for her training after recovering from a stress fracture. Katie was talking about the different intervals and how she changed the intervals throughout her training. Something finally clicked in my head and I thought maybe I should start mixing up my intervals to see how it affects my pace. So on my next run I switched from my usual 4:00/1:00 interval to a 2:30/0:30 interval and I was amazed by the difference. It felt awesome! The 30-second break was exactly what I needed to take two sips of water and then start running again (for the past couple of weeks running with water has become a must – something I hadn’t done in the past either). I felt like my running was stronger and that I was actually improving from day to day instead of just being stagnant in my running. Before changing my intervals I would get my 3-5 miles in each time I ran but I was never increasing speed.   By changing the intervals every time I run my pace is improving a little bit each time.

I went back through my running logs (yeah RunHelper+ app) and compared two identical runs with one using the 4:00/1:00 interval and one using the 2:30/0:30 interval. When I was running the 4:00/1:00 interval I was averaging 9:42/mile (yes I realize I am slow runner but it’s better than just sitting on the couch eating bonbons) and with the 2:30/0:30 interval I was averaging a 9:25/mile. I know to some that is not a huge deal but for someone who has seen so little improvement in pace over the past year this is a big deal. I am going to continue adjusting the intervals to see what works best for me…and who knows maybe someday I will get over this mental block and finally just be able to run the entire time!

No matter what interval I use I am ALWAYS a sweat mess at the end of my run!

No matter what interval I use I am ALWAYS a sweat mess at the end of my run!

Do you use interval training and what have you found successful?