Ok, it’s time for me to come clean. For the past three weeks, I have been clomping around in a boot—the same hot, black boot that I’ve been lucky enough to clomp around in a couple times since 2007.
Unlike the previous two times—stress fractures, both—I am blessed with a new-to-me injury. A plantar plate strain; likely grade 2, if you want to play along. It feels like a bundle of torn, angry nerves under the ball of my right foot, mostly under my second and third toes. It flares up randomly—lying in bed, sitting at the computer, whenever it feels like it—even though I’ve been booted for 3 weeks. (It’s been my experience with stress fractures that when you put it in the boot, it shuts its little fractured mouth. Not the case with this lovely.)
I first noticed the flare after an 18-miler on Sunday in San Diego. I had walked on the beach barefoot for an hour on Saturday and Monday, and then, even though I was cognizant of significant pain I hadn’t felt before, I, like a stupid mother runner, ran. Because the beautiful trails of Torrey Pines were so close and I just had to run there on Tuesday. “So close” turned out to be 9 miles round-trip, putting me at 27 miles in 3 days. Who did I think I was? I usually average around 18 miles a week.
So I came home, complained to Grant that something was wrong with my foot, and then guess what? I ran again. Yep, line me up for a MacArthur Genius Grant. Six or so miles on a group trail run with a swift Strava crew: too much fun for me to miss, I rationalized.
To be fair, too many miles was likely my tipping point. My right foot is my Achilles heel: I’ve had (failed) bunion surgery, a neuroma removed, a broken fourth toe, and arches so high, you could drive a semi under them. “You’re not genetically blessed,” the podiatrist noted. And climbing, which I did for miles and miles to prepare for Pikes Peak Ascent, is good for the joints, but it’s a lot of pressure on the ball of the foot, especially one that isn’t genetically blessed.
Anyway, that trail run on October 9 was the last time I ran.
I would’ve come clean a few weeks ago, but I had Saucony 26Strong, and 26.2 miles in Philadelphia with Kelly Pollock on my mind, and I can’t overemphasize how much I wanted to run Philly with her. I have coached her since July, and I’ve mentally put us on the Philly course so many times, laughing and taking pictures and staying strong, that not following through made me nauseous. I know she's very capable, but I also know she signed up for the full experience. I did too.
I really thought that if I rested my foot, and swam and biked my butt off, I could, with an 18-miler under my Sauconys, make it to race day and be there for Kelly.
Then I had dinner with Jo, a mother runner from Minnesota whose work brings her to Denver, on Wednesday night. Her plantar plate strain turned into a plantar plate tear that will never go away. We compared symptoms and she sympathized and I cried. She ran way past the place I did, and told me hers got so bad, she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to walk her dog or hike with her husband again, let alone run. Ugh.
The fact that my foot was a burning nerve under the table as we talked through it all—how feet are ground zero for runners, how marathons drag on for hours and hours, how my heart can’t always lead my brain and body—pretty much convinced me that I shouldn’t run. Then I went back to the podiatrist on Friday morning, and told him how I was leaning. “I’m in full agreement,” he said, “Running a marathon right now could set you back a year.”
I finally called Kelly on Saturday, and finally came clean. She is disappointed, naturally, but took it like a champ, and we’re formulating a plan so she’s supported through every mile. Right now, the plan is that Adrienne Martini, who was already planning to be in Philly, will take on the first 13.1 with Kelly, and then Jo, whose foot is fully healed, will run the final 13.1 with Kelly. (Jo trained for 13.FUN, but hasn't gone the full race distance yet.)
Meanwhile, Kelly’s family was already planning to come to the race, and her 11-year-old daughter, Carly, is hopefully going to join me on a bike as we follow—and cheer for and razz on—Kelly on the course.
That said, I have two questions for this mother runner tribe:
1. To keep our bases covered, wondering: are you running the full marathon in Philly, and are you anticipating a 5:15ish finish? Similarly, if you're running the half and anticipating a 2:35 finish? Either one? Please email us at runmother [at] gmail [dot] com.
2. Do you live in Philly and happen to have bikes and helmets Carly and I could use? I am almost 6’4” and Carly is 4’5”, but we can be flexible on sizes (especially me).
Ideally, they’d be cruisers or something easy to pilot. I have poked around for bike rentals in Philly, but lining up a bike for early Sunday morning doesn’t look to be super easy. If you have a bike—or a rental recommendation (we’re staying downtown, near the starting line)—please email me at runmother [at] gmail [dot] com.
As for me, I feel mentally better baring my boot. I wish I could say the same for my physical self, but I haven't felt any real progress, healing-wise, so far. So I'm staying in the boot until at least Thanksgiving when I'll reevaluate. I've got a new pair of orthotics being crafted—they've been key for Jo feeling better—and I hope to be able to put in a few miles again by the time the calendar turns to 2015.
I've got no time to dwell, though. I've got bikes to track down, signs to make, and good vibes to send to Kelly as she heads into taper madness. You've still got this, KP—and I'm still with you every step of the way, friend.
Let's show Kelly we've got her back: please give her tips for taper madness at bay—and please chime in if you can help us in Philly. Thanks so much.