Too Late to Avert the Physical Cliff

The fam and I enjoying a week away from reality--and running--in Mexico.
The fam and I enjoying a week away from reality--and running--in Mexico.

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Forget the fiscal cliff; last month, I went over the physical cliff. I careened from a place of no aches, pains, or ailments to having not one, but two, injuries.

Since kicking plantar fasciitis to the curb in late fall 2011, I’d trained for and run two marathons with nary a niggle or an ache. Even at the time, it had seemed too good to be true: a Masters-age runner logging 30 to 40 (or more) miles a week without any adverse side effects. And, sure enough, I must have tempted fate with too many miles, too many tempo workouts, too many hill repeats. Sometime around Thanksgiving, my right heel started to twinge occasionally. Not when I stepped out of bed or stood after long periods of sitting, but randomly, like when I was walking into Trader Joe’s or baking sugar cookies. Not sharp, intense jolts of pain—just nudges on my heel and arch that reminded me of the months of more severe pain I felt in the spring of 2011.

It worried me enough that I did something totally uncharacteristic of this Type A runner: I took a week off from running. Even though I packed my running shoes and two cute tanks and running skirts when my family and I flew to Mexico for the week before Christmas, I didn’t go for a single run. I didn’t feel a burning desire to search out routes—or hit the resort treadmill—and I figured a week off would help my heel heal. And it did: Despite (or because of?) walking barefoot most of the day, the occasional pings and pangs diminished greatly.

While this photo reminds me of an illustration from Gulliver's Travels, it's actually acupuncture needles in my lower legs.
While this photo reminds me of an illustration from Gulliver's Travels, it's actually acupuncture needles in my lower legs.

When we returned stateside, I vowed to continue to take it easy-ish, but sunny skies and the school-is-on-break lifestyle “forced” me to run two or three times Christmas week. Then, after a 90-minute run with my running buddy Molly on Sunday, December 30, I plunged off the cliff: The back of my left knee was screaming by the end of the nine miles. A few hours later I emailed Molly: “Found a way to stop worrying about plantar fasciitis: have excruciating knee pain that obliterates all other thoughts.”

Okay, maybe I was being a bit melodramatic, but the pain and resulting weakness left me seriously concerned: Molly and I were set to start training for the Vancouver Marathon Gulp. Instead of following Week 1 of the Marathon: Own It plan from Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity, I didn’t run a single step until six easy, Garmin-less miles solo on Saturday. By then I’d taken several courses of action to nip both potential game-enders in the bud: I’d had an appointment with my trusted acupuncturist; I’d started drinking nettle leaf tea (which supposedly helps with joint health); I’d been taking Aleve twice a day; I worn Vibram Five Fingers around the house and Dansko clogs around town; I'd started stretching my bum foot before stepping out of bed; and I’d been wearing a 110% Overdrive Compression + Ice Kit for at least an hour every day for my foot.

I don’t want to jinx things, but my situation seems to have stabilized, and even improved a fair bit. I’ll keep you posted, but like Obama and Congress, I think I have a partial deal worked out for the cliff.




14 responses to “Too Late to Avert the Physical Cliff

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  2. Hmmmm, I am not willing to give in to injury and blame it on the aging process and I hope my fellow mother runners don’t either!! I am a 44year old distance runner and run at least 2 marathons and 2 half irons a year as well as shorter distances sprinkled in. I am still managing some PRs and age group wins and even won my first 5k this year. Absolutely take care of your body and slow down when injury and pain dictate it…but look for the reasons you are having frequent injury. Especially if it bums you out to cut back. Maybe a serious strength training program is in order and never forget to continually evolve your diet based on your current needs. Just my two cents. (also highly recommend Dara Torres memoir, Age is Just a Number, for those of us that are middle aged and a bit afraid of it.)

  3. No fun! Fingers crossed it just gets better from here.

    Your running the Vancouver marathon?? Me too! It will be my first full marathon and I just started week 2 of my training. Is it an official AMR trip or will I have to keep my eyes peeled for you in the crowds? 🙂

  4. I’m struggling mightily with aging. I don’t think another marathon is in my future, if I want to be able to walk through my old age. My feet are not happy with all the miles I’ve put on them over the years. Last year’s stress fracture and plantar fasciitis (which has now reminded me it is still there) made me realize I’m going to have to cut back. So I will plan on 2 half marathons this year. I’m sad. How do you or any other “aging” runners reconcile the fact that most of us can’t keep on keepin’ on?

  5. Oh, I’m sorry for you! Injuries can seem like a prison sentence. It is hard to get out there and run, but it is even harder to *not* get out there and run. Proper rest and recovery takes as much mental willpower as getting through the tough parts of a run. I hope you are back ASAP.

  6. Sounds like you’re doing everything you should to stave off these injuries. Nice to see you practice what you preach. Hopefully if you’re careful, all will go as planned, and you will be able to jump into that plan soon.

  7. Funny, after I posted on the fb page last night, I told my husband how frustrated I was because my shin splints and hip pain were finally a thing of the past and now possible PF? I think I am starting to realize that I really need to relish those injury free moments because as a runner, it seems, if it’s not one thing its another. Guess that is par for the course. Hoping and praying I can get this under control and not have to forgo my the Hippie Chick in May! Thanks, SBS! 🙂

  8. Getting older, and it’s accompanying aches and pains, makes me grumpy sometimes! Glad you seem to have reached a place of peace in your body. I love acupuncture when I feel something coming on. And I am a HUGE believer that shoes lead to PF problems. I used to have chronic PF in both heels and since ditching stiff shoes and spending all my time either barefoot or in minimalist, flexible shoes, I never see it!

  9. Take good care of yourself. What is that saying you and Dimity say in your podcasts…”You are running for a lifetime not for a race.”

    (Thank you for your podcasts by the way. I love running to them. I laugh even harder when I find myself smiling or laughing during a run and someone sees me!)

    I’m looking forward to meeting you and Dimity at the Princess Half Marathon next month!! : )

    Heal well, my BAMR friend. : )

  10. It is so hard to trust that resting will really make me stronger and heal better when all I want to do is run! I hope your body is responding well to the treatments

  11. Oh dear Sarah…

    Just don’t push things…think about what you would advise a friend and listen to THAT advice…easier said than done I know. Really hope things continue to improve. 🙂

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