Posts Tagged ‘plantar fasciitis’

If you are suffering from plantar fasciitis heel or arch pain, you might be considering buying a device to be worn at night to stretch the plantar fascia (the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes). The plantar fascia contracts overnight and it can be especially painful to take your first steps in the morning. I wore a Strassburg Sock to help me recover from plantar fasciitis and I highly recommend it. The only problem is that the Strassburg Sock and other such devices can be pricey and not everyone can afford them (or in my case, wants to buy two Strassburg Socks for two aching feet!)

I’m not going to teach you how to sew your own version of a Strassburg Sock because (a) patents and (b) laziness. There’s a crazy simple solution that costs nothing if you already have an appropriate pair of knee-high socks in your drawer. Find some that fit snugly around your upper calves. I used a pair of winter ski socks.

Step 1. Put one sock on the affected foot and pull it all the way up to cover your calf.

Step 2. Take the other sock and pull it onto the foot only as far as the arch of the foot (or over the heel if it doesn’t stay on in step 3).

Step 3. Grab the toes of the second sock and pull them back to tuck into the top of the first sock. The second sock should be pulled tight enough to gently bend back your toes. If it hurts, you’ve pulled the second sock too tight and you need to make adjustments.

See how the second sock gently pulls back on the toes?

See how the second sock gently pulls back on the toes?

You might have to experiment until you find socks that have the right level of elasticity in them. You want them snug but not so tight that they cut off your circulation in your calf. I found that this homemade solution worked nearly as well as the expensive store-bought Strassburg Sock. Only occasionally did I have to adjust the socks to keep the tension at the right level. If you can afford to invest in a Strassburg Sock then I say go for it. If you are looking for a simple, no-sew solution, then you have nothing to lose by giving this method a try. It worked for me!

Keep in mind that in addition to wearing a plantar fasciitis sock, you should be taking many other steps to relieve your plantar fasciitis pain. Check out my comprehensive list of stretches, exercises and gear to recover from plantar fasciitis. Good luck!

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The signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis (plan-tur fashee-EYE-tiss) started out mild for me. About 10 weeks into marathon training, my feet started feeling sore after a run. I could run and walk fine, but a couple of hours after a workout they would feel sore in the arches. With rest they’d improve, but it would come back again after a run. Over a few days, the soreness progressed to a mild burning sensation that got worse the longer I stayed on my feet. Eventually after a week or so, I felt the heel pain most commonly associated with plantar fasciitis (PF). Upon waking in the morning, the inner corner of my heel, just below the ankle, felt sore when I walked. It looked like my chances of running the marathon in another 10 weeks were doomed. Continuing to run through PF can cause the plantar fascia to rupture painfully, requiring the wearing of a boot cast for up to six weeks and in some extreme cases, surgery. The good news is I was able to develop a successful treatment plan and after a couple weeks of cross-training, I was able to get back to running and go on to complete my first marathon in 4:02:39 without any PF pain during or after the race.

Please note that I am not a medical professional. I simply share my experience in the hope that it can help another person bounce back from PF. The other thing I want to make clear is that PF is a tricky injury to treat and it can take some experimentation to figure out what works. What worked for me might not work for you. You need to figure out both what the cause of your PF was (more on that in a minute) and which treatments help you.

For immediate pain relief:

1. Ice. Use an ice pack (frozen peas or corn works well because the packet molds to the foot) with a thin towel to protect the skin, and ice the foot for 15 minutes at a time a few times a day as needed. Just be careful and make sure to warm up the foot again and then do a gentle stretch of the foot (grabbing the toes and gently drawing them back toward you) before walking again. You can also freeze a plastic water bottle in the freezer (leaving room at the top for the ice to expand) and roll your foot on the frozen bottle. That does the double duty of icing and massaging at the same time.

2. Anti-inflammatory medications. There is debate about whether PF involves any inflammation at all (the pain stems from micro-tears in the connective tissue that runs from the heel to the toes) but there’s no doubt that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen help relieve the pain of PF. Personally I don’t think drugs like Advil treat the PF, they just mask the pain. That’s fine if you’re in a lot of pain but I quickly decided the meds were not necessary.

For further injury prevention:

3. Determine what caused your PF and take steps to mitigate further damage. For some people the key to what caused their PF is clear. It can come on from being overweight or from repetitive strain due to running or other athletic pursuits. Think about what recently changed for you. Have you added something new to your workouts? (For me the culprit was tight calves from running and the introduction of training on the indoor spinning bike. Standing up on the pedals repeatedly stretched and strained the ligament that runs under the foot.) Has it been too long since you bought new athletic shoes?

4. Switch to cross-training. If you want to stay active to lose weight or continue a running training plan without actually running, consider cross-training activities such as cycling, swimming, and aqua-jogging. I found that while spinning on an indoor bike aggravated my feet, I could cycle on my road bike without problems.

To treat the PF:

5. Do stretches for the feet and calves. Before you get out of bed in the morning (and a few other times throughout the day), do a toe stretch by gently pulling back on your toes. Perform a towel stretch by looping a bath towel under the ball of your foot and gently pulling the towel ends back toward you. For the ball stretch, roll a tennis or golf ball under your foot for up to half an hour a day (I know that sounds like a lot but it’s what’s billed as a “magic cure” for PF in Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running: How to Fix Injuries, Stay Active, and Run Pain-Free). Most important for the treatment of PF and prevention of it in the first place (in my opinion), are calf stretches. I don’t mean just stretching your calves after you run. This is so important I’m going to say it in bold: You need to do calf stretches several times a day throughout the day. First do the gastroc stretch, which involves leaning into a wall with your arms outstretched and the affected leg straight back behind you with the heel on the floor (the Running Doc says to turn the foot slightly outward). Lean in and feel the stretch in the upper calf. Do that for 20 seconds, then slightly bend the knee of the affected leg to perform the soleus stretch to stretch the lower calf for another 20 seconds. Alternate those stretches several times. One more note on stretches. I saw lots of recommendations for Achilles tendon stretches (standing on the edge of a stair step and lowering the heels, then raising the heels, and repeating). That absolutely aggravated the PF for me. Here’s a video I found on YouTube that demonstrates three appropriate stretches and then explains why that Achilles tendon stretch is inappropriate (he calls it the Negative Heel Stretch):

Gear that helps:

6. Wear a Strassburg sock or other device. The idea behind the Strassburg Sock is that you wear this sock at night while you sleep to stretch the plantar fascia.

Normally while you sleep the plantar fascia contracts and then when you wake up and stand up, the tight plantar fascia lengthens suddenly and that causes pain. I found that wearing the sock prevents that problem, and I do recommend purchasing the sock. It provided immediate relief of the sharp heel pain I had felt in the mornings. For a less expensive option, follow these directions to make your own no-sew plantar fasciitis sock.

7. Use KT Tape Pro. Without a doubt the one thing that allowed me to keep running as I recovered from PF is KT Tape Pro. Please make sure that you buy KT TAPE PRO rather than the older cotton version which does not stay on as long. If I followed the directions to apply the KT Tape Pro properly, it would stay on for 5 or more days (or until I soaked in a bath or went swimming. It stays on during short showers but I found it could not stand a long soak). The pre-cut kinesiology tape strips are expensive and you want to make them last. Many people apply two strips for the PF application (as directed on the package insert) but I went with three as demonstrated in the KT Tape website:

8. Consider orthotic insoles. Many people swear by insoles such as Superfeet Green Premium Insoles or professional orthotics from a podiatrist. Others argue that such insoles are a crutch that does not really fix the problem in the long term. (Personally I think it’s important for a runner like me to be able to get back into running ASAP and then work on the stretches and strengthening exercises and only then consider running in a more minimalist shoe or even barefoot). Because I had success with the Strassburg Sock and the KT Tape Pro, I never bought insoles so I cannot speak to this one way or the other. (Anyone care to comment?)

Another healing and preventative tip:

9. Do strengthening exercises for the plantar fascia ligament. Once you have reduced the pain of PF you can begin doing strengthening exercises. These include drawing the alphabet on the floor with your toes, picking up marbles with your toes, and scrunching up the end of a towel (pulling in the length of the towel toward you with your toes).

I wish you all the best in healing from plantar fasciitis!

What has your experience with plantar fasciitis been? Do you have any tips for recovering from plantar fasciitis?

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As I navigate the treacherous waters of plantar fasciitis, I try different remedies to see what helps and doesn’t help. It seems to me that plantar fasciitis is a slippery little sucker, and what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Strassburg sock? Helps. Icing? Helps with pain relief but does not seem to help overall recovery (seems to me that ice tightens up the foot and is counterproductive to all the stretching if you try to walk on it again without warming up and then stretching a little more). Stretching? Helps, especially before I get out of bed in the morning, but if I get too aggressive with the stretching, doing the one everyone seems to recommend (standing on the edge of the stairs and lowering one or both heels), it sets me back. Foam roller for my calves? Helps. Rolling my foot on a tennis ball? Helps. Doing exercises like tracing the alphabet with my toes, or picking up marbles or other small objects? Helps my foot but nearly kills my will to recover. I can barely stand to do those exercises. They’re not painful, they’re just extremely boring and tiring. It’s a little like Kegels (you know what I mean ladies).

KT Tape Pro is the latest remedy I’ve tried. I put it on Tuesday morning and have been wearing it for three full days.

KT Tape

My right foot as KT Tape art sculpture

In that time I did two runs, a speed workout and a tempo run. I must have been delusional, hoping the KT Tape would be a miraculous cure-all. In retrospect the speed workout was a bad idea. The tempo run was fine — a mile easy and five miles at marathon pace. (Side note: when I told my husband about my tempo run at marathon pace, he thought I said, “marathon face.” He thought I was going a little overboard with the marathon obsession if I felt the need to perfect a marathon face. I’m not sure what that would even look like – smiling, grimacing?!) At this point the jury is still out on KT Tape. Let’s see how I feel after the big 18-miler on Saturday.

In the meantime, I continue to distract myself with thoughts of what I should wear for the marathon WHEN I RUN IT. Might as well think positively. For today’s run, I gave in to all the commenters who said it’s no big deal to wear a prior race shirt to run a different race, especially since no one but you cares what you’re wearing. I tried out my beloved OC Half Marathon tee, which is very nearly the perfect technical shirt.

Fitted but not too clingy, light colored, flattering design

I concluded it would be perfect if it just had a v-neck instead of a scoop neck. Ever since my thyroid pooped out on me (Graves’ Disease, burn out, hypothyroidism, long story I’ll tell you sometime), I cannot stand to have anything touch my throat. If you ever see me in a turtleneck, run for the hills because my body will be possessed by alien forces. In fact, be on your best behavior and put on your own turtleneck just in case because hell will surely be freezing over.

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The oddsmakers keep revising the betting odds for whether or not I will run the marathon on November 10, a mere six weeks away. I had pretty much resigned myself to bowing out of the race due to plantar fasciitis, but then a devilish little birdie whispered in my ear. “Come on. Just take a look at your training plan. Let’s think about how you could juggle the long runs and get back on track. See how you do and then decide.”  I listened to that little devil and ran 12 miles last Sunday, a three-mile aqua jog on Monday, followed by another six on the trails on Wednesday. Those runs felt okay, not great. Good enough to continue. So this Saturday morning I watched the sun rise as I started out for what I hoped would be 15 miles, a new personal distance record. I jogged along the dirt path, shunning the asphalt trail, all the better to pamper my delicate feet.

An internal debate started. Should I just go out a mile and then turn around, so I could easily bail at any point 2 or 4 or 6 miles into the run, or should I commit to the full 15 and go out 7.5 miles?  I committed. I know, I know, you’re thinking I should be committed for this crazy push to continue the training. I too questioned my sanity at several points along the run. One of the first things I asked myself was why I hadn’t gone out to buy some KT Tape yet, or some Superfeet Insoles. Then I answered myself, well Self, probably because in the 45 minutes before school on Thursday morning alone, you did the following:

  • Made breakfast for three girls and myself
  • Ate said breakfast
  • Dressed a preschooler and made sure the other two were appropriately dressed (even at this stage it’s necessary to check that my free spirit 7-year-old isn’t going commando under her dress)
  • Hair brushed? Teeth brushed? Sunscreen? Shoes? Remind remind remind children eleventy-billion times until the answer is yes. Remind 7-year-old to get out the laminated “Good Morning Checklist” we made last year so I can stop reminding them!
  • Packed three lunches (usually the older girls do this themselves but sometimes I surprise them and myself by doing it)
  • Made sure three girls had their school bags with all the necessary papers
  • Ensured that all the necessary papers were signed in all the necessary places. That sounds easy enough but for two elementary school children, that meant no less than FIVE signatures. (1) Homework for 7-year-old, (2)-(5) agenda, practice spelling test, reading log and pass-back folder for the 10-year-old. RIDICULOUS.
  • Helped 7-year-old practice her poem recitation one last time.
  • Remembered it was picture day and remembered to (finally) log on the computer to choose portrait styles and pay for them and print the receipts for the girls to take to school.

My point to myself being, I have some things on my plate that shove “extraneous running gear shopping” to number 95 on my to do list. So I stopped berating myself and got on with the run, which actually felt great.

At one point I saw a sign from the universe. You all know how I feel about signs, given the one before I ran my first half marathon, and the one that inspired me in my training for my first Olympic distance triathlon. This time, the sign looked like this:

Mile Marker

Just add .2

Well, oddsmakers, what do you think now?

I continued on the run and hit 7.75 miles before I turned around. I was more than happy to turn back at that point, given that the view from the trail looked like this:

view of 91

Worst trail view ever. Might as well be running ON the 91 freeway.

I started to get tired toward the end of the run. I’m pretty sure no one saw me give the finger to the hill I faced 13.5 miles into my run. As my preschooler would say, “I remember not doing it.”

It was all downhill after that, and I finished the last two miles strong. 15 miles in 2 hours 20 minutes, for a pace of 9:22, ahead of my training goal pace of 9:26. I stretched, ate a PB&H sandwich on whole wheat, hurried home, became intimate with my foam roller, soaked in an Epsom salt ice bath, showered, put some arnica gel on my feet and iced them for a bit. Whew! 15 miles in the bag!

What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run?

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In retrospect, it appears that several things contributed to my development of plantar fasciitis, the pain in my . . . feet. 😉 In my marathon training, I made the mistake(s) of adding on too much speed work and hill work at the same time I built up the running mileage. With my new gym membership, I started running more often on the treadmill rather than running on the softer surfaces at the track or on trails. I also made errors of omission. I should have strengthened and stretched my plantar fasciae and calves. Any of those things alone could have done my feet in, but I think there’s one more new thing I introduced that really is the main culprit:

(That’s an Amazon affiliate image, just so I could show you The Culprit. It’s cheaper to buy a spin bike direct through spinning.com, although feel free to buy through my link because the commission would be more than I would normally make in a year from Amazon Associates. 🙂 But I digress.)

Yes, it’s my beloved Star Trac NXT Spin Bike that I ride in my favorite Cycle Sculpt class at the gym. Because my road bike shoes do not fit the cleats on the indoor spin bike, and I do not (yet) have the right indoor spinning bike shoes, I have been wearing my regular running shoes in the pedal toe clips. That means that when I add resistance and stand up on the bike, all my weight rests on the balls of my feet and strains the plantar fasciae. (This is my non-medical, my-own-experience your-mileage-may-vary opinion of what’s happening). How do I know this? My feet were feeling surprisingly great a few days after racing in the triathlon a week ago. I got back on the spin bike for a 40-minute workout and I ended up with a major flare-up of the plantar fasciitis. The spin bike hadn’t bothered me when I remained seated for an entire Cycle Sculpt class, and my hour-plus outdoor bike ride for the triathlon didn’t bother me, but just 40-minutes and a few intervals of standing up on the spinning bike strained my feet. I’m not saying it’s the sole culprit, but it’s definitely a big contributor. I’m not going to give up spinning, but I will certainly stay seated on the bike until I can buy some proper indoor cycling shoes.

The good news in all this is that I do not think running is doing as much damage to my feet as I thought. I got out yesterday for a 12-mile run (if you could call it that — I’d be more inclined to call it a slogging 2 hour 15 minute jog). While my feet weren’t exactly thanking me, they feel pretty good today. Better than my aching thighs and hips! Clearly I’ve lost some fitness in the last few weeks of dealing with the plantar fasciitis, but I’m determined to get back on track, so to speak.

I leave you with a little unrelated laugh, compliments of my bill-paying efforts this morning. When I paid my garbage hauler (trash) bill, I noticed this awesome promise on the bottom of the bill:



What are your thoughts on my theories as to what has contributed to the plantar fasciitis? If you’ve dealt with PF, what do you think caused it? Do you have a recommendation for good indoor cycling shoes?

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It was bound to happen sooner or later — my first meme! Thanks to the ladies at anothermotherrunner.com for the inspiration. Feel free to play along in the comments or answer the 10 questions on your own blog. I’d love to read the answers!

Here goes:

1. Best run ever: It’s hard for me to say what I consider the “best.” The one I’d most like to repeat is a 2.7-mile trail run I did in Zion National Park. It was just one month after I’d gotten back into running about a year and a half ago, and this was one of the first runs where I felt strong, powerful, and free. I was distracted by the spectacular views and by watching my footing.

Zion National Park

The view at the start of my run in Zion National Park.

It hardly felt like I was running. I was using my leg power to travel along the Emerald Pools trails to see some of the most beautiful places in the country. I was cheered along by the comments of the few people I saw on the trail. “She’s running here!” and “Either you must be in great shape or you’re in a hurry!”

The run I’m most proud of is the OC Half Marathon last May 2012. It was my first and only half marathon. I pushed myself hard to achieve my goal of a sub-2 half, and while I didn’t exactly enjoy the effort, I was extremely happy and proud with the result.

My best run ever in terms of fitness and confidence-boosting was the 13 mile run I did with my half marathon coach and friend Stephanie last August. The first six miles went smoothly and I felt so great when I met up with Stephanie at the half way point that we ran faster than my target training pace. Not only did we run faster, but I was having so much fun chatting with her that I forgot to keep track of the mileage and we ran a bonus mile to make it 13. If I’d thought about it I would have tacked on another 0.2 for a personal distance record!

2. Three words that describe my running: Challenging, rewarding, powerful.

3. My go-to running outfit is: I just got some Under Armour 4″ compression shorts that are my new summer favorites. I do like wearing running tights in the California “winter” because it means I don’t have to shave my legs! (Truth be told I will run in shorts without shaving my legs — I care more about getting the run in than I do about pleasing others with their highfalutin leg-shavin’ standards. Call me a hippie.)

4. Quirky habit while running: I am a mouth breather, but that’s not so unusual is it? Sometimes I run while listening to an audiobook, but I typically run without a book or music.

5. Morning, midday, evening: If I have my way, I run in the morning, preferably before my husband and three girls are awake. I love coming home to find them all still sleeping. They haven’t missed me, and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment at having checked off my training for the day before my family’s day has even started. That said, I have been known to run at 8 p.m. if that’s what it takes to get my training run in.

6. I won’t run outside when it’s: Hmm. There hasn’t been a time yet when I wouldn’t run outside. Southern California is pretty weather-friendly for running and I don’t let the heat stop me. I try not to run in the dark. I’d prefer not to run in a thunderstorm or on icy roads. I do like to run in a light rain though — it’s a nice change for me!

7. Worst injury—and how I got over it: Plantar fasciitis. It’s been a few weeks and I’m still getting over it, physically and mentally. Send healing vibes! I feel like my feet are my new job — stretching, strengthening, rolling with the tennis ball, icing, massaging with arnica gel, resting, and wearing the Strassburg sock(s) at night. I just read that American Olympian Ryan Hall has dropped out of the New York City Marathon due to plantar fasciitis and other problems. If an elite runner can be sidelined at this point by plantar fasciitis for his November 4th marathon, maybe I shouldn’t feel bad about missing my November 10th one.

8. I felt most like a badass mother runner when: In the middle of my half marathon training plan, I went out for a Saturday long run on a local trail. I could hear a guy running behind me, but I kept up my pace and he did not catch up to me until we had to stop at a road crossing. He asked me what I was training for, and I practically burst at the seams with pride. I looked like a runner! A stranger knew I was training for a race! I told him about the half marathon and my sub-2 goal, and he told me exactly what I needed to hear at that point: “You can do it! You’ve got it!” Amazing how people come into our lives out of the blue and offer us such wonderful little gifts. It didn’t cost him anything and yet his words gave me so much.

9. Next race is: My next race is the SheROX San Diego sprint triathlon in October. My next running race on the calendar is the Santa Barbara International Marathon in November, but that’s looking to be my first DNS in light of the plantar fasciitis. I’m proceeding with my training by aqua jogging in the pool (and biking and swimming), and I’ll either try to downgrade my registration to the half marathon, or skip it altogether and set my sights on another marathon. I’ve been reading Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington’s new book A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey (book review spoiler: I love it!) and I found it pretty inspiring to read how she had to miss the 2003 London marathon due to a hematoma in her left thigh. Instead of running the race, she enjoyed watching it live as Paula Radcliffe broke the world record. That story reminds me to keep a positive attitude and stay in the game for the long haul. There will be another race for me.

10. Potential running goal for 2013: If I cannot start/complete the marathon in 2012, I will look forward to 2013 and the chance to try again. Perhaps the LA Marathon in March?

Answer one or more of the questions in the comments or come back and post a comment with the link to the answers on your blog!

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The Nautica Malibu international distance triathlon is less than 48 hours away. That means I have a big question to answer: to race or not to race? I have wrestled with this question over the last week. I am finding it helps to break it down into smaller questions.

Can I physically do the race? Absolutely. I’ve trained hard for this race, even if it wasn’t my goal race (the marathon was/is/who knows gah I hate stupid plantar fasciitis). My last triathlon was nine-plus months ago, which makes it feel like I’ve been training for this race FOREVER. I could have grown and popped out a baby in that time. Instead I’ve been gestating a triathlon baby. I’m serious about that — bear with me when I equate training for a race to experiencing pregnancy and birth. You’re all excited in the beginning, then you wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into, then you buckle down and do the hard work of growing that baby, then it becomes all you can think about and all you want to talk about. You get more and more excited as the big day approaches. You do everything you can do to prepare, but not everything is under your control. Part of your nervousness stems from the fact that you’ve invested so much of yourself physically and emotionally over the course of several months, and you just want everything to go well. All you can do is show up ready to roll with what fate brings you on the day, the day you give birth to that much-wanted figurative-triathlon-baby. (Fine, it’s not a perfect analogy.)

The more important question is: Should I do the race? My feet still do have pain from the plantar fasciitis. I don’t feel pain when I run, so it’s not like the race itself would be torture for me. It’s the fallout I’m worried about. There’s a possibility I could tear the plantar fascia in spite of all the stretching I’ve been doing. There’s the likelihood that my feet will become more sore in the days after the race and it might set back my recovery from the injury.

Which brings me to the question: Will running this race prevent me from running the marathon, my goal race? The answer is a big fat I DON’T KNOW. It’s not clear to me that even if I didn’t do the triathlon, I would recover in time to train for and run the marathon. The marathon is eight weeks away. As optimistic as I was when I did that 2-hour aqua running session, the reality is that I will miss some of my big training runs. Over the next five weeks I’m supposed to do five long runs of 16, 12, 18, 13 and 20 miles, respectively. Exactly how many of those could I “run” in the pool? And could I really transition from the pool right back out onto solid ground for a marathon training plan? It doesn’t seem likely to me. And even if I could train and get back to actual running, would I be able to meet my marathon goals? I do have quite specific goals. My goal was never just to complete the distance (while that might be someone else’s perfectly valid and worthwhile goal, it’s not mine). I certainly don’t want to run a marathon while injured, simply to say I’ve done a marathon. There will be other races (just not this one that I carefully researched and lovingly hand-picked because it’s smaller than big city races *SOB* and it is in a beautiful setting *SOB* and we booked a gorgeous hotel in Santa Barbara because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing *SOB SOB*).

Given that I don’t know whether the triathlon would be the thing keeping me from running the marathon, I find myself asking: If I didn’t have the marathon on my race calendar, would I go ahead with the triathlon? The answer is a resounding heck yeah. I feel well enough to do it, I want to do it, and I think the risk of further injury is low enough that I can do it. Then there’s the final nagging question: Would my answers to all these questions be any different if I weren’t doing this all in a public blog forum for everyone (my growing handful of readers LOL) to see? I don’t think so. If anything I’m slightly worried that I’ll do the triathlon, get more injured or stay injured and not recover, and the blogosphere will hit me with a big I TOLD YOU SO. It couldn’t be anything worse than I will be telling myself, though.

Well, wish me luck, tell me I’m crazy, hope that the crazy pays off for me. Hmm, that’s one final question. What’s the payoff? Who cares if I skip this race? (Yes, yes, that’s two questions). I care. If I don’t get to do the marathon (right now) then I want to do this race. I don’t want to have to give up everything to plantar fasciitis. I want to go see this year’s version of this:

sand sculpture

Nautica Malibu Triathlon sand sculpture. Photo by Denise Cross.

Those are my answers today. I can’t tell you I’ll stick to them. We’ll see what happens on race day.

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Before I talk about aqua jogging, I need to tell a seemingly unrelated story. Back in October 2011 I had just completed my first triathlon, the SheROX San Diego sprint tri. I loved it and immediately signed up for an Olympic distance race the following December. I dove right into training, and stuck to my new training schedule even when we went camping with some friends. What better setting for a long bike ride than Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree National Park

Gorgeous view of Joshua Tree National Park to distract me on my long bike ride. Photo by Vicente Villamon.

As I was driving back to camp after the ride, I passed lots of roads that were named after desert features — Outpost Road, Sunnyhill Road, Juniper Road. That’s when I began to get nervous about the Olympic distance tri. My mind started racing. I thought about how my friends would be able to see the SheROX race numbers on my calf and arms because the permanent marker still hadn’t worn off. Then I thought about how I had looked at the professional pictures of me at the race and I wondered how the photographers had seen my number on my triceps from the swim — I guess they saw it when I peeled off half my wetsuit as I exited the water. Then I remembered how I looked blue when I exited the water from the swim, and then I worried about swimming a whole mile in the Olympic distance race in December. I thought maybe I shouldn’t have signed up to do it! That’s when I passed another road sign. It read: “Olympic Dr.” I’m not kidding. All these desert names, and at that exact moment I pass Olympic Drive?! It’s not so much that I believe in signs sent from God, but I do believe we’re open to seeing certain things at certain times, and I needed to see that certain sign at that certain time.

Anyway, all that to tell you that I saw more signs on my recent aqua jog. I had been getting awfully discouraged with the plantar fasciitis. A week of rest didn’t help. I tentatively tried out a slow run at the track, and I felt no better, no worse, until two days later when my feet became even more sore. I started wondering if I’d have to give up on running the marathon nine weeks from now. That’s when I remembered my half marathon coach Stephanie’s story about how she recovered from a tear in her plantar fascia (ouch with a capital OUCH!) by jogging in the pool. My marathon training plan called for a 15-mile run. Could I do it in the pool? I watched a few videos on YouTube to study the proper form for aqua running. My favorite tutorial was this one:

After my studies, I eagerly told my husband my plan and headed out to the outdoor pool, the one that plays music that could entertain me for a 2-hour aqua jog. At the pool, a fitness class was just starting and many of the women were using flotation belts, the kind I needed for the aqua jog. The bin was empty, but I spotted one last belt hanging next to the pool. I asked around to make sure no one was using it, and sure enough, I had snagged the absolute last flotation belt. Sign #1?

I hopped right in the pool and got going. I couldn’t tell if I was replicating the proper form from the video, and I started to question the sanity of pumping my little legs away, running to nowhere in the pool. That’s when Foster the People sent me my second sign in the form of “Pumped Up Kicks,” one of my favorite tunes from my running playlist (compliments of Coach Stephanie). That song also happens to be a favorite of my spinning class teacher, and I knew I could run to the beat of the song, just as I set the bike cadence to the beat in spin class.

In the second hour of my two-hour “run,” the Bart Crow Band sent me another sign in the form of “Run with the Devil.” Yes, “I may run with the devil….” If only the band had said I run like the devil.

Finally, as I floundered during the last 20 minutes of my “run,” it was like Journey was serenading me, imploring me not to give up on the marathon dream. “Don’t stop believin’ [Angela, you can do it, you can train for a marathon in the swimming pool and on the bike].” Catchy little tune, don’t you think?

Do you believe in signs?

Have you ever trained for a running race by training on a bike or in the pool? How did that pan out for you? Do you aqua jog for injury prevention and/or for recovery from an injury?

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Forgive me, Marathon Training Plan, for I have sinned. It has been seven days since my last run. During that time, I have cheated on you with three bike rides, two swims in the pool, and two weight training sessions. I thought it would be fun to dally with the bike, but in fact I had to force myself to go for those rides. When I’m riding the bike because I cannot run, it’s not quite as fun as riding for the joy of it. I am trying to be smart about healing from plantar fasciitis, sacrificing the short term training for the long term benefit, but it is hard.

As those around me can attest, I am going through the five stages of grief. (1) denial (oh, my feet are just sore, and it’s my arches, not my heels, maybe it’s not plantar fasciitis), (2) anger (irrational desire to kick people when I see them run by, not because it’s their fault I cannot run, but because they are happily flaunting their ability to do what I cannot do), (3) bargaining (if I wear my Strassburg sock every night like a good girl, and promise to stretch my calves and feet in the future, maybe the running gods will smile on me?)

and (4) depression (speaks for itself). I haven’t quite made it to number five, acceptance. I do not accept this, at least not with grace.

It’s a little crazy to liken a running injury to a major life loss, I recognize that fact. I do try to put it in perspective. Last night I took dinner to a family to help them while the mother is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She is at the point in treatment where she has lost her hair and is suffering other ill effects from the toxins in her body. I’m incredibly lucky to be healthy. I know this.

At the same time, I do think my feelings of loss are normal. Nautica Malibu is one week from today. I’d like to get a run in before then to test out my feet and see if I can justify participating in the race, complete with the 6.2-mile run. Cross your fingers for me, wish on found pennies, and bargain with those running gods, okay? And send up some prayers and positive thoughts for my friend, who needs them far more than I do.

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Y’all, I am struggling physically and mentally with the plantar fasciitis in my feet. It’s not painful, it’s not a sharp stab in my heel, it’s a dull ache in the arch of the foot. One day it’s the right foot yelling at me, the next day it’s the left. Frankly I want to yell at them both.

Back in May, right after I officially signed up for the Santa Barbara International Marathon this coming November, I had a flash of fear. Could I really do it? I’d struggled to run 13.1 miles and meet my goal of a sub-2 half, did I actually want to put myself to the test of 26.2? The more I thought about it the more I realized:

I am less afraid of running 26.2 miles than I am of being injured and not able to run at all.

Now here I am, staring down an injury. I’m halfway through my marathon training plan, with under 10 weeks to go until race day. Maybe the plantar fasciitis will go away in a matter of weeks and never come back. Maybe it will drag on for months. Maybe (heaven forbid) the plantar fascia will rupture. I’ve given myself a few days to worry and research and develop a plan of action for the next couple of weeks. Now it’s time to give myself a pep talk and move forward. What do you think of the following random thoughts in my own mental pep talk? Do you have any words of inspiration to share?

Sometimes the workouts we least want to do end up being the most important ones.

Even the best physical training plan is deficient if you do not pair it with your own mental training plan. How do you juggle training with the rest of life? What do you do to manage injury? How do you deal with pre-race nerves? What will your mantra be on race day? What is going to get you through those last miles?

Train without music in order to listen to your body and mind.

Overcome that “I don’t feel like it today” and you will be rewarded with a huge mental boost that is exponentially greater than the physical workout.

Figure out how to weather an injury without going crazy. Be resilient. Take the downtime to appreciate the gift of fitness. Come back stronger.

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