Running Rant

The Garmin snapshot is not actually a photo from today (3.25 miles in 35 minutes) or even this week (Monday, 90 minutes of frustration, unnoticed mileage), but it is about my average lately. When I can actually run, that is.

I’m not really sure what factors converged on Monday, but I know that I didn’t cope very well with a bad run. Everyone has them, I’m quite sure. Hell, I’m positive that Shalane Flanagan has days where her legs just feel like bricks and she doesn’t want to keep going. But I am not an elite athlete. And on Monday I felt so very mentally weak. I set my expectations pretty high: it was absolutely beautiful outside, 75 degrees and breezy, and I couldn’t bear the thought of my planned workout of a 60 minute spin class indoors. So I’ll just run for 30 minutes! That makes sense! Except it didn’t. I controlled all the factors I could in the hours leading up to the run – drank a few glasses of water, nourished myself adequately (I think), wore the right clothes, charged up my mp3 player. But I still fell apart about 20 minutes in, mentally and physically.

Some ideas about why it went so poorly: too-high expectations of time, possible dehydration, allergies, grumpy mood all day, and probably the big one, my feet.

Yep, the plantar fascist (okay, okay, fasciitis) is rearing his ugly head again this season, and I just don’t know what to do.

Recap of my running story:

  • In 2008 I could barely run a half mile, started losing a little bit of weight, and by September could huff and puff my way through a 12-minute mile on the treadmill.
  • As I started to lose more weight by the end of the year and the beginning of ’09, I began tentatively adding longer distances and ramping up my speed – that awesome running honeymoon where every try is a PR.
  • In March or so I began successfully running outside, which had intimidated me up until then, and running more socially, with friends and coworkers.
  • In May, I ran Bloomsday – a huge 12k road race in Spokane – at a 10:28/mile pace. Around that same time, was able to run a single mile in 9:45 or so, something I never thought I’d do (remember, barely a 12min/mile the previous fall).
  • Shortly after that, my right heel started hurting so badly that I pretty much just quit running for the summer.

Plantar fasciitis runs in my family I guess, along with our high arches and wonky hips – no big surprise. I didn’t write in too much detail how I spent a couple hundred dollars on the orthopedist and pretty much just ended up with a few horribly painful cortisone shots and some recommendations to spend more money (on insoles and new shoes) and not go barefoot (one of my favorite things) or run (but that’s the point!). I did get assigned stretches and regular icing that I don’t do with as much dedication as I should, I’ll admit. But the diagnosis was frustrating in its lack of permanent solution.

I like running. I LIKE RUNNING! I never, ever, ever thought I’d say that until a little over a year ago. EVER. So to have something so seemingly insignificant (in that it doesn’t bother me too much until I’m actually running) prevent me from doing something so cool is SO FRUSTRATING!

Like I said, it’s not overwhelmingly painful or anything when I’m just walking around. Just a bit of soreness in the heel area, a dull ache. But when I’m running? Like on Monday? It’s all I can think about. It affects the way my entire body feels. I try to adjust my stride, run on different surfaces, anything that’ll make it hurt less, but then I stop breathing or some other aspect of my form falls apart, so I go to correct that, and then my foot starts up again. It’s a horrible cycle.

And did I mention? Confession time: both my feet hurt now, not just the right one.

Today’s run was okay. I iced last night, and at work a few hours before the run, and I switched out my Superfeet insoles for the original ones in the shoes (which I think was part of the problem on Monday – the o.g. insoles are actually better I think!), and everything went okay. A little sore, iced when I got home, okay. If I can keep it at this level, I’ll be good.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a really bad thing to have to deal with.

I just really wish I didn’t have to.

(And yes, I am looking into all the stuff coming out in recent years that’s sort of anti-running shoe. It’s intriguing and exciting but I’m not really ready to try it yet.)

With all that complaining, I should leave you with something positive. Batter from a baking experiment the other day? Creamed butter and sugar? What’s better than THAT?!

My feet still hurt. Well, mainly my right heel.

It is very frustrating.

As I have written about before, my plantar fasciitis is pretty easily aggravated these days, and I’ve taken pretty much all the medical approaches that I wish to explore: podiatrist, cortisone shots, shoe inserts, etc. At this point, I’m pretty ready to try to solve the problem from the inside out.

I’ve read that it could be dangerous to try to change your running form all by yourself, because you could screw yourself up worse than whatever the problem is that you’re trying to fix, but it’s not like I have a ton of running coaches to pick from, and I’m also not training hard or really running very often, so I think I’m pretty safe if I try to incorporate some changes slowly.

Here are things I’m working on, based on some tips I’ve been reading online:

– Not over-striding. I think I am pretty good at this anyway. My legs are pretty short (30″ inseam) and my stride is pretty short and I’m cool with that. The only difficulty comes when I am running with only one other person and that person has a longer stride. My favorite running buddy Angela has pretty much an identical stride length to mine and a compatible speed, which is nice.

– Leaning very slightly forward from my head to toes, keeping my feet underneath me, trying to use gravity to my advantage, “flowing” forward – very chi :)

– Ever-so-slowly trying to change from heel striking to midfoot striking. I know that I over-pronate, but I feel like the heel striking has got to be the primary cause of the pain. Case in point: I’ve come to actually look forward to running uphill because it forces me to run more forward on my feet and it feels soooo goooood after running on flat surfaces with my heels hurting. How does one change their foot strike? I don’t know; it’s tough. I don’t want to be too hasty with this. Some techniques I have heard so far are pretending that I’m scraping gum off my shoe at the ball of my foot, and pretending I’m like a tiger walking and sort of clawing dirt away with my paws as I go. I like both of those but I also want to avoid pointing my feet too my or aiming my toes at the ground, so I think it’s good to keep in mind a relaxed stance at the same time.

– Stretching. Duh. I have tight Achilles tendons already and if I am trying to (remember, subtly) change my foot strike, the rest of my legs are going to be doing a lot of work they’re not used to quite yet, so I need to streeeetch.

Like I said, my feet hurt today, mainly my right heel, after my three mile Flying Irish run last night. Oh, well. I did try to focus on a midfoot strike and it went pretty well for the most part. I’d get unfocused from time to time and forget, which is pretty much the case with me and all athletic tips and techniques I’m trying to implement – I’m a slow physical learner. When I was successful in keeping focus on that, my feet felt so much better, but my legs (lower legs, specifically) got much more tired. A trade off! I think as my legs get stronger this will only get easier. Fingers crossed.



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