Thursday, 16 June 2011

Shalom, Aloha, Start your Engines for Plan B.

Last weekend, after spending six days without running once, I found myself responsible for leading a group of about 50 elementary school kids in a 3K community run. Of course, I had no intention of running, but a couple of the grade threes took off at a four minute pace and I had to keep up. This run was on city streets, that although controlloed by police, there was still traffic off I went. Running faster than I have for months. 
Later that day and throughout the evening the pain in my right heel that I had managed to mollify somewhat, returned with a vengeance. It was at that point that I started thinking about surrendering to the pain. 
Up until this point, and on the advice of the crackerjacks, I was still running. My mileage was way down, but I was still going out and logging a few kilometers. The new, intense pain made me think differently. If you have ever had a bladder infection, or an anal fissure or a bad case of asthma or strep throat, you will understand how I felt. Something as basic and fundamental and natural as peeing or shitting or breathing or swallowing suddenly becomes so painful, that you don't want to do it. You do everything you can to avoid it.  That's what walking had become. 

Running wasn't a problem. I run on my forefoot. It was the stopping, the starting and everything before and after any run. Running has become so natural to me. But I was afraid of doing it. 

An appointment with the physiotherapist the next day confirmed that I should not race my upcoming half ironman-distance race in early July, nor the Olympic (Standard) distance race the week later. And perhaps the Marathon planned for September was iffy. 

Instead, I should focus on running for one minute, barefoot on the treadmill, or grass or sand. And build up SLOWLY from there. Also, to correct the slight issues with my form, I was given a bunch of other exercises, including toe/leg raises on stairs and lunges and modified squats. I toyed with the idea of running barefoot and naked on the treadmill, but, like naked beach volleyball, certain laws of physics do not agree well with a lack of bodily compression...nuff said.

The idea of running barefoot is to allow the fascia in the foot/heel to gradually become re-accustomed to the stress I'm putting on them. Although my PT is not a forefoot running proponent, per se, looking at the wear pattern of my runners, she questioned why I even wear stability shoes...maybe neutral shoes or even something more minimal would be appropriate?

I haven't quite bought into that, but she helped me formalize me decision. I was preparing to be DFL, but now I was to be DNS. Contrary to a good friend's advice, I wasn't willing to just do a bit of the race and DNF. I  considered his advice, but I just couldn't justify the expense of traveling to a race (and spending over $600) for a race that I knew I would not be finishing. For some who have never completed a race, I can see the courage and the merit of that. I've had a personal best in this race, I've done an Ironman, or three. There would be no honor or pride. Although I will miss the exceptional organization and goodwill of this particular race.

So it is not an overstatement to say that once I made this decision I became somewhat melancholic. I have never DNS'd before. And my whole season was evaporating right in front of me. And no, I was not really heading the conclusion of my previous blog. 

But as the week progressed, I was forced to get to work by bike (my vehicle exhausted it's last cough). I also decided to swim a little and I swam a lot. I also just grabbed my bike and rode after dinner, something I don't do normally. 
Then I got to thinking about this checkered flag I was waving. Sure it heralds the end of the race. But was it really a white flag  (with black squares) or a black flag with white squares? A white flag means surrender, but a black flag is a symbol of anarchy! What I have been going through lately has been quite anarchistic.

I have to return to the beginning. This is a great chance to look at the fundamentals. To get stronger and maybe, hopefully,  to rise above these setbacks and comeback better, faster and wiser than before. 

In Hebrew, Shalom  means peace, completeness, and welfare. It can also mean goodbye and hello! Similarly, Aloha, in the Hawaiian language can mean love, peace, compassion, mercy, as well as goodbye and hello.
Aloha can also mean the breath of life.
Ultimately, the goal of any triathlete might be to say Aloha to Kona at the world championship. I might still make it there one day. 

For the time being though, I'm starting my engine and getting back on the right foot - if I can - and more closely heeding the recent advice of Chuckie V. and looking closely at Plan B.

Aloha...and Shalom.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Foot Shy

I've had problems with my heel. Sometimes it has felt like I had pins and needles in it. Other times it felt like I was walking on broken glass. I've written previously about the Plantar Fasciiotis self diagnosis. It has since been confirmed by a massage therapist, a podiatrist and a physiotherapist.

If you are asking why no GP or Osteo or other knife wielding MD...two words: refer all. Besides, my GP, who I really do respect was all about referring me to the professionals I sought out and found myself.

I have also undergone a number of treatments most of which were interesting and intriguing, none of which have done anything but make me feel like I'm doing something useful.

I may as well be warming blankets and boiling water. Or perhaps adding a few eyes of newt to my favourite morning beverage. It has been very discouraging. Further, it has reaffirmed my reluctance to seek professional help for something that is not broken, bleeding or requiring a biopsy.

Now don't misunderstand. I've had a lot of successes from RMTs - one person that I consider a good friend is an RMT. In fact, it was an RMT, who was also licensed as a chiropractor who got my neck working the day before my most recent Ironman Canada.

The physio pointed out some very cogent errors/inadequacies of my stride (which I'm working on by the way). The chiro pointed out how I need to relax my shoulders when I run - and told me how to do it.

The podiatrist showed me how to tape my foot and got me a good night splint to use.

All of these professionals are athletes themselves and understand what I have gone through. None of these professionals have really helped address my issue: the condition and the pain.

I have determined that this is stemming from my calf tightness - and partially because of how I run. (Thanks to the physio).

So I've tried a number of different remedies, some less orthodox than others. And although I feel somewhat disillusioned and mostly defeated, I remain eternally hopeful that one day I'll get out of bed and not hurt.

One unfortunate side effect of this constant heel pain has been the fact that I see to have become run shy. Much like trying to relax and "let go" in the company of others, I've found that I'm reluctant to create opportunities to go out and run. Every time a little obstacle presents itself - cold, wind, dirty laundry, making supper, re-run of Biggest Loser - I have used it as an excuse to not run. Further, I have also avoided running with others -- in fear of slowing them down.

This is completely new to me. Previously, I reveled in running in -30c. I bragged about pushing through a windy morning run, I hoarded newspapers that I could use to stuff into my soaked runners.

Now? Not so much.

Keep in mind that I hurt...but not when I run. The crackerjacks (borrowing a word for medical people from the Cranky Princess) have all suggested that I should run. My own empirical evidence (taking two weeks off from running) demonstrated no tangible difference to the exquisite quality and quantity of pain.

Being a forefoot runner, I have no pain when I run. When I walk however, I look like a constipated John Wayne swaggering up to the bar, Pilgrim.

Being run shy has spilled over, as it were, to my other athletic pursuits. It has now become easier to avoid swimming: I'm too busy at lunch. Or swimming the distance I need to swim: I only have 30 minutes.

I've also not done the biking that I should be doing: it is too wet/windy/wicked out there.

With a Half Ironman one calendar month away, it really is time to move it into gear. I've toyed with the idea of just abandoning that race...and the Regina Beach Olympic distance Triathlon that is one week later...but then what? Do I also let go of the Marathon I'm hoping to run in September...where does it end?

Will taking time off heal me, or will it just heel me like a dog on a leash?

No. It is time. I know I have said this before. Time to get my shit together and start behaving like I actually enjoy this activity.

I have to force myself out of the support van/sag wagon and try to make June the month that I figure where or not I'm doing this, or whether I have to step back and try another strategy...or find another sport.

One of the implications of being run shy is that I have also been reluctant to write and spend time thinking about mytriangle.

So not only have I not missed out of the benefits of my endurance training, I have also not had the outlet I normally have of musing and writing about what I see hear and feel. This too will change.

How can it not change? I'm growing tired of this path of restless false starts and the barren landscape of the DNS lifestyle.