Marathon Madness

It’s no secret to anyone that pays attention to distance running that the fall is prime marathon running season. There’s a marathon every weekend, and you probably know of at least one person participating. I was supposed to be one of those runners, gunning for a big PR. But I suppose it’s time for me to admit to myself (and the Internet, obviously), that I won’t be running a fall marathon.

When I first started having ankle issues, I thought I could still toe the line at Richmond in November. But as the discomfort and inconsistent training continued, I realized I would only be setting myself up for frustration, and possible injury. I switched from the full to the half, and after three weeks of pain-free running at the beginning of September, thought I could squeeze in an early December marathon instead. I eagerly signed up for Rehoboth Beach and got to work on a new training plan.

A week into my new training plan brought me an inflamed tendon in my foot, and another week not running. After some cursing, crying, and a little back-and-forth, I realized it was time to graciously bow out of the marathon training game. It was hard for me to admit at first; I had a fast and effortless spring racing season, and had every intention of crushing all my shorter distance PR’s this summer. When that didn’t happen, I figured I would still have time to come back for late fall and early winter. But after DNS-ing four different races since the middle of July due to all these issues with my right foot & ankle, I knew it wasn’t realistic.

Am I disappointed? Absolutely. All of my friends are out there crushing long runs and PR’s, while I sit idly hoping to get through each short run without a new ache or pain. But I know that I need to be “slow and steady” with my training right now, and if I can get a few months of quality runs under my belt without issue, I’ll have a much better chance at a successful marathon training cycle, and ultimately, marathon race.

I have every intention of continuing to run, and racing when I feel up to it. I think part of my problem has always been I have a quick and heavy trigger finger when it comes to signing up for races. It seems as though the further away the race, the more likely I’ll be unable to run it. So for now, I’m going to sign up for races only a few days before they happen (or gasp, maybe even that morning). I think my brain, and more importantly my wallet, will thank me in the long run. And I’m going to keep up with my cross-training! I’ve been trying to do as many foot strengthening exercises as I can, along with calf stretching and strengthening. Here’s to hoping I’m well on the recovery train and can get back to loving running, and not dreading each run in fear of finding something that hurts!

Any advice for me?
Know of any late-spring marathons I can eye up?

Running Update: Marathoning

For those of you that have been following along, you know I was struggling with some weird undiagnosed pain in my right ankle & foot for most of July and August. Early signs of marathon training in June pointed to a successful training cycle, and the chances of me crushing my current PR were high. But, after two months of inconsistent training, I knew it wasn’t logical to think I would be able to successfully (and easily) complete marathon training by the November 16th race date for the Richmond Marathon. So in what seems to be like an unfortunately common theme among a lot of my runner friends right now, I had to pass on the 2013 Richmond Marathon.

The good news, though, is that my ankle and foot are 90-95% better, depending on the day, and the run. I was able to run in Disneyland with no problems! Since I already paid for a hotel room, I decided to drop down to the half since they provide the option for only $10. So at least I’ll still get to run part of America’s friendliest marathon!

This leaves me with a new problem, though… finding an early winter marathon! My initial thoughts are to run the Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 7th, since it isn’t too far away from me and doesn’t have to be a big weekend away. But that only gives me an extra three weeks of training, putting me at about a 12 week cycle. Any other races would obviously be in different locations (South, West, etc.) because the weather in January and February around here is not exactly marathon friendly. Thankfully I’ve been able to bounce these ideas off of my coach, Steph, so I’m confident we’ll be able to come up with the best solution soon.

In the meantime I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed that all of these annoying pains are gone for good. I’ve been trying to be as diligent as possible with cross-training and ankle, foot, and leg strengthening exercises, while also working on my core and upper body. I’ve always known how important it is to condition your whole body and how great cross-training is, but I’m realizing it more now than ever. I just have to remind myself when I’m feeling lazy or unmotivated that these few minutes here and there can mean the difference between running pain free, or being sidelined.

So tell me…
Do you have any good cross-training or exercises you do for your feet, ankles, and/or legs I should be trying? 
Know of any great December, January, or February marathons I should consider? 

Running Lately

Let’s face it, running in the heat of summer isn’t always fun. But, I’m finding the best way to get through the super sweaty, red faced, feeling like you can’t breathe well runs is to be thankful that I can run at all. It may sound cliche to be “thankful for the opportunity to do something that others can’t,” but I really feel that way. It really is a privilege to be able to lace up my sneakers and head out the door without any health worries! That isn’t to say that I haven’t found myself struggling here and there the past few weeks, though.

It seems as though every so often, my feet like to give me some trouble when it comes to running. A few weeks ago I noticed a little soreness right below my ankle bone towards my foot, but kept plodding along, simultaneously loving and hating my weekly workouts.I tried getting ankle braces, like the ankle braces for men since they are known to lend comfort. The discomfort would come and go, usually disappearing within the first 10 minutes of running. After my birthday, I noticed the pain more frequently – both when I started a run, but also when I was just walking. This obviously put me on high alert, and I started icing like crazy, doing ankle and foot strength work, and taking my runs easy. I ran the Firecracker 4 miler Race on the 4th of July like I do every year nice and easy with Ashley, but then decided to take a little more time for my foot. After three full days off I got back to things two weeks ago, and had no problem completing all of my workouts. But then last week, it hurt during every workout, and afterwards as well. By the time my weekend long run came around, I only got through 8 of the scheduled 14-16 miles.

I'm no stranger to injuries, unfortunately.
I’m no stranger to injuries, unfortunately.

After struggling with this on and off discomfort for a little over two weeks, I decided it was time to go to a Podiatrist. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, and I didn’t know if the pain I was feeling was the “run through it and stick it out” kind of pain, or the “you need to stop immediately” pain… which is something I struggle with from time to time. So I called on Monday morning and was able to be seen that evening. Being the type of person that I am, my first thoughts were of the worst – I’d be in a boot, I wouldn’t be able to do the Disney Dumbo Double Dare, I’d have to drop down or out of the Richmond marathon… etc. I’m a really “glass is half full” kind of girl, if you couldn’t tell! But eventually I realized that no matter what they would or wouldn’t find if I went to the doctor, it was better than being in pain, potentially making things worse, and, no matter what it could always be worse. Of course when filling out the paperwork I made sure to mention that I am a runner (marathon training) and that I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture (the dirty words of the running world). When the doctor came in he asked if I was training for my first marathon, to which I replied it would be my fourth. Apparently I can’t do math, though, because Richmond will actually be my fifth. But I digress.

We took some x-rays, the doctor poked and prodded all around my foot and ankle, moved it a bunch of different ways, and even had me walk and jog in place for him. I was really glad he took the time to ask me questions, listen to me, and do a thorough exam. The verdict? No stress fracture! But, I do have some weird stuff going on, that I wasn’t aware of at all. Apparently, my right (problem) leg is slightly shorter than my left. It also bows out a little bit when I walk, and my knees tilt in towards one another a bit when walking and resting (fondly referred to as knock-knees). No surprise to me, I have tight Achilles. Additionally, it looks like there may be some early signs of arthritis in the front of my tibia where it meets my talus (but he said that wasn’t a big deal). And the kicker? My tibia, talus, and lateral malleolus seem to love each other so much they kind of rest up against each other, not leaving much room for movement, which the doctor said looks like at one point I must have had an injury there that healed on its own and is likely the culprit of my pain. All in all, nothing major or super worrisome; which was a huge relief.

He gave me a cortisone shot (which apparently people don’t take well, because he was impressed with my “taking it like a champ”), a light brace to wear when I’m working out, and ordered me a pair of orthotics to try out in hopes of easing the pressure and correcting the way my feet fall when I run. Naturally he told me to stay away from flats, flip flops, and extremely high heels … so basically my entire shoe wardrobe. Of course I had to ask what it meant for my running, and it doesn’t seem like much. He told me to take it easy for a week or two, and to obviously continue icing and doing the stretch and strength exercises I’ve already been doing. So my plan is to take this entire week off, and do some short and slow runs next week with the orthotics to see how everything feels. I’m hoping this is just a one-time hiccup, and not something I’m going to have to deal with long-term and I’m definitely going to baby it and play it safe to make sure. 

It amazes me how much running, something that I do for “fun” and is just an extra curricular activity in all reality, can make or break my mood so easily. When I was replaying all the different outcomes before going to the doctor yesterday, I couldn’t help but laugh at how devastated I knew I would be depending on the results. I just kept repeating to myself, “this is not your job. This is for fun. You will be able to run again at some point, no matter what. It’s FINE!” These kinds of bumps in the road make me realize that running really can be a lifestyle, and I’m so thankful that I’ve found something I can (usually) do on a regular basis, have so much passion for, and am basically obsessed with.

Anyone ever deal with ankle and/or foot injuries? 
Have any good stretch or strength exercises I should be doing?