The Tale of Two Feet

Getting to the bottom of my foot issues.

For the past year, I have really noticed the effects of the aging process, the biggest change being in my feet.  Towards the end of training for Boston, I could barely get through a long run without my feet screaming at me.  I knew that I needed to pay some attention to the balls of my feet, but I wasn’t about to change shoes or add orthotics within weeks of Boston.  But that resulted in a marathon that broke me.  My feet were killing by the 10th mile and the sun was hot; the two were a rotten combination for me and I finished in an hour longer than planned – but I finished.  In Boston, that was all I needed to do.

Bye bye, Orthotics!

Once Boston was behind me, I started to research orthotics and look for chiropodists in my area.  I had orthotics before and hated them; they were heavy and painful to run in as they never seemed to target the part of my foot that was tender: the metatarsals and the midfoot.  Adjustments were done but they made running even more painful so, eventually, they were taken out and I only wore my orthotics for work, not running.  It wasn’t long before I took them out of my shoe and completely stopped wearing them.

Now, though, I was ready to go back.  It had become painfully obvious that I needed some kind of support or padding under the forefoot.  I met with a few chiropodists and decided to work with one who specialized in runners’ feet.   Over the past few weeks, we have started to find a solution to my aching feet.

The black lifts my heels to help straighten my hips.

The first problem seems to have been an easy correction: my left leg is longer than my right so that my left hip sits significantly higher.  Doc placed a heel lift in the bottom of my shoe, between the sole and the insole, to raise my right side.  Now my hips are straight, and it makes a noticeable difference in my running as I don’t feel that I am swinging my hips as much.

The sore forefoot is more of a challenge.  As it turns out, I have developed mild arthritis in my feet so that is part of the problem.  Since there is no cure, I need to find a way to work with what I have so that I can still run.  My feet are also concave, not convex like most, as the three middle metatarsals have dropped.  The good news is my bones are strong.  Other good news is Doc doesn’t feel that I need orthotics because of the way I land when I run – on my forefoot/midfoot.

Week One’s trial was a complete bust.  We added some poron to bottom of my insole to try to raise my metatarsals and create some cushioning.  My first run (4 miles) went well but my second (8 miles with some speedwork) was a disaster; that night I had such a burning sensation through my feet that I was sidelined and icing them in a bucket of ice water for the next two days.  When I started running again, I swapped the insoles for an older pair.

Week Two was better.  Doc removed and built more support under the footpad.  Every run, from an easy 4 mile run to 9 miles with intervals  went as planned, but I couldn’t finish my long run on Sunday; at 6 miles, I was fighting tears and ready to hang up my shoes.  I felt broken.

Later that night, I found myself playing teacher.  At school, I have to look at the strengths in kids and build on them.  Now it was time to do that with me.  Even though I have been having some issues, I still ran 28 and 35 mile weeks during these trial periods and my pacing is good.  My speedwork is getting better and my leg span seems to be increasing.  But on a long run, my feet hurt.

I’m now at the start of Week Three and am only one run in.  Today, things were fine.  Despite a bit of doubt that kicked in halfway through, I finished my run painfree again.  Optimism.

One day at a time, one foot in front of another, I am not giving up and will continue chasing my dreams.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”

 

 

 

The Power of Change

Last night, I was reminded by a close friend that I have been spending the past several months stepping out of my comfort zone in my running world.   Somehow running stagnated for me.  I was still running and enjoying it, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.  With the exception of a few close friends, I was running alone and my times were becoming stale.  I was racing relatively well, but I wanted to do better – and I needed to push myself more.  I needed to get out of my comfort zone.

With Olympian, Nate Brannen, at the B&O Yorkville 5K Canadian Championships.

The first real change I made was race the Canadian 5K Championships in the fall.  This is an elite event with many Canada’s fastest distance runners.  Toeing that line scared me and, as much as I wanted to be a part of that event,  I was afraid to enter.  As a masters runner, I just didn’t think I was good enough to be a part of it.  After eyeing the race for a few years, I finally swallowed my fear and applied for a bib, gulped when I was accepted and nervously pulled myself to the start line in September.  After finishing, I was so glad that I made that effort as I realized that it was one of the most prestigious races that I would ever do as I got the chance to race with 200 of Canada’s best runners.

Next, I did something that frightened me; I entered the Boston Marathon.  Five years ago, in 2012, my family and I drove to Boston, the year that temperatures were insanely hot.  Between the heat, worrying about being able to finish feeling well enough to drive back to Ontario to work the next day, and being pushed so hard by another runner that I ended up on all fours with gravel stuck in my palms, I decided to dnf – never an easy decision and especially at Boston.   Over the past five years, this race has became a bit of a monkey on my back and I had to get rid of it; I have to finish that race.  In September, I applied to run Boston 2017 and was accepted.  In eleven weeks, I will be back, ready for anything that can be thrown my way.

Third, I decided to try something new: this blog.  Many know that I have been blogging for years but, like my running, my blog was stagnating.  To put things in perspective, I lost the time that I use to be able to put into blogging as my boys are now older (and busier) and my teaching assignment has changed (also resulting in busier days).  But writing about running is something that I really enjoy and, if someone is reading about it, then writing becomes even better.  Somehow, I needed to make time to record my thoughts and I needed a fresh start.  So I bought my own domain and am still working at rebuilding my blog, but I am slowing finding more time to write and am loving it.

And, suddenly, I am excited about running again – truly excited and, like a junkie who just can’t get enough, I needed more.  I wanted one more change to light another spark.  So last week, I returned to my former club, Toronto Olympic Club, to train under its guidance.  I think it takes real courage to go back to something that you once walked away from and my return to TOC is no exception.  I left the club two years ago, on good terms, because it was simply too difficult for me to get to practices when I lived in a different city.  That distance still exists but I realize how important it is for me to have the coaching and encouragement to physically challenge myself.  For now, my coaching is primarily remote, but my heart still skips a beat every time I open my training log to double check my plan for the day, when I lace up, and when I sit down to record my run.  And, on Sunday, I was thrilled when I got to wear the club colours at the Robbie Burns race.

Last night, my friend helped me to see that these changes are not just helping me come out of my comfort zone, but they are helping me to believe in myself.  The two go hand and hand, and as one gets stronger, so will the other.   It’s 2017 and I am strong, I am focused and I believe in myself.  It’s going to be an amazing year.

 

 

 

Welcome 2017

I’m not usually one for setting resolutions when the year changes, but I do set goals.  Then I revisit them, revise them, and chase new dreams.  In 2016, my goal was to become physically stronger as a runner.  While my race times weren’t stellar, they were good enough to earn age group awards and earn a spot to compete in the Canadian 5K Championship race.   It was a year of running based on raw talent – running without tempos, speedwork, or hill training.

Road2Hope Half Marathon, Hamilton
After the Boxing Day Ten Miler

In the past few weeks, while laying out my training plan for Boston, I’ve realized two things.  First, I am a fairly decent runner, but I’m nearing the end of my age group (50-54) so I have to do something different if I want to stay competitive.   Secondly, I am stronger than I think.  In my past two races, I really just wanted to see how I would run, hoping to finish the Road2Hope Half-Marathon (November) in under 1:40 and the Boxing Day Ten Miler (December) in less than 75 minutes.  I ran 1:37 and 74 minutes, respectively, and I felt good.  Obviously, my base is solid; it is time to change my training.

So my 2017 goal is to bump up my training and cross-training in terms of distance, intensity and frequency.  This month, my plan is to add speedwork and/hills into my running but I am absolutely terrified of doing either in the dark, especially when it’s icy.  And let’s be frank; I don’t like either of them anyway.  I’d rather just run.  But like so many other things that are good for me, speedwork and hills must be run if I am going to be in shape for Boston.  By running right after work, on the streets that surround my school, I should be able to get in a decent workout before daylight is lost.

Just hanging out at Climbers Rock.

During my marathon prep, I am also going to increase my cycling (windtrainer miles) so that I can strengthen my quads and be ready for the Boston hills.  My core is another area for me to focus on, which can easily be strengthened with consistency at the yoga studio and indoor climbing gym.

These goals are not part of a new year; they simply coincide with it as part of my plan for Boston.   They are in place to help me become better than I am and the runner that I aspire to be.

Chasing my dreams….