If my foot didn’t hurt, I would be typing an update on my training for the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon. I would be seeing the sunrise on the National Mall a few mornings per week, buying new running shoes (which I should probably do anyway), and planning a wintery ten mile run for Saturday. But my foot does hurt, and shows little-to-no sign of improvement, so here we are, talking about a running injury instead.
It happened on an easy Tuesday morning run.
Everything was normal, until I felt a sharp and sudden pain on the top of my right foot. I stopped to shake it out—as if that accomplishes anything—walked for a few steps, and then started to run again. The day before was essentially rest, we went climbing to do something outside our norm. This was just a slow, easy, low-stress run. I was just trying to get in forty minutes on my feet. I was just running around the neighborhood. I felt this weird shot of pain, and then couldn’t run anymore. I tried, to no avail. Eventually I gave up and hopped on a bike to get home.
I know what not to do.
Over ten years of distance running, I’ve only had two injuries. The first presented as a knee injury but was actually a problem with my right quad muscle. It was entirely my fault—I played soccer one week after running the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon, and could tell right away that I wasn’t fully recovered yet (i.e. was out of breath during our slow warm-up lap around the field). My quads felt worse after that game than they did after the marathon, which should have been my first clue that something was wrong. I tried to run through it for a few weeks, had two sports massages, foam rolled day and night, and then caved and scheduled a PT appointment. Two weeks after meeting with a PT, I was running again.
Last year I had a mild case of Plantar Fasciitis (PF) for months. It started with a three-day backpacking trip in Utah, hiking in ten-year-old shoes that fell apart along the way. I threw them out when we finished. My right foot was not as quick to forget. I used heel inserts, stretches and calf exercises, and slept in socks for the rest of the year. One day I realized my foot hadn’t hurt in a while, which must have meant all of those things worked. (Mild PF is mild enough that, yes, you feel it for a while and then realize one day that you don’t have any foot pain, and it’s lovely.)
I know to not ignore these things! I know now to figure out what’s going on as early as possible. Just schedule the appointment. Do it.
I scheduled an appointment and assumed the worst.
I decided this injury could be a stress fracture. Of note: I have never had a stress fracture and have no idea what one might feel like. But, I’m a coach and I know the warning signs. I also know this felt much worse than PF. It didn’t feel like a muscle or tissue problem, it felt like my foot bones were protesting everything. (Much like I was, in life.) Also of note: I was a little embarrassed. As a running and nutrition coach, shouldn’t I know better?
To be honest, I was also perplexed. My training volume had not increased too much (or much at all), I haven’t lost weight, my eating has been normal, stress levels didn’t seem too high, and I had not been ignoring little pains with hopes they would go away. This was very sudden. Things were fine until they weren’t.
Maybe a stress fracture didn’t make sense, but I convinced myself I had one anyway. I scheduled my first appointment with a podiatrist and got the process started. I stopped running, and doing everything else. Because why not?
But, there is “nothing to hang a hat on.”
Those are the Doc’s words, not mine. So, it doesn’t seem to be a stress fracture, but doesn’t seem to be anything else, either. Which leaves me with some new shoe inserts to try, a foot/ankle sleeve to wear during the day, and a compression sock on my right leg at night. It also leaves me here, on day 16 of no running or training.
And it’s not so bad.
Long-story-short: the pup still doesn’t sleep through the night, so neither do we! Yay. I’ve been sleeping in a little bit with her, because I can. I’ve been the pool a few times, because it doesn’t hurt and I have a LOT of room for improvement there. I’ve been climbing twice, for the same reasons. And I don’t really miss running.
If you had told me to just take 16 days off for good measure, I wouldn’t want to. If you had told me that after almost three weeks of not working out much, I wouldn’t feel super restless or crazy or like-I-WILL-BURST, I might not believe you. So what I know now is that I should be proactive and figure out what’s going on, but this time off also isn’t so bad. It’s actually kind of nice. I want to be active in some way, but it doesn’t have to be in a 30-miles-per-week way. Well, that’s also not an option right now. If you had said, maybe you just need some time off to make space for something else, I may have said, “I agree.”
Instead of running, I’m doing things that I’m not good at, which is exactly how most of these early entrepreneur days feel anyway. Right now, I like the space to explore. I need to remember how to build confidence and skill more than I need to know I can still run five miles in about forty-ish minutes. I’m not a pro, but I’m figuring out what I need to know. I’m not in a set routine, but I’m giving myself a little bit of structure. I’m not operating at full speed, because I know these things take time.