Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Injuries: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Injuries, that dreaded word – a word we don’t want to hear.  It is easy to see the bad and ugly with injuries but how do we see the good.  The bad is obvious in that when we get injured we do not get to do what we want to do; run, ride, swim or some other activity.  The ugly is that injuries are painful and disruptive in more than our running or other athletic activities but also often affect other areas of life, yes there areas other than athletics.  Since we can pretty much all find the bad and ugly with injuries I am going to look at the good side of them since as far as what is good that is often much more difficult to discern.  However, there is good to be found in injuries, we just have to find it.  If we do not find the good there is a “good” possibility that more injuries and disruptions are to come.  So as to work towards seeing the good in this latest injury here is some background on my current injury.

Those of you that know me know I have been dealing with what seems to be Plantar Fasciitis, I say "seems like" since it may be more than just PF, for the past year, but for others here is a little history.  Last June (2017) I was doing a harder tempo run and with 4 miles to go my calf cramped and I ran slowly home, in hindsight I should have walked – but my mind did not want to walk 4 miles – mistake in looking back.  This led to the back of my heel being sore and feeling it in the Achilles some.  With the Hood to Coast Relay coming up in August (2017) I took a couple weeks off to let the heel calm down.  During this time I did some stretching but was careful not wanting to aggravate the Achilles and it got reasonably better but not fully.  When I started running again I continued stretching and working my calves being careful to keep things easy so that I could run the relay in a little over a month.  While not entirely healed my foot did feel better so I ran the Hood to Coast Relay and looking back that may have not ben the best decision but at the time the lure of doing a race such as Hood to Coast and being able to handle the soreness I went for it.    If you have ever run a relay like Hood to Coast, or The Bourbon Chase, you know you run hard then jump in a van to get to the next exchange zone.  If you are the last person in a van, #6 or #12, you might get some time to cool but not anyone else because it is pretty much also race to get to the next exchange area.  What I expect happened is my tight calves just rebelled no matter how much I rolled and stretch in the van but being seated in the van they just tightened up.  So after the race things were pretty sore.

From that time on I have been dealing with heel issues that move around from the bottom to the side of my heel.  I work to stretch as much as I can and not sit too long for work, even getting a standing desk, and while I was able to get back to running, after a couple week rest, I never was fully healed but not limping or anything like that.   I did have to pass on the Land Between the Lakes 50 miler in March of 2018 due to not feeling right.  Thus I did not race and ran easy so my foot was feeling somewhat better but was in truth not better.  I then ran a 10k trail race in May to get ready for the Yamacraw 50K and was hopeful things would work out even though my foot was still sore, especially on downhills – not good thing to have on trail races.  I ran Yamacraw and my foot just felt like it got beat up and downhills, where I can usually pick up time, were even more painful so did not have a great race but looking back considering my training and injury I guess it was a good run.  I again took a couple weeks off to rest my foot and got back to training and running slow so as to keep things good on my foot.

I did run a 10hr run getting 56.5 miles and my foot was sore but not too bad during the race as the course was a flat horse track so no downhill to deal with.  However once again when done the foot was sore again and as I had planned on The Back Yard Classic in August and Tunnel Hill in November I got back to easy training.  Things were sore but seemed to slowly getting better.  Then I did, looking back, a really stupid thing.  I had been out driving around doing errands all day and got home and as it was supposed to be raining for the next few days with thunderstorms I got home and rushed out and went on a hard 8 mile tempo run.  Coming down a steep hill, there is that downhill thing again, right by my house at the end of the run and my heel suddenly got very sore and from then on things have not been good.  I took another couple weeks off and came back in July to run a 10K and 5K to test my foot and while I got through the race I was limping afterwards and thus I again took time off, this time 3 weeks.  Now during this time I got back to riding my bike as it does not seem to aggravate my foot issues.  I came back to run after the three weeks as my heel had been sore but feeling better.  When I started back to running it was sore again and the soreness was not just on the run or just after but extended to the next day and was making me limp even more.  I had been riding more so after these first few easy and short runs I decided it was time to take more time off and get rid of this issue.  While maybe not the smartest things I decided, as I was in So. Cal for work, I was going to do the Mt. Baldy Run-to-the-Top trail race (7 miles and 4000ft) and then start at least 2 months off.  I am also thankful to Steve Durbin as he allowed me to take my entry for Tunnel Hill, as there was no way I could run it even if I dropped down in distance, and defer it to another race next year.

So that is where I am as it has been about a week since the Mt. Baldy run and I have started my 2-month layoff from running.  In this time I will be riding to be ready to do a Century in October then will take a month off from both riding and running as it works out to be a good time to just take a rest as even when I took my intermittent 2 week rests I was always doing something..  During this rest period I will be stretching and working to get things right functionally.  I am pretty sure my issue is not simply a foot issue as I find issues usually start further up or down the chain from where the issue shows itself.  If I get to November and the foot is still questionable I will take another month but will be back to riding after a month off from it in October.
Injury in 2016, hmm - did it start here?

I should add as I looked back I have had had issues with my right foot, the one troubling me now, foot, injury back in 2016 that I never figured out what it was but had to rest it up and with hindsight being 20/20 I can see how this may all be connected – I slap my forehead.
longer than the last year.  Initially I thought about how when I ran my first 50 miler at Land Between the Lakes in 2017 and got done my right foot felt really beat up.  I chalked it up to not enough cushioning in my shoes and a really sloppy course but looking back it may have been a precursor to
what I am experiencing now.  This soreness then reared itself at the 2017 Yamacraw where I had a good race but again had a very sore right foot.  But then I remembered how I wrote about an ankle, same

So that was a long way of saying I am fed up with taking days and weeks off here and there and avoiding the obvious need to shut it down for an extended period of time.  I tend to struggle with this mentality, as my inclination is to push through things but in truth - why.  I am not a pro or someone that makes their living off of running, and even if I did I still would need to take longer rests but it would play into things more, so should take a view that is more long term.

Also, I should add that while I don't like to not start races I enter I work to not let the fact I have paid for an entry influence if I race or not.  In accounting terms it is a “sunk cost” meaning it is paid for and the funds are gone, whether I run or not the money is spent.  What should drive our decision to race or not is not what you have spent but the cost of racing – that is the cost to your body and future running and health.   I’m thankful, as mentioned before, to race directors like Steve Durbin who has let me defer my entry on two races now.  That said even if I could not defer the entry fee, as has happened more than once, I would still pass on races that would be a detriment to my health and future running.

My decision to shut it down for at least 2 months was driven by my foot soreness but also by plans for 2019/2020.  My goal for 2019 is to qualify for Boston for 2020 when I turn 60 and my goal race to do this is the 2019 Derby Marathon in late April.  Also, as part of this I will run some shorter races to prepare for Boston and limit my longer races to 50K, which in truth seems to be the distance I like the most.  Also next year I have plans to run a R-2-R-2-R at the Grand Canyon in late September with Doug Lynch and any others that may want to join in.  As this run not a race and
I want to do this for fun and adventure it fits my schedule and will work to help build for Boston 2020.

Those that know me know that I believe that nothing happens by chance and that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28) and while I readily admit this injury is not pleasant there is good that has come out of it.  For one I have rekindled my love for cycling.  While I have been running for a long time I have also ridden for maybe 37 years, but not so much the last 10 years.  I have been able to get out and do some long rides and even raced a Time Trial and am remembering how much I loved riding.  The other good side of this is I am going to keep riding once I am back to running and work to use both activities to help each other and hopefully avoid injuries.  Way back in the 80’s I took up riding due to a knee issue and the riding solved that problem, a problem that I no longer have, and maybe that is what I needed to learn, I need riding to be better balanced in my body as riding works things differently than running.  Also, another good, and this is sort of a universal truth with most injuries I will get some concentrated rest and not just a day or week here and there.  Our bodies need rest and they will get it one way or another, usually if you are like me it is via an injury as when I am doing well it is hard to take the needed rest.  Also, even having this injury get me to write my thoughts that helped me to look back farther than just my discomfort at Land Between the Lakes in 2017 but to when I did some sort of strain to it in 2016.  All to let me see I need to not only rest my foot, stretch it and the connected areas but also to work to strengthen what may be weakened.  Thus my 2months, or more, rest will not be a matter of doing nothing but working to build up a weak area.

Ok after all that explanation and trying to help see how I have seen good in this injury I really hope there are lessons you can take from this to help you in your running, in no particular order:
  • Make sure to be honest with yourself with regards to injuries
  • Remember you are not a pro, unless you are reading this and are one, and taking time off has to be on the table
  • You can miss a race you have paid for if the result of running it may be to be detrimental to your health and future running
  • Realize that more often than not short rests when injured can be good but often they just postpone the longer break you need
  • Make sure to have down time in your training routine, when you are healthy, so as to help minimize the risk of injury
  • Realize that your body does not necessarily recognize miles but stress so if you cross train, and I recommend it, make sure not to add more simply because it is not running
  • If you have particular injuries consider taking up biking, or other activity,  to get aerobic work in with less stress on the body – if you ride just make sure your bike is set up correctly
  • While I tend to only do this after it is too late, take time to stop and look back over the last year or more and see if you can see any trends.
  • Have long term goals, they may change but having them can be important in making decisions with regards to injuries as when we think short term we, or at least I do, tend to try and just push through but this can only be done for s short time and will in the end be a detriment to long term goals.
  • I am sure there are more things and will add them as they come to mind and if you take time you may come up with others
While I am not excited about being injured and was hoping for a good year if you can learn from my troubles then I truly am thankful my injury can have a positive side to it .  Also, I will be posting later the exercises and stretches I have found that work best to deal with my PF issues but want to work through a few things first to nail down what are the best things to do.

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