Monday, December 13, 2010

Game Play

My second run (4 miles) last week was great! I was just running comfortably no worries about pace or anything else. The ankle was quiet, and yes, it was really fantastic to remember what it feels like to run with nothing hurting. I ended up running 8:30-ish minute miles. Speedy for me! So that's the pace that feels comfortable when nothing hurts. Good to know!

Tonight's run was not as good. I planned 5.8 miles, but had to stop running at about 3.8. I ran a little after that but ended up walking the last mile in. I didn't get the usual sharp pain from the ankle, but something a little more "muted" if that makes any sense. It still hurt enough to let me know I needed to stop, but it just wasn't the same intensity as usual.

I was particularly sad to have it end because I'd been pacing two guys behind me. They'd fallen behind me at one point, but eventually seemed to be making it a point to catch up, and then keep up, with me. So I hung steady for a while. Then I very slowly started picking up the pace....and after a while left them behind with a short sprint. I slowed and was going to let them catch up and start again, but my run didn't last much longer before I had to call it done. Ah well. It was fun while it lasted.

At least now, at home, my foot is completely comfortable. No lingering ankle pain/limping for the rest of the evening. That's something.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First run on my steroid shot

I was a like a kid on Christmas. I was awake at 4am this morning (not unusual) and couldn't get back to sleep (VERY unusual). I think I was anxious to give this steroid shot a try.  I went out to Discovery Park for the first time (yes I'm embarrassed that I've been running in Seattle for 14 years, and just now made it out to the Discovery Park loop), and ran 3.5 miles. I figured I'd try to break some of the mental patterns I have on my usual running routes while trying to break this pain pattern. The ankle felt comfortable, and was not painful at all on the downhills (which is signficiant). I had a little discomfort (not pain) toward the end. It seemed more along the lines of the "you might have some pain for a day or two caused by the shot" than by my usual ankle issues.

Unfortunately on the drive home, something did end up pinching in my ankle wrong (as often happens when I drive after a run). Drag. This pinching tends to happen when I have to raise my toes immediately after running, as one does to press the gas pedal (or to climb the steps to my house).

Last night when trying out some stretching, I had no soreness. Usually I stretch that calf to the point of pain. Last night I could stretch it as far as possible (which is still less than my left foot, as the right has more limited range of motion), but with no pain whatsoever. So that's promising.

I don't think I asked the dr how long it should take for the full antiinflammatory/pain relief effects to kick in, but since he told me I might have some pain at the injection site for a day or two, I figured it might take a few days (quick web search says sometimes a week or two). Would I have loved 100% relief today? Well yeah, duh. Did I expect it? Not even I am that optimistic. One step at a time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

This is your ankle on steroids

Back in June, I had my ankle X-rayed and was told that yes there was a bone spur causing "anterior ankle impingement," and perhaps an injection into the ankle could help atrophy some of the scar tissue around the spur and thus relieve my pain. At the time, I thought I had a mostly pristine ankle, and the injection proposed made me nervous. Nothing I'd learned from my research confirmed that the stuff to be injected  was some magic potion that could atrophy scar tissue without also atrophying the healthy tissue in there. Afraid that I might cause more harm than good, I decided to wait on the shot.

Several months, two doctors, and an MRI later, I was essentially told the same thing. Only this time I was ready for it. First, the news came from a doctor I trust. Second, because of the MRI, I now have a fuller picture of the situation. I now know that my ankle joint is hardly pristine. It's already mussed up in there with osteoarthritis. So my fear that they could put something in my ankle that might damage it-- well, it's already damaged so I figure there's no harm in trying the steroid injection.

Essentially this is the first step before potentially moving toward surgery. It is possible that the steroid breaks the cycle of pain/inflammation, and allows everything in there to calm down enough that the pain goes away forever. Yes, forever. (I'm praying for this option and invite anyone willing to do the same!!)  Or, the pain could go away and return in a matter of months, simply reaffirming that we're looking at the right spot. Anyway, if the pain returns, the surgeon says yes, surgery is a possibility. Yes, it could fix everything. Or it could not. It's hard to say, but the specificitiy of the pain does bode well for the efficacy of surgery. But the first step, before doing surgery is to try a steroid injection.

I'm cautiously optimistic. At the very least it suggests that I should be able to run without pain for some period of time. (I'll test that theory tomorrow.) It's been a long time, so I'm pretty excited about the prospect. If this gives me a chunk of time without ankle issues, I also expect to get a not insignificant amount of grief from my husband and my running partner, both of whom thought I should have gotten the shot when it was first suggested six months ago. Oh well. Getting some mental buy-in to the whole process should only make things go more smoothly than had I done it while thinking that I was doing something harmful. We will see what happens in the coming days/weeks.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Run, Walk or Crawl" - Did I really mean it?

I finished the Seattle half today (wearing my Bikilas). I went into it knowing that I wouldn't be able to run the whole thing (thanks to ongoing ankle pain and related lack of training), but planning simply to run as far as I could, and to run/walk the rest (or in a worst case, to call my husband to come get me if my ankle wouldn't tolerate even that). The primary directive was simply to not hurt anything. I was hoping for something along the lines of a good walk/run combo a la my performance at the Bellingham Bay half marathon. Instead, I ended up running 4.5 miles, run/walking the next 2 miles, and then largely walking the rest (I ran less than a quarter of each of the last 6 miles).

I once felt some pain while walking, and wondered if I might need to call Wayne to come get me, but that quickly resolved. Thus I was left with a few miles of wondering -- should I just call him anyway? Did I really want to walk 5 more miles? What was the point if I couldn't run the race as I'd actually wanted to do?

I'm not sure I entirely know what the point was. But I decided that I would finish, even if it meant walking, because (1) I'd taken the trouble to start, (2) I'd jokingly told other people leading up to this race "hey, I can walk 13.1 miles if I have to", and (3) because I've been out there cheering on runners and walkers in the past, and one of the chants I'd yell to the walkers was "Run, walk, or crawl! One foot in front of the other!!"  So if I didn't think it was worth it for them to give up the race simply because they were walking, I guess that meant I shouldn't either.

I am sure there was some value in simply not giving up...though I'll see how that is revealed to me as I rethink the race in the coming days. I told myself that I should look at it as a reflection of my refusal to give up on being active and strong even as my running feels like it's slipping away from me. So there's something just in that I suppose.

Still, I can't say that I'm not disappointed that I couldn't run further today. But, I'll try not let it get me down. There are certainly worse ways to spend a morning than meeting up with friends, spending some time being active outdoors in chilly (but dry!) weather, being inspired by other runners and cheered on by my husband and a friend (with some pretty nifty spiffy signage!), and going out for breakfast after. Nope, definitely not a bad way to start a day.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What Harley has taught me about play

I've been reading a lot lately about the importance not just of exercise, but of rethinking our largely sedentary lifestyles on a larger scale. I've been feeling the effects of being in a job(s) where I sit in front of a computer most days, and am sensing that some change needs to be made. I'm not talking about a recommitment to getting daily exercise (that's an ongoing effort), but a change in terms of rethinking how I do (or don't) move my body through the world each day.

In Change Your Body, Change the World, Frank Forencich argues that part of the problem is the label we put on exercise. What we really need is not "exercise" but more physical movement.

"The problem with exercise becomes apparent as soon as we begin to describe it. That is, exercise consists of doing abstracted movements in a stereotyped, repetitive pattern. In essence, exercise is a specialization extracted from a larger whole, an activity taken out of its natural context...The main problem with exercise is that it's all about sets, reps and mileage: just keep grinding it out until the clock runs out or your trainer tells you to stop. This, of course, is a recipe for physical monotony. And physical monotony, like any kind of repetitive behavior, tends to be hard on both the mind and tissue...
Exercise also fails because stereotyped reps tend to drive out play. The contrast is clear: exercise is about repeitition of known patterns while play is about exploration and discovery. Exercise is about enduring unpleasant sesation; play is about finding delight in diverse movement forms. Exercise is about repeating the known; play is about extending into the unknown. Exercise requires external motivation to maintain participation; play is inherently rewarding and self-reinforcing." (pp. 54-55)

This has come to life for me when playing with Harley. Our little miss Harley loves nothing in this world more than playtime. She frequently sits at my office door, pleading nonstop with her sweet little cries until I finally get up and indulge her in some play. She is an acrobat at heart, and loves jumping and flinging herself into all sorts of contortions to "catch" the little stuffed "mouse" hanging off the springy end of her stick toy. We go down in the basement, where there's plenty of soft spots to land (important since she often gets so excited she doesn't stick the landing), and Harley starts jumping....on the bed, off the bed doing cartwheels, backflips and less-than-graceful kitten jumps that seem impossibly high for her little body. She will go and go until she literally falls over with fatigue. But give her just a few minutes' rest, and she's right back at it. She just cannot resist that fuzzy excuse to jump!

But as much as she loves to jump, and as much as I'm sure she wishes I would spend most of my day waving the springy toy around for her, she never, ever goes jumping around down there on her own--even though she certainly could. She has to have the springy toy and somene flinging it around for her, to make it fun and therefore of interest. And it's not that she prefers "fun" over "exercise." She simply does not do "exercise" at all -- ever -- in the absence of play.
So I've giving thought to my own ideas about "exercise." For as many years as I ran on a treadmill, I've found no joy in it lately. I'd rather be cold and wet and run outside (preferably running newer, less familiar routes), than warm and dry on a treadmill. There was a time and place for the magic treadmill+TV combo in my life, but right now, I'm needing something different. Even in my cycling life, I've decided to spend money on a cold weather riding jacket rather than a trainer that would let me use my own bike as a stationary bike indoors. (We'll see if I put it to good use this winter, but it feels like a choice in the right direction, in any case.)

This all goes along with the whole natural movement/Cross Fit idea that we don't need to spend time in a gym so much as we need to spend time "playing" outdoors. It's compelling to me right now and it's informing some of the smaller decisions I'm making in trying to incorporate more movement in my life (walking to run some errands instead of seeing those walks as taking "too much time." What am I in such a hurry to get back home for? So I can get back to my chair, back to my desk, back to my computer, back to sitting, just like I've been doing all day?). I've also looked into adjustable desks so that I can spend some of my day standing rather than sitting, for example. But in addition to starting with these small steps, I'm also starting to look at how I might change the bigger picture and trade a largely sedentary daily life (even one in which I get regular exercise) for something that allows me to move more. To be healthier? Sure. To lose a few pounds? Maybe. But mostly just to add some more quality to my everyday freelancer life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And the MRI says...

I finally had an MRI done on my ankle. I have a bone spur that may be causing an impingement at the front of my ankle (this was what was suspected based on my X-ray). However, it also shows osteoarthritis of the ankle (talonavicular joint) likely a result of a 1988 ankle break/dislocation, i.e., posttraumatic osteoarthritis.

If the pain I'm experiencing is due to the impingement, it may be possible to do surgery to remove the bone spur and clean that area out, thus improving range of motion and relieving my pain. If the pain is due to the OA, then there's not so much that can be done medically. I simply have to obey my pain when I run. Considering that I can run anywhere between 3 and 6 miles without significant pain, this is not terrible news. I can still run. Considering that I want to run longer (marathon or half marathon) distances, this is not great news. I cannot run very long.

I've got appointments with two surgeons to review the MRI results and discuss my options. I'm not sure how or if they can pinpoint the cause of the pain, but I'll see what they say and go from there.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bellingham Bay Half: First Long Race in Vibrams

Yesterday I ran my first half since The Vancouver Marathon (i.e., the day I broke my foot), and my first half in the Vibrams (Bikilas with Injinji socks). I hadn't really properly trained for this event, but wanted to at least try to run it with my friend Melissa, who was running her first half. Having only "trained" (and I mean that in the loosest possible definition of the word) up to 8 miles, I figured that in a worst-case scenario, I could run 8 and then walk the remaining 5 if my ankle wouldn't cooperate beyond that. As it turned out, the ankle was mostly cooperative through mile 10. After that I slowed the pace and incorporated some walking so I could finish.

I'd been so focused on deciding whether or not I was actually going to surprise Melissa and do the run with her  (I signed up two days before), and then on being mentally prepared to bail late in the race if the ankle wouldn't hold up, that it didn't really occur to me until after I actually finished that this was my first long-distance race since the marathon. I finished in 2:08:51, which isn't all that pretty in terms of my most recent half times (1:58 and 2:04), but it wasn't all that bad considering that I hadn't really trained for it (sporadic training runs over the past month, with barely any running the past two weeks) and that I'm coming off a year of dealing with a significant injury and making a complete change in my running technique.

Still I think this proves that the ankle is making progress, that my change in running technique seems to be working for me, and that once this ankle thing is resolved, I am going to be able to run like the wind! I felt great in every way except my foot. At mile 11 or so, I was thinking, that my breathing and speed were feeling really great (during the portions when I could run) if I could just not have to be babysitting my ankle.

Today my calves are remininding me that they're there (hello calves, yes, I hear you), and you really don't want to ask me to do anything quickly if I'm not already standing up (everything is setting up while I sit), but overall I feel good, and even better, I'm feeling pretty hopeful about my running future. I'm thinking another Seattle Half this fall....

Monday, May 31, 2010

Larabars Fuel 62-mile Ride

In spite of the drizzly weather, we got out for a 62 mile bike ride yesterday, out to Tiger Mountain and back. The uphill on Tiger is not so steep, but steady and fairly long, but quite doable -- and the downhill is totally worth the climb. What a fun descent! I took apricots and nuts, as well as a couple of Larabars on this ride, and was reminded just how much I love LĂ„RABARs. I love that they have 5-6 foods as ingredients and nothing else. I think I'll try making a homemade version, but these are going to be my go-to barin the meantime. This time I tried Cinnamon Roll and Ginger Snap flavors. The latter was a little heavy on the ginger for my taste, but the Cinnamon Roll was great (ingredients: ■Dates ■Walnuts ■Almonds ■Raisins ■Cashews ■Cinnamon). I'm looking forward to working my way through all the flavors.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to give my Bikilas much of a trial, as I've decided to obey the pain in my ankle and lay off for a little while. I did a few barefoot runs and stopped at the very first sign of the ankle pain, which happens at about 1 to 1.5 miles. I can run 4-5 before it really gives me problems, but I figured I'd try backing off on the running for a few weeks and focus on cycling instead, particuarly since I've been eyeing the upcoming June 20 Livestrong Challenge century.

I finally made an appointment to see my podiatrist again. Last time he couldn't/wouldn't diagnose this ankle problem because all he could see was my PF (I think he thought the ankle issue would go away with the PF, but it didn't). So I'd like to (1) see if he can diagnose it -- possibly with the MRI he mentioned, and (2) get a "prescription" to see a PT so I can work with someone to get it fixed (I need the prescription if I want my insurance to cover it). My attempts at strengthenging/barefooting/reducing mileage have helped, but haven't made it go away -- and it happens both on the bike and the running. Time to look for more help!

Look at all those rest days over the past two weeks! Eeks, well, I suppose I meant it when I said I'd try to give the ankle a break.

5/30 (Sun) Cycling 62 mi
5/28-29 --
5/27 (Thu) Weight training, 1 mile running (Bikilas)
5/25-26 --
5/24 (Mon) Cycling 52.5 mi.
5/23 (Sun) Run 2.8 mi. (Bikilas)
5/22 (Sat) Cycling 12 mi.
5/21 --
5/20 (Thu) Weight training,
5/19 Run 1.2 mi. barefoot
5/17-18 --
5/16 Beat the Bridge Run 5 mi. (VFF Flows)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Michael Sandler in Seattle

Michael Sandler is in Seattle on his book tour for "Barefoot Running," and fortunately I had a chance to go hear him talk about his barefoot journey last night. It was great to hear his story, and to get some in-person demos of some of the exercises he suggests. I was also glad to see I'm not the only one obsessed with foot-strengthening exercises! I've flipped through the book, but am looking forward to really digging in and giving it a proper review.
  I was surprised at how diplomatic Michael was (considering we were in a shoe store), about the shoe options folks might use on their way to barefoot running. I suppose I shouldn't have been -- for as many purists who say the only way is to go cold turkey, and switch entirely over to barefoot, there seem to be more who propose gradually making the transition. I wonder if the former might be better in some ways, but you are just aren't going to convince most everyday runners of that -- so I liked that he made barefooting seem more accessible to ordinary shod runners.
  I also enjoyed learning that his running flat of choice (when not barefoot, of course) is the same running flat I bought last year. I don't wear mine these days, as I now prefer my Vibrams, but I somehow feel vindicated in knowing of another barefooter who wears them.
  Inspired by the talk, and anxious to enjoy the sunny part of the day, I got out for a 1.2 mile barefoot run-- I stopped not because my soles hurt, but because my ankle started to hurt. I'm thinking of keeping the mileage low and obeying the ankle pain a little more for the next couple of weeks, maybe focus on riding now that the weather seems to be turning (ever so slowly) toward warmer(ish)ness. After the run, I went for a 1 hour bike ride with some hills....and finished just before the massive downpour began!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bikilas are on their way!

I ordered my new pair of grey and green Vibram Bikilas today! And since a friend of mine just happens to be visiting this week from Boston, he's going to pick them and bring them with him so I don't have to wait for shipping. Can't wait to try them out! Thanks to Justin at for the heads up about their release at City Sports this afternoon!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

40th Birthday Goal Setting

I ended my 40th Birthday Week celebration with the 8k Beat the Bridge this morning. I'd once hoped to celebrate 40 with a spectacular running feat (a Boston qualifying marathon, for example), but I'm doing my best to be grateful that I can run as far as a can right now, in spite of some ankle pain that is holding me back from longer distances. Several months ago, I couldn't run at all without pain, so this is good progress.

Plus, I'm now getting to run with a friend who is new to running, and seeing her enthusiasm for setting and meeting new goals is helping me look forward to setting and meeting my own, as I continue to heal. I decided to forego barefooting for my Vibrams today-- a healing blister on the ball of my foot near my pinky toe was just still too tender for 5 barefoot miles. But the desire to do this run barefoot had me out barefooting more often than I might have been otherwise these past couple weeks, so I'll just have to keep that momentum going.

I set a whole plan for Birthday Week -- and while some of the plans came off beautifully, others not so much. Nonetheless, I like the planning part -- even if having a plan means that sometimes the plan has to get adjusted to the day's realities. My big-picture running "plan" was to try to qualify for Boston this year. Clearly that's on hold until my ankle issue is resolved, but still I think I can set a BQ marathon as a goal. I want to qualify for Boston. Preferably while I'm 40. I'm pretty frustrated right now, with an injury once again impeding forward progress, but I'm saying out loud, I'm not giving up. My goal is Boston. This year, next year, whenever. I've been fighting back from injury for a year now, and I'm a lot better off than where I started -- and at least now I'm running with dramatically better technique. So WHEN this thing finally gets resolved, I have every reason to believe I will be able to run stronger than ever. Until then, I won't give up. I just won't.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Up to 4.5 miles barefoot

I ran a full 4.5 miles barefoot yesterday, along the Burke-Gilman rather than Green Lake, since I've found it to be less pebbly. Not that the pebbly will be so much of a problem here soon, but as I'm just in the process of regaining my summer feet, less pebbly is more appealing than more at the moment. I cut off the run at 4.5 miles because my usual ankle twinge was starting to cause some pain, but it's just as well. The soles of the balls of my feet, though feeling good during the run, were stinging last night. So it'll be a day off before another barefoot outing.

In other news, it's now 3 days till my 40th birthday, and I began Birthday Week with an afternoon visit to Red Mango. I'm tyring to figure out whether I want to do a barefoot run on my birthday, or just a long run, or maybe a long bike ride. that I actually give it some thought, it's going to have to be a long run-- particularly since my goal is to try to run a Boston-qualifying marathon sometime in the foreseeable future. I'd like to say "in my 40th year" but feel like it's hard to be so ambitious with this ankle still posing some issues. But a good goal shouldn't be one that's too easy to meet, now should it?

The Sun Shines Again

At long last, we had a nice SUNNY weekend to play with! I took the opportunity to get a couple of bike rides in, 1.5 hours on Saturday and 2 hours on Sunday (and to get a little bit of much-needed yardwork done). I did a short 1 mile BF run on Sunday morning before meeting a friend for coffee. It was supposed to be 3 miles, but it was Sunday morning, and I wasn't moving as quickly as I would've had to in order to get 3 miles in before meeting my friend.  Besides, the soles were feeling a little sore, so I didn't mind taking another day mostly off. Will go out again tomorrow and see how things go.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Barefoot Prep for Beat the Bridge

After doing an 8 miler on Monday with ankle pain starting in mile 5, I was motivated to get out and start getting some real barefoot miles in this week. I'm hoping that will help give my body some feedback to help improve my form in hopes that it might help with the ankle. I'm doing some more regular calf and ankle stretches to see if that will help too. The last thing the podiatrist told me back in January was that if this ankle pain was still around after the PFF was resolved, that I should come back for an MRI so we can try to get an accurate diagnosis of what's wrong. But I guess I've been hoping that this issue might go away on its own as I continue building up strength through VFF and BF running. There's been progress in that it takes longer to start hurting, but actual resolution would be welcome at some point!

I'm running the Beat the Bridge 8k this coming Sunday and I'd really like to run it barefoot. In recent weeks, I had worked up to 3.5 mi. barefoot, but then tried to do some speedwork barefoot (just to see if I could--and yes, I could) and ended up with blisters that put me back in VFFs for a week. That was clearly a genius move on my part.

5/7 (Fri) 3 mi. BF
5/6 (Thurs) 4 mi. (2 VFF, 2 BF)
5/5 (Wed) 1/2 mi. BF, Cycling 50 min.
5/4 (Tues) 1 mi. BF
5/3 (Mon) 8 mi. VFF
4/28 (Wed) Cycling 1:11
4/27  (Tues) 1/4 mi. intervals at avg. 1:52. BQ training goal is 1:41. Eeks!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My fastest 3 miles ever

Before we ran our marathon last May, I had thought perhaps I would set the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon in the fall of 09 and then running Boston in spring of 2010, just before my 40th birthday. Well, my foot injury didn't quite let me go forward with that plan, so I readjusted and thought maybe instead I could instead try to qualify for Boston as my 40th goal.

So this week I cracked open my marathon training book, and started looking at the interval and tempo run paces for a potential BQ attempt. Dang, those are some fast times! But I decided to see how close I could come to some of the prescribed training paces, thinking maybe I could spend the next couple of months getting back into some speedwork, and then starting to actually train in June/July for a fall marathon, ankle permitting. Too ambitious? Perhaps, but let's play around with it a little....

4/25 (Sun) 8 mi.
4/23 (Fri) 3 mi. (BF)
4/21 (Wed) 6 mi. -- First attempt at a 3 mi. tempo run at the BQ program pace of 7:56 min/mi. I laughed when I read that, and said out loud, "I can't run that!" But I was wrong, I can. I ran 8:00ish, 7:47 and 7:52. The fastest I've ever run 3 miles straight.
4/20 (Tues) 1:30 bike ride
4/19 (Mon) 5 mi.
(1.25 BF, 3.75 VFF 1/4 mi. intervals at 1:46, 1:48, 1:53, 1:55-ish.  BQ training interval pace is 1:41. Eeks!)
4/17 (Sat) 5.3 mi. (run/walk)
4/16 (Fri) 2:25 bike ride
4/13 (Tues) 5 mi.
4/11 (Sun) 2:30 bike ride
*All runs in VFF except where noted as BF.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Feb-Mar Rebuilding

I spent Feb and March slowly building up my mileage (2.5 miles, mixed in with 3s and 3.5 up to a 4, then a 5 in early March, 5.5-6 in mid March) and getting some more cycling miles in. No training goals, just trying to rebuild the running and cycling stamina. I'm running entirely in the VFFs now.

The plantar fasciitis seems to have completely resolved, though the ankle pain lingers. Fortunately, it is coming later and later in my runs, but still I'm looking forward to figuring out how to make it go away. I ran a 7 miler this morning, but in miles 6-7 I definitely had to stop and futz with the ankle a bit to make it to the end of the run (and by futz I mean do ankle circles, and just generally rub on/pound on the sore area). It's like I'm trying to push whatever is out of place back into place long enough to finish the run.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Run-Walk Program Done

The 3-week walk-run program went smoothly, and at the end of three weeks I successfully ran 26 minutes straight.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A New Chapter Begins with Tears

So much has changed since my last post.

On Nov. 13 I saw the podiatrist again, who suggested based on the tenderness of the heel that I "start over" with the effort to fix the PF. No running for a month. And since cycling was causing that weird ankle pain, no cycling either. Wear supportive shoes while walking. He assured me that we needed to use the supportive shoes for the time being, as a "cast to allow my foot to rest." (Fair enough, but if you can call the shoe a "cast" for an initial healing period, good luck if you think you're going to convince me that that's the same shoe I should use for running when that time comes.)

Considering that I thought I had already done this no running approach, and had been so good at listening to my body by taking two months off right after the marathon, the idea of starting over, again, 6 months later, with no running at all was beyond irritating. On the one hand, it turned out to be the worst two months of my life to not be able to do the exercises I enjoy most. On the other, I'm not sure I would've been doing much exercise during this time even had I been able. I was spending way more time and energy on my much-loved cat than I had expected. Her health, and extra efforts to spoil her rotten (since we weren't sure how much time we'd have left with her) took a surprising amount of time out of my days (and my nights - I am an easy and deep sleeper, and even I started taking a sleeping pill).

On Dec. 14, I saw the podiatrist for a follow-up assessment. The foot was getting better, so he told me to keep doing what I was doing. Great. Another month - no running, no cycling. I had decided I would give his way 2-3 months and then decide if I was going to go back to my own efforts (I could see the value of "resting" an injury -- but not for whatever I deemed to be "too long.")

This sucked more than simply because I couldn't run. My cat was having some post-surgical issues and this was really emotionally draining for me and my husband. Having now spent 3 months caring for a dearly loved 13-year-old cat with post-surgical/cancer-related issues, I can't imagine how parents stay sane caring for their chronically ill non-furry babies. It's so scary and heart-wrenching, and tiring. Two of the most stressful months of my life, and I couldn't run. Which isn't to say I couldn't do any exercise, but I didn't. I just wasn't in the mood to make the extra effort to go beyond my comfort zone -- too much else to think about.  (Eventually I did buy a new bathing suit, though, and I've gone swimming a handful of times. So at least that little alternative-activity hurdle is out of the way.)

Between mid-December and mid-January, I started seeing someone who is something between a massage therapist and a chiropractor to work on my ankle. This was someone recommended to me by my long-time massage therapist, as he specializes in ankle and wrist issues. I also started standing on a baseball for 3-5 min. a night before going to bed. (I read that a softball should be used, but all I had was a baseball. And after a few days the hardness of the baseball was not a big deal, but instead felt pretty darn good stretching out that plantar fascia.)  I figured this certainly wouldn't hurt anything, and perhaps was at least a good attempt at an alternative to wearing the Strassburg Sock the podiatrist had prescribed, as I found that it hurt my big toe so much that I had to pull it off during the middle of the night.

I don't know what combo of things did it, but around New Year's, after about 2 weeks of the baseball and 2 visits to the ankle guy, my PF started feeling noticeably better.

On Jan. 11, I saw the podiatrist again, who poked at the foot and determined it was time to start me on a run/walk program (we're talking 1 min. run, 1 min. walk x 5 -- serious new runner type program). I was grateful to be at a point where it seemed reasonable to everyone involved that I start back into the running, however slowly.

But then on Jan. 12, everything in my world stopped, as we had to put our sweet BabyCat to sleep. And so we entered a new chapter in our home with considerable sobbing, grief, and heartache. I'm not going to put down here all my thoughts about my supercute kitty and how dearly I loved her and how terribly I miss her, but suffice it to say that the hole she left in our family is enormous. She was like the bookends of our life. Of all the places we went and things we did, she was here seeing us off before, and here to welcome us back home after. She had such a large personality and played such an important role in our lives-- it is only the many years of wonderful memories we have with her that help soothe the pain of losing her.

I forced myself to the gym on Wed. Jan. 13. to start the run/walk program.  Not because I even cared about the running that day, but because I'd been trying since just before the New Year to stop making excuses and do some kind of exercise (mostly just weights/core work at the gym, some swims) to manage the growing stress of my cat's illness. The only way to cope with her death was to just keep putting one foot in front of the other -- and the 45 min. at the gym was 45 minutes I wasn't sitting in a sobbing heap of sadness on my couch.

So I've started the run/walk program, which calls for runs every other day. At the end of 3 weeks, if all goes well, I will end this program with a 20 min. run, no walking. So far, I've done the runs in the VFFs on the treadmill. Once yesterday, my ankle threatened to twinge, but it never actually happened. The ankle twinges after cycling and even sometimes when I'm just walking around (which at least tells me it's not caused by running) though it has done so much less in the past month. I think the ankle guy is doing something right as I'm really noticing improvements in ankle flexibility.

Jan. 13 Run 1 min. Walk 1 min. x 5

Jan. 15
Run 1 min, walk 1 min x 1
Run 1:30, walk 1 min. x 2
Run 2 min, walk 1 min x 2

Jan. 18
Run 2 min, walk 1 min x 2
Run 3 min, walk 1 min x 2

And so the story of my kitty drama ends, and the story of my running starts...yet again.