Since I’ll be up at Mount Hor tomorrow for a ski race, we’re celebrating a day early! Tomorrow marks a year since my foot surgery. I’m about 80% back to normal; I’ll give myself 100% when I can run on uneven terrain or wear heels to a wedding and be pain free the next day. The latter example is fresh in my mind as I’m still limping around from Saturday night and wincing every time I pronate.
I’m quite confident that Johnny Cash wasn’t talking about running when he penned “I Walk the Line” but he nailed it when he sang I’ll admit that I’m a fool for (running). I’m currently walking the line between fitness and foolish with a foot that just doesn’t quite want to get on board with this training cycle.
My general rule for aches and pains is to ask myself three questions:
- Have I had this pain before?
- Does it get better or worse with running?
- Is it changing my form?
With exception of broken bones or some serious injury, if a pain is new, goes away as I warm up and lets me run almost normally (as normally as I run with a post-op foot), I assume it’s volume related discomfort and carry on. Sometimes I’ll do an extra recovery day or tone down a workout but this has worked well for me over the years.
My current “niggle” is giving my injury approach a run for its money, however. When it started, it was just a little soreness across the top of my foot. As I’ve learned to run again after surgery, I’ve had some assorted foot pain as I got back up to mileage and figured out how to carry my foot. Given this, I assumed this too would pass. However, in the last week, the top of my foot has gone from a little uncomfortable to really fucking painful (that’s official doctor speak for 8/10 pain) on occasion, especially after hard efforts. Just when I’ve gotten to a point where I am thinking I need to take a day or two off, I’ll have a totally pain free run. For example, on Saturday, my foot was sore doing an hour of recovery running and I wasn’t hopeful about my Sunday long run. Naturally, I did 18 completely pain free miles on Sunday. Yesterday I could barely walk. Today it’s much better but still a little tender.
I’m pretty confident it’s a touch of tenosynovitis of the extensor tendons, the little guys who help lift your toes. With high arches and some hesitation on my surgery side that leaves me in dorsiflexion a little longer than desired, it’s not surprising that they got inflamed. They seem to be happier when I add an extra recovery day between efforts, tie my shoes loosely, add a little KT tape to help them out and ice after my runs.
Dealing with little injuries like this is always a thin line. As I said to a running partner this morning, if I had any suspicion that this was something more serious, I’d take time off. If I took an off day every time I felt sore or tweaky, however, I’d never get my mileage in. That’s the cruel fate of the distance runner; it’s a rare day when something doesn’t hurt or ache. In our house, the first few minutes of the day are spent creaking around, hanging on to the railing on the stairs while we warm up. I’m sure my neighbors who see me warm up and cool down would be surprised that I can run faster than 10 minute miles.
How do you triage little aches and pains? What’s your niggle of the week?
This was a really solid training week and my first above 60 in a long time.
Monday: 7.7 mile recovery run with a still-broken Garmin.
Tuesday: 9.15 miles with 4 strides at the end. (4 by 60 meters at a pretty-darn-quick pace).
Wednesday: Best workout post-surgery!!! 8 mile structured fartlek on the Causeway. 2 mile warmup, 5 minutes at slower tempo effort, 5 minutes recovery, 4 at faster tempo effort, 4 minutes recovery, 3 at interval pace, 3 minutes recovery, 2 at interval pace, 2 minutes recovery, 1 all out, 1 minute recovery, 30 seconds all out, 30 seconds recovery, 2 mile cooldown. Felt awesome the whole time which was a miracle given that I did this at 1 pm in 75 degrees and sunny. So encouraging to have a good workout. Hipcore after.
Slow Tempo: 6:45
Faster Tempo: 6:35
All Out: 5:40
Thursday: Scheduled Off Day, prorated 7.5
Friday: 8 mile run with Annie, extremely humid out.
Saturday: 4.5 mile run with Will and Annie with 4 strides after.
Sunday: 20 miles. 2 mile warmup, 13.1 at tempo effort in 2-person Vermont City Marathon relay, 5+ miles of jogging around the course afterward.
Total: 64.9 miles
Finally feel like I’m hitting my stride this week. I still need to be better about the extras, in particular lifting, drills and core, but things are starting to feel better and I don’t feel so clunky all the time. I see Dr. Kevin on Wednesday and am hopeful he can help me keep working on improving my form/getting back to pre-surgery form.
VCM Half Marathon Race Report
I was really happy to only be running the half this year. It started off as a very humid morning and progressed to just plain hot by the time the second half of the race rolled around. It was reminiscent of 2011 when I led the pace group and people were just dropping like flies. I saw multiple pace leaders drop out yesterday and many experienced runners come in far off goal times. The weather really is getting too darn unpredictable at VCM recently.
I ran a full volume week so this race was intended to be a big workout for me and another opportunity to get back into racing. My only hope was to pop up a VDOT level with my performance and get through it without hurting myself or ruining this coming week of training. I’m glad for that, as I was drenched with sweat by mile 2 when I am not typically a heavy sweater. I didn’t wear a watch but remember a few splits from the course clocks. We went through mile 1 in about 6:45 pace and then Katie took off. I spent the rest of the run working through the pack (people went out SO fast) and just focusing on keeping good form. My pace was between 6:40 and 6:50 for the whole run and the only negative was that I felt like I could never get into a groove. My higher gear felt too fast and the 6:45 pace felt too slow. I was in the process of beating myself up for my second slowest half ever but corrected my attitude as we went through Church Street the second time when I reminded myself to be grateful that I was running a half 5 months after surgery. I finished the half in 1:29:05 (6:47 pace) which pops me up a VDOT level. Mission: successful! Even after hours in the sun and lots more miles, my legs felt fresh. I’m happy to find that although my quads are a little tired today, everything else feels great and I’m ready for another week of training.
I have 2 weeks until the Causeway 15K and am looking forward to another opportunity to race the 15K on a flatter course with a few more weeks of fitness.
How was your weekend? Anyone race? How do you monitor your progress?
I originally started this blog to keep track of my recovery from compartment syndrome surgery and to create a resource for others with CS because it is still so hard to find information about immediate and long term recovery. During a recent conversation with Laurel, I was complaining about how my foot had gone numb for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t nearly as bad as before surgery, but still aggravating enough to be noticed. Laurel quipped “I swear there’s no such thing as “cured” after having CS. Things are better but nowhere near perfect.”
And she’s right. Things are much better post surgery (post both surgeries at this point.) I haven’t had a “wooden foot” run in years. I haven’t tripped and fallen because I literally don’t know where my foot is since my first surgery. For the most part, I don’t have screaming pain in my calf. Clearly, my performances have continued to improve despite a less than perfect repair.
But if something is going to go wrong on a run, it’s going to be my left foot going numb or my calf hurting. If I’m going to be sore after a workout, my surgery side is significantly worse. And try as I might, my left calf has just never caught up to my right. This means I have to be aggressive about stretching, strengthening and foam rolling my left side. If I miss a day, I get called out early on in the next run by whatever gremlin still lives in my left calf.
Anyone else have surgery and have a similar experience of “better but not perfect?”
I am overwhelmed and grateful to be able to even write this post. When I met with Dr. Charlson in the fall, he promised that I’d be back for Fall 2014. I didn’t believe him. After all, my first surgery was the perfect example of “what could go wrong, did” and I went into my second in a world of pain. But here we are on May 13th, 3 months after my first post-surgery steps and I’ve picked my fall marathon. The selection process actually wasn’t that easy. I wanted a marathon that gave me a decent shot at good weather (so no September and no southern marathons), that I could travel to easily (med school scheduling sucks) and that had a reasonably fast course and competition. Going in as an elite athlete was a secondary criteria. In the running were Chicago, Monumental, Las Vegas, Rocket City and Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. All had various pros and cons but ultimately I decided on Mohawk Hudson and am thrilled to be headed there October 12th as an Elite Athlete. Huge thanks to MHRM for inviting me; I’m looking forward to helping make for a fast day!
Mohawk Hudson was actually my first half marathon, way back in 2009. I was 2nd in my age group in 1:33. How things have changed. I went to undergrad in Albany and knew the half course well. Although I’ll go down once before this fall to run the first half of the course, there is something wonderful about racing somewhere familiar. I’m especially looking forward to a Bomber’s Burrito after the race! I’m also looking forward to a wickedly fast course, easy travel (I can sleep in my own bed on Friday!) and great competition on the men’s and women’s side.
A Goal: Break the Course Record of 2:47:22
B Goal: Break 2:50
C Goal: PR
Will did some math and if I’m in VCM 2013 shape and get decent weather, the course record should be well within reach. 5 months to go! Let the work begin.
What’s your fall marathon? What races have you run multiple times?
With a high of 14, today felt more like January than March. Since I missed most of the winter, however, I don’t have much room for complaint. Still, I’m ready for slightly warmer weather!
Recovery is going really well (knocks on wood). I’m running about 2 miles at a time continuously, longer if I take some short walk breaks. My ankle feels pretty good, although I’m still rocking an epic cankle. I’m working to get back in the routine of foam rolling twice daily, core and stretching. That’s quite enough to build back in for now but at some point, I have to get fueling dialed back in. Evidently animal crackers and string cheese aren’t optimal fuel?!
The other big (sad) news is that the ski season is over. The team did great at the State Meet with multiple people in the top 10 and some epic relays. My post-states depression is in full swing, though. I’m loving the study time but I miss my daily dose of total, easy happiness courtesy of coaching.
Tomorrow, I’m doing a “workout” with Joey (not to be confused with Joe, who is WAY too fast for me right now). She is training for her first VCM and is doing 800s tomorrow. I’ll join her for warmup and cool down and then alternate 800s if I can manage the pace. The breaks will rest my foot but it will be fun to be real again, even if for a couple repeats on the track.
I don’t have kids, so I have no idea what it’s like emotionally when your child walks for the first time. I do suspect, however, that my walking ability mimics that of a brand new walker. Nonetheless, here are some of my first crutch free, awkward steps. And yes, I’m wearing shorts. You just can’t see them because I forbade Will to capture my facial expression as I concentrated on walking.
Warning, slightly icky picture below of my Frankenfoot.
I got my split off today and got to see my foot for the first time, which was pretty darn exciting. What is even more exciting, however, is that I’m cleared for moderate activity meaning that I can pedal a bike gently and aquajog as well as lift with both legs, as long as I’m not moving any sleds. I’m also tasked with weaning off my crutches over the next four weeks and even took my first tentative crutch free steps tonight.
All in all, I haven’t run in 15 days which seems like forever but isn’t too bad from a physiological perspective. For someone who isn’t post surgery, you have about two weeks before fitness starts to drop off precipitously. I won’t be as lucky because I was immobilized, but I shouldn’t be horribly out of shape either. My hope for the next few weeks is to alternate between biking and aquajogging, about 30 minutes at a time, plus lifting and lots of gentle stretching. I did 30 minutes on the bike tonight and besides a very tired left glute, things really felt pretty good. I’m cautiously hopeful!
Dr. Charlson was happy with how the incision looked and filled me in on the surgery again (since I don’t remember our first post-surgery conversation). He was happy with how things went but surprised both with how tight things were and how high up he had to go on my ankle to get things to let go. With my first surgery, Dr. Slauterback had a similar reaction. Evidently I excel at building scar tissue! Beyond the joke, it’s something to remember as I start training again: I really need to keep up with soft tissue mobilization.
Picture below, and more updates to come as I tackle the pool.
A couple of people who are just shortly post-op have reached out lately to ask about recovery. To be honest, I’ve blocked out most of the misery that went with post-op, so I had to go back to entries from that time and my running log. Here’s what my first two months of running post-surgery looked like:
Looks pathetic now, but I remember being so excited the first day I ran one consecutive mile. It really is all about perspective.