Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hay in the Barn

I nervously sat in the doctor's office awaiting news that I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like.  A stress fracture?  Plantar Fascitis?  The timing was lousy as hell.  One week before my longest, perhaps most important and highly anticipated trail run.  Travels, illnesses, family commitments and injuries have prevented my running partner and I from running several of our long runs together.  I had sorely missed the company and comradare.  We finally hit the trails together like old times for a 12-15 miler at Mt. Pisgah.  It was a spectacular run with my two favorite running mates.  Hindsight is a bitch.  Around mile 12 I vaguely recall trying to descend a rocky steep hill and feeling a snap that sent me skipping down the next switchback putting as little weight on my left foot as possible before opting to walk down the rest of the hill.  If only I had known that the weird feeling that I felt likely was my plantar fascia tearing fiber by fiber, perhaps I would've walked the rest of way or sent my running partner to fetch the car and pick me up.  I was having too much fun and my training plan was etched in stone for the next four weeks.  I shook the foot out a little, stretched some, let my partner take the lead and gingerly finished up the run.

I am a busy woman with plans and commitments. I skipped my usual ice-bath, took a quick shower and high tailed it to my women's circle where I spent the next couple hours.  By the time I got home, I had missed my family and was feeling a bit guilty about the lack of time I had been spending with them with my training and work schedule, not and attempt at having a social life.  It was a beautiful day so I played outside with the girls, kicking soccer balls, being silly, picking up the backyard and gardening.  By bath time, my foot was downright sore.  As much as I wanted to help with bed time duty, I had to put my feet up and let my very capable and sweet husband take care of the girls while I elevated my throbbing foot.

It wasn't until I awoke the following morning and needed to make a trip to the bathroom that I realized something was wrong.  Much like a hand jerks up when it touches a hot stove, my foot jerked up the minute it grazed the hardwood floor.  Pain radiated from the arch of my foot and seemed to travel up through my leg like a volt of electric current.  It hurt like hell!  My husband was gone for a thirty mile morning run and wouldn't be home for hours.  What was I supposed to do?  I had to go to the bathroom, like, five minutes ago.  If I could avoid placing the middle part of my foot down, I might be able to get there.  My strong foot held most of my weight while my bad foot tip-toe limped.  My twin daughters looked at me with amused curiosity as I held firmly on to the window sill near my bed and somehow managed to hobble to my dresser.  From there, I shuffled down the wall of my room and found myself in the hallway.  God, this is humiliating enough already.  Please don't let me "have an accident" right in front of my daughters who WILL share this exciting household event with their entire preschool class.  Fortunately, I made it just in time.  Once that urgency was gone my mind floated to all the practical matters.

First, I had two little girls relying on me for breakfast and attention.  Second, I had 30 people coming over to my house for a potluck in five hours.  I was not ready.  I had errands to run, a backyard to set up, and food to prepare.  Steve would not be home for at least another four hours.  I was on my own.  Third, I had running plans.  That evening I was supposed to run 10 miles.  The following weekend I was supposed to do a 26 mile trail run before beginning my taper.  In four weeks I had my 50K trail debut that I already was nervous about.  WTF, WTF, WTF.  It was as if my life flashed before my eyes and I saw all that could have been if I hadn't been such a flippin' trail junkie.  What could I do?  Well, I took a couple Aleve, iced my foot, stretched my foot and leg a little, put on my lightest weight running shoes and tried to walk again.  I was able to walk gimpily around the house. Somehow I managed to pull it off and throw a pretty sweet event.  The only thing that I didn't have time to do before the guests arrived were my hair and makeup.

I recall saying something like "Yeah, that's not going to happen."  When my doc offered to put me in a walking cast and nix running for the next two weeks to heal my torn PF.  Then I started bargaining with him like an idiot.  I told him I had 26 miles to run that Saturday and a 50K to run in three weeks as if this would cause him to revise his prognosis.  I stubbornly agreed to wear a night splint each night and come back in for some ART the following week.  I also had said that I would try to avoid running as much as possible and opt for cross training instead.  I thought that he might be taking an alarmist approach to my injury.  Come hell or high water, I was running that 26 miles.  I walked out of the doctor's office in a daze and went about my day in a surreal fog.  What am I feeling?  What is this void?  Metaphors rolled in for what I was feeling:

The rug had just been pulled out from under me.
The wind had been taken from my sails.
I was suffering from a broken heart.
I had lost my best friend.

I fought to keep the situation into perspective.  A few weeks prior, my running partner had pulled her calf and was out of training for two weeks.  I recalled the reassuring e-mails that I sent her and tried to heed my own advice but it wasn't so easy.  I limped through my days the first part of the week.  Took a boat load of Aleve and Advil, elevated the foot, iced the foot and fretted and fumed about my unfortunate circumstances.  By Wednesday, I was ready to rip some one's head off.  It had been four days, an eternity since my last run.  I needed to give it a try to see where my attempt to run 26 miles at MRT would fall on the stupidity-meter. 

I chose Pre's Trail, a flat bark chip trail to run a short, easy four miles on.  It hurt at the beginning and it continued to get worse as the run progressed.  It forced me to stop, stretch and cover much of the ground at a walk.  Thankfully, I was out there all alone early that morning.  I found myself crying again.  Pitiful, gasping sobs as my brain finally accepted the fact that I would not be running for at least a week and I indeed would miss my 26 miler on MRT.  Those facts, as much as they hurt, I could accept.  Kissing the last six months that I had been busting my ass training for my first 50K trail run was another story.  I refused to give up that dream.


I turned to my StarTrac stationary bike to keep my body conditioned for this race as my foot healed.  I rode with a vengeance.  While I climbed hills on my bike, I envisioned my legs powering up hills along the course.  When I started to feel sorry for myself, I read stories about folks training for Ironman.  When I got bored riding for hours on end, I streamed movies on Netflix.  It's been a full week since I've run.  I keep threatening to go out and hit the trails.  My poor dog looks about as depressed as me about the lack of trail time.  I hope I'm doing the right thing, but there are no guarantees.  I see my doc tomorrow and am hoping that he finds that my foot has healed in record speed and that he gives me the green light to run to my heart's content.  For now, I have to be believe that three weeks into the race that the "hay is in the barn".


  1. You're gonna be great, Leah. You've been running long runs for months. You're more ready than anybody will be out there. You get an extra week of rest. I'm sure you'll be ahead of me, as usual :-)

  2. Thanks for your vote of confidence! Extra week of rest, I wish... Takes a lot of tedious biking & swimming to make up for lost runs.