My injuries have always come with interesting stories. Two years ago, it was a concussion after whacking my head against a soap dish in the shower. This past April,it was strained ligaments in my foot after an awkward jump into the Offats Bayou causing my ankle and foot to swell and turn colors the day before the Memorial Hermann 70.3 in Texas.
This time, the injury that has slowed me down is annoying, silent and frustrating. Welcome to the world of plantar fasciitis.
It’s a common injury among runners (so says the entry at the Mayo Clinic website) and the most common cause of heel pain. In basic terms, it is the inflammation of a band of tissue in your foot. And the best way to heal the heel in this case is to rest it.
Which is never good news for runners.
Where my injury developed is a mystery. My plantar fascia may have been aggravated during the Boxing Day 10-miler, running a hard distance in the cold and with some rather significant hills. It could have come earlier. But there was definitely a stabbing pain in my heel after that race and my coach put the breaks on my running.
Instead, I rested then did some easy biking and swimming. I did home remedies of rolling frozen water bottles under my foot and took to the oh-so-fashionable attire of wearing sneakers with my work clothes.
And my heel started to feel better. There was no more pain first thing in the morning. My foot no longer felt stiff. The last run I did, on the treadmill (softer surface) with no incline (easier pace) took me five minutes for my foot to “warm up” then felt fine the rest of the 4.5 miles.
I felt confident that my coach would give me a green light for this weekend’s half marathon at Disney.
Ah, but I was wrong.
Coach told me his story — how he had been on a long training run, developed heel pain, was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and didn’t recover for months, keeping him out of the Olympic Trials. He told me stories of athletes who have battled plantar fasciitis for months, even years, and how the inflammation can become chronic.
This is not the time to make my body mad at me.
Even if it means scrapping my goal of trying for a sub-2 hour half marathon at Disney on Saturday.
My head understands this. My heart even gets it. But there still is disappointment. And mostly there is a feeling of being lost, wandering without a competitive goal. Even races which were “training” races, there was still a goal, even if it was a race or two down the line.
This was pretty much the only race confirmed on my 2011 docket. What was I to do with this now?
I sought solace in friends in the running community and received great advice from Vicki Mitchell, a former elite runner and current coach at the University at Buffalo:
The key to making this more meaningful to you will be to have a purpose for the half marathon.
Yes. I need a new purpose. It’s not about my time. It’s about the experience. And there are ways to make the experience meaningful, even if I’m not ready to crush my time goals.
The suggestions from Vicki included:
- Have an objective goal that is pace oriented – aim to hit perfectly even miles after the first couple of miles, when the crowds have thinned out and there is running room.
- Have a focus goal – at key points, such as every 5k, have a focusing goal. Example, check your breathing rhythm, count your stride rate, do a self-check to see if your shoulders are relaxed. Make the focus goals form oriented so you are still benefiting your body even though you are not racing for a fast time.
- Do some people watching. At Disney, there are sure to be some characters along the way to give you a laugh or two. Carry your phone and take a few pictures a long the way!
And so this week, my workouts will be a chance to ponder some new objectives for Disney, for the experience I want to have, to let go of the sub-2 hour goal, let my body heal and focus on what it is I can achieve this weekend.