2017:  The Bad & The Good in It

Each year begins with high hopes, moderate and lofty goals, and dreams waiting to be fulfilled.  This year I was hoping for redemption after spraining my ankle twice in 10 weeks, and still had some problems with my piriformis going into January.  It had only been 3 months since it spasmed after the marathon and I hoped the time off would help.  I was wrong, and it did not improve much between the October race and kick off for my training group.

January and February were cold, and I started building miles back up.  Or at least I was trying to.  Motivation is always hard in January, and I didn’t run nearly as much as I should have.  Jauary was lazy.  In February I did the 5th Groundhog Half Marathon.  The weather is usually brutally cold, and 2017 did not change that.  There was less snow than last year, so that was good. The bad part was that because it was sooo cold many of the marathoners dropped to the half, and took all the medals before I could finish.  The Race Director was fabulous and took down names and bib numbers of people who got shorted.  He ordered more medals and mailed them out.  It took a few weeks, but I got the right medal in the end.

The rest of February and March were a blur, and I was still under trained for the distances and races I was hoping to finish.  A pain started in the joint of the little toe in my left foot.  It was a nuisance during long runs, but didn’t bother me otherwise so I generally ignored it until the next long run.  And you know what?  Ignoring it did not make it go away.  Go figure!  By the end of March I thought it was a stress fracture starting.  I cut back running with hopes that more rest between runs would help.  All it did was make me slower, and my foot still hurt when I got done.  In addition, the piriformis was still complaining — loudly — about being made to run. And in happy decisions I sold my tri bike, Fancy, to a friend and bought myself a new gravel/adventure class bike.  After some thought I settled on naming it Envy.

April came, and with it Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, also in its 5th year.  I had been selected to be a Pacer, and was looking forward to it.  In the back of my mind I worried about my own stamina.  I gave it my best shot, and had to drop back from my pace partners around Mile 9 or so.  My foot and my tohkis just hurt way too much.  I started doing run/walk intervals. The good thing about doing a run/walk was that I came upon a handful of runners who had slowed down, struggling through the miles, waiting for the finish line to magically appear.  I know the feeling. I’ve because I’ve been there.  I came to someone from my running group and as cheerfully as I could said, “I’m doing a run/walk to the finish.  Want to join me?” And she did.  And I followed her lead if she said she needed a longer walk segment, or the run was getting too fast.  We met more women, and they joined us.  I had rebuilt a pace group of about 5-7  for a while.  That was a great feeling.  At the finish the Legacy medals for runners who had done the event all 5 years had run out.  I had my regular medal, though.  They also ordered more, and I would get it in a few weeks.  I saw my primary care doctor early this month about my foot.  She took x-rays.  The report said they couldn’t see any obvious signs of injury or fracture.  I figured as much since stress fractures can only be seen in an MRI.

May brought the decision to see a podiatrist about my foot.  It wasn’t getting any better; it was worse in fact.  I finished the River Bank Run 25K.  My official time has me listed under the 10K finishers though.  A friend and I decided to make our own “early start” and went out with the 10K racers.  Both our bibs tracked our finish time, and defaulted to the new race distance. I counted 7 muscle spasms in my piriformis during the race that day, and my foot was so sore. Memorial Weekend was Bayshore Marathon.  I had cut my running down to the bare minimum after the 25K — going out only a handful of times between the two races.  I had a podiatrist appointment set for the next week.  I was certain the doctor would tell me I had a stress fracture.

Dr Podiatrist took more x-rays.  He didn’t see any obvious injury or stress fracture either and offered the option of getting an MRI done.  He didn’t think I had one based on my pain levels.  He did diagnose me with a deep and severe bone bruise in the joint.  He explained that running injuries progress in stages: first, a bone bruise, second, a stress fracture, lastly, full fracture. If I didn’t take a break I would progress into a worse scenario.  He also said I needed custom orthotics instead of the insole I got from my running store. He told me to stop running and recommended a boot.  I saved the one used for my ankle sprain and snapped a quick photo to my phone.  I asked if that boot would work, and said I have it at home.

The next four weeks I wore my walking boot just like I was told.  After that I had conditional consent to start riding my bike as long as it wasn’t causing my more pain in my foot.  I spent the rest of the summer riding a couple of times a week, and Saturdays were with a friend.  She was facing surgery at the end of summer and running wasn’t the most comfortable thing for her this year, and I had a marathon in October I needed to stay in shape for. Summer is my favorite time of year to run and ride.  I love the heat! It is not a good time of year to be in a heavy, black foam and metal orthopaedic boot, with a knee-high Smartwool sock on to keep the foam from sticking to my leg.

June and July passed, and August came.  After 10 weeks in the boot I was moved into a post-operative stiff soled “shoe.”  And then something happened to make Dr Podiatrist positivey giddy!  My bruised joint in my foot had started to form into bunion — right in front of his eyes!  He was so excited.  High fives and fist bumps for me I guess.  He said most patients come when the bunion is bad.  He had never seen one in early stages of formation before. Chalk up another medical oddity for my lifetime. Woohoo! And he gave me clearance to start doing some easy running.  YAY!  I finally got the orthotics made (which weren’t covered by insurance in my case). The first few times running with them were stiff and awkward.  My shoes were laced too tightly, the vamp and upper felt pinched, my favorite socks were too thick.  My feet fit in the shoes differently.   The numbers on the scale started to creep up, and my clothes started getting a little tighter. At the beginning of August my friend and I decided to enter the Michigan Titanium Olympic Duathlon.  Race day was the third weekend.  We set a target finish time and decided to stick close together on the bike, and do the run together, as a run/walk.  I beat my target finish time!  Around New Year’s

Other friends were doing a trail race in September, and I accepted an open invitation to tag along.  I entered the half marathon and decided to just hike it, and trot a little once in a while.  There was no worry in finishing on time because there was 100 Mile event running as well.  I had a great time and decided 2018 would be the year for my first 50K.  The reality that I will not be able to finish a full marathon in October has sunk in, and I knew I needed to switch.  The bone bruise and bunion totally derailed summer running.  I didn’t want to face reality.

Race week came. I changed my registration online at the very last minute so I wouldn’t have to do it at packet pick up.  I’ve never droppped down a race distance before. I was feeling part failure, and part …I don’t know what else; just not myself.  Race week and day turned into a soggy mess.  We had record rainfall that week.  The forecast said there wasn’t supposed to be rain.  This is Michigan, I should have known better.  It started to pour minutes before gun time.  I was soaked through before I got a half-mile into the day.  When I finished I was very glad I wasn’t still out slogging through a full.

November: I was looking forward to this month all year. Plans for this race were made back in March or April.  My daughter and I went to Las Vegas for the Rock n Roll Half Marathon.  I was going to mark off another state in my personal 50 States + DC quest.  We met up with a friend of my daughter’s, and a fourth whom I had never met.  We did a lot of walking, very little gambling, and a lot more walking.  My Vivofit tracked 15K steps on Day 1; 25.7K on Day 2; 22.6K on Day 3; 5,100 on Day 5.  Day 4 was race day, and we tried to take it easy.  I still ended up with 36,551 steps, including the race.  The dry desert air and dust wreaked havoc on my lungs.  When I finishsed the race I could barely breathe, and was coughing my “emphysemic seal” bark.  A volunteer escorted me to the med tent, and got to experience their hospitality for about an hour.  I got a nebulizer treatment and started to breather better. The PA-C and Doctor both asked if I’d like to go to a hospital, more than once.  My heart rate was staying elevated and they were worried.  I said they were very kind, and declined.  I left with the promise that if my breathing got worse I would go to a hospital.  I would have if I needed it.  This pitstop delayed our group post-race celebration.  I sent them on without me.  Unfortunately it was too late for them to enjoy Robert Irvine’s Public House Restaurant which closed just before they got there.  They ended up somewhere else.  I stayed in the room, took a bath, and dozed off in the giant tub.  Cold water woke me, so I refilled it and dozed back off again.   It is exhausting keeping up with three 20-somethings for four days.  I got home and slept, and slept.

And I kept sleeping for the better part of the next two weeks.  It wasn’t until early December that I realized I was in trouble and talked with my doctor.  An adjustment was made to my anti-depressants, and I just had to wait. I hadn’t had a depressive episode relapse like this in over 10 years.  It takes a while to realize you’re spiraling down, at least for me. Then it takes a few more to get back out while the meds start to work. I’m doing much better now, thanks for asking.

I wrapped up 2017 with an annual winter 5K “or thereabouts,” as the event is promoted with my husband.  It’s a fun, family and costume friendly event; 90% of the people who do this race are in costume.  It’s also untimed, which is even better.  My hubs had his own struggles this year and hasn’t been able to run since August, so we just walked it together.  At the finish line celebration we enjoyed some hot chocolate and cookies.

Since 2016 was derailed by a twice-sprained ankle and I spent a lot of time in an orthopaedic boot,  I was very hopeful of reaching my personal goals in 2017.  I didn’t come close to some, like regaining my usual pace. That went backward, actually.  I didn’t think I’d be able to do many events either because of that darn boot.  But I did a tally.  You know what?  I had an impressive year after all, even if I was slower than before, even thoug I was injured and out of commission for most of the summer.  I finished 5 half marathons (Feb, April, Sept, Oct, Nov), a 25K (May), a full marathon (May), an Olympic Duathlon (August), which I found out recently qualified me for USAT Duathlong Nationals in April 2018.  I can’t go, but I have bragging rights, right?  There were a handful of virtual races along the way as well.

As I sit here, about a week into 2018, reflecting on the past and looking forward I am once again hopeful about reaching my running and racing goals.  I have four races already on the schedule.  I’d love to get another state done and PR a 70.3 — but a finish is always great.

That’s what I learned this year: a finish is always great.

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