Things I Have Tried to Get My Foot to Stop Hurting

My foot was getting consistently better every week and I wasn’t too worried that it would be ok in time for Boston. I was mostly worried about fitness. But, since Monday, it’s been sore and not getting better. I don’t know why. I’m frustrated and mystified, obviously, but with nine days until the race, I mostly just want it to stop hurting in time.

Here are things I’ve tried now:

  • Resting
  • No running (Alter-G and water running)
  • Icing
  • Anti-inflammatory cream
  • Anti-inflammatory pills
  • Super intense anti-inflammatory Flector patches (I really thought these were going to make a big difference but they haven’t so far, so I’m starting to doubt that the problem is inflammation)
  • Hot lasers

I’m sure there are plenty of things left to try? Just to get it to stop hurting enough for a little over three hours of running.

Two Weeks Until Boston?

Today — after the weekend of accidental vomiting, many hours of Law and Order, and a futile trip to Target, which was apparently closed for some holiday — I did my first run outside.

I actually ran three miles on a treadmill last weekend and it went ok, but there was lots of soreness afterwards. So, when I ran three miles on the treadmill yesterday with no pain, the plan for today was: 30′ of running outside + 1:30 of running on the Alter-G with 2 x 30′ efforts. Very smart, very exciting, very last hard workout before Boston.

I even had a new super-cute tanktop from Old Navy, which I bought at their SALE when Target was closed. That’s what you get Target. This was the last picture of me being cute and optimistic today:

Yes, I am wearing skinny jeans. Don't worry. It doesn't happen often.
Yes, I am wearing skinny jeans. Don’t worry. It doesn’t happen often.

I thought running outside after two-and-a-half weeks of not moving anywhere during my workouts (besides my bike ride Saturday) would be so exciting that it would just sweep me along in a wave of sea breeze and lilacs. It didn’t. It turns out running at 100% body weight is heavier than running at 85% or 90%. I felt fat and slow and wheezy. Every minor uphill I became convinced I was the heaviest person to ever take up running.

I also became mildly convinced that, since I was running on a heavily trafficked path, someone would see me gasping and shuffling and it would ruin their image of me. How could I do that to them. It would shatter their world view. Of course, no one saw me or they did and they didn’t care, and I had to get over my bad self.

Then, I got back to Body Image after 45′ to run on the Alter-G and it went even farther and faster downhill.

My foot started hurting each footfall on the Alter-G, which doesn’t even make any sense. How can it not hurt at 100% body weight outside, but hurt at 75% body weight on the Alter-G? How??

It’ll go away, I told myself. Lately, it’s taken 10′-15′ to warm-up and then my foot stops hurting. But, it never did. I started the 30′ at 7:05 pace and moved the body weight slowly up to 85% and it hurt. I dropped it back down to 80% body weight and it hurt. I ran faster and it hurt. When I started the 30′ at 6:45 pace, I made it 10′ before I declared defeat. Really I probably should have before, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to get my one last hard workout in. I wanted the pain to go away. I wanted to feel confident with Boston two weeks from today.

But, none of those things happened. So, instead I cried a little and I pity-ate half an order of hotdog and garlic fries. I’ve been pity eating a lot. This does not help, in case you were wondering.

At this point, the only thing to do is continue to rest my foot and ice it and take anti-inflammatories and hope really hard. I really wish I hadn’t used up our Flector patches, because I’m pretty sure those things would zap the fucking inflammation right out of my foot. And, I’ll get through Boston, I’m pretty sure — with a little wishful thinking and mental toughness (at least that’s been getting some good training lately). And, the last ten miles will probably be painful as hell. And, I’ll probably deal with it. Probably.

Training through Injury: The Alter-G

It’s not that I’ve never used an Alter-G before. When I wrote this article about the Alter-G (anti-gravity treadmill), I tested one out. But, I’ve never really had occasion to use the Alter-G treadmill through an injury.

The verdict so far: this might be the panacea I’d been hoping for — or close, sorta.

See, that girl's smiling. It must be fun.
See, that girl’s smiling. It must be fun.

I don’t have a good history of training through injury, or, rather, not training and racing anyway and having it go badly. Anything that takes me out for more than five days has always sort of left me stumped. In college, I raced triathlon nationals my senior year despite not having run almost at all that entire spring. I talked a lot about water running, but I hated water running. (It turns out, using an aqua-jogging belt really helps with the whole feeling-like-you’re-drowning thing.) So, I started the run somewhere around 12th and then walked a good portion of it to end up 42nd. Note to the guy who kept yelling at me, “You didn’t come all the way here from California to walk” — I hate you, still.

Similar thing happen at Alcatraz 2010, which I did post-stress fracture (and stitches and hypothermia and all those other things that made that spring so much fun). Again, it went badly. And, a few months later, with different — but related — problems from my old, stupid crazy Blue bike that screwed up my whole left leg that year, I did my first half-Ironman. I, again, walked a large portion of it. Actually, at around mile 9 of that race, you looped past the finish and then had to go back out for the last four miles — and I remember standing there at the aid station and looking at the finish and looking at the food table and looking at the road headed back out for four more miles and sighing, ‘Well, I guess I’ll finish,’ and then I started shuffling again.

So, basically, when I inflamed the joint at the base of my big toe two weeks ago and it couldn’t handle any impact, I pretty much freaked out. Visions of walking the end of Boston (in 18 days!) started flashing through my mind.

I can run on it now, but not really. It gets sore and we want to be able to do the whole marathon in 18 days, so I’ve been having to do other workouts to keep the fitness sort of there. That’s meant water running, yes, but this time around I also have been able to Alter-G, which is great.

The Alter-G is a treadmill that allows you to run at a portion of your body weight, using reverse gravity (sort of), which allows an injured runner to get in workouts without the same impact as running. It also has all these other uses for physical therapy and shit, but injured runners!

Cons to the Alter-G

  • If you’re not a fan of running on treadmills, you really aren’t going to love running locked into a bubble on top of a treadmill.
  • It’s extra super sweaty, because you have these neoprene shorts on and are locked into this bubble that creates the anti-gravity effect and there’s no fan and, oh my god, did I mention it was sweaty.
  • That bubble also makes it hard to run with your arms hanging normally at your sides. Instead, you end up with them scrunched up above your waist, which is not super awesome.
  • If you’re at all paranoid about not being able to maintain a pace on the treadmill — which is totally why I never do intervals on the treadmill (well, and because doing intervals on the treadmill sounds terrible) — and are worried you’re going to just sort of fall off the back, then you’ll be even more worried on the Alter-G, because you’re like locked into this bubble. So if you’re concerned that can’t hit your 6:27 mile on your fifth mile repeat and the sweat is dripping into your face and you’re leaning a little heavily into the back of the bubble and you’re pretty sure things are getting sort of blurry, but you’re not sure what would happen if you couldn’t keep up the pace — would your legs just get pulled under the bubble — then, yeah, it’s not the best of times. Not that this happened to me this morning.
  • It’s not cheap. And you probably need to find an Alter-G by you and then drive there and then pay some stupid amount of money to rent it for an hour.
  • Did I mention it is hot and sweaty and hard?

Pros to the Alter-G

  • I did a mile repeat workout earlier today.
  • That’s really it. You can run. You can run hard, even being injured. And that is such a luxury and such a necessity going into a race. Water running is a pretty good substitute for running when injured, but it’s challenging to do hard workouts water running and it’s challenging to keep all of the run mechanics in the water. If Boston ends up going ok, I will likely credit the Alter-G at least partially.

Have you used the Alter-G during an injury?