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.

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?

In Today’s Things That Suck: Water Running

It’s official: I hurt my foot.

According to the sports ortho doctor woman, the joint at the base of my big toe is inflamed. According to the sports ortho doctor woman, it’s unclear how that happened. It happened all of a sudden in one workout last week and it’s not like I did anything wrong or overtrained or recovered poorly or wore shitty shoes or the billions of other things you can fuck up training for a marathon. (I mean, obviously, I probably did one of them or several, but there’s nothing that points to a specific poor decision on my part.) It just happened.

She said there wasn’t anything to do but rest it. I asked for how long and she said three to four weeks. To which my response was: Yeah….about that.

Seeing as Boston is in less than four weeks now (ahhhhhh), the revised plan is: rest from running, throw every anti-inflammatory at it, ice ice ice until I lose the nerves in my other toes, and do lots of biking if it doesn’t hurt, Alter-G running (which I had totally forgotten about, but am now hoping will solve all my problems), mild panic attacking, and water running. I’m not completely sold on this plan. I’m pretty sure my foot is slightly more sore today than yesterday, but it’s like staring at the sun and trying to decide if it’s more bright or less bright than before — also a good idea. Since there’s not another better plan, though, this is the one we’re sticking with.

Yesterday, I went to the YMCA to water run. It was just like this, minus the smiling:

I should probably just give up running and get into water aerobics. They look happier.
I should probably just give up running and get into water aerobics. They look happier.

What is water running?

Water running suffers from the fact that it looks an awful lot like what those guys who used to wear gold chains in the pool at the 24 Hour Fitness did, until someone had a heart attack and they had to shut that pool down.

Water running is actually supposed to be running — not walking or jumping or waving your arms around — with the same mechanics of running as much as possible. But in water. The idea is to simulate running without impact so you can train through injury (ahhh) or train high mileage pre-injury. It is boring and it sucks. It is also highly effective, because if done correctly it mimics running and keeps you aerobically in shape to run.

(While I was going back and forth in the deep end of the pool yesterday, I was trying to decide why exactly it sucks so much more than either running or swimming. I have not yet come up with an answer. Any insight will be appreciated as something to think about during my next session.)

How do you water run?

You do it in deep water, first off. Your feet shouldn’t touch the ground.

Maintain running form, which is hard, but don’t bend too much over — a slight lean, I think, is how most people operate — and don’t overextend your legs. I found it’s really easy to accidentally start treading water shittily, waving your hands around and doing a type of scissor kick.

It’s particularly easy to lose form if you don’t wear an Aquajogger belt. Lots of people think it’s harder without a belt, which is true — it is harder not to drown. But, I’m of the belief that your body then focuses on not drowning instead of focusing on maintaining running form.

With the belt and the floating of the water, it’s also easy then to go really easy. Most tips suggest keeping cadence high and doing harder efforts mixed in to get your heart rate up.

Don’t run into the women doing acqua-aerobics. Or small children.

This video is ok:

So, yesterday, I followed all these directions and went to the Y to do 50′ of water running with some 10 x 30″ pickups and 10 x 1′ pickups. Now, our YMCA isn’t like some other people’s YMCA, where apparently you can just get offered sponsorships while you’re swimming. (I sort of wish I went to Beth’s Y.) Our Y has the original weight machines, like from when weight lifting was invented as a thing with actual weights instead of just rocks. And our Y has a large and dedicated water jumping population. I don’t really know how else to describe the enthusiastic jumping and swinging arms and hanging on to the wall to do strange ballet-style kicking. It’s some kind of workout you must only learn about once you hit a certain age. Oh, and yeah, there were kids there too.

I’m being super judgemental obviously, which isn’t nice, but 1. I haven’t had the capacity to be nice in weeks and 2. I’m really just judging this one woman — who, as a side note, was creating a wake with her jumping routine — because she was probably about 50 years old and wearing a large pink headband that said “PRINCESS” in sparkles, which is about 46 years too old for anything you wear to say Princess unless you are actually a Princess, in which case leave us commoners to our fucking Y. Is nothing sacred.

I huffed and puffed and weaved and ducked and was dripping sweat — even though I was in a pool, I could tell it was sweat and not water. And, the people doing their insane jumping routines kept staring at me, since I was obviously the craziest one in the pool. Don’t I know water is for water sports, land is for running? Or, they may have just been looking at me because I turn bright red when I workout and look super awesome and refreshed, just like this:

This is how I always look after I go swimming.
This is how I always look after I go swimming.