Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Feet!

It isn't so!

I may have pressure, but I do not have stress--at least not a stress fracture. Hooray! If I were one of my daughter's vocab words, I'd be "stressfracturelessness."

With the "run" of bad luck I've had since August (knee problems, PF flare up, bronchitis, flat tires, getting hit by a car) I automatically thought the worst when I went for a run on Sunday and felt a sharp pain on the top of my foot; a pain that was eerily similar to the pain I felt last summer when I did, in fact, have a stress fracture.

If you've never had one before, the best way I can describe it is a sharp, yet elusive pain on the top of the foot. In June 2010 I had been running in my VFFs for a few months and loving them. Apparently, the bones in my feet weren't loving them quite as much. One of my metatarsals literally "cracked under the pressure" of repeated, uncushioned impact with asphalt as I ran my way to a 5K PR and a second place finish in my division at a sprint triathlon. I didn't realize I'd injured my foot until the following week when I tried to run again.

The odd thing was, I could run, but my foot felt off; achy. I attributed it a tendon or ligament issue--not unrealistic as I was just mending from a long battle with PF.

I continued running a few times a week to train for my next triathlon, but the more I ran, the more my foot hurt. But only when I was running. Walking was fine and, with a day or two of rest, I'd be fooled into thinking I could run again.

The week before the triathlon I was only able to run short distances, a mile or less. Still, I figured I'd be able to manage the 5-mile run in the next race.

To my dismay, race day dawned overcast and rainy. The light drizzle soon became a full-blown downpour, turning the transition area into a mud pit. A few minutes before the race was to begin, visibility dropped and there was thunder and lightening in the vicinity. The race organizers decided to scrap the swim and downgrade to a duathlon. I thought we'd simply skip the swim and only cycle and run. Silly me. The swim was replaced by a 5K, increasing the total run distance from 5 miles to 8. I was prepared to attempt five; not eight. Many athletes left. I probably should have followed their lead; cut my losses, tucked my tail and called it a day.

Instead, I tried to tough it out and the only good thing I can say about it is that I realized, without a doubt, that I was not having a tendon or ligament problem. With each step I felt a stabbing pain in the top of my foot. Running on the soggy grass and mud eased the impact a bit, but it still hurt. The next day, I called an orthopaedist and scheduled an appointment.

I felt a little foolish sitting in the ortho's office. My foot didn't look injured. It was not bruised or swollen. (Even when my foot was crushed in a car accident many years ago, there was little bruising or swelling. My immune system is freaky that way.) The top of my foot was tender to the touch, but only if I could locate the precise yet elusive spot that seemed to move about. And I could walk fine. As for the x-ray results? Nada.

So the ortho sent me for an MRI (if you've never had one, it's quite the experience) and, voila! There it was. The teensy, tinsy, validating microscopic hairline crack in my third metatarsal. The only reason the MRI could detect the little sucker was because the injury had occurred three weeks prior. Stress fractures are so small they usually only show up on film once the healing process has begun.

My instructions? Stay off my feet as much as possible. Rest, ice; the usual RICE stuff. And no running for 6 weeks. That pretty much ended my triathlon season that year as I downgraded my final race to Aquavelo.

So there I was, last Sunday, 4.5-miles into a 6-mile run when I was hit with a sharp pain on the top of my foot. I bent down, adjusted the tongue of my shoe, and continued on without a second thought. That night, however, I got up from sitting on the floor and the pain in my foot sang out again. If I hadn't already lost my summer glow, I'd say I turned pale, gripped by fear that I'd suffered another stress fracture; the feeling was so familiar. All I could manage to post that night was "Say it isn't so!" I didn't even want to write the words. PF is much worse in the long run but, with the Iron Man just over four weeks away, a stress fracture would shatter any hope I'd have of finishing that race.

So I rested. Iced. Adviled. I even Aqua jogged (which is enough to push anyone back to the pavement!). I considered seeing an ortho, but knew it would be too soon for an x-ray or MRI to show a fracture. But underneath my panic, I realized my foot was not getting worse and I hadn't felt any more sharp pains. So, on Wednesday, I stopped babying my foot and it felt okay. That night (moved by tears of boredom from my Aqua jog experience), I took drastic measures and wore a pair of heels out to dinner. Still good. I loosened the Lock Laces in my Kinvaras and relaced them. This morning, I took a deep breath, crossed my fingers, and ran. In the rain.

And it was glorious!

I felt like a gazelle. Who says water workouts are the only way to feel weightless? I glided along at a great pace, my heart and hopes soaring. I just wanted to make it past the 4.5-mile mark which is where I met trouble on the last run. Today was no exception. Right around 4.5-miles my gazelle morphed into an elephant, my birdlike limbs turned to lead, my old friends Knee Pain and Plantar Strain said hello. I realize that, at this point in the game, a 6-mile run should be a breeze. Easy-peasy. It should not devolve into a major achy effort at a mere 4.5 miles. But, ultimately, I was okay with all of those things because, "It wasn't so!" The top of my foot felt fine. Fine, fine, fine!

Looking back, it seems that a lacing error (too tight? misaligned?) likely caused some pain/bruising/compression on the top of my foot that mimicked a stress fracture but, thankfully, it was not one.

So, for now, the show goes on and I am happy. Happy that I did not have to Aqua Jog again!

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