Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Grieving the Loss of Running

It's been more than seven months since I've had to step away from running. While I've been able to do other things during this time, I've experienced strong and varying emotions every day that I haven't been able to run. It occurred to me only recently, while watching an episode of Jane the Virgin (an excellent show that I was pretty skeptical about initially), that I've been grieving the loss of running. In the episode, Jane recaps how she went through the well-known Kubler-Ross five stages of grief in one day, over the loss of a relationship. But it was her highlighting of these stages that made me realize I'd been going through the same thing—except over months, and over the loss of running.

It may seem trivial, especially given the grave and tragic world events occurring daily, to make such a big deal out of running, but we all still have our personal challenges to deal with each day, and I in no way mean to minimize the suffering of others in this post.

Here are the five stages and how I have experienced them and still continue to:
  1. Denial. When I first felt the pain, I thought I'd just take a few weeks off and get back to it. I went to several doctors over the course of several weeks, not accepting the possible diagnoses I received, which would have required serious treatment that I didn't think I really needed.
  2. Anger. When it became clear that a diagnosis—never mind a treatment plan—was not going to be easy to come by, I grew very frustrated, and scared. All I wanted was a plan—a way forward, and I couldn't seem to get one. 
  3. Bargaining. I decided I'd be okay without running for a while as long as I could do other things—bike, swim, and workout at the gym. But of course, these would only be temporary. I'd trade them back in for running when my foot was healed.
  4. Depression. When it started to feel as though my foot would never heal, after a false start back to running, I became depressed about my situation. I then went to another doctor and received a stress fracture diagnosis. At first, this was happy news. It was a solid diagnosis (I thought) with a real treatment plan. I kept up my training with some restrictions, but soon began to doubt that the stress fracture was the real problem. The closer I got to my two-month "sentence" in my fracture boot and on restricted exercise, the more I felt unconvinced that I'd be able to run in the foreseeable future. The fracture, if it really existed, was in a different location than my initial foot pain, so the doctor wasn't able to address the initial problem until the fracture finished healing. After two months and three weeks, I was released from the boot got a cortisone shot in my foot for what we thought could be a neuroma. I thought the shot would be the answer. But it didn't help. And I was back to the start, with new pains I'd developed from wearing the boot. I went to yet another doctor, who told me the MRI I'd previously gotten did not clearly show a stress fracture (I think I went through an entire grieving process for that news alone), and essentially I'd wasted three months on a misdiagnosis. She re-diagnosed me with metatarsophalangeal (MTP) synovitis (basically, ball-of-foot pain). She prescribed a treatment regimen for me to try for a few weeks, which I'm still doing beyond that few weeks, because I wasn't very dedicated the first time around. 
  5. Acceptance. I feel I've had no choice but to reach this stage. It's not that I think I'll never run again, but I cannot plan for it. I can't keep asking, "when?" That has only led me to disappointment and frustration and depression. I have to live my life the way I can now, even if that means without running. I've gone back to yoga, a practice I used to do regularly but fell out of when running took over. It was hard to go back; I felt I'd betrayed the practice and I had to overcome my own guilt from walking away. But now that I'm doing it a couple times a week, it feels really right.
I still get twinges of pain when I see someone running outside, especially in this cooler Florida weather. But I can be out there too, just on a bike instead of on my feet. And I'm still swimming three times a week and loving it. I'm also trying to embrace more non-athletic things, because I've learned what can happen when I tie my identity too closely to those endeavors.

Life without running is still a good life—a great life, if I allow it to be. Arriving at that realization has not been easy, and on a cheesy, pre-Thanksgiving gratitude note, I also have to say how thankful I am for the family and friends who stuck with me through all of my gloom and doom. You helped pull me through the worst of it, and I'm so grateful.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mi Nuevo Vivoactive

After four steady months of swimming and biking, I decided I should go ahead and get a multi-sport watch. I really wanted it for swimming, as I'd had no real method for tracking my progress, and even my laps I 'd been counting in my head, hoping I didn't skip a number. So I went to the bike shop to check out what was available, and the choice was pretty much made for me after I looked at the prices. I "opted" for the Garmin Vivoactive, which seemed perfectly suited to my needs for a starter multi-sport watch. I was still just amazed that I could wear a watch under water!

FYI, I'll probably never use the golf function.

I've used it for two rides and a swim so far--but I noticed something was off on the first two summaries:

The coolest feature is that I can see my strokes per lap, which are pretty consistent!

5,606 calories burned on a 20-mile ride--pretty amazing, no?

As much I wanted to believe it, I knew there was no way I was burning that many calories during my workouts. I then realized that someone at the bike shop who shall remain nameless, when setting up my profile, entered my weight as 776 lbs. Because it's hilarious. So after I corrected that, I went on one more ride and got accurate stats:

While my speed had been getting better, this was a windy day and I caught four red lights :)

The watch itself is pretty easy to use, once you figure a couple of things out (like how to use it). It's primarily touch-screen, but the on/off and start/stop buttons are on either side of the watch face. Also, the charging dock is magnetic, so the watch goes is really easily to charge, which is an improvement over my Forerunner 210, which uses prongs that must be perfectly aligned with the holes on the watch back via a clip. The Vivoactive charging dock plugs right into the computer via USB, and there's no additional plug to deal with. This can be a pro or con; it's simpler and less messy when I'm at home, but if I were to travel and not have my computer with me, I'd need to bring a wall plug with a USB port.

I will say that the stats aren't very large on the screen while the watch is in use, but I don't have any vision trouble, so it's not an issue for me, luckily. It may be a drawback for others.

Truthfully, I was struggling with motivation throughout dealing with this foot thing, and the watch is a great new tool to keep me pushing toward goals and improving my performance. I used to geek out over these stats with my running watch, and now I can do the same for the other sports that look as though they'll remain in my near future, and hopefully much longer.

Also, I've been working on my Spanish, mostly in my head, during rides, trying recall all the words, phrases, and conjugations I learned in college and prior. So for this week, I can say that las cosas estan mejorando (I had to look up mejorando :-/).

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Look Up, Look Forward

I'm going on six weeks in the boot. I recently had a follow-up appointment with my orthopedist, and it wasn't the happy-making experience I thought it would be. I have a tendency to put all of my hope and faith for recovery in one appointment, when really healing is a months-long process, which I've been reluctant to accept. I thought I'd be able to go in to the appointment, convince my doctor of my self-diagnosed neuroma, and get myself a cortisone shot. But that's not what happened. First, I don't think he was convinced I had a neuroma, but even if he had been, he wouldn't give me the shot. He said it could interfere with the healing of my fracture. Oh yeah, that. Probably responsible doctoring, but I wasn't satisfied. 

He had me get an x-ray to see what we could see. He said everything looked normal (which doesn't mean anything for my fracture), except that I had a sesamoid bone in my second metatarsal head. We all have them naturally embedded in a tendon within our first metatarsal head (I'm kind of a foot expert now), but I guess I have this extra one? I wasn't clear on what that meant. I don't think they just grow suddenly, but maybe I've always had it and it got shifted around and caused inflammation and irritation. Or maybe it was nothing. When I asked my doctor about how it was treated, he mentioned something about possible stem cell therapy, and I tuned out and gave up. I knew nothing could be done for at least another month, for which the doc wanted me to continue wearing the boot and then come back for another check-up. Before I left, he told me to look forward; don't look back on all the time I'd been out of commission and in pain, he said. 

It reminded me of what the sales guy at my gym had told me the day before, after I broke down crying when he asked me how my foot was (poor him). He told me, "Look up. Don't look down; there's nothing good to look at." So, with these directionals in mind, I tried to improve my outlook. 

This same gym guy (whose name I forget, but he's super nice) told me about a chiropractor who was "amazing." He'd told me this before, and I pretty much disregarded it, thinking, I've been to a chiropractor before and it was useless. I also kind of figured the gym had a referral deal with the chiropractic office, which turned out to be true. But this time I really had nothing to lose by making an appointment, so I thought, why not? Long story short, I saw him, I had a good experience, and I'm going to continue treatment to see if it helps. More on that later.

In the meantime, I've been trying to stick to a regular biking and swimming schedule, but it had started to get harder to stay motivated. I was going to go on a group ride--I even had a couple of confirmed "buddies" who would go my slowish speed--but I chickened out the morning of the ride. I was too afraid. And as it turned out when I later prepped my bike for a solo ride, I had a flat in my rear tire. This has never happened to me. The front tire is one thing, but the rear--I had no idea how to get the thing off. Several YouTube videos later, this is what my disassembly looked like: 

Just like the pros.

I eventually did get it off, changed out the tube, and got the tire back on. All said, it probably took a couple of hours. For frame of reference, bike mechanics do this in a couple of minutes. 

Good as new!

Later in the week, in untimely fashion, I attended a flat clinic at my local bike shop, Outspokin Tampa. I was like teacher's pet. I knew all the things that could go wrong, because for me they did, so I knew the good questions to ask. It was an extremely informative clinic, and I highly recommend that anyone new to cycling attend one (earlier rather than later).

I was doing really well with swimming--up to 3,000 yards in a workout, and then my left shoulder started hurting. So I had to back off of that for a little while, which was depressing. Swimming was my new happy sport, and it gave me confidence because, even though I was new and still had lots of room for improvement, it felt good and right to me. Well, until it didn't. 

But after some rest, I was able to get out to a group swim tonight and really push myself. I've never done anything but straight laps back and forth continuously until I'd met my desired distance. But tonight I did some interval training with a coach, Leo, and got to see what it felt like to go all out for time. I think I did 100 yards in 1:44, which, from what I know about swim times (not much), is very average. But I enjoyed the competitive feeling, which I haven't had since I last ran a race in April. And now I have a time to improve on.

We couldn't touch the ground. Some serious doggy paddling.

Throughout all of my difficulties with motivation and feelings of hopelessness about running again, I could never get too down because of these two loves:

Movie night! It was all fun and games until someone threw up :/

Depression is sometimes easy for me to sink into, but my nieces give me a reason to be stronger, to be a good role model, and to try to stay positive. They don't understand my fears and anxieties about my health; they care about what immediately affects them in their lives. They have questions that constantly need to be answered, and they need to constantly feel cared for and loved. These things help me stay present. Plus, they're just so darn cute. So spending time with them has been important to my healing.

"Tita this is for you and I love you."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Boot Chronicles: How I Really Feel

I've been wearing my fracture boot for nearly 14 days (minus the 1.5 days I didn't have it during the Great Flood of '15), and I'm having a hard time with it. Not just the boot itself--its clunkiness, stuffiness, heaviness--but I'm reminded of how much longer I have to wear it and, more than that, I'm afraid the fracture isn't my only problem. I feel pain where I don't think I should, based on the location of my fracture (first metatarsal). More and more, I'm concerned that I also have a neuroma. I feel pain very specifically on the ball of my foot, around the third metatarsal head. My doctor said this could be "referred" pain from the fracture, but I'm not so sure.

It's hard to know the timing of everything; I avoided getting a new MRI for weeks and weeks after initially feeling the foot pain in April, so I don't know how old (or new) the fracture was at the time of diagnosis. My hope is that, at my follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks, assuming I'm still feeling the ball-of-foot pain, my doctor will give me a cortisone shot with the intention of curing the neuroma--if he agrees there's one present. Then I should be able to determine whether the pain in that specific area had been caused by the fracture or a neuroma. That's my own medical opinion, though. And I'm only an obsessive hypochondriac, not nearly a qualified medical professional.

One perq of wearing the boot: my niece loves to push the "nose."

Making a new foot-impaired friend.

I'm becoming concerned that I'll never have full use of my feet again, that I'll never be able to run again. This is how my mind works; I jump to extremes, I catastrophize. But I also feel I have to consider all possibilities. All of this worry--we'll call it anxiety--keeps me from doing things. It's killing my spirit, my motivation to keep on going and doing what I know I can still do: swim, bike, strength train (on the floor). It's wearing on me, after several months, and at least a couple more to come. 

I realize this is quite a downer post, but this is how I feel, under the rose-colored glasses.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Lucky One

I was going to make this post an update on my foot, and then the weather happened, and suddenly my foot seemed completely insignificant. So I'll make the foot prognosis brief.

I met with my orthopedist last week to review my MRI results and plan for recovery. I already knew I had a stress fracture, so I'd prepared a long and detailed list of questions to ask the doctor. The main takeaways are these:

  • I would need to wear my fracture boot again, for two to three months (!)
  • I could not run or walk or use the elliptical or do anything weight bearing, including standing exercises, such as air squats
  • I could, however, continue to swim and even bike, as long as I didn't feel pain or stand on the pedals (as in a spin class or to climb hills--no problem, I live in Florida)
  • Icing would not help, nor would NSAIDs (like ibuprofen), and in fact my doctor said NSAIDs could actually do harm, so I should avoid taking them
  • No type of therapy would help; I just needed to rest the foot and stabilize it
Fashionable, no?

I left my appointment feeling pretty good; I was still able to do two endurance sports, and I had a plan for recovery. But later in the day, perhaps after spending a few hours in the boot, the reality of two to three months set in, and I got depressed about my situation. But I had already been thinking about getting a road bike to enhance my cycling experience, and now that I had the go-ahead and would need the extra motivation to continue "training," I decided to look forward to my new purchase.

I'd pretty much had my bike picked out, so I went to Outspokin Bicycles in Tampa to try it out on Friday and loved it!

My new friend!

I got my first ride in on Saturday, and finally got 30 miles in, which I'd been aiming to do for weeks but just didn't have the stamina on my other bike. I need to get used to this particular bike; my hands hurt a bit in new places, but they didn't fall asleep like they'd been doing on my other bike, thankfully. And I don't know if my seat was a little crooked or my butt was, but I realized after my ride that I'd really hurt a deep gluteus or pelvic muscle, but only on one side. I had a hard time bending over and sitting down afterward, but the soreness has since diminished (whew!).

My ambitious break-in ride.

That was the morning. Then the rains came, and they didn't stop for hours. I had plans to meet my sister, brother-in-law, and nieces for my brother-in-law's birthday, on my side of town. I live in South Tampa in a flood-prone area. I've known this, and I've seen the streets get flooded before. But in over 13 years of living in Tampa, throughout the worst of hurricane seasons, I don't recall the streets flooding as badly as they did later that day. I waited until the rain had let up some before I went out in it, thinking the waters would recede fairly quickly like they usually do. But after I started driving, the rain came down again, harder than before, and suddenly I found myself trapped. It didn't matter which street I turned down; one was as flooded as the next. So I pulled into an alleyway I thought was safe and told my family not to come to my part of town. I was stuck where I was and knew I had to just wait it out.

But the rain was persistent. I couldn't stand the sound of it anymore, and yet I couldn't avoid it. All I could do was sit in my car and wait. And I waited for over an hour. When I saw that the water on the pavement beneath me was rising higher, I grew concerned that I wasn't on high enough ground to keep the water out of my car. So I decided to try to drive home, which was only a few blocks away. I'd seen other cars passing by, though most of them were trucks and SUVs. I felt like I had to make an attempt to get out of the location I was in. So I went for it. Only, I had no idea which direction to go. There was no telling which road was flooded more than another. I made my best guess and tried to plow through, and that's when I realized I was in too deep, and I turned off the road as soon as I could, into another alleyway. But it was too late. I could feel my car starting to stall. I got it to as high a place as I could, hoping that I hadn't done too much damage.

My second "resting" place, with the front end elevated.

I was scared and alone and upset with myself for moving from what might have been a better spot to stay parked in--though I'll never know. At this point I had no choice but to get out and walk home, a couple blocks away.

I started out with shoes on, thinking I didn't want to cut my feet on something I couldn't see on the ground, but I left my boot in the car to keep it dry, and obviously because it would've been a hindrance to drag through the water. When I started my trudge home, the water was only up to my knees. But as I got farther down one street, I kept rolling my shorts up higher and higher until they were as high as they'd go, and the water eventually came up to my hips. All of that effort to keep my clothing dry proved pointless when I stumbled over a curb I couldn't see and tripped and fell all the way in the water, also losing one of my shoes. By then I felt so degraded that I didn't care about trying to find my shoe in the brown, exhaust-filled water, and I took my other shoe off and left it behind.

I still had a sense of humor when I took this photo.

This is right about where I fell in.

More scenery.

I finally made it home and was relieved that at least my condo unit was completely dry. However, right outside the main entrance was another story.

My neighbors, out to watch the show.

I knew there was nothing I could do about my car until the flooding receded, so I decided to drink wine and watch the most recent season of Homeland.

I never drink at home alone, and for good reason.

After a couple glasses of wine (which is one too many for me), I was feeling the urge to go find my car. So I asked a friend if she could drive me to where I thought I'd left it, but as I was outside waiting for her, I ran into a neighbor who had parked his truck on high land and was about to drive it home, a few blocks away. I asked if he could take me to the cross-street I remembered leaving my car at and told my friend not to worry about coming for me. The neighbor dropped me off as close as he could get without entering a still-flooded area, and I hopped out into the murky waters once again to trudge through to my car. Only, it wasn't quite where I thought I'd left it. I must have walked around for the same four-block radius for 30 minutes before I finally found the nearly hidden alleyway I'd turned down and left my car. I felt pretty confident that it would start, and that's all I wanted to know. So I walked through some mud to get in my car, stuck the key in the ignition, turned it, and heard the most devastating car noise--the dry-heaving of an engine that won't turn over.

I called AAA to see if anyone could help me, and they said they'd try to get a technician to me as soon as they could. So I waited on the curb in the dark by myself for about 45 minutes. When the technician came, he tried to crank the engine and then looked under the hood and said he couldn't help me. It wasn't the battery or spark plugs. He called AAA to try to get me a tow truck as soon as possible, which still meant it could be a couple more hours. He asked if I could go home and wait, and I told him my foot was fractured and I should be walking back and forth, especially without my boot, and so I said I'd just sit on the curb and wait. Then he asked me how my battery was on my phone, and I told him--now through sobs--that it was low. He told me to sit tight and be safe and left. I sat and cried, feeling pathetic. Then it started to rain, again. And, as it was already close to 11 p.m., and I had nowhere to go nearby for cover, I decided I couldn't really take anymore and went home and canceled the tow truck.

The next morning, I woke up and called AAA to re-request a tow truck and was told the expected arrival time would be 12:45 a.m. the next morning, Monday. But I didn't have much choice, so I accepted it, not having any idea what I'd do once the tow truck actually arrived. I spent a lot more time crying, calling my family, texting with friends, unable to think clearly about how to fix my situation. My sister suggested that I get a rental car that day, Sunday. I rejected the idea at first but then realized I sort of had to. Not knowing the exact status of my car--how doomed it was or wasn't--I was unable to utilize my auto insurance's rental coverage, so I decided to just pay out of pocket.

A great friend offered to take me to get the car (one of a few great friends who really showed up for me during this event), and as I was waiting for her to pick me up I missed the call from the tow truck driver while I was on the phone with my dad. I had no idea I was going to get the call that early, about 12 hours earlier than quoted--and by the time I called him back he'd already moved on to the next ticket. So I had to reschedule. And when I did, I made it clear that I was not home and would not be home for another half hour while I was picking up my rental car. So of course, just as I'm driving home from the rental car place, I get the second call from a tow truck driver. I explained that I wasn't yet home and didn't expect to hear from them so soon and was trying to get home ASAP. This one took pity on me and said he'd wait.

When I got back to the location I'd left my car, the tow truck driver walked with me to the car, spent about five minutes assessing it, and told me my car was totaled, that I'd flooded the engine. He pulled out the dip stick and showed me the water that was on it where oil should have been.

So, yeah. Some water and other nature got in there.
The "water" mark on my car.

Soaked book that was sitting on the floor behind the driver seat.
Knowing that my car was ruined, even though I still needed the insurance adjuster make an assessment, I pouted for a while and tried to figure out what to do. Not having a plan is incredibly frustrating for me. But since I had this rental car now, and I knew I'd probably be in the market for a new car soon, I decided to go out and look around for what my next car might be. Even if the insurance adjuster doesn't total my car, it won't be worth putting a new engine in. I've had her for a good nine years, and it was getting close to the end of our time together anyway.

I looked at some decent options but didn't decide on anything for certain. However, just getting out and doing something about my situation made me feel better. I went to bed last night feeling better.

Then this morning happened. I awoke to a text from my sister telling about storms in the area and cautioning me to stay home if at all possible. Well, home to me meant flooded roads all around me, so I thought instead I would try to beat the flooding and go into work with the intention of going to my sister's house afterward. But as I was heading to work, the roads didn't look good, so I made a last-minute turn to go to my sister's, who lives in a higher area. I was so, so close to the interstate--where I would have been home free--when I saw deep flooding up ahead. I was in a rental and too afraid to risk flooding out yet another engine, so I pull off the road into the nearest parking lot, which I later discovered was a funeral home. A few other cars had done the same thing. I sat and watched as the rain continued coming down relentlessly. I once again felt helpless and stranded. But I knew I was on high enough ground that the car wouldn't get flooded.

I eventually fell asleep for a while, and when I woke up, nearly four hours had passed. Even though the rain hadn't stopped, it had lightened up for some of the time, and the street didn't look as flooded as it had before. I got out to get a closer look at the cars driving toward the interstate, and they were all making it, some of which were smaller and lower than mine. So I decided to go. There was one deep section of the road in particular, and as I drove through it my heart raced and I could feel the blood rush through me. But I made it. Once I was on the interstate, I was so ridiculously happy that I probably cried again, but out of joy.

I got to my sister's house and saw my nieces' smiling, excited faces and felt so very lucky to be in a safe place with loved ones. Even though I spent a large portion of the day trying to work out logistics about the old car, potential new car, insurance, etc., I got some much-needed bonus time with the people who make me the happiest these days, and it seemed as though everything was not only fine, but actually good.

My loves.

I know that others who've been affected by the floods have endured much worse damage--to their homes and properties and possessions--and I know there are raging wild fires in the western U.S., not to mention human travesties continually occurring across the globe. I had a rough time and lost my car and developed some new anxieties about the rain, but throughout everything I never had to look far for supportive family and helpful friends. Despite writing this really long post, I don't feel I can adequately explain how grateful I am to have these people in my life. So in the end, I guess I'm the lucky one, and I thank everyone who has shown me that over the past few days.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Diagnosis: Stress Fracture

This time around, I've felt this wretched, annoying, on-and-off foot pain since my last race in April, and all along I thought the pain was caused by bursitis, which was the last diagnosis I had--over a year ago. Even though the pain I've felt this time is different--on the ball of my foot versus the top--it's in same region, around the third metatarsal head. So I saw a few doctors (orthopedist, podiatrist, physical therapist). They all went along with the bursitis diagnosis and gave me recommendations accordingly. No running, no impact, biking OK, elliptical OK, etc. But after my last attempt at coming back to running, which was woefully short-lived, I decided to see a fourth doctor, an orthopedic doc touted as "the best" in Tampa, Kevin Elder. He was quick and to the point and recommended a new MRI. He said I could have had bursitis last year but a new stress incident this year. Or I could have a neuroma. But he wanted to rule out a stress fracture first.

Well, it turns out we couldn't rule that out, because the MRI showed I did in fact have a stress fracture. I was--and still am--surprised. This was the obvious diagnosis all along, the fairly common occurrence in runners, but I'd come to believe that all of my ailments aren't ordinary, are mysterious and unfixable. In fact, I'd often said I wished I had a stress fracture, because (1) it's a freaking diagnosis, and (2) they heal. I guess my wish came true.

I only received the results over the phone, from the nurse, so I still have to meet with the doc on Monday to go over the MRI and my recovery process going forward. I may need to wear the clunky boot again. But I really, really hope I'll still be able to bike and swim, though I can see how he might not want me pedaling. But something. I need to keep something. I can give up the elliptical (easily), some of the weight training I've been doing, but please leave me with something. For my sanity. Perhaps I should have a better perspective on this, like, This is a time for me to look inward and heal. What can I do for myself that's not exercise-related? How can I find peace through stillness? Well, I can't. Or at least I don't want to. That's my brutal honesty. Quiet stillness is maddening to me these days. But that's a post for another day.

Update on dos and don'ts to come!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Loves and Beginning Again

In my two months off from running, I'd gotten into a decent pattern of "other" training. Not that I was training for anything in particular--more training to stay in shape for my return to running. In a good week, I would dedicate two days to biking, two days to swimming, and two days to cardio and strength training at the gym. Although frustrating at first, I honestly have come to enjoy all of it--especially the diversity of new activities.

Initially I told myself I wanted to avoid running for six weeks, which I thought would feel like forever. And while it did feel that way for the first three weeks, I found that I got so absorbed in the other activities I was doing that I practically forgot about running. Then six weeks passed. Then seven, then eight. I was afraid to run again. My foot felt good, but I feared that if I went out to try to run, I'd set myself back and have to take more time off.

During my time off, I saw a podiatrist. After my first appointment, he had me wear a support pad that stuck to the bottom of my foot, cut out in a "U" shape and surrounding the metatarsal joint where I was experiencing pain. Its purpose was to offload the pressure on that joint. But it's not been without its nuisances. For one, I have to remember to put it on--and take it off. I can't wear it in the water. When I do take it off, I have a sticky residue on my foot that I have to clean off, or pick up all of the fallen hairs and dust mites from my floor (which is one way to clean the floors). After a follow-up appointment, when I'd been doing considerably well, the doctor cut out part of my running shoe insole and inserted one of these U-pads in it, a sort of rigged custom orthotic. So then, all I had to do was run.

A little less than two weeks ago I tried my first run. I aimed to do three miles, what seemed like an appropriate coming-back distance. But, as Florida summers would have it, my run was cut short by an intense and immediate downpour. So I only got about half my distance in. And oddly, the pain I felt was not in my bad (left) foot; it was in my right ankle. Something new. Great.


The next attempt was at the gym, on the dreaded treadmill. And I was successful in getting a 5k distance in. What's more, my foot didn't seem to hurt. So the next week, on this past Monday, I tried running outside again, with my friend Nicole, who is signed up for the same November marathon as I am. We got four miles in, and I was feeling pretty good. So I thought I would try for a longer run on the weekend. So I planned to go to a group run at the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. But I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get up in time for it; I've had a really hard time waking up in the morning any earlier than I absolutely have to. So I committed to it on Facebook and on Meetup. This would surely help me be accountable. But sure enough, I slept through my three alarms and woke up at the time I was supposed to be at the run, 6:30. But I stayed up--a huge victory for me--and ran by myself near home. And I did the eight miles I'd planned to do. I felt a bit of pain in my foot from the start, but I wanted to see if it would wane after I'd gotten some distance in. And by the time I was four miles in, I wasn't feeling much pain, so all I had to do was make it back. But toward the end of the run, my foot was hurting fairly significantly, but I ran through it and finished at a decent pace.

This would have been perfect if I'd felt no pain.

I really loved the feeling of running again. But I can't continue to do it if I feel the pain I felt toward the end of that run. I'm not sure the rigged orthotic is providing enough support. I may need to do some further rigging and try again, perhaps with less mileage.

In all of my off-time,  however, I've learned that I can still be fulfilled, athletically, without running. That has been a good lesson for me. And what's more, I've come to really love swimming, and I've realized I'm not so bad at it, once I got the breathing down. Perhaps what I love is the freedom I feel surrounded and supported by the water, which allows me to flow gracefully (sort of), removed from the outside world, fish-like. Although I'm still far from having "good" form, I've swum as far as 2,750 yards in the pool without feeling burned out. I used to only be able to last 15 minutes, and now I'm nearly up to an hour. And I feel stronger every time I go in the water. It's nice to feel the confidence of getting better at something; in a way I felt I'd lost that with running (although that's not true; I just stopped trying new ways of training).

The bike, though, is a different story. I'm getting better at that, too, but I still feel rather clumsy on it. I've fallen several times now while clipped in, and I foresee numerous more opportunities to fall in my future.

First fall.

Second fall--no skin lost :)

Third and fourth falls. That's one giant bruise across my lower leg.

I think I will ride out this hybrid bike for a while and, assuming I still want to keep riding, eventually trade it in for a road bike again. I'm still giving myself a chance to truly enjoy the sport. It's challenging--that's for sure. Right now I embrace the challenge.

For the coming weeks, I hope to continue biking and swimming and strength training while still working in some more trial runs. And I hope they are largely without pain. The fact that I'm still hopeful, still motivated, can carry me a long way.