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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.

Wet!

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.

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