First of all, I’d like to thank all of my readers — especially those who have encouraged me to write (Jim K., George W., my uncle Bruce and aunt Patti, etc.). I am sorry that I’ve been out of touch. I guess you can say that I’ve been somewhat uninspired lately, as my running has been pretty much nil. I could have written in great detail about my medical reports and physical therapy sessions, but I’m not so sure you would all have found that as interesting as I did.
So, anyway, here goes. My first essay on running in over three months…
This morning, instead of writing, I could have been running the Napa Valley Marathon, in the company of several other U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials hopefuls. After contacting the race director of Napa back in January shortly after my 5K PR (17:24 at the Resolution Run!), he gave me elite entry into the race as well as free tickets to the pasta dinner the night before. As I was more interested in running a fast time than in staying in a fruffy bed and breakfast and taking part in a bunch of wine tasting (not that these things aren’t fun), I booked a hotel at the Travelodge. I was feeling confident in my fitness, excited about the prospect of running a fast time, and anxious to just have it over with.
But things don’t always go as planned…
For two weeks before the Resolution Run and one week after I was running almost daily. My feet felt pretty good — the plantar fasciitis in my left foot had subsided greatly and the cortisone shot that I finally decided to get in my right forefoot seemed to have (temporarily) resolved that problem. One rainy day after the Resolution Run, however, while doing a fartlek type workout with Carl on the bikepath, my right forefoot started hurting pretty badly again. So I took another few weeks off and as before the pain subsided. On Martin Luther King Day I decided to try once more — this time, probably stupidly, a long run. I figured that if I was going to do a marathon, I would like to know if I could at least do the distance. So Carl and I set off, first for two loops around Ellwood Bluffs, and then for a slightly faster loop around Isla Vista and campus, ending on the UCSB track with a mile. Fitnesswise I felt great — the second part of the run we were probably averaging faster than marathon pace — but I could tell that my foot was not right. I kept on going, however, thinking that dealing with pain now would make me stronger when it counted most. In sheer agony I ended the mile on the track in 5:45 — and then hobbled home. Since that workout, I’ve barely run a step.
It is so strange (and so frustrating) how I can be so fit right now and yet so injured. 99% of my body and 100% of my mind was so ready to run a fast marathon today in Napa. But 1% of my body — ~1 square inch on the bottom of my foot — prevented me from doing so.
I did all I could to get a diagnosis for the problem and to seek the right treatment. An MRI of my right foot revealed tenosynovitis of the flexor tendons underneath my second metatarsal and also a muscle strain. According to the physical therapist, the injury is due to a congenital problem with my feet — my heal bone (the “calcaneus”) and the ankle bone (the “tallus”), are fixed together in a position so that the inner part of my heal never wants to touch the ground. As a result, I favor the outer part of my foot, especially the forefoot, and the muscles on the outside and inside of my calves and hamstrings are asymmetrically strong and tight. To make a long story short, I’ve been dealing with major biomechanical problems for my entire running life, and these have manifested themselves into a tiny toe injury that’s kept me from achieving a major lifetime running goal.
So, am I disappointed? Well, somewhat, but honestly, not nearly as much as I thought I’d be. I guess I’ve just been busy with other aspects of my life and haven’t really had a whole lot of time to dwell on it. School continues to demand most of my time, and I’ve gotten a lot of exciting results in the lab these past few months. Moreover, some major advancements have happened in my life and the lives of others close to me recently. Carl, as many of you probably know from reading the SBAA website, got a faculty position in the Department of Geography at the University of Wyoming! He won’t be starting for over a year, but it is exciting to know where we will be going after this stage of our lives. In addition, my sister had a baby in the beginning of January, and I have been so excited about being an aunt! As a birthday present, Carl bought us tickets to go out to Illinois to meet our new nephew, Felix Fernando Miguez. He is every bit as happy and wonderful as his name.
So, no, things don’t always go as planned. I’ve been having a lot of negative thoughts about running these days, as I feel so fit and so motivated but so unable to meet my potential on account of these silly injuries. Despite this frustration, however, I am satisfied knowing that if I did run Napa today, I would have in the very least run a really great time. No doubt there will be other opportunities to run fast times, but if that never happens again for me I don’t even think I will be all that disappointed. I know that, as much as the sport and the act of running has meant in my life, I have no problem keeping myself busy and happy with all of my life’s other endeavors.