Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Tag: running

Feet of clay; or, “Plantar fasciitis sucks”

I’ve been weirdly heartened, the last week or so, to hear that Joakim Noah, center for the Chicago Bulls, has been suffering from plantar fasciitis for the last couple weeks. “Plantar fasciitis sucks,” Noah said. “It feels like you have needles underneath your foot while you’re playing.”

Heartened not because I dislike Noah; he’s one of those pain-in-the-ass players whose yelling and physical defense would bug the hell out of you if he were going against your team, but who you’ve got to be happy to have on your side.

Rather, heartened because I’ve been dealing with plantar fasciitis for about 18 months, off and on, and it’s sort of nice to see it getting some attention.

Some time in the fall of 2012 I started noticing that the sole of my right foot would hurt when I first started to run, and often in the morning. I didn’t know enough to stop running, or even run less frequently, and anyway the pain usually stopped once I’d gotten into a run. I kept running until some time in October, when I went to the excellent Fleet Feet running store in Pittsburgh’s South Hills and they suggested I try some various calf stretches.

I did, to no effect. Over the next few months I’d go to a podiatrist, then go back to Fleet Feet for some shoe inserts. The 2012 Pittsburgh Marathon bib I’d bought some time before was sold on race weekend to an out-of-town runner. Six months later, the 2012 Philadelphia Half-Marathon bib I’d bought many months before I passed on to my sister.

Significantly, I am writing about plantar fasciitis all these months later because of my own stupidity and impatience. I’d heard good things about CrossFit, and there was a gym near my office, so I signed up. I loved it, and didn’t pay too much attention to the impact of Olympic-style weightlifting on my foot and Achilles. The CrossFit gym I went to offered a running class that taught the Pose method of running, and I went to that as often as I could manage. I figured I was pretty much back to normal, if I was doing CrossFit and running, so I began doing occasional running workouts at an indoor track: sprints, intervals, barefoot running, even backward running.

Some time over this past winter I decided I was kidding myself if I thought CrossFit and running were not bad for my foot. I went to a physiatrist and was prescribed six weeks of physical therapy. I did that. I’ve gotten inserts in my shoes, have been faithfully doing the stretches my physical therapist recommended, and as often and for as long as I can I sleep with my right foot in a brace to gently stretch the plantar fascia.

The results are, at best, middling. The thing that really sucks about plantar fasciitis is how sensitive it is even when you do all the right things. I’ve been doing home workouts over the last two and a half weeks that have involved things like jumping jacks, jogging in place, just to warm up. Those have tweaked my foot; it hurts as much now as it did the day I stopped running. I am inching toward a Cortisone shot and, beyond that, toward surgery. The notion of surgery seemed like a joke when the physiatrist suggested it: he made a point of saying that he did not recommend it, and I made a point of letting him know I wanted to avoid surgery if at all possible. It’s weird to acknowledge but it’s gone on long enough now that I’m in a place where I wouldn’t dismiss surgery out of hand. The idea of running again isn’t even particularly in my mind, either. It’s just a matter of being able to walk for a long time without the certainty that it will aggravate my foot, and down the road of being able to do a workout where I jump, or lift weights standing up, or run from home plate to first base.

A lot of bellyaching, I know. But this is just to substantiate Noah’s statement, a true one, that plantar fasciitis sucks.

Update: It’s almost a year later but I am back to fairly normal health, foot-wise, and have just posted an extremely lengthy account of how I got there.

Marathon Looms

No looking back, no backing out now: the Pittsburgh Marathon is in six days, and I am in the chute. I’m looking forward to it, and ready, though I could be readier.

It’s been a weirdly anticlimactic last three weeks of training. I did my 18-mile run, and on the following Thursday’s 10-miler started to have lots of pain in my right knee. I finished that run and then began resting my knee, diagnosing myself with runner’s knee, a common enough overuse injury. I did a long run the next weekend of 8 miles, stopping when I felt twingeing in the knee, and that following Thursday I did 7 out of the prescribed 10 miles. Where I really lagged behind was in doing 12, the following Sunday, instead of the prescribed 20.

Since then I’ve actually gotten mostly back on track. The downside is that by the time my knee felt better, I was into the tapering part of my training schedule. In other words, I skipped the really long training run, and my 18-miler, now almost a month ago, will go on record as my longest training run. It would be worse if I hadn’t run marathons before, but I feel less than fully prepared. I’m not sure what else I could have done in this situation, though.

On the positive side, though, my legs feel strong and ready to run, and I’m looking forward to the race in a way I really didn’t in the lead-up to the Philly Marathon, which when it rolled around found me with tired, aching legs. I’m hoping that fresh legs outweigh the lack of doing a super-long training run. I’ve done some good cross-training this time around, and feel really good about setting a new personal best, ideally by dropping another ten or more minutes off my Philly time (4:01 or 4:02; I don’t remember it except to note that I would’ve broken four hours if it weren’t for the “.2” part of “26.2”).

Marathon training begins

Speaking of marathon running (as a metaphor for writing), my training regimen for the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon kicked off last Tuesday evening. I’m following this Runner’s World plan, which served me well last time. It’s still the “beginner’s” plan, but my intention is to replace the uphill runs (usually 4-milers that include a certain portion to be run uphill) with tempo runs (runs where you go at a faster-than-comfortable pace for a certain amount of time). My main concern is increasing my speed, not contending with hills (of which there are surprisingly few in the Pittsburgh course).

As I set out, only 12 miles into what will add up to around 300-400 miles of training runs (Oh God.), I’m optimistic about dropping my time by another 10+ minutes. I plan to cross-train more aggressively this time around. For a start, I expect to swim more consistently than during my Philadelphia marathon training, when I took it up more than halfway through my regimen. Perhaps more promisingly, I’ve enrolled in a cross-training program, offered by (apparently famous?) orthopedic surgeon Dr. Vonda Wright and sanctioned by the Pittsburgh Marathon. It begins next month, but I attended an orientation session that I found grueling even in its abbreviated form. The emphasis is on building the core muscles, strengthening both the abdominal and back muscles, and paying some attention to the arms as well. It should be a great addition to my training, not least of all because it’ll be an indoor workout during the worst of the Pittsburgh winter (which, so far, has been nasty).

Marathon training begins (AND, Reason to Love Pittsburgh #5: The Pittsburgh Marathon)

As of yesterday, I am in training for the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon, to be  held November 21. According to the Runner’s World plan I am following this time around, I began my training with . . . a day of rest. I know, anticlimactic.

This will be my second marathon, as I ran the 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon. As you’ll deduce from my running a second one, I loved the marathon. It was rough stuff, but I had fun doing it and was immensely proud of the accomplishment. (My Facebook status several hours after the race: “Holy shit. I ran a marathon.” I feel that still about sums it up.)

I’m pretty excited to train right this time—I had kind of a nebulous training schedule last time, wherein I’d do two weeknight runs per week, of whatever distance I felt like (rarely going above 6 or 7 miles per outing), and steadily upped my Sunday long-run distance, getting as high as 20 before tapering down. It wasn’t a terrible training regimen, and it left me ready to do fairly well in the race (my time was a respectable four hours, fourteen minutes). But it was sort of a lazy way to go about it, and rather unfocused. My goal this time is to break four hours. With proper training I should roll up to the start line (or, you know, a cattle pen half a mile from the line) confident I can hit that target.

Anyway, this post is by way of introducing this topic to the blog, as it will become more and more of a preoccupation over the next 3+ months.

Bonus Marathon News: I also, yesterday, signed up for the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon, which places me among the hooked. I was surprised to see that the race will start at 6:30 a.m.! and 5:30 for walkers! It’s one of those things that can’t dissuade you from signing up for an event that’s more than eight months in the future, but damn, that’s early.