On Feet, Spurs, and Pain

If you’ve been following along, my mom is my best running friend and my favorite race partner. She’s always ready for fun, and willing to try any new race or event. We love racing together.

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Lately, mom has been on injured reserve, taking some time off due to injury. As much as I missed my race buddy, I was sorry to see her hurt and missing what she loved. In this post, my mom shares her experience of diagnosis and treatment for a heel spur, including the dreaded cortisone shot.

Mom says:

In August, I began to notice a slight pain in my right heel as if I had stepped on a stone with bare feet. I put it off as too many days walking on paved surfaces training for a half marathon. A day off I thought would rest the foot and I could continue on. The next days were a succession of off and on days and no relief for the heel tenderness.

In September, I headed to Michigan to visit family. Although I took all my workout clothes and shoes, I could not walk a mile. Research led me to think the culprit plantar fasciitis so I ordered new shoes, compression socks, and various shoe inserts. I tried a few foot exercises half heartedly. Nothing seemed to help. I bought more inserts, this time from Dr Scholl, that had cushioning since just wearing a shoe was painful
When I returned home, I called my general practitioner and got an appointment. By then, walking to the mailbox was a teeth gritting event. She took x-rays, a heel spur was the culprit of the pain.

Next stop was a podiatrist who reviewed the x-rays. She pointed out that I had arthritis in both big toes (suck it up, Buttercup), a spur on my right heel, and another on the bottom of my foot. The spur on the back of my heel was causing no discomfort unlike the one on the bottom of my foot. Plantar fasciitis untreated probably caused the spur to develop. Her plan to “get me back out there” was a shot of cortisone, prescription Meloxicam, foot exercises, and a night time foot brace.

I had heard the horror stories about cortisone shots but was pleasantly surprised when a topical numbing spray was first applied prior to the injection. Pressure but no pain. The injection site would be tender for several days, but that was minor compared to the relief. My heel would feel odd for several days as if a wad of cotton had been shoved under the skin. Not numb, but pain free heel area made life better.

Now the end of November and I’m headed back for a check up. I have been following the exercise plan, taking the Meloxicam, and feeling much better. I added air plus gel orthotic shoe inserts to my shoes. The gel inserts are superior cushioning for my heel area, better than any other brand I have tried , and I’ve tried almost everything out there. I replaced all my walking and running shoes and am trying new types that offer more arch support. I am more careful of the miles on the shoes and the type of miles, replacement cost is minor compared to the months of pain. It feels great to be back out, even short distances. Although not running yet, I hope to soon.

Wine, Dine, and Rain

I love all things Disney. I especially love runDisney events – each event is unique, and super fun. This year, I decided to try an event I had never done, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Mom and I signed up to do the half marathon months in advance and eagerly anticipated race day. Before I knew it, summer was over and Wine and Dine was coming up fast. Unfortunately, mom had been having some foot trouble – first with plantar fasciitis, then with a hell spur (poor mom!) so her training wasn’t quite as strong as she had hoped. Determined to persevere, mom made the decision to do the race despite her less-than-perfect training.¬†I’m in the middle of my marathon season, so I was planning to use Wine and Dine as a training run where nice people happened to hand me water. Both of us were ready to have fun and enjoy a few miles around the parks.

As race day neared, the forecast grew more and more depressing. First a chance of rain. Then rain and cold. Then, 100% chance of rain, cold, and all of it starting around 10pm. Sigh. If you’re going to get rained on, at least let it be as Disney.

A night race is a strange thing. Mom and I got our gear together and took pictures of our flat runners.

#Flatrunner

Then we waited. And waited. I read a terrible book from the lending library at my mom’s golf course clubhouse. Mom took a disco nap. Finally it was time to leave for Epcot, where we would park, and get ready for the race. We drove up to Epcot, parked easily (and without any waiting at all), and hopped on a bus bound for ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. We got to the staging area with about two hours to spare. Mom likes to be prompt. ūüôā

In the staging area, a DJ was playing dance music and teaching popular line dances. Photographers were taking pictures. Characters were available for photos. Generally, everyone was upbeat and milling around in a big field. We took a few pictures.

Wine and Dine waiting

We did some dancing. We sat on the ground and watched people. I was delighted it wasn’t raining. Mom and I had grabbed cheap, flimsy ponchos at the local dollar store, so we were prepared just in case. About an hour before the race started, we made our ways to the corrals and found a curb to sit on. We eagerly awaited the start of the race, scheduled for 10pm. At about 9:45pm it started raining. Then it started pouring. By the time our corral started at 10:30pm, we were wet, cold, and ready to see the finish line.

The course for Wine and Dine isn’t my favorite runDisney course. It begins at Wide World of Sports and follows Osceloa Parkway (the Highway to Hell, in my family’s lingo) for three miles to the main gates of Animal Kingdom. Once in Animal Kingdom, the course winds around and past the beautiful sights of Everest and the tree of life. Seeing the attractions lit up is a true highlight of the race. All throughout Animal Kingdom, the rain poured and the temperature dropped. Mom and I made time and hustled along – both to stay warm and to get to the finish faster.

After Animal Kingdom, the race course goes back out on Osceola Parkway and along toward Hollywood Studios. Finally the rain eased up and we were able to take our ponchos off and enjoy the run. It was cold, way too cold for my shorts and tank ensemble, but I was having a great time. ¬†I didn’t know it, but Hollywood Studios had already decorated for the holidays and it was gorgeous. We ran through a road all lined in lights!

Hollywood Studios during Wine and Dine

Onward we ran, stopping to take pictures with our favorite family, the Incredibles.

Incredibles

Just after we exited Hollywood Studios bound for Epcot and the race finish, it started pouring again. I had stupidly tossed my poncho in a trash bin miles earlier, so I trudged along, soaking wet and really cold. We ran along the Boardwalk and around the Beach and Yacht Club hotel area. Amazingly, the volunteers all along the course cheered. They were amazing, and totally undeterred by the cold and rain. I am so grateful to them all for the cheers, smiles, and support those last few miles.

Finally, blessedly, we made it to Epcot and to the finish line under Spaceship Earth. I have never been happier to see that shiny ball in my life. We got our medals, mylar blankets (best. thing. ever.), and food boxes. Mom and I were smart and had stashed clothes and towels in our car, so we headed directly there, cranked the heat, and changed into dry clothes. After warming up, we made our way back to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We had a small gift card to spend there and planned to use it. We enjoyed a bratwurst on pretzel bun, some nachos, and guacamole before the park shut down at 4am. We closed the party down!

Back at home, I took the best hot shower ever and crawled into bed at 5am. It had been a crazy day, but the most fun. There’s nothing like a runDisney event for a little bit of running magic!

Up the Tempo

As a running coach, I work with a lot of runners looking to increase speed. To run faster you have to run faster, and many runners are hoping to do just that, myself included! We’ve all heard the¬†terms tossed around – tempo, fartlek, and intervals, but many runners aren’t sure how to combine those runs to make a training plan that not only makes sense, but helps them get faster. To start, its essential to understand the different types of runs and the purpose behind them.

Let’s talk tempo. A tempo run is a run that is done at a “comfortably hard” pace. Depending on who you ask, there are several different types of tempo runs. I will focus on the most traditional, the lactate-threshold (LT), or threshold, run.

Most runners have heard of¬†lactate. Lactate is often blamed for muscle fatigue, though it’s really lactate plus some other acidic by-products of metabolism that build up in the muscles. At any rate, as your body works harder, acidic stuff builds up in the muscles and makes them less able to work as hard. You slow down when lactate¬†accumulates faster than your body is able to clear it. When you run at lactate-threshold pace, you’re training your body to¬†run at the fastest pace at which you can keep blood lactate levels pretty stable, thus keeping the muscles going and the pace steady.

A LT¬†tempo run is designed to help your muscles get better at using/clearing the by-products of metabolism so you can run for longer at a faster pace. The more training you do¬†at a quick pace, the longer you can keep blood lactate stable and the higher your “threshold”, or the level at which muscles reach their acidic limit. Basically, by running at your current threshold pace, you increase your threshold pace.¬†Higher lactate threshold leads to the ability to run faster, longer, at easier effort.

To get this great effect, you have to train at the right intensity. There are several ways to determine if the intensity is right. Most experts say that a good tempo/LT pace is the pace at which¬†you could run for an hour, but no more. For me, that’s¬†hard to pinpoint, so I use some other, well established, methods to find the right pace.

  • Recent race pace – LT pace is usually about 25-40 seconds slower than your all-out 5k pace
  • Heart rate – LT pace is around 85% of your maximum heart rate

LT pace will vary based on how you feel, the terrain you’re running, and other factors related to training and stress. To make it a little easier, I often use simpler tests to determine my tempo pace. Tempo pace is about an 8 on a 1-to-10 scale of rate of perceived exertion (if 3-5 is easy and 9-10 is racing a 5k). Tempo pace is also the pace at which you can only utter a few words (and those words make sense), but can’t form a complete sentence.

Once you’ve found the right intensity, the next step is to determine the amount of time to spend running at that pace. A good tempo run should have an easy warm up and cool down, with a period of comfortably hard running in the middle. There are three usual types of tempo runs, short tempo runs, classic tempo runs, and long tempo runs. Easy, right? A short tempo run might be a 12-25 minute run with a pace at the fast end of the LT range. These shorter tempo runs are best for short distance race preparation, like 5k or 10k training. A classic tempo run includes 25-40 minutes of steady running at LT pace, and is a great run to include in the training plan for any distance. Finally, the longer tempo run, a tempo run that’s done at the high end of the LT pace range, with that pace held for 40-60 minutes, is a great run for runners training for longer distances. Longer tempo runs have the added benefit of training the body to run in a slightly uncomfortable state for longer periods of time, a mental and physical skill essential for success at half marathon and longer distances.

If you’re hoping to get faster, a tempo run is a great run to add to your training plan. Start with one every 10 days or so, and move up to one tempo run, or other speed-development run, per 5-7 days of training. Now, let’s get speedy!