Power in My Step

Non-disclaimer: This starts to sound like an advertisement for Powersteps, but it is not–I am just sharing my excitement to have found something that works for me. ¬†I was not compensated in any way, but I wouldn’t say no to a Powersteps sponsorship… ūüėČ

My life continues to be busy. ¬†There’s nothing exciting going on that I can share regarding that. ¬†However, I do want to give an update on the state of my feet. ¬†They are… getting there. ¬†Improving slowly. ¬†Of course, never as fast as I would like.

I took a walk before my exam last night and had some fun.

I took a walk before my exam last night and had some fun.

Beautiful :)

Beautiful ūüôā

My physical therapist and I made the decision today not to schedule any more appointments. ¬†I am supposed to continue doing my stretches and exercises at home. ¬†If I feel I am getting worse or stop improving, the plan is to go back to the doctor to get another PT referral, but we don’t anticipate that will be the case. ūüôā

Last year, I was really stubborn about not wanting to wear supports in my shoes. ¬†I was convinced that if I worked on strengthening my arches, that would be enough to run injury free. ¬†Obviously, strengthening my arches and associated alignment muscles (think calves, butt, hips) is still something to¬†work¬†on. ¬†I even have exercises from PT to work on those things. ¬†However, everyone’s bone structure and alignment is slightly different and some people are just more prone to issues. ¬†So, after a year of on-and-off injuries, I realized it was probably time to get off my anti-support high horse and actually listen when I was advised, once again, to purchase arch supports.

I did have custom orthotics in my preteen years as a competitive figure skater and they completely resolved the knee issues I was having back then, so I’m not sure why I was so resistant to the idea ten years later, but hey. ¬†I came around. ¬†When I first started going to PT in September for this injury, it was recommended that I get some Powerstep inserts, so I headed to the running store immediately after that first appointment and picked up some Powerstep Pulse orthotics. ¬†They felt great and those alone were already a huge¬†help.

This morning, at what will hopefully be my last appointment for a long time, we realized that when I lift my arch, my big toe comes off the ground, too. ¬†This means I’m not pushing off my big toe to walk, nor am I using it to stabilize myself when I stand. ¬†The only way I can push off my big toe is to consciously roll my foot inwards, which puts strain on, you guessed it, my painful tendon. ¬†Or fascia. ¬†Not sure which. ¬†The painful foot place. ¬†My physical therapist told me this rotation is called forefoot varus. ¬†She made some wedges to place near the balls of my feet to help support my big toes so I can use them the way they are meant to be used, instead of trying to get power from the¬†smaller, weaker muscles in my smaller, weaker toes.

Unfortunately, most over-the-counter orthotics only correct for varus in the heel, even though forefoot varus is relatively common. ¬†I actually have a pretty neutral heel and don’t benefit from heel support, so it turns out that a neutral shoe like the Kinvara (which I love) works great with a customized (i.e. added¬†wedges) Powerstep orthotic, since the Powersteps have a neutral heel cup with no heel correction. ¬†After adding the wedges, my feet feel instantly better. ¬†Not 100% better and not healed, but I would honestly say it cut my pain in half this morning. ¬†I’m sure it helped that she worked to loosen up my right foot a little bit, but both feet feel significantly better and I can already tell I am finally able to use my big toes again!

This probably sounds like an advertisement for Powersteps. ¬†It’s not. ¬†I’m just really excited that I finally may have found a combination of footwear and supports that works for me. ¬†And when these wear out, I will probably drop the $300-$400 it costs to get custom orthotics made just for me so I won’t need the taped-on wedges anymore.

Here’s hoping I’ll be out there running again soon! ¬†That is, more than the ten minutes at a time I have been doing twice a week. ¬†At the very least, I hope the ten minutes will leave me less sore in the arch area than it has been. ¬†Baby steps!

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Life Update – Busy Weeks, Fun Weekends

I have been silent on my blog since my last post about not running almost a month ago. ¬†I have been very busy with my final semester and searching for a job for after graduation. ¬†It’s true what they say about the job search being a full-time job in itself. ¬†I have been attending career fairs and career mixers, sending out my resume to every opportunity, networking, studying for interviews… oh and midterms are coming up this week and next for that school thing!

I’ve been so busy that I’ve barely even noticed the time pass in terms of how long I have been off. ¬†It was just the other night that I was lying in bed and realized it had actually been five weeks since my last run. ¬†That’s enough time off for some stress fractures, and I didn’t even realize it had been that long! ¬†So, as you can imagine, I haven’t been too torn up about not running. ¬†It certainly helps to be so busy during the week that I¬†don’t even have time to think about running.

Where my weeks have been filled with work, school, and looking for work for after school, I have been able to fill my weekends with wonderful experiences. The weekend before last, Matt and I went camping in St. Ignace and visited Mackinac Island, which is something we had talked about doing all summer. ¬†We had a mild summery weekend, so we planned the trip on a whim the day before leaving. ūüôā

Our campsite after packing up to leave on Sunday.

Our campsite after packing up to leave on Sunday.

Me in a rock formation

I don’t remember what this rock formation was called, but here I am inside it.

Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints.

I liked this sign at the entrance to a wetland board path.

Under the Mackinac Bridge

Our ferry ride back to the mainland stopped us under the Mackinac Bridge for pictures.

Last week Saturday, I went to a WordPress conference called WordCamp Ann Arbor.  It was for work, but I really wanted to go and had a lot of fun.

WordCamp swag

WordCamp swag.

On Sunday of last week, I biked out to the cider mill with some friends.

Cider Mill ride!

Cider Mill ride!

This Saturday, I went on a breakfast bike ride to (and back home from) the Dexter bakery, where I had a huge and hugely sweet apple fritter. ¬†As you can see, I’ve been reliably cross training about once a week. ūüėõ

Bicycle Dexter poster

Poster in the bakery

Matt’s birthday was last weekend, so I bought us two tickets to last night’s¬†Michigan v. Penn State football game. ¬†It was an “Under the Lights” game and the atmosphere was incredible. ¬†Our team (Michigan) won and it was very fun to watch.

Matt and I wearing light-up glasses.

They gave us light-up glasses.

Lights during the half-time show

The Michigan Marching Band’s halftime show.

Fun was had!

Fun was had!

My proofs came in the mail for my senior pictures!  Oh, and I cut my hair short.

"Hi, I'm professional."

“Hi, I’m professional.”

"But also fun."

“But also fun.”

Finally, because I should probably update you on my injury… I have been attending physical therapy twice a week and my foot improved drastically after the first week. ¬†Since then, improvement has slowed, but, this past¬†Friday, my physical therapist cleared me to try running ten minutes twice a week, with the stipulation that I ice after, warm up, and cool down. ¬†So, on Friday evening, I stretched, walked for five minutes, ran for ten minutes, probably didn’t stop smiling the whole time, and then walked another six minutes home. ¬†My feet felt GREAT during the run, but they were extra sore after. ¬†They hurt quite a bit on Saturday, and I was worried standing for so long at the game would make them even worse. ¬†However, I woke up this morning with virtually no pain. ¬†It’s confusing and I am of course going to wait until at least tomorrow (Monday) to try running again, but I’m excited to be making progress. ūüôā

Why I’ve Been MIA and Shutting Down

I am working on a blog-related project and I had intended not to blog until the project was ready for release. ¬†I made that decision when it was almost done, but then classes started and I haven’t been working on it because I am suddenly a lot more busy. ¬†Every time I have wanted to blog over the last couple weeks, I have decided that I can’t because my project isn’t ready yet. ¬†I think it’s been three weeks now and I don’t want to rush completion, so I’m just going to return to blogging until it is done. ūüôā

This is going to have to not be a running blog for a while because I am not running for a while. ¬†I have a piriformus injury that is almost gone, but I also have persistent tendinitis in the arches of both feet. ¬†I have had the latter on and off for almost a year at this point. ¬†Running with tendon pain is just not worth it to me anymore. ¬†I am restarting physical therapy on the 26th for my hip, and I have been much more diligent about doing prescribed at-home exercises and icing my feet. ¬†I have been wearing inserts in my shoes, and if my physical therapist suggests custom orthotics as she has in the past, instead of saying “no thanks,” I am going to ask, “How much and when can we make them?”

Lately, I have been wishing that I could just erase my last year or two of running.  Through mostly mistakes of my own, I have been plagued with injury after injury.  Sure, I ran my fastest half marathon in May 2013, but I also got a stress fracture and peroneal tendonitis during the way-too-aggressive build-up.  If I could, I would give up that PR to not have begun the vicious injury cycle back then.

Hindsight is 20/20 and there is no point to living in regret.  I may have had an unproductive, mostly injured 18 months of training, but I can learn from that.  I can learn to be patient, to be cautious, and not to try to keep up with far more experienced runners (in terms of pace, mileage, and what workouts they do).  I may not be the most patient person on the whole, but patience is all I have right now when it comes to running.

I am only 21 years old. ¬†There are people who start running at this age or later and end up running very well into their thirties and beyond. ¬†The other night as I was lying in bed, I thought, “I wish I could just start over.” ¬†And you know what? ¬†I can. ¬†If I am very patient and heal completely instead of going back to running as soon as I think I feel better, I can start over. ¬†If I do not think of it¬†as a return to running, I can start over. ¬†I’m not going to think about things I used to be able to do and my goal will not be to get back to that level of fitness. ¬†I don’t want to go back. ¬†I want to move forward. ¬†I’m¬†going to start fresh. ¬†A clean slate. ¬†A healthy body. ¬†Unknown potential.

I’m hoping for a January 1, 2015 start date. ¬†Not a return date, but a start date. ¬†If I am not healthy by then, I will not run. ¬†If I am healthy before then, I will enjoy extra time off and start in the new year. ¬†I am done running for this year. ¬†This has been a long, painful learning process that I am ready to leave behind.

Just to be clear, the blog is¬†not going anywhere. ¬†I will keep writing here, and hopefully soon my project will be ready to unveil. ūüôā

Quick-Fire Week

I made a really good choice this afternoon when I decided to buy a coffee at work. ¬†I was falling asleep, but now I’m not, and I’m also feeling very optimistic. ¬†I may also be a little hyper, which is making me want to blog, but not put too much effort into writing a¬†well-articulated post.

So, a quick-fire approach to recapping my recent life:

  • I went to a yoga class on Thursday with my friend Katie. ¬†It was a lot of fun and felt really good. ¬†It was my first time ever doing yoga in a studio. ¬†I want to see if I can make it again this week.
  • I did the ice bucket challenge after my brother nominated me:
  • Matt and I spent the weekend with his parents, originally for the Crim, but then we hung out longer and had a fun time.
  • I attempted to run the 10-mile at the Crim on Saturday morning, despite¬†the hip issues I had been dealing with. ¬†By mile two, my hip¬†was starting to get tight, and before the six-mile mark, it was pretty much shot. ¬†I walked the majority of the final 4.5 miles after hanging out with course volunteers for 10-20 minutes. ¬†I finished in two and a half hours and I was pretty bored walking because all the walkers around me had friends to chat with, but I was by myself. ¬†Regardless, I covered the distance, so that is something to be proud of, even though it could have gone a million times better and I could be a million times healthier.
  • On Sunday afternoon, we went shopping at an outlet mall and I managed to get a pair of shoes, plus six pairs of no-show socks, for $32!
  • My final semester of college starts in a week, so I have been preparing for the job-hunting process. ¬†It’s both exciting and stressful, but mostly exciting.
  • My bike is finished being repaired, so I get to pick it up tomorrow after work and I will get to ride it when we go up north this weekend. ūüôā
  • Matt and I are seeing the series 8 premier of Doctor Who, “Deep Breath,” in a¬†theater tonight!

Have you been up to anything exciting?  Do tell!

My First(ish) Sports Massage

I haven’t had a sports massage, deep tissue massage, or any kind of massage where a professional massage therapist works on a specific problem area since I was ten or twelve years old. ¬†I had been wanting to get one for quite a while, remembering how painful yet effective they had been for me in the past. ¬†However, I had this mental block about how I only wanted to go to my old massage therapist, who is 45 minutes away and works in an ice rink.

After I developed some intense muscle¬†tightness in my hip last week, I decided it was time to suck it up and go to someone local. ¬†It turns out my insurance covers “osteopathic manipulative therapy,” which is a fancy way of saying “deep tissue massage.” ¬†It would be 90% covered, but my insurance manual said I would have to get approval before going (whether that is a referral from my primary care physician, or something else, I don’t know). ¬†Additionally, the closest place offering those services and accepting my insurance was a chiropractic clinic 20-30 minutes away. ¬†It just seemed like a lot of hassle, so I opted to pay out of pocket to go to a local clinic.

I did some research online while lying in bed Wednesday night. ¬†My hip was stressing me out, worrying about where to schedule a massage was stressing me out, stress leads to lack of sleep, and stress plus lack of sleep does nothing to relax muscles. ¬†So I did my research late at night. ¬†I looked into a few places and found one near my apartment with a record of working with professional athletes and Olympians, as well as volunteering their services at the end of local races. ¬†I felt confident they knew what they were doing and especially knew runners. ¬†Plus, they had online booking, so I was able to schedule myself an appointment online at midnight for a sports massage the next day after work. ¬†Always a plus when I don’t have to make a phone call!

When I made my appointment, I described my problem in the “special instructions” section. ¬†When I showed up the next day, the massage therapist already knew exactly why I was there and had printed off some materials about helpful stretches to send home with me. ¬†I was already impressed. ¬†I wasn’t expecting any sort of rehab/at-home advice. ¬†The whole 45-minute session was very feedback-oriented as well as instructional. ¬†He explained what he was doing and what I could do at home to help my hip. ¬†It was never very painful, not at all like how I remembered the massages I used to get (maybe they were a different style), but obviously a massage does not need to be painful to be effective, because it helped a ton.

After the massage, I thought my hip felt about 50% better, and now, the next day, it feels 80% better. ¬†I’m still debating whether to run today because I’m worried about “undoing” the work from yesterday, but even just walking feels so much better, so I am very very happy.

I think I’m converted to someone who likes to get massages during training! ¬†My wallet can probably stand the $50 every month or so.

Do you like to get deep tissue or sports massages (they’re different things, right?) to aid in recovery? ¬†If so, how often do you get them?

Running, Adult Parties, and a Smelly Sentiment

The last few days have been really awesome. ¬†It was pretty rough getting back into the work groove after a beautiful four-day weekend up north (northern Michigan). ¬†Life on a lake in a cabin off a secluded dirt road etc etc, even if it’s only for four days, is idyllic and just swept me away. ¬†I can’t wait to hopefully go back for the Fourth of July.

The good thing about working after a long weekend is that the week that follows is also a day short.  It is already Friday and it seemed to come up so fast.  I have a sushi date tonight and plans to go to a pool party on Sunday, so it should be another great weekend.

So what made these past few days awesome? ¬†Well, after taking a couple days off after Bayshore, I started my summer training plan! ¬†My first run back on Tuesday felt rough and I didn’t feel recovered from my race yet, but I felt better on Wednesday and ran Wednesday and Thursday as well. ¬†The plan I am using calls for easy runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with rest Friday, a long run Saturday, cross training on¬†Sunday, and rest again¬†Monday. ¬†It peaks at a 40-mile week after about four months, so my hope is that this can get me back to running the mileage I would like to be running in a safe, effective way.

The plan I am using is Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 marathon training program. ¬†I’m not intending to run a marathon until the spring, but since the plan gives me the mileage I want and since I am feeling like a beginner again after all the injuries of the past year, I thought it seemed like a good way to go. ¬†I’m also hoping that following a plan written by an experienced professional will help give me less of a chance of getting hurt than if I were to continue doing things my way and playing it by ear. ¬†I’m looking forward to the next 18 weeks and to seeing where I am at the end of the program. ūüôā

In non-running news, I went with Matt to the picnic his boss hosted yesterday evening. ¬†It was interesting because it was an “adult party.” ¬†With the exception of our friend Jack and one other employee, everyone was married and most people were at least 30, or nearing it. ¬†Not to say that that is old, because it’s not, but it did feel a little funny being the youngest one (unless you count the one toddler running around, or the baby in the pregnant wife’s belly). ¬†It was pleasant, just a very different experience. ¬†Oh, and the hot dogs were great. ¬†There was a puppy, too, but we didn’t eat him. ūüėõ

The other important non-running news? ¬†I had to throw away one of my favorite shirts this morning. ¬†It is the T-shirt I got for 8th grade graduation back in 2006. ¬†It still fits great and is really comfortable and soft, but when I put it on this morning I noticed the underarms still smelled even though it had just been washed, and when I looked, they were also stained. ūüė¶ ¬†I took pictures so I would always remember this amazing shirt. ¬†I mean, sentimentally amazing. ¬†It’s nothing special except that it’s a special memory.

The Knights were the high school's mascot that I would have gone to (that my middle school fed into) if I hadn't gone to a different school.

The Knights were the high school’s mascot that I would have gone to (that my middle school fed into) if I hadn’t gone to a different school.

Because my high school graduating class was the Class of 2010.

Because my high school graduating class was the Class of 2010.

Do you have anything of sentimental value that you probably should get rid of but just can’t bring yourself to throw away?

Race Recap: Bayshore Half Marathon

I ran this same race last year in 1:57:11, which I wrote about on my old blog¬†if you are interested in reading about it. ¬†This year, I ran a full 20 minutes slower at 2:17:12 (net time). ¬†I can’t even compare the two races though because my circumstances were completely different. ¬†Last year, like this year, I was hurt leading up to the race, but last year, I ran three weeks over 40 miles and many in the 30s in the months leading up to the race, whereas this year I have only been able to run two 20-mile weeks in the last six months. ¬†Last year, I was looking to run a very ambitious 1:45, whereas this year I was hoping to finish.

So, I was wayyy less fit, some might say injured, and generally feeling unprepared for this race. ¬†There had been a few periods leading up to it when I didn’t know if I would even be able to run the race, and it was actually still up in the air until Friday afternoon. ¬†Given all of that, I am¬†very happy with the way things went.

Matt and I drove up to his grandparents’ cabin the day before the race. ¬†We arrived at around 3pm, visited for a bit, and then I decided it was time¬†to see how my hip was feeling (I had taken the previous 9 days off running because it had been bugging me). ¬†We went for a short 20-minute jog and I felt spectacular, even adding two strides onto the end. ¬†That is when I finally decided I would be able to run the race.

We then drove into Traverse City about 45 minutes away to pick up the race packets, which was a breeze. ¬†We had no trouble finding a parking spot and there were no lines, which is a huge difference from last year. ¬†At packet pick-up, they were selling previous years’ shirts for $5, so I bought last year’s half marathon shirt in a size up from the one I got last year. ¬†The shirts run small, but I didn’t quite believe them and I ordered a small that year, which looked like this…

The 2013 Bayshore shirt in a small, oops...

The 2013 Bayshore shirt in a small, oops…

The medium fits great. ūüôā

I went to bed around 10:15 on Friday night and wake-up was at 4:15am.  Somehow, I woke up at 4:14, before any alarms had gone off, which was pretty convenient.  I got dressed right away and sat down with some black coffee.  I also spread peanut butter on a plain bagel to bring along and eat at 6am.

We got out the door at 5:15 and Matt’s mom drove his dad and me to the half marathon start 45 minutes away so we wouldn’t have to take a shuttle, which eliminated a lot of stress. ¬† We stood around in the park chatting for quite a while, then I warmed up and it was time for the 7:30 start!

I started with Matt’s dad (Bryan) between the 9-minute and 10-minute pace signs, but quickly fell off. ¬†New to the course this year is an uphill section before joining the main road. ¬†I went out in what felt like a conservative pace and handled the hills just fine–I wasn’t tired at the top and felt better than a lot of the people around me sounded–yay Ann Arbor hills! ¬†After that section, I decided to continue not to push things and hung back, losing Bryan ahead of me for the rest of the race (he ended up finishing about ten minutes before me).

I ran the first 5k in 30 minutes and I was entertaining thoughts of going slightly faster, but that quickly went downhill as the course did. ¬†The course is a net downhill and by mile 5, the fronts of the¬†bottoms of my¬†feet were becoming incredibly painful from sliding¬†forward in my shoes. ¬†I have had this problem before in training, but it has never been quite this painful. ¬†It felt like the bottoms of my feet were on fire and between miles 5 and 8, it got so bad that I felt like I was running on knives. ¬†I’m not exaggerating when I say every step was a mental battle and I thought I might pass out from the pain. ¬†It was a struggle to make it to the halfway point, after which I started walking quite a bit.

So there I was, around mile 7 or 8, walking (which did not hurt) and contemplating. ¬†I could either not finish, I could walk the whole rest of the way, or I could suck it up and keep going. ¬†Sucking it up wasn’t an option, but I didn’t want not finishing to be an option, either. ¬†Well, I am a forefoot striker, and I realized that if I completely changed my stride to heel-strike, kind of like a quick walk/jog, I could run and I could finish. ¬†So that’s what I did.

This is the closest I have to a picture of me.  Mile 9 - I'm in the yellow singlet in the background.

This is the closest I have to a picture of me. Mile 9 – I’m in the yellow singlet in the background.

I ran the last five miles alternating between walking and my awkward heel-strike method. ¬†I would run a mile, take a little break, and then run again. ¬†It felt like it took forever, but this finally got me to the last mile. ¬†I told myself I would run the whole last mile, but not very far into it, I gave up and started walking. ¬†As soon as I did that, a lady about my mom’s age came up from behind¬†me and said, “No, I have been following you this whole race and I am NOT going to beat you. ¬†Come on.” ¬†I started running again and we ran all the way to the finish on the track together, where¬†I pulled away in the last 50 meters or so. ¬†Even though it took a push from someone else, I am very proud of how I finished as strong as I possibly could (and held on for a lot longer than I usually do). ¬†I was in so much pain at the end, from my feet to everything else that comes with being undertrained, yet I was able to push through it and finish literally as fast as I possibly could have in that situation. ¬†I had absolutely nothing left at the end.

My official results

My official results

I don’t have a picture from the finish line because I was a lot more concerned with getting hugs and eating food, but I promise I was there ;), and even though the journey was rough, I’m really glad I was able to complete this race. ¬†In time, I will get back to the level I once was at and then beyond. ūüôā

(And in case you were wondering, my feet are perfectly fine, just blistered.  No injuries here.)