On April 29th, I attempted my first 50k (31 mile) trail race. The clever reader will have already surmised that it didn’t go well. Here’s what happened….
background story: Plantar Fasciitis wreaking havoc on my trail running!
Since about January of this year, I’ve been dealing with Plantar Fasciitis and foot pain. It started when I began running on the road again to prepare for the Boston Marathon. Instead of going back to the Brooks Beasts, my tried and true ultra-supportive road shoe, I decided to continue using my orthotics on the road in neutral road shoes. (I ended up with the Asics Gel 13s.) In truth, this was fine for shorter runs of 10 miles or less, but I began having difficulties when I started logging some longer runs of 18+ miles. Basically it felt like the bottoms of both feet were on fire by about mile 20.
In a knee jerk reaction, I decided to ditch the orthotics thinking that the carbon fiber rigidity of them was preventing my foot from flexing properly, resulting in foot pain. Fearing injury, I decided to go back to supportive road shoes without the orthotics. The mistake I made was allowing myself to be convinced that maybe I didn’t need quite so much support. I figured that, with all of the foot and leg strengthening trail running that I did last fall, my feet had gotten stronger and I could step down a level of support. ( At this point, I’ll also admit to a hidden long-term agenda of working myself towards a “natural” running technique and maybe be able to run in Newtons or some other sexy minimalist shoes someday.) I decided to go with the new Brooks Trance 14’s. Still a highly cushioned and supportive shoe, but a step down in support from the Beast.
Now let’s let my A.D.D. control things and skip ahead a couple months.
In February, after only one quick 5 mile track run, I ran the Hyannis Marathon in the new Trances with no orthotics. It went quite well. After that, I continued to do all of my training in them and also ran the New Bedford Half in them in March. For the first month they actually felt pretty good during the runs. Post run, however, was a different story. I was feeling gradually more intense heel and foot pain after my runs. (after hard efforts in particular.) After New Bedford, my foot and ankle were screaming at me for two days! As time went on, the post run pain started intruding on the runs as well. By early April, I considered myself officially injured. With Boston coming up in just over two weeks, this was obviously NOT GOOD.
about the pain: basically, intense heel pain. In truth, it felt like heel strike impact pain. However, by massaging, icing and stretching, I could make it go away. Through online research I figured that I was dealing with Plantar Fasciitis. The main cause of which for severe over-pronators like me is not having the proper level of support.
So in a last-ditch effort before Boston, I decided to go back up to the Brooks Beasts with hopes of still being able to run Boston. This proved to be the best decision I made in months! Surprisingly, I was running comfortably in the Beasts almost immediately. I got in two weeks of taper mileage in them, and ran Boston in relative comfort. (In truth, nobody was really comfortable at the 2012 Boston Marathon, but I won’t get into that here. If you’re interested, just Google it.)
I couldn’t have been happier to have Boston behind me, because that meant that I could finally start running trails again!!! Needless to say, I decided to stay in the Beasts for my trail running. I mean, how could I not? They were fixing the problem! Things were getting back to normal! Life was good! I even remember saying out loud on a trail run in Uxbridge 3 days after Boston that my “Plantar Fasciitis days are behind me.” (foreshadowing alert!) Well, as you can probably guess, before long my heel was hurting again, but strangely, only when running trails.
With my first 50k trail race attempt coming up a mere two weeks after Boston, I decided to rest my foot as much as possible. I took the 4 days before the race off, massaging and icing my foot a couple times a day.
Feeling pretty good, I headed to Weston, MA for the TARC Spring Classic on April 29th. In the back of my mind somewhere I knew that it probably wasn’t the best idea to attempt a 50k with my foot nagging me. I figured I had a 50/50 chance of my foot being able to handle the run. I was excited to go to my first TARC event however, and knew I wouldn’t have another opportunity to get to another one until the fall. So with a “we’ll just have to see what happens” attitude, and mentally preparing myself to stop and take the DNF if I had to, I headed out onto the trails with the other runners.
The Spring Classic is a 10k loop that runners that is repeated depending on how many miles your race is. (I think there’s a 10k, a half marathon, a full marathon, and a 50k). The course is not very hilly or technical. My first loop and a half went surprisingly well, with little to no pain at all. I met a couple of other runners doing about my same pace, and felt good about settling in and completing the full 5 loops (50k). Somewhere around mile 11 though, my heel started acting up again. It quickly got painful and I was frustrated to have to tell my two running companions to go ahead without me at the aid station before the third loop. I decided to try changing my shoes (I brought the Trances with me), and giving it a go for the 3rd loop. The shoe change proved to be a mistake as the pain quickly got worse than it had ever been. At mile 14.5 I shut it down and started walking. After a mile or so of not even being able to walk comfortably, I knew I was done.
The runners who passed me when I was walking the remainder of the loop back to the aid station were super supportive, trying to motivate me to muscle through it and finish, but there was just no way. Besides, I didn’t want my first Ultra to be a 14.5 mile run followed by a 16.5 mile walk! So with gradually lessening frustration about my looming DNF, I walked the 4 miles or so out of the woods with a “live to fight another day” attitude, and started thinking about what my next step was going to be to deal with my Plantar Fasciitis.
I couldn’t help thinking about the orthotics that were sitting in the drawer of my nightstand at home…..