Monday, October 27, 2008

Almost There....

A few nights ago I was thrashing in my bed, trying to fall asleep. I wasn't pining after some lost love, but actually -as pathetic as it sounds- imagining how much better I'll feel when I can run again.

My feet are doing a lot better. Right now, I feel fine when I step but pressing directly into the bones will still causes some pain.

I'm going to give myself two more weeks to heal and then I should be ready to run.

I can't tell you how excited I am over the prospect of being able to just sprint along when I arrive in Florida for my vacation at the end of November.

Running on the beach.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good News And Bad News

The good news is that a doctor -without an X-ray- told me that it was unlikely that I could have a hairline crack in any bones.

The bad news is that this still leaves me with inflamed tendons, etc, in my feet that don't seem inclined to heal.

I'm really, really, tired of not running. I feel like crap, frankly.

But what can I do.

Heal feet! Heal!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Not Running A Marathon

This ran in the paper Sunday:

Kick off your shoes and go for a jog in the grass. Let your heel strike the ground before the rest of your foot. Feel strange? Now run for a minute or two on the pavement the same way. That arc of pain shooting up your leg with every heel strike is Mother Nature telling you bluntly that your foot is biomechanically unsuited to run this way.

It’s an interesting experiment, and one I wish I’d tried before attempting to switch my flat-footed stride to one where I landed heel first. It was likely a mistake, I realize now, and one that will keep me out of the Hartford Marathon, which I’ve been training for since early July.

If you read running magazines and listen to a number of coaches, they’ll tell you that my decision to switch strides was a wise one. It’s supposed to increase running efficiency and make things easier on the body, but my experiment pretty much shows that such a stride is impossible to maintain comfortably without the intervention of the thick padding of a running shoe.

Many runners use this stride, but then again, by some estimates 50 percent of high-mileage runners suffer an injury every year.

A padded running shoe may block the pain, but it can’t fully correct the strain of landing repetitively on something that wasn’t made to absorb shock.

After switching over fully to a heel-strike, I ran the 12-mile New Haven Road in September, my first race ever. I did better than I expected and finished ahead of more than half the other runners, but after crossing the finish line I was hobbling. A bone on the inside of each foot was throbbing.

I stopped running in the hope of healing by the Hartford Marathon on Oct. 11, but the bones have made slow progress.
The pain isn’t severe now, but I have a feeling that if I ran 26 miles on still tenuous feet I’d be risking serious injury, and a talking to a few runners the consensus seems to be that I’d be a bad idea.

It’s also possible that throwing myself into running so quickly may have contributed as well.

There’s no question that I’m cardiovascularly fit enough to run a marathon. My breathing is never really la-bored, and I don’t find the running that strenuous.
I eat a raw food diet of only fruits and vegetables, and sip a mix of bananas and celery as I run, which seems to have kept me from ever having my muscles shut down from lack of carbohydrates. This process, called hitting the wall by runners, stops many racers in their tracks, but I haven’t had the problem so far.

But such a quick increase in mileage may have been too much for my bones to adapt to.
I also probably don’t have the bone structure to run well. Some people have arches that carve out graceful half moons in the wet sand of a beach.

My feet are as flat as they come and imprint of usually wide V in the sand.
The bones and muscles of my feet and ankles also continuously lock up. The staff of Omni Physical and Aquatic Therapy have graciously been volunteering their time to loosen me up but my body stubbornly refuses to stay loose.

Crunching down on feet that don’t move is likely compounding my problem.
I’m not giving up on my marathon, though.

I grew up overweight, and I never thought of myself as a runner. That I was able to expand from maxing out at five miles a run in June to 20 miles at the end of August completely stretched the horizons of what I thought was possible for myself.
After you’ve run 20 miles, 30 miles doesn’t seem all that daunting.

Besides that, I just love the feeling of propelling myself along with the road stretched out in front of me. I like the idea of improving myself and my time. The fact that I haven’t been able to run for over a month bothers me far more than the pain of the injury.

I’m going to heal up over the course of the winter and take some time to get back in shape, but I’ll find a spring Marathon to run next year.

In the meantime, you can read Dave Moran’s account of running the Hartford Marathon. He’s been doing these things for a while and would have likely left me in the dust if we’d both run.

Thanks to everyone in the community who has been rooting for me. I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Andrew Goes Sorta Barefoot

“The human foot is a work of art and a masterpiece of engineering.”Leonardo Da Vinci

That the human body is pretty close to perfect, and that our best attempts to augment and improve it are inept bumblings at best and disastrous at worst is an idea that's served me well. Sunday, I had no choice but to follow through with it and go barefoot. Kinda.

One of the best things about a raw food diet is that you get previously inconceivable quantities of energy to use as you please. One of the worst things about a raw food diet is figuring out how to use it when your feet are busted.

I haven't run in over a month, and last Friday I was starting to go stir crazy. I passed up a trip to Boston this weekend becuase I needed to do some serious physical exercise before I went nuts.

I headed up to Fahnestock State Park in New York Saturday and hiked for five or six hours. By the end I was feeling some complaint from my injured bones, and, as usual of late, there was some low-level knee pain.

While hiking, I was reflecting on the ridiculousness of the situation. I had enough energy to run miles but I was stuck moving at a snail's pace- with pain to boot.

Worse, I felt that I hadn't routed out the underlying cause of my injury, and that after giving myself time to heal, that I might well reinjure myself when I took up running again.

It's a similar feeling to when my intestines were messed up with colitis. Even when I was feeling fairly good, there was always that underlying threat that they were going to go nuts again. It preyed on my mind.

The doctors essentially want to offer colitis sufferers a crutch. They'll put you on hormone pills
that treat some-but not all- of the symptoms. They won't touch the idea of curing the underlying cause- they won't even agree that there is an underlying cause.

I eventually got sick of the whole medical establishment and went with a raw food diet. By removing the underlying cause-the harmful food-, I cured my symptoms. I haven't had intestinal problems since, and I never expect to. It's extremely liberating.

So as I hiked at Fahnestock, somewhat distracted by the issue, I kept half tripping myself on the rocks strewn about the path.

This has chronically been a problem for me, despite being well coordinated. I spent my college years scaling mountains, I can do handstand scorpions, but put me on a hiking trail and I'll somehow manage to catch my shoe on a rock every 20 minutes.

Why? I can't feel the ground with my feet like I can feel the rock when I'm climbing. On a cliff face my hands are uncovered and my feet are in slipper-like climbing shoes. When hiking, there are stiff soles blocking any feeling of the ground that might tell me feet about the terrain.

This brought me back to something I've been tossing around in the back of my mind for some time. Why is it that Africans, like Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila, who ran a world-record 2:15:17 marathon at the 1960 Olympics, can get by without Nike, but westerners need to coddle their feet in inches of padding and stabilization?

Genetics? Maybe with Bikila, but are you going to tell me that every poor African that runs barefoot has the feet of the gods?

I look at my flat, pronation-prone feet, which running store owners tell me can only run with $90 Nikes keeping them stable, and wonder if maybe, like doctors facing colitis, the running store owners haven't been selling me a crutch.

Is there any benefit to running shoes besides protection from sharp objects? Why did we even start to use them? The Greeks ran barefoot or in thin-soled thin sandals for their Olympics, and mankind went barefoot for the first 200,000 years of our stay on this planet, so why should I need shoes?

It's with this thought that I found myself staring up a trail at Hubbard Park Sunday, prepared to be humbled. On my feet were a new pair of Vibram fiver fingers. There was enough rubber under my foot to keep sharp rocks and broken glass from slashing my feet to pieces, but not enough to let me walk sloppy.

My bones are still in no condition to run, so I set off for a brisk hike.

In short, it was like all the best parts of going barefoot without the threat of sliced skin and muddy toes. As I walked, my feet melted over the terrain. I could feel the pebbles, the grass, and every dip and rise of the terrain.

These things completely changed the way I walked. Previously, though unconsciously, I trod with little regard to the biomechanical setup of my body because I was offered no feedback. My feet landed however they fell, and I had no idea if it was good or bad.

Suddenly I saw there were bad, painful ways to crunch down on your foot. And there were also perfect ways. After a hour or two I noticed that my knees weren't bothering me like normal.

I jogged in 20 second intervals on dirt to be safe, and I noticed that these things also change my running stride a lot. I find that instead of reaching my foot out in front me, I now lead with my torso, with my legs pushing off in back of me. It's the only comfortable way to do it.

This is incredibly interesting, but I'm going to have a lot of build up to do if I want carry this forward.

When I got back to my car, I noticed that there were muscles in my legs and ankles that I obviously hadn't been using in a shoe, and they were all complaining.

And that was just after a hike. We'll have to see what happens when I try to run after I heal up for a few more weeks.

I may look strange in these, but I have to say I'm liking the barefoot thing.

P.S. I'll post info about the Marathon I didn't run later.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eating To Save The World?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the ecological damage done by food food choices. I searched high and low on this topic without finding much, so I decided to throw some facts together myself and do an article.

You might find it interesting to look at the damage, and good, that's done to the earth through what we eat:

Eating To Save The World

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Coming Down To The Wire

Things are really coming down to the wire with my feet.

They're feeling better, but the marathon is just nine days away.

I actually made the decision to stop biking, which, as convoluted as it sounds, seems to be loosening the muscle that is pulling on the bone. By stopping the biking, which I've been doing daily to stay in shape, I've improved more in the last two days than I had in the past week.

Crazy, crazy feet.

I'm hoping for the best.