STILL Trying to Heal

Happy October! A lot of things have changed since my last post, but one thing hasn’t: my heel still hurts. A lot. I’m here to tell you that Plantar Fasciitis is an absolute nightmare.

I got plantar fasciitis in my right foot during the last month of training for Pineland Farms 50K, which you may recall was in May. Five months ago. I ran all 32 miles of that race with plantar fasciitis, and the heel pain mostly faded into the background of the day’s many pains and victories. At a pub run three days after that race I ran my fastest ever 5k according to Strava, which was a speed achievement, yeah, but more importantly a recovery achievement to be able to run so strong so soon after my longest distance yet. In June I ran the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon in 1:58:59, fulfilling my goal of running a sub two-hour half marathon. For me, a person who clearly remembers a time when hitting a 10:30 mile during a short run was the absolute very best I could do, maintaining below an average of 9:10 minutes per mile FOR 13.1 MILES was a giant victory. I did it with plantar fasciitis. At work the Monday and Tuesday following the race day, my heel hurt like hell, and I decided it was finally time to try giving it a rest.

I’m still #*@$ing resting.

I’m not going to go into all the ups and downs of treatment, cortisone shots, stretches, miracle inserts, etc, etc, etc. Many people have struggled with plantar fasciitis, and everyone has different things that worked for them. On good days, I’m taking everyone’s advice and trying everything. On bad days, I’m feeling too overwhelmed and demotivated to even do 30 seconds of stretching. With running out of the equation, it seemed pretty clear that standing all day in a food service job was actively contributing to my heel pain. So I put in my notice, and a few weeks ago I stopped working at the donut shop. I’ve now returned to office work, starting in a temporary position. A week or so in, my foot still hurts. But I’m trying to make the best decisions I can, and I’m trying to keep my spirits up. Which I keep saying, over and over. The forced deadline helped me make a necessary and exciting career change. I’m going to the gym as often as I can. I’m spending more time reading, and writing, and working on myself. And I am so angry that I’m not able to run.

Running is exercise, but it’s also tied to my identity, my social life, my goal-setting, and my mental health. Without it I am struggling. Seasonal depression is hitting hard because I deal with winter by running in it. Running is something that quiets all those voices that are constantly wondering if I did enough today, if I lived life to the fullest, if I worked hard enough, if I made the right choices and didn’t miss out on anything amazing. When I spend time running outdoors I don’t regret it. Never. Not once. 

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I HAVE been doing fun exercise things! Here’s a photo from an outdoor workout with friends in September.

People ask if I can just switch to a lower-impact exercise for a few months. Yes, I can, but it doesn’t replace running and it doesn’t make me any less sad that I’m missing out on so many group running adventures and solo runs on beautiful fall and summer days. I can still go to the social events around the runs, and I do, but without all the running endorphins it’s not quite the same. I am working my way toward doing more low-impact exercises to replace the running endorphins, but I haven’t spent years building shortcuts in my brain that make it easier to go swimming or biking. There are more mental blocks between the thought and the action: What if all the lanes are full at the pool? Where do I even buy chain grease? Where are my goggles? Biking could at least get me outside, which might help a lot, but it still isn’t running and it’s just. Not. The. Same.

I know that I am very lucky to have so many great things in my life, and I know I will get back to running eventually. Thanks for your patience if I seem a little grumpy in the meantime.

Recovery

Hi! Concussion update: I feel better! But it took quite a bit longer than the 2-3 weeks promised by all my “help I got a concussion” google searches. And by better I mean that I haven’t had a concussion headache for two weeks—I’m still testing things out and increasing my activity so this doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t get another concussion headache if I accidentally hit my limits. We’re currently almost 8 weeks out from concussion, so I had about 5.5 weeks of decreasing but continuing symptoms. I’m putting that out there in case this comes up in anyone else’s panicked googling about what to expect from a concussion. As the weeks went by I worried that I was one of those unlucky folks for whom concussion symptoms last years, and I was making all these calculations about how far to push it. If I get headaches when I run now, is it making the headaches worse if I run through them? Or is this just how running works now and I can run through them as long as I can put up with the pain of having a headache? For the last few weeks, though, I’ve actually felt better and I’m working back up to regular levels of fitness. 15 miles last week is way fewer than I wanted to be running this time of year and this close to a 50k race in May, but it’s the most I’ve run since concussion day on Jan 11th, and I also attended two circuits classes last week. My strength training goal is to hit the gym three times a week—one class and two more run-muscles-focused workouts on my own—so it felt great to make it out to more than one gym day. My message to any concussed people out there is that, if your concussion symptoms are hanging around longer than the expected amount of time, it doesn’t mean you won’t feel better. Rest up, take care of yourself, and give it a few more weeks. Of course I’ll keep this space updated about any lasting effects that have yet to make themselves known!

Blogging about my concussion was pretty helpful while I was having all these brain things going on that I didn’t understand. I did go to work the day after my last post, though, and as soon as I went back to work, work was the only thing I had energy for. Some people advised me to take more time off, and I would have if standing up was still making me queasy, but with my finances the way they are at the moment (I make tips and there is a HUGE difference between summer and winter income) I needed to prioritize working as soon as I was able. I wasn’t at all sure I would make it through the day but I felt pretty safe going into my coffee shop on a sleepy weekday to give it a try. It also helps that my work crew is a good family and I knew 100% that all my coworkers had my back. I needed to do everything very slowly for a few days and I still felt off and weird and headachey but I made it through. God bless my manager for how many times he asked, “How are you feeling, Grace?” that first morning. The answer was always a very tentative, “I think I’m okay.” The HILARIOUS thing is that, while having very few cold symptoms, my voice was getting a little hoarse towards the end of that first day, and I woke up the next day with LARYNGITIS. Nothing hurt, but it sure sounded terrible. My voice was reduced to whispers and occasional squeaks. Once I’d convinced people I wasn’t actually dying and it didn’t hurt to talk as much as it hurt their ears to listen, most people agreed the timing was pretty funny. And thankfully there was enough side work for me to do that I didn’t have to try talking to any customers.

I’ve learned a lot about listening to my body, and getting back to regular activities has been a slow process with several relapses. I received a few sessions of osteopathic treatment from a dear friend who is a DO, and that helped immensely. I’ve also been taking some supplements that are recommended for concussion (arnica, fish oil, homocysteine cardioplex) and I stopped drinking for several weeks after concussion day, right up until my birthday the first week of February. I think not drinking was a really good call, especially when I wasn’t running much. Running helps me maintain my mental health and stay positive during the winter, so I expected my mood to plummet when I wasn’t able to run. I actually felt fairly level and okay (though injured and exhausted) and I think removing alcohol, a depressant, at the same time I removed running helped me stay fairly stable.

Big news in other parts of my life. I purchased an iPad Pro for making digital art, and it is the BEST. Some of you have seen my sketches on Facebook an Instagram. More info and updates on that to come. Oh, and I’ve been working on my gym selfie skills: