How I finally got over my Plantar Fasciitis

I started noticing some tightness in my heel during the first mile or so of my runs. It was the Fall of 2017 and I attributed it to ramping up my miles (about 50 per week) for the Grindstone 100 race. Thankfully I never felt a thing during the race and continued to ignore it.

In March of 2018 I ran a 50K trail race and decided to use my Altra Lone Peaks with Zero drop and adequate cushioning. The heel pain never went away and got much worse during the run. I still finished, but it put me in a worse place.

Though I didn’t seek medical advice, it was clear this was plantar fasciities. It hindsight, it was likely due to a tight Achilles tendon. Running 32 miles in a zero heel drop shoe strained the tendon more and added more tension to the plantar fasciities. I typically run in shoes with a 4 or 5 mm heel drop.

I tried a number of solutions, but the pain remained. I felt it for the last 93 miles of the Old Dominion 100 and 99.9 miles of the Burning River 100. At this point the heel pain was rather constant throughout my day. It was especially difficult walking after getting off the couch. Standing around got painful.

Peanut massage balls for the win!

I was trying many things to relieve the pain. Some worked, most didn’t.

  • STRETCHING my Achilles didn’t help. If anything, this seemed to only aggravate the heel pain.
  • I was FOAM ROLLING my calves, though not as regularly as I should. That did seem to help my Achilles and calf tightness.
  • Wearing MAX CUSHION SHOES (e.g. Hoka Clifton 3s) did help hide the pain around the house and as I continued to put in training miles.
  • IBUPROFEN hid the pain but after a few days of it, I stopped using it altogether. It didn’t improve the injury.
  • I started wearing my NIGHT SPLINT every night. That helped in the morning, but I can’t say it helped with the healing.
  • PLANTAR FASCIITIES socks and special arch supports felt good to pull on, but didn’t seem to do a thing.
  • SPIKY BALLS worked! I would roll them under my foot.
  • A PEANUT MASSAGE BALL worked even better. I could apply more pressure than the spiky balls. I used this 2-3 times per day.
  • Surprisingly, taking TIME OFF of running didn’t really help. There was only some minor improvement when I stopped running for a few months. Using the peanut massage ball while running lead to more improvement.

I’m not a doctor, but it seems my tight calves and often sore Achilles tendon put stress on the Plantar Fasciities leading to micro tears and scar tissue. The long run in zero drop shoe pushed the injury to a new level. The night splint and Hokas just addressed the pain. The foam roller loosed the calves while the massage balls broke down the Plantar fasciities scar tissue.

I’m pain free and only have a bit of tightness in the morning, but that goes away quickly — and might be due to old age!

Finally got picked!

I’d never won a run lottery.

I am a five-time loser at the Western States 100 and missed out of last year’s pick for the Cascade Crest 100, but my luck has changed. I got into this year’s Angeles Crest 100 (AC100) run. Now comes the easy parts: training for it and running it.

Getting older means you’re not sure how many more 100 milers the old body can take. What I did is created a bucket list of 100 milers I want to run. All of the original five are on there: Leadville 100, Old Dominion 100, Western States 100, Wasatch 100, and the AC100. The first two are checked off and third should be once I get past that race’s lottery.

As races go, the AC100 has about 4,000 feet more climbing than Leadville and 9,000 feet of additional descent all at a lower elevation.

The kicker is the AC100 race can be hot and I don’t have a great history with heat, but that may have changed. I’ve not vomited during my last three 100 milers. Granted they only got into the 80Fs, it is still promising. What is my secret?

I’ve been trying to figure out why my stomach shuts down in these races . I think what happens is I’m not eating enough real food containing fats and protein. As a result, my stomach all but stops processing what I put into it. My metabolism switches over to burning fat (yeah!) but that generates excess heat (boo!). My body diverts blood from my stomach and other organs to cool itself which further slows digestion.

For my past three races I’ve eaten real food, typically a portion of a grilled cheese or PB&J at every aid station and I’ve been fine. I think my fear of getting nauseous in the past led me to avoid doing this and relying more on sugary gels, which only made matters worst.

My fingers are still crossed that this issue has been solved, but we’ll really know when the afternoon heat picks up along the mountainous trails of the Angeles National Forest this August.

No luck in the 2015 Western States 100 lottery

western-states-2014-lotteryIt’s not surprising that my name didn’t get pulled in the entry lottery for next summer’s Western States 100 mile run in California. It’s one of the toughest races to get into.

At yesterday’s lottery, 2,566 runners applied for 270 entry slots. Among the first-time entrants, less than 5% entrants got selected. Next year, those that didn’t get in can reapply and get chances in the lottery. The chances grow exponentially so the most patient should eventually get chosen, though yesterday six 6-time entrants didn’t.

It’s not that easy to reapply each year. You must qualify to enter the lottery. This means finishing a 100-mile race, or in some cases, finishing a 100K race before a set time deadline.

If I finish the Leadville run again next summer, I’ll reapply for Western States in 2016.

At least that’s the plan for now.

Got shells in my shoes

I ran the Dances with Dirt 50K (32 miler) in September at the Pinckney State Recreation Area.

It’s a fairly brutal race.  There’s not much climbing, but it tempts you to run fast, which can take its toll later on.

It goes through Hell, Michigan, too.

It also goes off trail. The trail markers are hung on trees and it’s up to the runners to pick their route through the woods.

This year something rather common happened – someone vandalized the course markings, moving them and leading the runners into a dead end gully. Our group spread out, climbing hills in search of the legitimate markings.

The run course also took us off trail and into some rivers. After finishing the race I found shards of broken freshwater clams shells in my shoes (ouch) and a couple complete shells embedded on the bottom of my shoes.

I clearly hadn’t recovered from running 100 miles at Leadville a month earlier, but I didn’t feel too bad. I bruised both heels after aggressively running downhill which came back to haunt me as the miles piled up.

I also tried a couple new products in anticipation of maybe using them at Leadville next year.

First, I used some Dirty Girl Gaiters. The goal was to keep sticks and stones out of my shoes. They didn’t work. The Velcro attachments didn’t stick on the shoes. I’ll try them again and see if I can’t improve that Velcro attachment. They just might not work at crazy races like this.

Second, instead of my Nathan running pack, I used a handheld water bottle from Amphipod.  The aid stations aren’t too far apart so a single water bottle works well. I also was able to keep some gels stashed in the pocket. I’d need to use two of these at Leadville and I’m not sure where I’d carry my emergency clothing. But as the weather at Leadville seems to be getting warmer, I’d rather stay cooler by not wearing a pack.

The Night before Leadville

Leadville, Colorado – At 4am tomorrow morning, they’ll fire a shotgun at the corner of Main Street and Sixth to start the 30th Leadville Trail 100 mile run. Despite the early start, I look forward to being in that group.

It’s been ten years since I first ran this event. With a finishing time of 24 and half hours, it remains my fastest time after 5 more tries.

That may change this year as I’ve run about 200 more miles in training for this event. I also did some run training in the Appalachians earlier this year. I’ve noticed an improvement, too. I ran/hiked about 45 miles over 4 days around Frisco, Colorado and never felt too tired.

On the negative side, I’m 10 years older and about 3 pounds heavier. My weight could have been a bigger liability had I not lost about 24 pounds of winter blubber during the past 5 months. Weight is such a major factor at Leadville. Running with an extra 10 pounds of fat is like carrying a gallon jug of milk. Besides the added work, it’s tougher on your body. This is magnified in Leadville as the trail is often going up and or down.

One other negative? The race course is longer. They’ve added about 2.3 miles.

As for my race strategy, I am not doing much differently this year.

I have chewable vitamin C tablets with me. Last year I craved orange juice, which seemed to improve my upset stomach. These little orange tablets may help.

I’m using gel packets instead of gel bottles just because the aid stations have them. For solid food I have some Fig Newtons and Shok Bloks. I’m going to try avoid other solid food until later in the race in hopes that it helps my stomach. My  stomach totally cooperated 10 years ago.

Overall, I am hoping to run more segments where I’ve walked in the past. I hope to stride up the mountains a little quicker too. We’ll see.

You never know what’s going to happen over 100 miles.

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