The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

plantar fasciitis

Day 66/90 – Living in KT Tape

Day 66 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Wearing KT Tape on my foot and leg is keeping my pain under control and allowing me to go running.

My Leg in KT Tape - I always prefer Black

My Leg in KT Tape – I Always Prefer Black Tape.

I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but I’m back in KT Tape.

I’ve been running more lately to get in shape to train for a half marathon this fall. I found a new 4.2-mile route through Papago Park that I love, but it has more hills that I’m used to doing. Even though I’ve been diligent about my running form, my feet and legs hurt – especially on my left side. When I roll the golf ball with my foot or roll The Stick across my lower legs, the pain is a 9 out of 10.

Last night I put the shin splint and plantar fasciitis applications on my left leg. They’re making the pain much more manageable. This morning I did a 4-mile run on a flatter route and the pain wasn’t as bad. Every day now I stretch my calves and arches multiple times at work and every night I use The Stick and foam roller on my lower legs. Thank goodness I’m a masochist because this stuff hurts.

The only downside of living in KT Tape again is I can’t be barefoot except when I’m in the shower. I wear socks all the time to help keep the tape in place longer – even when I’m sleeping. The upside of living in Phoenix is it’s so warm at night that I don’t need covers in bed so there’s less of chance of snagging my tape on my sheets.

I hope stretching and running on flat ground for a few weeks will be enough to bring my pain under control. KT Tape is awesome, but I prefer not to live in it full-time, especially with my race being 4 months away.

In case you missed it: Day 65 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I’m falling back in love with singing and serenading myself in the car.

Official Return to Racing – The Night Run 2014

It’s official – I’m back to racing.

After being sidelined for over a year with shin splints and plantar fasciitis, enduring painful ASTYM courtesy of Endurance Rehab, and learning a brand new running posture, I ran The Night Run 10K in Scottsdale over the weekend. I can say for certain that I’m back and I’m loving it.

I was so giddy and nervous to run again. Would I remember my new running posture? How will my pace compare to my last race? I love the energy of race expos – everyone’s friendly, helpful, and bubbling with anticipation for the race. I’d never done The Night Run before and didn’t know what to expect. I was definitely surprised by the number of people. A friend said he’d heard that there were 1800-1900 signed up for the race.

My Medal from The Night Run - It Glows in the Dark

My Medal from The Night Run – It Glows in the Dark

The race started after sunset at 7:30 p.m.  We got glow bracelets in our goody bags but that was more being seen than being able to see. I was grateful for the police cars that blocked traffic with their lights flashing and the volunteers who waved multicolored light saber-esque sticks to guide us along the route.

The Night Run was a 5K and a 10K – one loop through the course for the 5K, two loops for the 10K. The first lap was super crowded. I weaved through the herd of people, fighting for a position where I could maintain my pace.  The second lap was much more relaxed since there were only 705 people who opted to do the 10K.

My new running form felt great. I was more thoughtful about what my feet were doing when I started getting tired. That helped keep up my pace. I’ve been running 3-4 days a week for the last few months, but I’d only done one 6-mile run, and this was my first time really pushing myself for speed.

I love the playful competitiveness on the course. There were a handful of people around me and we went back and forth on who was the leader. I amused myself by staying right with a guy who was trying to pass me. I got the vibe that he didn’t want to be beaten by a girl. We switched places a few times during the race, and around Mile 4.5 he really seemed to want to get ahead of me. I kept up and egged him on by kicking up my speed so he’d have to run that much faster to hold his position.

Part of the race hand a strong head wind. It probably started around Mile 2/Mile 5. It was so windy it dried all the sweat on my face into a salty crust. My lips felt so chapped. And since this race was two loops, I got to experience this twice.

Somewhere around Mile 5.5, I almost started crying. I had the thought that my coach and mentor who died last year would have been really proud to see that I was back out running and happy after going through three months of physical therapy and the frustration of learning a new running form.

My goal was to finish the race in under an hour. I was ecstatic to see that I finished in 52:31.

  • Overall: 119/707
  • Gender: 33/422
  • Division: 7/81

I try not to care about where I place. Ultimately, running is about me competing against myself. I could to a personal best and finish last or have the worst race of my life and finish first. The real winning is with me – being prepared, running a solid race, pushing myself to leave everything I have on the course.

Somewhere along the race I asked myself if running was what I was supposed to be doing, and I think it is. There is something very satisfying about getting out and pounding pavement, and I genuinely enjoy the race experience.

So what’s next? I’m not exactly sure but the plan for now is to do the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon in January 2015. Historically, they have a special on National Running Day in June so I’ll wait ‘til then to register. Training for the race will start in early September.  I might do another 10K or half marathon between now and then if I find the right opportunity, but we’ll see.

It just feels good to be back.

Learning Good Running Posture After Years of Being a Heel Striker

2012 Half Marathon Photo by Crystal O'Hara

2012 Half Marathon Photo by Crystal O’Hara

When I finished the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, I had excruciating pain in both shins and feet. I was pretty sure I had multiple stress fractures from shin splints and plantar fasciitis. My coach suggested I do some work on my running form before my next race to prevent these injuries from recurring. I thought he meant I should take a half-day interactive running seminar. I had no idea that I needed 10 weeks of physical therapy.

My physical therapist, Eric, filmed me running on the treadmill, from behind and from the side, with and without shoes. He showed me the footage in slow motion which clearly showed that I had a heel striking problem and that my hips were uneven when I took a step with my left foot. I had no kick on the back side of my stride, and I was barely picking up my feet, (which explains why I frequently trip on cracks in the sidewalk).

My physical therapy regimen included stretching, exercises to strengthen my legs, and ASTYM to break up the scar tissue in my lower legs. We also did exercises on proper running posture. It feels kinda dorky to practice going through the motions of running without actually running.

Once we got the scar tissue mostly broken up, I got to practice running with the new form. Eric started me on the Alter-G treadmill – it’s a treadmill with a built-in air bubble. I love this thing. It’s a great device for practicing new running form because you tell it how much of your weight you want to run on. He started me on 60% of my body weight and each session increased it by 10%.  It gave me a chance to practice running on my toes without pounding on my joints.

The best part of running on the Alter-G treadmill was I was literally zipped into the air bubble so I couldn’t fall down when I tripped – and I tripped a lot. When we switched me the regular treadmill, I was petrified of tripping over my feet and falling – which thankfully didn’t happen.

After a few weeks of treadmill running, Eric finally cleared me to run in the real world again – just for a few miles. Eric told me to alternate between using the old running form and the new running form – one minute stretches of each – which I thought was weird until I started to run. Holy crap it hurt to run with the new form. I don’t think I’d really used my calves to run long distance before. Switching between the old form and new form gave those muscles a chance to rest a bit.

I worked up to running 3 miles every other day. I started giving equal time to the old form and new form and I’m slowly increasing the amount of time on the new form and decreasing how long I run on the old form. The new form is way more effective and doesn’t put as much pressure on my joints.

Eric's been Taping my Arch - It definitely Helps with the Pain

Eric’s been Taping my Arch Too – It Definitely Helps with the Pain

Eric’s re-checked my posture both visually and by videotaping me again and tweaked my new form a few times. He said I needed to kick more with my hamstrings on the back side of each stride. It feels like I’m trying to kick myself in the butt with each step, but I’m sure it looks normal to anyone watching. When my arch started hurting, he told me to stop pointing my feet when I run. I’m not used to picking my feet up and I think they’re reaching for the ground a bit, plus I was a gymnast for 17 years so pointing my toes is natural. Relaxing my foot is helping give me more of a mid-foot strike, and decreasing the pain in my arch. And thank goodness for that because Eric’s been massaging the crap out of it, which is excruciatingly painful. When he works on it, I grip the pillow and utter “Jesus Christ” and “Fuck” through clenched teeth.

It’s so weird and mentally taxing to run – thinking about relaxing my foot on the front end and kicking my butt on the back side. I expect it will take years for my new running form to feel normal. It still hurts to run with the old form and new form but that will get better with time. I’m curious to see what this will do for my race time. My half marathon PR is 1:52 and that was with bad form and pain in both feet and shins. I’d love to see how much I improve with proper running posture.

Treating my Shin Splints and Plantar Fasciitis with ASTYM and Dry Needling

I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon every year from 2010 to 2013, and every time I did the race, I seemed to have more problems with shin splints and foot pain than the previous race – and yes, I follow a really good half marathon training program by Hal Higdon. My legs hurt so much during the 2013 race, I was pretty sure I ran the race with three stress fractures in my tibias (two in my left, one in my right).

After the 2013 half marathon I rested my legs for months, but I was in pain within weeks of trying to run again. I decided to suck it up and get professional help. I started with an informal evaluation at one of Runner’s Den’s weekly injury clinics. I described my pain to the doctor and he immediately referred me to Endurance Rehab for ASTYM®. And then he warned me – ASTYM hurts.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. I used to be a gymnast. How bad could it be?

The next day, I called to make an appointment at Endurance Rehab and relayed the injury clinic doctor’s recommendation that I receive ASTYM and she warned me – You know it’s going to hurt a lot, right?

Ok now I started to worry a little bit if the receptionist was warning me. I did some research on YouTube to get an idea of what I was in for.

A few days later I met with my physical therapist, Eric, who did a full athletic history and evaluation. He said my shin pain was due to the fact that I had a lot of scar tissue my legs, which is why they didn’t get better with rest alone. His plan of action: break up the scar tissue with ASTYM, strengthen my leg muscles, and train me on a better running posture to prevent recurrence.

My calves after a session of ASTYM - early in the process

My Legs after ASTYM – Early in the Process

My ASTYM included both anterior tibialis muscles (front outside lower leg), my left posterior tibialis (front inside lower leg), both calves, and the bottoms of both feet. The video above must have been done on a person who didn’t have any injuries because Holy Fucking Shit ASTYM hurts! The first time Eric did ASTYM on me, it hurt so much I was shaking by the time he was halfway through. (He said I was the first person he’s seen have that reaction.) I never shook again, but it is not uncommon for me to cringe, grunt, scream, swear, and pound the table during ASTYM. I’ve pulled my foot away a few times, and each time Eric patiently holds out his hand until I give it back.

And did I mention the bruising? We’re all glad I did this during winter because if I wore a dress or shorts outside, everyone would wonder who’s beating me.

The good news is the pain gets better and the bruising decreases over time as the scar tissue breaks up. When he works on me, Eric uses ASTYM and manually massages my tibialis muscles. His hands are bright red from the pressure he’s putting on my muscles and except for a few small areas on my plantar fascia and my post tibialis, I’m pretty comfortable compared to when he first worked on me.

Dry Needling - 20 Needles in my Post Tibialis

Dry Needling – 20 Needles in my Post Tibialis

We also did some dry needling in my post tibialis during physical therapy. Dry needling uses the same gauge needles as acupuncture but they go all the way into the muscles. It’s based on the premise that the needles cause micro-trauma where they’re inserted which stimulates the healing process. There are people on both sides of whether dry needling is an effective treatment or only placebo. I don’t care. It seemed to help me.

It felt really intense when the needles were in my leg, especially when they were going in. I had an urge to point and flex my foot after the needles were in but I figured that would hurt a lot so I opted to do it with my non-needled foot instead.

I’m happy to share that my legs are on the mend and I’m starting to run again. I’ll write another post soon about the process of learning to run with a completely different running form.

Will 2013 Be My Last Half Marathon?

I’m starting to give serious consideration to hanging up my running shoes after the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This will be my 4th time doing the race and it seems like every time I train for a half marathon, I run a personal best, but I also go into the race more injured than the previous race. Here’s the breakdown of all my half marathons to date.

Photo by Crystal O’Hara

2010:  No major injuries during training (Race time: 2:09)
2011: Shin splints – left leg (2:06)
2012: Shin splints – left leg, Left foot pain (1:52)
2013: Expect to run with pain in both shins and feet

For the 2011 race, I was barely able to train because of my shin pain. That was my most painful race ever. I started hurting during mile 2 and it got worse the more I ran. By the end of the race, you couldn’t hug me because everything hurt – including my internal organs hurt. I started using KT Tape when I was training for the 2012 race. I spent the last month of training with my leg taped up. By race day, I needed tape jobs on my leg and foot. This year I practically started training with my leg taped up and I added a foot tape job last week. I pulled back on the intensity of my training to let my legs rest a bit. My left leg did fine with last weekend’s 6-mile run/walk but now my right leg and foot are starting to hurt too. It makes me wonder if it’s time for new sport.

Before getting into running, I was a gymnast for 17 years. I love being athletic. I was a competitive gymnast for 8 years and I had a plethora of injuries – shin splints, knee problems, back problems, and chronic foot problems. When I retired from competition, I was recovering from a stress fractured lower back. My doctor suggested I take up yoga. I joined a regular gym and I tried it. I found weight lifting to be boring and yoga was challenging, but it gave me no sense of accomplishment. I missed the pounding of my hands and feet against the ground and doing flips. I haven’t found a suitable substitute for gymnastics – there’s nothing like it.

I’ve tried a few other sports but nothing’s clicked for me. I fenced for 1.5 years in college and that was pretty fun. On the advice of my coaches, I took swimming as a PE class when I was in college. I really tried to like it but it did nothing for me. I really didn’t like that I couldn’t tell when I was sweating. When I moved to Phoenix, I got into hiking because I didn’t think running was an option given my history with injuries. I enjoy getting out on the mountain trails, but it doesn’t give the sense of satisfaction I want.

I openly admit that I don’t like running – I like being a size 4. I’ve learned that I won’t work out unless I’m training for something. With running, there’s always a race I could sign up for. I appreciate that training for a half marathon puts me on a 12-week structured training program so I have to work out 6 day a week. But now I’m wondering if it’s worth it to do it again after this race. If I give up running, I’ll need to replace it with something…and I have no idea what that would be.

Enhanced by Zemanta