Running Hacks

I hit the treadmill yesterday for my second post-orthotic run, with much the same results as the first: overall, the run felt good; no problems whatsoever with the left foot/ankle/leg; minor complaining from the right foot. So far, so good. I’m having to discipline myself a bit, though, to keep my mileage super-low, to stop well before I’m tired, and to take plentiful rest days, as I’ve been laid off for quite some time. It would be awfully easy to add injury to insult right about now.

So I’m keeping myself amused and motivated by playing around with a series of running hacks, little tools designed to track your progress as a runner in different fashions. Running lends itself quite well both to the obsessive in me (there are many records that can be kept and statistics that can be tracked) and to the part of me that’s always trying to escape obsession, to achieve a more zen-like calm in the midst of chaos, to still the mind and focus on the thump thump thump of the moment.

For the former, my two favorite hacks: David Hays’s Running Log, a multi-sheet Excel workbook that calculates things that even I never thought of tracking. This was originally recommended to me by Dave, just as I was beginning training for the LA Marathon, but for whatever reason, I didn’t fiddle with it much at that point. Somehow it seemed overwhelming to me, almost too much information. Perhaps the enforced restriction of my running now, however, has opened up space for me to test out what’s available here: all of the expected distance and pace trackers, of course, but also a weight tracker, a comparison of actual running with planned running, a record of all your races with times and paces and personal bests, a slew of calculators for paces and times and heart rates and more, and charts and graphs galore.

The second, which Joe emailed me about after I posted about my first post-orthotic run, is a hack of Google Maps that creates a pedometer useful for both finding the mileage of completed runs and planning future runs. From the linked page, click on the “click here if you don’t live in Hoboken” link (unless, of course, you live in Hoboken), use the usual Google Maps double-clicking, dragging, and zooming to zero in on your location, and then click “start recording.” Double-click to set your starting point, and then double-click again at each turn, to mark your course. “Create permalink” or “tinyURL” will allow you to bookmark the results so that you can return to them or create new courses.

All of this of course has me itching to run — and contemplating future goals…

Surreal City

So just after my last post, I headed out for my first run since getting my orthotics. It went quite well, overall; I ran two miles of the 2.5 mile course I took, and my left foot (the one with the bad arch) was just ecstatic the whole time. (The right foot remains a little uncertain about this whole plastic-in-the-shoe thing, but I think it’s adjusting.)

But as I was trekking up one of the main residential boulevards in town, a smallish one of these crossed my path, about twenty yards ahead. It seemed a little more at home in the neighborhood than I’d have liked, quite frankly, cruising happily down the center of the road.


You haven’t heard much from me about running since the marathon. Mostly that’s because there hasn’t been any.

Actually, that’s an exaggeration. I took a week or so off to recover, and then tied the old running shoes back on. I ran once or twice a week for the next six weeks or so, but finally had to stop entirely. My left arch, which began griping late in training, and which got seriously bitchy during the marathon itself, escalated its litany of complaint until I could no longer ignore it. When I first started noticing that I had a left arch, it was because it would begin bothering me around ten miles into a long run; during the marathon, it started hurting around mile seven; finally, it hurt half a mile into a run, which was my signal to quit.

I went to see my primary care physician in late April — and I promise this post will not devolve into a rant on the failures of the U.S. medical system, though there are elements of that contained herein — saying that I thought my arch had fallen, and that I needed orthotics. She took one look at my foot and diagnosed a fallen arch, referred me to a podiatrist, and sent me on my way. I called the podiatrist’s office that day, but the first appointment I could get was three weeks later — the day after I was set to leave for three weeks in DC. So I didn’t get to actually see the podiatrist (half my fault; half theirs) until early June. But I went, gave them my co-payment, and saw the doctor. He manipulated my feet, watched me walk around, and told me I needed orthotics.

Here’s the ranty part, though: at the end of the appointment, he tells me that my insurance company — the same company, remember, who dictated to my primary care physician to whom she could refer me — won’t cover the orthotics if his office makes them. “They have another lab they’ll want to send you to,” he says. He’d be happy to go ahead and make them anyhow, though, for $500. Being in a bit of a tight cash-flow period, though, I decide I’ve got to get the insurance company to pay for them, if they will, so I wait for them to call me with the approval information. Which they do, pretty speedily in fact, and refer me to an orthopedics lab nearby. So I have a little mini-rant built up here about why I got referred to someone who wasn’t going to be allowed to do the work, but I’ll let that slide.

I get an appointment with the orthopedics lab on June 21, and get re-diagnosed. The orthotist who sees me, incidentally, gives me the most severe diagnosis I’ve gotten, telling me that I’ve done significant damage to my feet — and by extension, my ankles, knees, and hips — by failing to address this problem sooner, but he also gives me exercises to do to improve the problem, in addition to the orthotics. He takes impressions of both my feet, says that the orthotics should be ready in five to seven business days, and that they’ll call to make an appointment when they’ve got them. Which they did, but they couldn’t get me in to pick them up until today.

But now I’ve got them, big rigid arched pieces of plastic in both my shoes. The orthotist says I need to break them in carefully, and let my feet adjust to them, so I don’t end up bruising my feet and making the whole thing worse. And he’s told me that I have to hold off on running until I can wear the orthotics all day, every day, for a week.

But oh boy. After that, I’m itching to go.

The Saga of the Toenail

So it’s clearly time to stop thinking about all this pointless, whiny nonsense about my “career,” and whether or not any recent markers of “success” or “failure” indicate that perhaps I’ve made some colossal “miscalculation” about whether I was in fact “meant” to do the thing that I’ve spent the last fourteen years or so of my “life” in preparation to “do,” or whether there exist such “inequities” in our prevailing “social structure” and “institutional climate” that no amount of “talent” or “hard work” on my part could possibly allow me to “achieve” the thing that I’ve been convinced that I “want,” when, in fact, it may well turn out that I just “don’t.”

Enough of that. There are more important things for us to consider.

Like my toenail.

The nail of the toe that is right next to my big toe, on my right foot. The nail which I discovered day before yesterday is in an advanced state of toe-abandonment, and is preparing to pull up stakes and light out for the territories.

Despite previous issues here described, I’ve never lost a toenail before, and I’m just not sure what to expect. Interestingly, the one I’m losing is not the one I expected to lose; this one’s on a whole other foot, and is a normal toenail, as toenails go. A toenail that has never given me a minute’s trouble.

The toe proper has tended to blister a bit, in recent years, when I run, on the top edge next to my big toe, because I think the big toe overlaps it a bit and rubs in an inappropriate way when I run. So I’ve dealt with blistering and callusing and general nastiness, but that’s the nature of toes. I never thought much of it, and just tried to keep after it with the pumice stone, when I could.

Post-marathon, though, once I could bring myself to look at my feet again — something I resisted at first because I wasn’t sure what state the toe I’d had trouble with before was going to be in — I discovered that, in fact, the nail of the bad toe had gone completely black, and there was a bit of blistering, and I thought, here we go, dead toenail walking. I never expected the other foot to have gotten in on the act, but, in fact, it had.

The usual blister-on-edge-near-big-toe was there. But the blister extended around over the tip of the toe, in a way I’d never seen before. I didn’t think much of it at first, assuming that it would reabsorb, as things do, and I’d be able to go on ignoring that toe, as I have pretty much all my life, but for the pumicing.

Instead, the blister grew a bit. Not much — no elephantiasis of the toe or anything — but just enough that it became uncomfortable. Shoes were no fun. So I did the thing one has to do with such a blister, and let me just say that it was nasty. It turned out that there was a small pool of blood right under the edge of my toenail, but I got it drained out, and all seemed well.

Over spring break, I got a pedicure. All of my toenails were a lovely red, and my calluses and blisters professionally attended to.

And because of the red, I had no idea anything was amiss, until earlier this week, when I noticed that my toenail just… didn’t look… right. Like it was at a weird angle or something. And I reached down to touch it, and it moved. And the uncanniness of this can only be compared to that feeling of moving your tongue around a tooth, as a kid, and suddenly feeling that tooth’s edge separating from your gums, and knowing that teeth aren’t supposed to do that.

The toenail is about eighty percent detached, at this point. The last twenty percent is not letting go, and — I say from unfortunate experience — screams like a mofo if you do something like catch it funny on a sock you’re trying to put on. So the whole thing is band-aided over, until the inevitable separation finally takes place.

From what I can tell, what’s underneath is none too attractive. This toe is not likely to see the outside of a band-aid for some time.

The stupid bloody toe from before, though, is soldiering on, as ever. Toenail still black under the red polish, but going nowhere.

And isn’t that just the way of things.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Oh, yeah. Things that felt perfectly fine 48 hours ago are now whining and complaining. And my knees look like water balloons. And I feel as though I could crawl into bed and stay there for a couple of days, given the opportunity. But other than that, I’m doing pretty well, post-marathon.

I want to say that the race was a great experience, on the whole, but I’m not sure how much of that sense is tied to the fact that it’s over. I can say with great certainty that somewhere between miles 19 and 23, I had one very clear thought: “This was a terrible idea.” That began to fade, however, almost as soon as I finished. It’s not for nothing that Frank Shorter once said “You’re not ready to run another marathon until you’ve forgotten the last one.” I’m not ready to run another one yet, but I’m beginning to see the faintest of glimmerings of the shades of ideas that at some point in the future I might contemplate doing it again.

What follows may be way more information than anyone other than me wants, but it’s here anyhow.

Continue reading “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”


Thanks, everybody, for the kind congrats. They mean a lot. Particularly being compared to Foghat. Man, I haven’t even thought about Foghat in a decade, at least.

Thanks, too, to Ogged for his ups. He’s not wrong with that epithet, I’m afraid. I’m hoping that brainpower will return to something like 70% later today, so that I can post more details. In the meantime, meg reports on her side of the story.

How It Went

Before I go collapse, a quick update. I had three goals set for the marathon (whose name I am able to speak for the first time in two weeks):

— The fairly-likely-to-make-it goal: just finishing.
— The if-everything-goes-well goal: finishing in under 5 hours.
— The pie-in-the-sky goal: finishing in 4.30, which was of course Never Going to Happen.

My chip time, according to the lovely folks at marathon central was 4.32.56.

I rock.

Having rocked, I’m now going to go take a nap. More on the race particulars, once I’m able to process information again.

Running Log, Week 14

Mileage for week: 16 (was meant to be 28)

Number of run days: 2 (was meant to be 4)

Long run for week: 13

Aches, pains, complaints: I’m tired. Seriously tired. And overstressed. And tired. I made it through my 13 today, though much of it hurt (sore knees, perhaps because I’ve once again been failing to take my vitamins, perhaps because I haven’t gotten to eat a meal at home except on the weekends in eons; very sore arch in my left foot, which may indicate that I need to replace my shoes). One of the shorter mid-week runs was overcome by an early meeting; the other by my desperate need to sleep past 6.30 the morning after not getting to bed until 1.30. The time off was, I’m sure, a good thing; I’ve recovered from the 13 today fairly well. I’m still very nervous about the prospect of running twice as far, of course, and particularly nervous about the fact that I’m now entering the last week of my training schedule that does not have a marathon at the end of it. Interestingly, though, what I am looking forward to is finding a sensible level of training to maintain the fitness gains I’ve made over the last four months without subjecting myself to the massive ritual punishment of crazy long runs. Something sustainable. Which makes me think that, in fact, I may already have accomplished one of my major goals for this whole process: finish my training without burning out so badly this time around that I quit running for another six months.

Word to the Wise

If you have one of those weekends where you have a big pile of work to do — say, a couple of books to read and a stack of papers to grade — and intend to do something ridiculous like run 17 miles on Sunday, don’t leave half of the work undone on Saturday. Because you may find yourself incapable of doing anything other than lying on your bed watching movies after that run.

You know, hypothetically.