Sunday, September 30, 2012

From Mountains to Molehills

It’s that depressing time of year again, when the days get shorter and the weather gets cold and rainy and you know winter is coming. You’re cold all the time because you’re used to the sweltering summer days. It’s harder to get up in the morning.

In case it’s not obvious, I don’t like fall. The only season I hate more is winter. Mostly it’s because I’m always cold, and no matter how many sweatshirts, socks, and gloves I put on over my UnderArmour and insulated fuzzy riding pants, my toes get numb and my fingers literally stop working.

But this year I found out that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like fall. My feet don’t, either.

OK, maybe technically my feet are still “me.” But it’s their first fall post-stress fractures, and they let me know as soon as the weather got damp and cold. For the past half a week I’ve been feeling twinges. Sometimes it’s when I put my heel down. Sometimes they just randomly ache in the Achilles area or even my ankles. Sometimes they don’t hurt, they just don’t feel quite “right.” I did notice it when I spurred Sydney (oh lazy horse...). Sometimes it’s one foot, and then later it’s the other. At first I thought I ran too hard on Tuesday. Then I started thinking (or hoping) it was just the weather.

So I’ve been constantly squeezing them, poking, pounding on the bottoms of my heels with my fist just like my sports doctor used to do. Purposely stomping heel-first on the tile floor in the kitchen. Hopping on one foot. Trying to get them to hurt, but they don’t. But then they do later, on their own time. It’s driving me insane. I don’t know what’s in my head and what’s in my bones. And always, there’s the nagging question: Should I run?

It’s amazing how, even six months later, these stress fractures are still a huge emotional drain on me. I almost can’t deal with the decision to attempt a run, knowing it could very well be my last. Now that I’ve lost running, gained it back, lost it yet again and then repeated the cycle one more time, I should be OK with the possibility of injury, right? But I’ve come along farther in my recovery this time, been healthy for longer than ever before my original plantar fasciitis, and a step backward now would feel like dropping from a ten-story building, not a 13-hand pony. How would I ever get back up?

But, since I couldn’t reproduce any semblance of pain no matter how hard I whacked and squeezed, I set off yesterday morning with a solemn promise to stop the second I felt anything. I took it slower than usual, especially going downhill. Six miles feels like an eternity when you’re waiting for your heels to shatter with each step.

But they didn’t. And, while I was still getting those twinges throughout the rest of the day, they certainly weren’t any worse than they had been. So I took heart and tried again today, still monitoring my feet like babies. At the moment, they are dormant.

I seem to have made a mountain out of molehill here. At least, I hope. For sure tomorrow is a day off of running. Right now I’m thanking my lucky stars that this time I was right about what my body could handle, rather than just blissfully ignorant. Let’s hope, this time, I’ve finally learned my lesson. A week off now is much better than nine down the road, if it comes to that. I just need to keep that in perspective.
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