Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happier Feet

I was going to title this post "Un-Happy Feet" or "Not so Happy Feet" but, after going to the podiatrist yesterday with the results from my MRI scan, I'm feeling more upbeat, relieved even.

There's a reason why medical reports are handed to the patients in a sealed envelope and that is because they are quite terrifying to read. Raúl, the podiatrist, seemed a lot more relaxed about it since I last saw him after reading it and seeing me. It's true that the pain from the Morton's Neuroma has almost completely subsided - I only notice a sharp pain if I happen to tread on a stone in just the right (or wrong) way, and a tiny amount of numbness in my toes when I stand barefoot - but it's also true that I have radically cut down on running volume and intensity, as well as having changed to slightly less minimal (a little more maximal?) running shoes. There is a big difference between pain that is just discomfort to pain which is actually telling you that you are damaging yourself. In this case, the discriminating factor is what Raúl had to say about it. He verdict was that I should just keep an eye on it and come back after the summer when we could evaluate how things had gone and decide whether or not to go for orthotics (not surgery ). He didn't seem too concerned about my choice of footwear (Merrell Trail Gloves) stressing only that it was important to have a wide toe box.

In fact, the worry is more about the bunion than the neuroma. The scan basically confirmed that my unfortunate accident last year (of tripping over a paving stone) was to blame for the evolution in the bunion and the calcification around the big toe joint: it was possible to see some damage to the cartilage from the frontal impact. Although it shouldn't really make any difference, being able to attribute the blame to a stupid accident made it easier for me to swallow than it being due to, say, my choice (against all advice) to run in minimalist shoes. Strictly speaking, I blame the shoes I was wearing at the time for the accident - the combination of being very flexible and having an extremely generous toe box meant that it was relatively easy to trip over in them - but it is not as though anyone warned me against the dangers of tripping over in minimalist running shoes. In fact, this incident (not to mention the "red carpet incident") is what convinced me to switch over definitively to Vibram Five Fingers, whose footprint is no bigger than that of the foot itself (and employ reassuringly artificial dyes).

So, nothing has changed except I need not be quite so cautious and worried as I have been over the last few weeks. The timing is good - if it can ever be a good time to have an injury - as summer has started and I usually do more cycling and generally reduce the intensity of my runs. But now I can run freely and, if it hurts, it is just a nuisance, not a reason to turn back.

Having said all this, what I continue to struggle with is the balance between competition and simply keeping fit. I have had no problems whatsoever to motivate myself to endure a grueling and often boring workout when it has been part of the preparation for an upcoming race, but lately I have found it difficult to even complete what I would have previously considered an easy recovery run. The problem is that I continue to measure myself by the same standards, so I insist on setting off at 15 kph, thinking that anything else "doesn't count". What doesn't count is not to do anything, and of this I am the most scared: of losing my motivation altogether and just flopping into a state of eternal sofa-dom. I find it strangely difficult to run or ride at a "reasonable" pace, just enjoying the fresh air and the scenery. It's certainly easier with company but it is also a question of attitude. Will I continue to compete? Maybe. I don't have to decide anything now. Still, I would like to be able to derive sufficient motivation from just keeping active, without feeling like I have to monitor my 10K times, my weight or my percentage body fat.

In other news, we were in Asturias again this weekend. I thought I would use the bike so I made sure to fit the bike carrier to the roof of the car, just in case. But the bike had not survived the winter: the humidity was too much for it and the gear cables had rusted up. I couldn't help comparing the gear cables grating up and down in their housing with the inflamed nerves in my feet. I brought the bike back to Madrid in the end, for a bit of R&R.

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