My right foot needs attention.
It has been screaming at me for years, but I always acted like I didn’t hear anything. I did. I always did, but I could handle any discomfort it yelped out during long runs, or excruciating razor-sharp rock strewn trail runs, and long races, like my favorite distance, the marathon. For over a quarter of a century, I have prided my running stability on solid ankles, sturdy knees, a strong back, and flowing gait, yet for the past decade, I knew that my feet were not quite right.
I didn’t care, I was running well, fast, and that made up for all of it.
About a year ago I finally relented to my sobbing soles and went to see a podiatrist. She confirmed what I suspected, the ball of my right foot was pronounced and hitting the ground first whenever I landed on it, taking all of the impact, when really, it shouldn’t. That is not the way our feet our designed. In fact, it is the outsides of our feet that are meant to take the impact when we land. Uh-oh.
However, I was surprised by the cause of the issue.
I had always believed it was my, “Born To Run” influenced gait of landing on the balls of my feet, AKA, supposed natural form, that did me in, when actually it was the my middle right toe, MC. That’s right, I have a gnarly hammer toe.
I was born with funky toe genes, (Kelly side), but what appeared to be slightly unattractive in my youth, has progressed to be detrimental in midlife, and could be catastrophic in my golden years. The problem is when any amount of pressure is put on my right foot, the hammer toe pushes down on the ball of my foot, it gets agitated and grows, thereby the pain increases. It used to bother me only when I ran long distances, and after riding over four hours or so, but now I feel it all the time. Sometimes faintly, sometimes sharply, but no matter what I do, it is always there.
I have adjusted my pedal stroke, so it does not hurt when I ride anymore, (thankfully), and I push off the wall with my left foot while swimming, so I am okay there, too, but running, well there is no such thing as pain-free running anymore.
Every dull ache, every sharp pang, every burn, I ran though all of it. If my legs and lungs felt good, than my heart and mind felt great, and my feet were forced to deal with it.
And they did.
Then after about twenty seconds into a mellow paced run last Wednesday the pain was too much, and felt too wrong to keep running. Later that afternoon I saw my podiatrist, and she confirmed my concerns, my hammer toe had progressed since she saw me last August, orthotics were now a necessity, and what I feared most, but accepted was in my future at some point, (hopefully decades away), was now only months away, “You’ll need surgery within a year.”
My toe is rigid.
It needs my attention, and it has it.
I would describe the condition that could incur if I don’t have surgery, and/or describe the surgery itself, but you might be eating, so I will keep that information to myself.
I have thought amputating it. I mean, honestly, do we really need our middle toes? Also, what a lame condition to sideline me for months, hammer toe?? Not a torn ACL leaping toward a finish line, or breaking my leg while lifting up a car to rescue a puppy? Nope, just the combo of genetics, stubbornness, and an ever-lasting obsession with running.
On the other hand, (or foot), along with a crooked toe, I was born with optimism teeming through my veins. I know there is a reason for this.
For example, maybe I came down with pneumonia before Ironman Boulder so that my toe wouldn’t be mangled for life if I did run the marathon? Or, now I can stop whining about being an awful swimmer because my tired, “but, I’m really a runner,” excuse is off the table; I can’t run, or shouldn’t, which means I will have gobs of time to swim before my surgery. Also, I plan to use this interim time, (the surgery is slated to go down on “Talk like a Pirate Day,” September 19th), to ride Simone a TON, and lift like The Rock. Yes, I want to get crazy, super-duper ripped and transform into a REAL-DEAL triathlete, i.e., an athlete who swims, rides, AND runs well, not just an athlete who swims a lot and okay, and who rides enough and just fine, and a runner who uses both to her advantage, I want to be strong at all three.
And there it is, this hammer toe debacle is going to put the Tri in my identity as an athlete.
“Can someone pick up the mic?” A voice yelled out as I walked off the stage.
Okay, obviously I am really trying to be positive, but truthfully, I am crushed.
I have cried more times in the last two months than I have in the last two years. I cried while my Dr. was casting my feet for the orthodics, explaining, "It's just my feet play a huge role in who I am. I wrote a book about running."
I cried over the phone telling Hillary the story on Thursday morning, both embarrassed, yet somehow relieved that sharing it with her made it feel real and okay.
Miraculously, I dried up over the weekend while spending time with my gigantic family, but cried again while talking to Marion Sunday night about how to celebrate our big birthday's this year, (he is turning 50 and I am turning 40), because everything I wanted to accomplish before my birthday has vanished.
However, I do have a lot to look forward to and be grateful for. Also, I wouldn't take anything back. I have run faster and farther than I ever dreamed I could, and I appreciate every single step I took along the way. Now I just hope I get to run at any speed, (pain-free), again some day.
In the meantime, I have one more FANTASTIC day of running ahead of me before I hang up my shoes and become bionic… I am heading to Penticton, Canada to help crew for my amazing friend and teammate, Kat Zeiler at UltraMan Canada this weekend.
Kat is a beast. She has put in a tremendous amount of time and effort preparing for this event, and I am beyond honored and excited that she asked me to be a part of it.
I can’t wait!
The song and video this week is a recommendation Kat sent me a while ago, and it is the perfect pick for this week's theme.