I suppose that a life in which everything happens according to plan would be a life not worth living… or incredibly boring, at best. It’s typically the things that happen outside of our plans, with spontaneity and improvisation, that give us the stuff of great experiences and stories to tell. They force us to find our resolve and make a new plan. They inspire us to make lemonade out of the proverbial lemons.
My current “lemon” has materialized in the form of a mysterious pain on the ball of my right foot. It is different from Chronic Knee Pain, which I have felt for the last six years, and even from Phantom Ankle Pain, which made its first appearance a few weeks before I ran the Fargo Marathon in 2010. No, this time, the pain is different. Unlike Chronic Knee Pain, which I have learned to manage to the point of most often not feeling any pain; and unlike Phantom Ankle Pain, which, true to its name, comes and goes with no warning and is completely debilitating for the 20 to 30 seconds during which my left ankle feels as though it is being stabbed, “Bruised Foot Pain” is constant and does not respond to any amount of massage, ice, or stretching.
Bruised Foot Pain has been with me for about six weeks now. At first, I chalked it up to the aches and pains that one can expect after a hard or long run, but in the last two weeks, the pain has become more constant. It is concentrated in one area, just below the metatarsal of my second toe. It feels strikingly similar to Hamburger Foot, which is the official scientific term used to describe the feeling one may experience after running 40 miles. The difference between Hamburger Foot and Bruised Foot Pain, however, is just about 40 miles; that is, Bruised Foot Pain exists before I even start running.
This morning I set out for my long run only to discover rain and the ominous clouds of an imminent thunderstorm. I don’t mind rain, but I don’t do thunder and lightening. I momentarily considered trying to beat the storm and get a few miles in before the sky opened up, but Bruised Foot Pain did not agree. I decided instead to get my grocery shopping done (no line at 7:30 on a Sunday morning!)- a wise choice in retrospect, as the ten second sprint to my car yielded two bags of wet groceries and the scolding of Bruised Foot Pain. The only thing worse than trying to run through the pain this morning would have been trying to run through it in a flash flood.
Shortly after I returned home, the rain stopped. I considered again attempting my run. As happens so often in running, I was once again straddling the line between tough and stupid and had to make my decision: if I rest my foot, it might finally start to feel better and I may actually make it through twelve hours of running on June 2nd; if I grit my teeth and push through, I won’t feel guilty for missing my long run this week, but I may make the pain worse. Six years ago, I would likely have taken the risk of the latter option; today, I chose the former.
I instead went to the gym for a strength training workout- something I had planned to do anyway. What I hadn’t planned on, however, was a quite sunny afternoon and my sudden inspiration to go for a bike ride. I hadn’t ridden my bike “just to ride” since I moved to Des Moines, so I decided that today would be the day. I set out to follow one of my usual running routes, through downtown and to Gray’s Lake Park. I steered clear of the lake, knowing it would be rather crowded, and made my way to Water Works Park, just south of Gray’s. I reached a fork in the road at which I have always run to the right. This time I veered left and rode toward the Great Western Trail. Robert Frost would have been proud.
The Great Western Trail, I discovered, is absolutely beautiful. It is indeed the road less traveled, and I was the only one around for long stretches of path. I rode several miles, taking in the countryside and trying to figure out where I was in relation to the parts of Des Moines with which I am familiar. I turned around just before reaching Cumming, a small town to the south. I ended up with about a 22 mile ride; the same distance I had planned on running today, but with different muscles worked, a new experience, and three deer sightings.
I no longer feel guilty about missing my long run today. I got some great exercise and have given my foot a chance to rest. With race day only five weeks away, I am feeling both excited and apprehensive. It was tempting to sit on the couch and pout today, but I made a different choice. And it made the
lemonade beer I had after my bike ride that much more enjoyable.
Thank you for reading!