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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Carbon Fiber Spring Plate for metatarsal injuries

I've naturally gotten some surprise that I am running with a presumed fracture/stress reaction by using a protective carbon fiber plate in my shoe.
My doctor recommended this, explaining that the hard-as-board carbon fiber protected the bone from ground impact, while the spring plate design assisted with toe-off to avoid pressure on the damaged area. He actually uses these instead of walking boots for all his stress fracture patients, and he's a foot and ankle specialist. He thinks they improve mobility and reduce atrophy of other musculature.
These are the insoles I ordered:
And they're available from here or here for about $75 each. Yeah. Not cheap. They are only available in full sizes, which was a problem, since I wear a men's 8.5. I measured my existing insoles, and ended up ordering the 9.

When I received the insoles, I was surprised that they were packaged with no padding, just in an envelope. But there wasn't much chance of breakage. They are ROCK hard. Rock hard. The hardest thing you ever felt. And not exactly "as light as a feather", either.

I removed my Kinvara insoles and placed the carbon fiber ones in - and that took me about half an hour. Here's the thing - these inserts are completely stiff, rock hard, no give at all. So I probably should have gone down half a size instead of up. I spent forever manipulating the shoe to get the plate in, and it's a very tight fit. Plus, the edges of the inserts are sharp, and I cut my fingers up! Once I finally got them in, I put my regular insoles in on top, and I was ready to go.

So, running in them... well, first off, let me address the Nike Vaporfly comments.

As you probably know, this shoe's claim to fame is its carbon fiber spring plate, which looks much like what I just bought to put in my shoe. But alas, my DIY version does not work like the Vaporfly. To the contrary, rather!

The plate does the job of protecting my foot, astonishingly so. There is no pain at all running with the plate in my sole. But unfortunately it is also a total slog. My shoes feel heavy, unbearably stiff, and clunky. The edges of the plate are sharp and dig into my feet, and the super stiff landing gave me chafing on my soles. Landing on the plate is very jarring (probably one of the reasons for Nike's super cushy foam in the VaporFly). And it also alters my gait quite a bit, making running really awkward.

I am very, very sore and uncomfortable after running with the carbon fiber plates, so I am limiting their use: all easy "runs" are being done on the elliptical. But what about the other runs? What could I accomplish in these crazy shoes?
 Middendorf's Manchac 10k: With warm up and cool down, ten miles for the day. The race itself was hilariously slow, a 6:51 pace, which is close to marathon pace! Ha! I ran 6:38 pace for a half just two weeks prior! But I can't totally blame the shoes. I had also taken off some time, had a bad cold, and was faced with a challenging headwind. One of my teammates, who is about my pace usually, also ran a slow 10k - probably around 6:45 or so. Around her half-marathon pace. And she was in her regular racing flats. The wind gusts were quite hard, and we all struggled. But then, another one of our team ran a PR, so I can't just say that everyone had a bad day!
Easy paced long run: 21+ miles at about 8:00 pace. This was much, much harder than the 10k race of the day before. Covering that distance in these shoes was terribly painful, and I struggled. I felt like I'd been in a car accident for the rest of the day. The slamming, jarring feeling of each step is just the worst! It didn't help that I totally hit the wall. That worries me - we haven't had a lot of really long runs this cycle, and I need that time on my feet.
Regular running: I've done some easy running with the plate just to test it out, or for the race warm up and cool down - and by far this is the best it felt. Probably the smart thing to do would be to make all my runs easy when using the plate!

Conclusion: I think they're worth it. Spend the money. If you have an actual fracture, you can use the plate in lieu of a boot (with doctor's approval, duh). If you have a stress reaction or another metatarsal injury, you can use the plate to train through it. Will it be just like regular running? Nope, not even close. But it sure beats missing 2 - 4 weeks of training altogether!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Marathon training, week 14 and 15 - INJURY!

Well. How weird. After I finished writing my last training update two weeks ago, I stood up from the computer - and couldn't put weight on my right foot.
It was a different foot, but exactly the same sensation as my stress fracture of last year. WHAT GIVES!? I was so upset, I really could not believe I was going to miss another marathon for the same injury. The similarities were glaring: almost exactly the same amount of time before the race, right after hitting 70 MPW, following a string of races. Something in this training is far too hard on my bones! 
Over 70? Instant stress fracture.

So week 14? Nothing. A doctor's appointment, and a scheduled MRI. Interestingly, while the x-ray didn't show any new damage, it did show a healed break from this spring: the one I suspected, but never had x-rayed. My doctor discussed my upcoming race, and then did something I've never experienced before: suggested we try to figure out a way to race it. I mentioned a drug that has been used off-label by professional athletes for stress fractures, and he agreed to consider it if my MRI showed a fracture. But he also told me that I could probably run with a carbon fiber plate in my shoe. Huh? I'd never heard of that. But they make them, so as soon as I got home I ordered a pair of carbon fiber insoles. My doctor actually said he uses them almost exclusively now, as they provide much better mobility than a boot. Meanwhile, I conveniently got really sick this week, so the downtime might have happened anyway.  But I was ready to work the next week. I decided to follow the training plan, but use the elliptical.

Monday: Easy 45 minutes
Tuesday: Yes, I did this whole thing on the elliptical, and it was awful: 4 miles aerobic, 6 strides, 4x1000m with alternating 200m and 400m jogs. Obviously I had to do some estimating, and I did so by time and effort.
Wednesday: 60 minutes easy.
Thursday: Ten miles aerobic was on the schedule, but my insoles arrived, and I wanted to try them out. I ran three miles without pain, although - man, the sensation is weird. They are extremely hard, and sort of rock as you run, creating a ton of friction on your foot and resistance. It's a struggle, and causes a lot of muscle overuse and strain. But it's running! I was vigilant about paying attention to my foot after that to make sure some pain didn't creep in later. 
Friday: 45 minutes easy with 8 strides. LOL at trying to do strides in these insane shoes.
Saturday: Everyone was doing Middendorf's Manchac 10k, so - I did, too! In my stupid hard-as-rock carbon fiber shoes and at marathon pace, but still. It's the effort that counts, right?
Sunday: This was the absolute hardest thing I've ever done in my life: 21 miles at easy pace. So hard on my legs! So painful! The carbon fiber inserts make it feel like I'm running completely flat-footed in ankle-deep mud with knife-blades in my shoes. The schedule called for time-on-your-feet - an easy run equal to your goal marathon time - but I cut it short at 2:50. I was DONE.  

Going forward, I expect to be back running normally pretty soon. Until I hear from my doctor, it's carbon fiber plates for running, but easy "runs" on the elliptical. But thankfully, this week the pain improved dramatically, and I've been walking around barefoot, in heels, etc. without pain. I suspect that this injury will fall short of an actual stress fracture, and be considered a stress reaction instead. As of today, I do still plan to run the Rocket City Marathon December 8th, although my goal may change. But I'm feeling optimistic that I'll be back to normal soon.

Weekly mileage: 40.5 - that's crazy considering the circumstances! 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Day 6 in Scotland: Walking the West Highland Way

Our final leg! An easy jaunt from Kinlochleven to Fort William!
My bed at the BnB
This day was unlike the others, in that most of the day was a straight shot through a valley. We were used to a lot more terrain changes, but the views were lovely and the walking pretty gentle.

There were some lovely old ruined cottages.

And more ruined cottages. 

And cairns.
And then we neared Glen Nevis, and we knew we were close to the end of the walk. It started to get busy on the trail!

The mountains were incredible, but much more crowded than we'd grown accustomed to. 

And then suddenly we were on city streets, and we were in Fort William - and then we reached the end of the trail!

Our faces are SO chapped at this point.

We wrapped up the night with some Indian food, because honestly - neither of us could stomach anymore steak pie or potatoes in any form. And in a purely Scottish climax to the trip, we grabbed a pint at a pub to celebrate, and a drunk patron crashed into us and sent us, table, and beers flying. But no matter. 
Post-sloshing, and with plenty of beer after every patron tried to buy us a new one! 

We made it through and had such a lovely time with each other. It was the perfect venue for just enough conversation - a wonderful way to spend time with those you love. Now Melissa and I are making plans for her 50th! 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Day 5 in Scotland: walking the West Highland Way

From Inveroran, we next made our way to Kinlochleven. My sister had been dreading this leg of the journey since we started, because it included a climb called "The Devil's Staircase", and she was pretty sure that would kill her (it didn't). But first we crossed the Rannoch moor, the most incredibly part of our journey.

The moors are beautiful in their own right, but we hit them at the just the right moment, when rain and sun made them into the perfect backdrop for rainbow after rainbow.

The moors were full of sun, wind, clouds, rain, and drama. I couldn't put my camera down!

And more rainbows. 

Possibly my favorite photo from the trip!

And heather, and other luscious flora.

And fauna - when we left the moors, we wandered through a tiny town with deer everywhere!

Then the most photographed mountain in Scotland...Buachaille Etive Mor. Because it looks like a stereotype of a mountain, doesn't it?

Eventually, we did climb the Devil's Staircase, and what do you know, it wasn't the end of the world.

At the top

We ended in the bustling town of Kinlochleven, which was very charming. 

Here we had the most enjoyable dinner, sharing our table with the same group of guys who almost froze to death with us back at the Green Welly! It was so fun to share our experiences from the rest of the day with them, and hear about all of their adventures (they were well-traveled).