27 June 2015

Way Too Long with Morton's Neuroma

Goodbye, Morton's Neuroma. I have struggled with Morton's Neuroma for way too long, months, years. It's been one of the crappiest running injuries I've had, and it seems like it's in the distance now....kind of.

I'm a librarian, so I did tons of research on Morton's Neuromas. Tons. I read the Mayo Health Clinic's website a ton, and Jonathan Savage's page. I posted on my FB page (tons of friends there are runners) and on the Ultra list and another trail running group. Everyone said something different, everyone had their own cures (or not). I emailed Karl Meltzer (sigh....ultrarunning heartthrob!). Here's my story, what worked for you, and what may or may not work for you.

I felt a numbness on and off in my foot for a while. My podiatrist didn't specifically identify it as Morton's Neuroma, but said that I had inflammation and I needed to rest. Haha, very funny, Dr. Morgano. I took anti-inflammatories and stretched and kept going. I noticed that it got waaaay worse with my Altra Intuitions (sob sob because they def were comfy in other ways). It was better on trails, worse on roads. My doctor recommended I switch to Hokas; that helped for a while, but ended up being not enough.

I had a ton of pain from Morton's Neuroma during the Brooklyn Marathon, so much that I went straight home after instead of celebrating w food w Menachem. I didn't know what was going on. It kind of got better. I ran a 50k a few weeks later on trails with no foot pain. Hurrah. And then I did a half marathon in Central Park for NYC Runs and was pretty much limping towards the end. I finished with tears in my eyes. I went to my doctor, and this time, said I needed something more drastic. I was going to Ecuador for a month, and didn't want to deal with pain. He gave me an injection in my foot, during which I screamed and deafened the entire population of Tribecca. Sorry. 

I ran the next day, and yep, pain. Argh. I went away, packing a smaller pair of running sneakers, which was a massive mistake. I had pain a lot - while walking around different cities, on hikes, on the beach. On a trip of a lifetime, all I had was pain. It sucked really bad.

I went back to my doctor after I came back. He told me not to run, and I said I didn't want another injection. I tried venus fly trap extract and serrapeptase. Neither made any kind of significant difference (though I took each for at least a month or two). I said I was supposed to run the Miami Marathon; maybe I should drop to the half? He said the half was even pushing it.

I reduced. I changed shoes. And I ran the half and it sucked. I ran super slow, had tons of pain and went straight into medical when I was done.

I got another injection. I took off two weeks. It got better. But then, it would get worse.

The next five months became hell of experiments. Here are some things I learned that actually help:

  • There is no one panacea. Some people swore their neuroma disappeared when they started running in Hokas; others said the same of Altras. Neither worked miracles for me (and my Altras were minimalist so may have contributed to the issue).
  • Take time off if it hurts. There's no such things as "running through Morton's Neuroma." It will get worse. And you will be unhappy - and in pain. When it starts to hurt, stop running. Go home.
  • Contrast baths (5 min hot, 5 min cold, 5 min hot, 5 min cold) may or may not help.
  • Yogatoes really helped alleviate pressure and I find it necessary to wear them pretty much every day.
  • Foam cushioning helped tons. I got the super thick foam cushioning moleskin they sell at Rite-aid. I cut a big teardrop, and then before applying, put a layer of benzoin tincture on the foot (it helps things stick better). Then apply. Wrap in Ktape tape so it stays on (literally, for over a week). Your feet are gross when you finally take it off, but this helped me so much.
  • Throw out too-tight shoes. They will hurt your feet more. 
  • Heels and tight uncomfy dress shoes suck. I worked at home a bunch to take care of my shoes.
  • Build back up really slowly. Stick with lots of trails if you can (provided they're not too rocky).
  • Take up a new hobby. Keeps your mind off lack of running.

23 June 2015

100 Miles of Running Misery and (Mis)Adventure and Fun: The Great New York 100 Mile Running Exposition

Starting line of class of 2015 TGNY - photo by the amazing Oh Snapper

I kind of have wanted to stop doing so many 100 milers. But not TGNY - it's in my city, all my friends are either running, pacing, or staffing an aid station, and it's the most awesome way to see NYC!

You run through Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and again, Manhattan. The course isn't super hilly - there are a few small hills, and some bridges (some so horrendously terrible that I want to cry just thinking of them...). You have to deal with traffic lights and cars and I almost got hit by cars too many times, and there are some arrows on the ground, but it's hard to tell which are TGNY 100's and which are ConEd's, so you're flipping through a turn-by-turn directional sheet and I only got lost six times. (SIX TIMES. HA!) You run through tons of awesome parks, different beaches, and see a diversity of people like nowhere else. NYC is my favorite city in the world, and thus, I adore this race.

Phil McCarthy is the RD - yeah, that Phil McCarthy, American record holder for 48 hours. Also, musician, super-nice guy. The race has a really homey vibe, and the volunteers go all out, buying tons of food for runners, decorating aid stations (Wayne put up my surfboard with TGNY 100 on it in green el-wire and his big kite up.), and so much love. I want to cry thinking of it (of the love and the pain, hahah).

Jill encouraged me to try the low FODMAP diet the day before the race to eliminate stomach problems. Unfortunately, it seems like the gluten free flours do not agree with me (not the first time I've had this happen....I ate gluten-free cookies a few years ago at a race and dry heaved for hours...). I live, I learn, I experiment.

I felt good, running with friends in the beginning, chatting. The pace was fine, I felt good. I grabbed a coffee cake to go from Mary's aid station at mile 5 (which saved me later on) and then, before mile 10, saw my friends peeling off from me. I ducked into the bathroom twice. How the hell was my race over before mile 10?
Early in the miles. My stomach had already started bothering me. Photo (c) by Oh Snapper.

I began slowing down. Eating was out of the question. I couldn't do this. In Van Cortlandt Park, Karen caught up to me and we began chatting. Then suddenly, I said, "I have to throw up." She said, "Do you--" "No." I was grateful she ran on, as I dry heaved, crying hysterically (I always cry when I throw up) into the bushes. I got up, walked a bit, and then began running slowly. Then I ducked into the bushes and was grateful I brought toilet paper.

Running sucks.

I ran on. I got slower. I would have to drop. There was no way I could finish this brutal thing. I texted my pacers something like, "Mile 16. My stomach sucks." And then I ran a bit, and then sat in a bench, holding my stomach. Shannon and his friend Chuck showed up. I got up and began running with them. Then we stopped so Chuck could get this few inch stick out of his shoe. 

Running with Shannon and Chuck was fun. They made me laugh a lot. Shannon told us abt showing up drunk at the start. I stopped and hula hooped with a bunch of fiftysomething ladies in the Bronx. It was fun.

We ended up getting separated in Orchard Beach. I was happy to reach Orchard Beach, and kind of wanted to take a photo, but didn't feel like taking my camera out. Anyway, cameras don't capture THE EMOTIONS which are the real thing, anyway.

And then, leaving the Orchard Beach Aid Station, I got lost for the first time. It took me probably around 15 minutes to figure out I was lost and to get back on track. I ended up running with a really nice 100k runner and her massive running posse. (She told me her name but I was a bit of a zombie and am lucky I remembered my own!) We ran through some more parks in the Bronx, and then, I lost them when I ran under the Deegan. You're running under the Deegan Expressway, with a highway on the right side of you and railyards on the left. Pretty ugly. I picked up the pace to get out of there.

And then - the Triboro bridge to Randall's Island. I ran across it, feeling okay. Randall's Island is mulberries and organized sports and quiet and green. It was really nice. But getting back on the Triboro Bridge to Queen was a different story. I began freaking out. 

Ever since I got my concussion two years ago, bridges have freaked me out. The morning after I got my concussion, I ran the Brooklyn Bridge and got the worst case of veritgo and was freaked out.  I removed the Brooklyn Bridge from my regular rotation. 

On the Triboro, I began okay, but once the side dropped lower I freaked out. I gripped onto the railing and said, "You can do this, Cherie. You know you can. C'mon..."

Two girls walked up behind me. "Are you okay?"

I realized they probably thought I was going to kill myself. "I'm really scared of this bridge. I don't know why. Can I walk w you?"

I walked with them, babbling nonsense; they were very lovely. Then, Jurgen ran up and grabbed my hand. "C'mon Cherie." We ran across, holding hands, me death-gripping his hand until I felt okay (aka off the scary bridge). Then we ran to the aid station where I saw my first pacer, Menachem.

Menachem watched me shovel in pretzels, a Girl Scout Cookie, and a half water-half red Gatorade drink. We took off, me babbling like I was on some sort of bizarre drug (which I wouldn't recommend this type of drug if it did exist...it would send people to insanity!) and then we began running. We quickly became lost, and again. Theme of the day.

My stomach was feeling better, and I ate some Hammer gels and Hammer solids. My calves hurt terribly and I told Menachem I wanted to stop. "No, you don't want to stop...Look at those bushes. I just love perfectly manicured bushes....Doesn't the sound of the highway next to us remind you of the ocean? It's lulling me..." and on. Menachem has a very soft, soothing voice, and I felt like I was going insane, so we were a great combination.

"I hate everything in the world."
"No, you do."
"Yes, I even hate Pistachio."
Menachem then texted my other pacers, "Cherie hates everything, even her cat." Haha.

We ran with Karen for a little bit. We ran, we walked, we talked, I babbled. I can't even tell you what we talked about. It might've been in German or Spanish. I'm not sure. I was pretty out of it.

Alley Pond Park was amazing. Soft, squishy path. It felt wonderful.

In Queens, you basically run from park to park to park to park. It's awesome. You probably didn't know there were so many parks in Queens. Then, finally, in one of the parks: MEG!!!!

Meg moved from LA back in September and has become one of my regular running partners. She's never done an ultra, but has a ton of great energy. I wanted to cry and somehow, she picked me up, emotionally threw me over her shoulder, and dragged me off. We began slogging ahead.

My calves were hurting so terribly. My stomach felt on and off. Everything sucked. I wanted to quit. Unfortunately, I sent Meg an email that told her to push me. She kept referencing this email. I'm glad I sent it, but oh, how I did want to quit.

Meg took this selfie of the two of us, and posted on FB, asking people to help motivate me

 We got to 100k and I was grateful. I ate a little and Trishul told me that I had 50% left when some girl tried to tell me I "only" had 38 miles. "The hardest part is the end." He also told me that he hear that I was struggling. Yes, I know. But not what I want to hear. Sigh.

We took off, Meg following the directions. Then we ran into another pace, Joe. I never met him before, but Facebook is a very wonderful thing sometimes. He ended up being totally awesome and an amazing pacer.

I got a strawberry Italian ice, which was wonderful. I went back and forth between wanting to quit and hating everything. Hey, that doesn't sound fun? Not really. I was a bit of a hot mess. Okay, I was a MASSIVE hot mess. Kind of embarrassing to be around a totally strange guy and a friend who had never seen me so low. Oops. They pushed me and Meg said, "You can make a decision to drop out when you get to Wayne." (Meg is a big liar, but I love her for that lie.)

At mile 66 or so, before the bridges, we got to Yuri's aid station. He gave me an intense massage which involved cracking my back and me screaming. Pedestrians called the police for torture. Kidding about that, but passerby peered out the windows of their cars to see what was going on. Apparently, several people were asking how much a massage was. Yuri told them the cost was running 66 miles.

We left. I did feel a ton better. I ran a bit, we walked less. Broad Channel is a strange place, but pretty beautiful. And then, somehow, we got to Wayne's aid station, mile 71. I was ecstatic. I began cheering before they got there, and Wayne and my friend Sherry both knew it was me and cheered for me.

I completely changed my outfit while eating pretzels. Okay, I ate a pretzel and a half, but I tried to convince Joe that was plenty.

Then we left. I was suffering. I was miserable. We ran. I whined. They put up w me. We stopped at some random bar to use the bathroom, and got yelled, "You don't speak English?" I really wanted to reply, "Hablo espanol solo."

I wanted to drop. But Joe was really mean and wanted to see the evil Marine Parkway Bridge. I got really freaked out and had to hold hands with Joe and Meg. My legs cramped up really bad and I just had a meltdown when I got off the bridge. I threw myself on the ground whining and moaning. At one point, I told Joe I would run if he could catch a nearby rabbit, which he tried, but rabbits being rabbits, are impossible to catch.

I slogged on. I felt like crap and was so negative, I know. I'm sorry Meg and Joe. You two were stars and I was sooooo miserable. 

We passed by more rabbits and I saw some lovely hallucinations, a la balloon strings like you see at Burning Man. 

I threw myself down on the ground and put my legs in the air because my calves Hurt. So. Freaking. Much. Then I put my legs down and was refusing to get up. Then I saw flashing lights. I sat up. It was a cop. 

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, I just ran 77 miles and I hurt."

"Do you want some water?"

"No, I have water," I told him.

"She's fine," Meg assured him.

And then I got the hell up and slogged on. Could it be called a run at this point? A walk? No, a slog. A suffering slog.

By Plumb Beach, where Wayne goes kitesurfing, we met up with a random super nice guy, Izzy. He was nonstop cheerful and I was a bit cranky. But I somehow dragged my ass to 80, where Meg said I could decide to quit.

AS IF I WOULD QUIT WITH JUST 20 MILES TO GO. (Meg is pretty smart.)

Joe and Meg said they'd come if I wanted, but it had already been a long day for both of them, so I told them to do whatever they wanted. 

They left, and I took off with Pete, who also paced me last year. He didn't get me lost at all, was cheerful, and a great pacer. Izzy was with us at the start. I had to go to the bathroom, as my stomach hated me again. Fun fact: the bathrooms in Coney Island at the boardwalk are open. Hurrah!

We trucked on. Pete and I stopped in a gas station so I could get an iced tea. I have to say - that's the most bizarre thing about this race. You're running 100 miles but suddenly you pop into a deli, and then you start reading labels to find an iced tea sans high fructose corn syrup. Pete was patient with me, as all my pacers were. (They are probably talking to my parents and Wayne about locking me up now...)

The caffeine perked me up, and made me have to pee. So now I was stopping to pee every 15 minutes. Or so it seemed.

At 85 - I made it to 85!!! - we now headed to the Shore Parkway. And it was raining. Raining hard at times. I was wearing shoes w the toes cut out (to accommodate for swelling) and my socks became wet. The tape on my neuroma caused blisters, so I took it off - but too late. My blisters grew worse. I tried not to cry. 

I ran until the blisters hurt, then walked. We talked about UTMB, friends in the ultrarunning community and how they were doing, I don't even know. I was kind of out of it. At two points in the race, I saw people I know very well and looked right through them, a la zombie. (Sorry, Deanna and Mary.)


And then THE BRIDGE. Of course I was freaked out. But then - then - we were getting up there....

I loved once we got into the numbers. As we climbed higher, I got more and more excited....and then I heard cheering and saw the finish line.

Finish line. Me, awesome RD Phil McCarthy, and my awesome pacer Pete Priolo. I don't even remember Mon Ferrer taking this photo.

For being finished. 

For Phil for putting on the race.

For my amazing pacers.

For Menachem for making me feel like I was someplace else.

For Meg who refusing to let me quit.

For Joe who didn't back down when things got tough, even though he didn't know me.

For Pete, who led me straight into another finisher's medal and was an amazing rock.

For the parks of NYC and all their glory.

For all the other runners for being so fun and nice.

For Wayne and Sherry for being my rock to get to - and every other aid station.

All the aid stations were awesome. They were staffed by my friends, who bought great amazing treats to share and were smiling. It was wonderful seeing them.

21 June 2015

Happy Father's Day - the Gender Stereotypes Edition

Today is Father's Day. I bought my father a pair of binoculars and some aftershave and shampoos.

Growing up, I always struggled to find my dad good father's day cards and gifts. They were focused on ties, boating, fishing, meat (I'm a vegetarian, so no). My dad is not into these things (except meat) and I felt stupid buying another card that seemed to insinuate that my dad was a bumbling idiot. (He's really not.)

Groupon recently sent me emails for Father's Day gift ideas - I got a little frustrated.

Notice any differences? Sports, home and auto, spa - beauty vs grooming spa.

Why do we have to have gender stereotypes in even our Mother's and Father's Day gifts? Sure, easy gift ideas, but I'm pretty sure if I had given my mother a pair of binoculars, she'd also love them.

Birthday 50k!

Every June, I have a birthday. I find birthdays built up with hype, expectations, worry about getting older. Screw that.

Last year, I started a birthday tradition that I hope to be an annual affair. I'll run 50k around Manhattan. It's a fun way to get a good run in in my favorite city.

We met at 5am on 42nd and 1st Avenue in front of a playground. I was pretty excited, but also nervous to see how my foot helpd up - and it did. I encouraged people to wear pink, so we had a bunch of pink (three BRC 50k shirts!) shirts.

We ran south around Manhattan, picking up Cortney at the Williamsburg Bridge and Beth on the west side in Tribecca. We ran north, laughing. I learned about the Kardashians (apparently, there is a lot to learn!), joked about upcoming races, and basically, hung out while running.

Slowly, people peeled off, to head to work, and towards the end, it was just me, Rich, and Karen. We sat at Twin Donut, relaxing for a few minutes before heading downtown.

Karen had to go to work, then Rich had a business call, and I was running alone. It began to rain suddenly, misting, then a bit harder, and I ran with Julia for a mile or two.

I thought about getting older. I thought about 36 and what it should be. I thought about was I doing the right thing with my life. As I was finishing alone, instead of heading over to the 7 train, where I figured I'd be cold and wet on the subway, I headed towards the 59th Street Bridge, and ran home.

Getting older doesn't have the answers. Answers just kind of figure themselves out after a while. I'm going to keep on living in the way I love, running and finding myself out in that way, and keeping open to the options.

36, let's be a better year than 35!!!!

03 June 2015


Tonight as I was walking across the Pulaski Bridge, I felt old.

Not elderly old, but no longer young. An attractive-looking woman, probably in her late 40s, passed me, laughing. That will be me soon, I thought, thinking wistfully of my 20s. You don't realize what you have until you've lost it.

In my 20s, NYC was a lot seedier, sketchier. Dudes hanging out at corner stores, cigarettes sliding around their lips, pants hung low. Drugs deals happening at the park - and when my best friend dated a guy who did H, she went there. I walked around in tiny little dresses - okay, let's be honest - they were nightgowns, little nightdreses - with platform sneakers. I stuffed my money in my bra, hoping no one would steal it. I wore glitter from the craft store as makeup. Life was somehow simpler. Gourmet delis were out of our reach, everyone was broke, we stayed at clubs until 11am, the after party was in our apartment, and I never, ever did drugs despite everyone falling apart around me. Maybe that's why I feel old - everyone around me has their sh*t together, people have babies, but we're all still wandering in our hearts. We feel like we're 20, but we're not. We have jobs and pensions/401ks and bills and in the corners of our eyes, we're starting to get wrinkles.

I still have dreams....publishing my book, maybe doing the AT, a RTW trip, hiking through the Amazon, doing the jungle multiday through the Amazon, running around different South Pacific Islands....

It's never too late to have a dream. Even though I came home, washed some dishes, prepped some muesli, took off my eye makeup with real remover, I know where I've come from. I don't know where I'm going, but really, the truth is, no one does. Everyone else just thinks they do, but we're all just doing a routine until stuff gets started - or until we remember our dreams.

We're all lost souls.