Pool is a Four Letter Word

The day after my 40th birthday I saw the doctor for my mystery foot ailment. At that point I had taken about two weeks off of any real running and had forgone running the Final Four Four Miler in Houston which I had been hoping to run as the last race of my 30s. Nevertheless, the pain in my foot continued. My x-ray looked clean, but after a manual exam, the doctor uttered the dreaded phrase “stress reaction” and told me no running for 4-6 weeks. Welcome to Forty! He suggested pool and cycling and all of those other things that runners just love to do when they are injured. And he prescribed this lovely footplate which does not leave my side:

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Francis the Footplate, my new BFF #thisis40

For the entire month of April, my birthday month, I diligently hit the pool, the gym, and tried to find other activities which did not aggravate my foot. I am thankful for the fact that unlike when I had to have my appendix out last summer I can still be very active while recovering from this stress reaction. Nevertheless, I look longingly out the window on these lovely and light spring mornings and desperately want to run. (I think my family wants that too, as each passing week I grow more and more irritable.) I miss my running team and wonder what workouts they are doing and what fun topics of conversation I might be missing out on. Running is not only my chance for exercise and fresh air, it is also a social outlet for me, and I miss my friends!

This week, on Cinco de Mayo (!), I got to run for the first time in over a month and the first time in my forties! I didn’t get to run outside, I got to run on the Alter G treadmill. For those of you unfamiliar with the Alter G, it is an anti-gravity treadmill which allows you to run at a percentage of your body weight. It is a phenomenal piece of equipment for injured runners or runners hoping to take off some of the training load.

I counted down the days until I could try running and when the day arrived I felt equal parts excitement and nervousness. I want to get back to running so badly, but feared having the first step be painful and having to start the 4-6 week clock over again. Finally, my Alter G time slot appointment arrived. Just putting on a running outfit felt amazing. I felt like a runner again! I laced up my running shoes, hopped on, started walking, increased the speed and lowered the body weight.

Per my coaches instructions I lowered the body weight to 60%. When you run on the Alter G, you wear special spandex pants, zip yourself into the machine, and air blows up around you. Your body weight it lowered by the air around you and the machine essentially lifting you by the pants you are wearing. (I am sure there is a more technical explanation, but this is my non-techy description.) As my weight lowered and my speed increased I finally took that first running step. And it felt okay! In fact, due to the decreased body weight, it felt almost effortless.

I was finally running again! It felt easy! It felt amazing! It felt like if I did this for the full 30 minutes I might never get feeling back in my crotch again! At times I felt that I could feel pain in my foot, but at no time was the pain in my foot anywhere near the discomfort I felt in my lady-parts from literally being lifted by the seat of my pants while running. (Guys: How do you manage Alter G running?!?) I took comfort in that feedback, however. It told me that the discomfort in my foot was mostly in my head. Afterwards I iced and had minimal soreness.

Although I will not be running outside in the Boise foothills for Mother’s Day as I had hoped, I am so pleased with my forward progress. I am learning more about patience, listening to my body, and doing my best to enjoy the journey. Even if that journey does involve swimming laps in the pool.

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