60 Weeks to Squaw Valley: 58 Weeks to Go

Bryon Powell Western States 2005

The author after the 2005 WS 100.

A number of readers have asked what races I’m focusing on this year. The short answer is none. I will have no racing season in 2010 for the same reason that you have not read about my running in a long while: plantar fasciitis. I’ll get into the injury later. For now, I’ll announce one race that I am gearing up for – Western States 2011 – and that I hope to post an update on my preparation about every ten weeks unless there’s interest in more frequent updates closer to race time.

The Goal
Why am I focusing on a race that I got into a year and a half ago and won’t be running for over year? Three reasons. First, I’ve been injured for nearly half a year and have no interest in racing with the resultant lack of fitness. Second, with the lack of fitness and the lingering threat of injury I want a long term goal that both motivates me and allows for caution when needed. Finally, I’m genuinely excited about the race. In fact, it was excitement to train for the race that got me injured last November, a full 19 months before the race. Regardless, in my three previous goes at the race, I’ve run conservatively. Next time, I want to be in top form and to go for it from the gun.

The Injury
Some days I feel like a hypocrite when I’m working on iRunFar. Quite frankly, I don’t run far at the moment and haven’t for a long while. On the Monday before Thanksgiving, I went for an easy 10.5 mile run on a hilly course with my girlfriend. Afterward, I noticed a odd sensation in my left heel. I didn’t know what it was. The next day, I ran the same loop in my fastest ever time by quite a bit. The heel felt worse after the run, so I iced and took Wednesday off. On Thursday, American Thanksgiving, I decided to go for the run I had planned, a 40-45 mile run from our home in Midpines, California to Curry Village in Yosemite Valley by way of El Portal and Foresta. I figured I’d earn the feast that was awaiting me. I did and assured that my plantar fascia was toast.

The Status
In the half year since the onset of plantar fasciitis (PF), I’ve kept running. The PF has not hurt at any point since the initial onset all those months ago. However, the PF has often let me know that it’s not yet gone. I’ve routinely logged 25-35 miles on four to six runs per week. I did log a 59 mile week in mid-February followed by three weeks in the low to mid-40s. On the other hand, I’ve got a few weeks in the single digits or teens, including 4 miles last week. Beginning last Tuesday, I took seven days off in hopes that I’d feel better afterward. The time off didn’t help, so I’m back at it.

Bryon Powell Orcas Island

The lone picture I have of me running this year. Seriously. Photo by Glenn Tachiyama.

So far this year, I’ve run a whopping 570.5 miles. The 431 miles I put in during the first 13 full weeks of the year is the lowest seasonal mileage (I split my yearly log into 4 13-week seasons) since I started keeping a continuous log at the start of 2004. In addition, a not insignificant portion of those miles (maybe 50 to 75 miles) were actually me walking on snowshoes. I logged the miles as they’re a great workout, but it’s not running.

All in all, I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in in a long time. I consider myself to be back at square one. I can’t quickly jump up the mileage like I’ve been able to after taking it easy for a month or two. From here forward, my gains will be hard fought. It’s a good thing I have 58 weeks and 26 hours from the time I publish this until I start my journey from Squaw Valley to Auburn.

Bryon Powell Western States 100 2005

A reminder to myself that I was once fast.

The Outlook
As you can see, I’ve got a long way to go and have to be careful while doing it. In the short term, I’ve got two goals aside from consistent, healthy training: running the RothRock Trail Challenge (30k) near State College, Pennsylvania the first weekend in June and pacing Andy Jones-Wilkins at Western States at the end of June. To reach those goals, I’ll be adding progressively longer long runs on flat terrain at least once per week. I also need to go for one or two well-planned shorter runs on hilly routes with rest the following day. The remainder of my days will be filled with flattish 4-5 mile runs and more days off than I’m used to taking.

Aside from running, I’ll be working on a few other things. Of utmost importance will be continuing the rehabilitation of my plantar fasciitis and lower legs in general. That means stretching my lower legs, rolling my plantar fascia, strengthening my glutes, and doing a bit of core work. I’m also working on eating more healthfully and in more moderation. I’m not overweight at the moment, but I could ease my transition to fitness by trimming up more quickly than would happen solely by running higher mileage.

Looking a bit further out, I’d love to running 40+ miles weeks by early July. More important, I really want to be able to go for some long run in the mountains this summer. I can’t do that right now. Being in shape for an easy fastpacking trip come early fall would be great.

The Stats (as of May 13, 2010):

  • Miles logged through week 1: 21.8
  • Weight: 162.6
  • Body fat: N/A (will be included my once scale is fixed or replaced)
  • Resting heart rate (evening): 43 beats per minute

Comments/Questions
Ok, you’ve just had a window into my world. What do you think?

Bryon Powell Scotty Mills 2006 Western States 100

I hope to be here again around midnight sometime next June.

There are 29 comments

    1. Bryon Powell

      Yup, and quickly rejected it. I've trauma to the bottom of my foot and extremely tight calves. I don't even run hills at the moment, so I'll be avoiding any undue stress on my lower legs. Besides, I was wearing shoes on the minimalist end of the spectrum when the PF came on. I do appreciate the thought and you suggesting it.

      1. Tuck

        PF is caused by shoes, even "shoes on the minimalist end of the spectrum".

        Take a look at this advice on how to cure PF: it's not what you'll get from a podiatrist, but is has the advantage of working, and working quickly. A friend of mine was on crutches with PF, and was pain-free in a few weeks from following this advice.

        http://barefoot-running.com/blog/?p=163

        1. Bryon Powell

          I'm not buying an unqualified "PF is caused by shoes." (Like a podiatrist, does a website or book that proselytizes barefoot running have any interest in saying anything else?)

          That said, strengthening one's feet and lower legs can be useful as a longer term preventative step. I hope to add some FiveFinger running and slowly mix in less structured shoes as I gain confidence that such steps won't blow my PF or calves all to hell. The approach outlined in the post you sent is quite reasonable… it's also much more than simply adding barefoot running. :-) (For the record, I consider myself to be in Step 2)

  1. theuglyquip

    Thanks for the very human post. I've been injured since January 2nd and reading blogs to maintain any kind of hope.

    And for the record, I barefoot stride for recovery and forefoot strike for the rest of the time. The change in my form has made me a stronger runner, but there are days when my [body part(s)] are too [something] to risk the stress of barefooting. Keep being reasonable and knowing the limits that will prevent more PF!

  2. Hone

    I have been dealing with PF since last October (on top of a torn adductor muscle on the other leg that will never heal) and it has made my life a living hell. It does not go away. I have my foot taped up 24 hours a day 7 days weeks. I now use an arch support all of the time and wear the Straussburg sock every night to bed. I have even started stretching (yikes!!).

    Stay away from the minimalist shoes while it heals. I only wore 790s and Frees for months after I first came down with PF and it made is a lot worse. I am still running high mileage but it sucks lining up for races in pain and knowing you cant push the body as much as you want to. I hate it.

    I would love to just run one run painfree. Is that asking too much?

    1. Hone

      Also I dont think my wearing flats all of the time caused it but it for sure doesn't help the healing process. I am now wearing clunky army boot Montrail Masochist shoes on most of my mountain runs now until it finally gets better (but this is also to help the hip heal as well).

  3. Michael Helton

    Bryon, great post. Sounds like the beginning of a whole series of posts…something about coming back from square one.

    Looks like I will be seeing you at Western States. I will be working Duncan Canyon and Foresthill (and maybe pacing). (They need more volunteers by the way!)

    I look forward to reading more about your road to recovery.

  4. Patrick

    Bryon,

    I love that you are setting a long term goal, I was injured from Sept of last year to Feb of this year and setting goals seemed hard. I was depressed until I realized what I think you've already found, "I won't be injured forever, and if I take it easy, I can get back sooner." Hope your PF goes away soon!

  5. Tuck

    I just posted a long reply, and it seems to have disappeared, so this may be a dupe… :<

    I'm not suggesting you "buy" it, do the research. But if it's true that shoes cause PF, then continuing to run in the in the shoes that are causing the injury means that your PF will never heal. This is the experience that most runners who get PF have.

    "One of the most common chronic injuries in runners is planter fasciitis, or an inflammation of the ligament running along the sole of the foot. There is some evidence that the normally unyielding plantar fascia acts as the support for the medial longitudinal arch, and that strain on the proximal fascial attachment during foot strike leads to plantar fasciitis (Robbins and Hanna, 1987). Barefoot running may induce an adaptation that transfers the impact to the yielding musculature, thus sparing the fascia and accounting for the low incidence of plantar fasciitis in barefoot populations (Robbins and Hanna, 1987)."

    http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0103/mw.htm

    Dr. Robbins has posted the article cited on his web site, it's here:

    http://www.stevenrobbinsmd.com/1987-1.pdf The bit on PF is on page 7.

    The fellow who cured his PF through the advice I posted earlier posted his experiences with his PF outbreak and recovery here:

    http://hhollines.blogspot.com/2010/01/do-you-want

    http://hhollines.blogspot.com/2010/01/note-to-sel

    http://hhollines.blogspot.com/2010/01/working-on-

    http://hhollines.blogspot.com/2010/01/shoe-days-i

    "Just 9 days from my PF flare up where I was on crutches, I am back to running BF and VFF with relatively no pain. I've been pretty much 100% BF and VFF since my PF flare up and the recovery has been much faster than I would have ever expected!!!!!"

    I'm not suggesting that barefoot-style running alone will cure your PF, or that you run your ultras barefoot, which is impractical, and, more importantly, slow. ;)

    I'm suggesting that after you cure your PF using the advice above, you follow the regimen that Krupicka does, which means a lot of barefoot running and totally rethinking the type of shoe that you run in. You could do a lot worse. ;)

    But whatever you choose to do, good luck!

  6. Jason D.

    Good luck with the recovery. And I hear ya on the tight calves. Can't tell you how many times I wished there was an adjustment knob to quickly set my calves and hamstrings to "loose".

    As an aside, I'm sure you're familiar with/have tried all the various stretching/rolling/etc. options but I love The Stick. Even if I do feel silly paying for little pieces of PVC tubing with handles. :)

  7. Will T

    On the opposite end of the minimalist approach, just curious if you have tried any PF orthotics? And how did you get a 2011 entry into WS100 a year and a half ago? Good luck with the build up!

  8. Nicole

    I've had horrible PF for 9 months now – at the worst point, I could not even walk or stand without stabbing pain – so I wanted to share what has helped me.

    I'm a little confused, though. You said that you haven't felt any pain from the PF since the initial onset, but that it has let you know that it is still there and is limiting your training at times. What symptoms do you have if it is not pain?

    I had tried almost everything, including weekly PT, several new orthotics and shoe inserts, various different shoes, podiatrist interventions, massage, stretching, foot and calf exercises, etc. Of all that, the biggest improvements by far came from the following:

    1. Removing my orthotics for 1 week and switching to cushioned shoe inserts, to allow the swelling to go down (from the impact of my foot on the harder orthotics). Following this week, I slowly transitioned to new orthotics that were remolded to fit my foot, as the previous ones were made off an old foot form, and the foot changes over time.

    2. Contrast baths. 1 bucket of hot water, one bucket of ice water. 4 minutes in the hot, 2 minutes in the cold, then repeat for 20-25 minutes.

    3. Night splint. Your PF may not be advanced enough to require this intervention. I also tried the Strassburg Sock – this did not help me as much, and the upward pull on the toes really hurt my "ultrarunning toenails", but it helped me transition to wearing the bulkier night splint.

    4. Wearing more substantial shoes during the healing phase, and switching my shoes frequently, even if they have less mileage on them than usual.

    5. Taking 2 Advil before bed during the healing phase, to bring down the inflammation. (I also switched back to a higher quality fish oil, Spectrum, and concentrated on anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric and cumin.)

    I'm not sure if this will be helpful to you. But I have seen a huge improvement in my own PF, going from complete misery to racing a 50K without pain in a few weeks time. Good luck with healing!

  9. BK

    My wife was plagued with persistent and severe PF for several years in both feet. This year she started running barefoot on the treadmill. She won't run barefoot outside, but barefoot on the treadmill has really worked for her when nothing else would. She can now run again in shoes on the road and trails. The healing was quick. No doubt different things work for different people, but it may be worth a shot at some point.

  10. Mike B

    Bryon –

    Interesting to get your PF experience. I had a similar "oh, I shouldn't have done that" workout that resulted in my first ever PF injury. I took 6 weeks off from running, and then gradually worked back into it, but still felt some persistent PF tightness, not pain, just tightness letting me know it was still there. I saw a podiatrist who basically recommended a deep calf sretch and I started feeling significant relief within a week. Now, injury free for 3 months, legs feel great, and appreciating the payoff of being patient and consistent in my training and health. Any way you look at, PF injuies suck, so best of luck!

  11. Trail Clown's A

    My top-ten advice: (1) surgery, preferably a lobotomy; (2) Don't pace AJW at States, he might puke on your hurt foot and make it worse; (3) wear the Five Fingers on one foot and the hugely cushioned Hoka One One's on the other foot; (4) move from Yosemite to Iowa; (5) instead of your foot, sleep with a Strassborg sock on your…ah, never mind; (6) become a uni-cyclist; (7) learn to run on your hands; (8) see a hypnotist; (9) run until it tears completely, then it will heal properly; and most important…drum roll…#(10) slow the eff down, stop running so fast, you're old now…become a mid-pack racer!

  12. Leslie Gerein

    Hiya Goat!

    We think YOU are awesome. We think you are a very smart boy. We think you must miss running far soooo much it hurts inside. We thinks maybe some cross training to help you maintain your fitness and keep you sane while you're NOT running would be a good idea. We thinks June is also coming quick, and those are some lofty short term goals. We thinks if you are thinking long term, then 7 days off is nothing. We thinks taking more time off and doing other stuff is good. We encourage you to think long term, just like you are. More importantly, we send good thoughts your way as you work through this thing!

    Good thoughts your way and a slow and steady recovery.

  13. Tyson L.

    Bryon

    PF sucks! Have you ever tried Graston or ART. These are two types of soft tissue treatments that can really help. Graston helped me overcome PF pretty quickly. Not going to lie it hurts like no other pain you have ever felt but I was back running pain free pretty quickly. My Dr. also told me to roll a golf ball under my foot, that helps as well.

    Tyson

  14. Gretchen

    Funny how WS looms so large in the mind. I got in for 2011 the same time you did and yes, it is always lurking, just beneath the surface of conscious thought, with all my training and racing plans, even though it is still a loooooong ways off.

    Good luck with the recovery and training. I know you'll be smart. Looking forward to toeing the line with you at Squaw next June!

  15. Dan

    I suffered with PF from Sep 2009 – Mar 2010. I saw a chiropractor who also performed Graston to my feet and calves. Within five visits I was running without pain and the PF seems to be gone! I wouldn't believe it if I didn't experience the results myself :-)

  16. Eric Sherman

    Been going through similar with shin issues. Not enough to stop for good but enough to keep my mileage way down.

    See you at Rothrock! and good luck…

  17. Anonymous

    Hi Bryon, great to hear about your plans – classic race, jealous that you got in. Sorry to hear the PF is still causing problems. I'm not going to venture an opinion on barefoot running here, my forefoot running posts are still generating waaaay too much mail (!!!).

    Some thoughts though:

    1) Cross training may help with both aerobic conditioning and weight loss. Particularly biking. I rode hundreds of hours on a stationary bike during injury recovery. I probably watched every episode of the Beachcombers and Golden Girls. Assuming it doesn't drive you totally insane, it can give you a real head start while your running volume is reduced.

    2)I'm a scientist, but science doesn't know everything (or at least I don't). Advice from experienced runners is probably as valuable as most studies.

    3) Always willing to subject you to a battery of invasive and potentially harmful tests at the William Henderson Memorial Human Performance Lab….

    If it makes you feel better, I just DNF'd my first race – the TransAq, with a hip injury. So maybe I'll join you on the bike.

    Good luck buddy,

    Bill

    1. Bryon Powell

      Bill,

      Spinning drives me insane… but I've got a couple sessions in watching playoff hockey. I'll need to find something similar during future spins. While I love watching baseball… it's not in tune with try to spinning hard.

      Sorry to head about your DNF. I hope you still had a wonderful trip and consoled yourself with lots of wine and cheese.

      I'd love to come be battered with tests sometime!

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