Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Charming Running Partner

The first person I told after I signed up for the Disney Half was someone I didn't really know very well. I'm not exactly why that is. Why didn't I tell my family, long-time friends or even co-workers?

I've come to know this person (whom I refer to as my Charming Friend) a lot better since August, and it turned out he was one of my biggest supporters during my Disney training (despite his somewhat sarcastic comments posted on this blog).

Throughout my journey, my Charming Friend has toyed with the idea of taking up running. (I try to contain my excitement when he talks about it -- thinking of what it would be like to have a steady running partner and thinking of the opportunities that training runs and races would give us to spend time together, get in shape and support good causes.)

I contain the excitement because I don't want to get my hopes up. I also don't want to be a nag or put pressure on him. I want him to run because he wants to run, not because I want him to.

You can imagine how hard it was to play it cool when he told me he just returned from Runner's Alley with a new pair of shoes. (Okay, so the shoes sat in the box for a few weeks (maybe more), but he still took the first step of buying them.)

I talked him into coming with me to the Fitness Expo before the Great Bay Half Marathon a few weekends ago, where I'd be picking up my race number for my third half marathon of the year.

Our first stop at the small expo was what I'll call the Remedies-For-All-The-Things-That-Can-Go-Wrong-With -Your-Body Booth: IT Band and knee braces, chaffing remedies, blister prevention, toe caps (I bought some of those), nipple covers (don't ask), shoe inserts and a bunch of other things designed to deal with problems that might arise while running.

It certainly wasn't a place I should be bringing a non-runner whom I hope will become my running partner, but he didn't seem to flinch. (Didn't start running right away, but it didn't scare him off entirely.)

A few days later, My Charming Friend
did his first run -- a mile by himself on the concourse of the arena where he works. I was really proud, but tried my hardest to avoid gushing with compliments when he told me. (Don't scare him off, Teresa, I told myself.)

I wouldn't say he enjoyed his first run entirely -- I wish I could post an audio file of the voicemail message he left me about his aching shins, sore arches, throbbing back and the list of other ailments that his first mile had thrown at him.

But it still wasn't enough for him to quit. (I doubt that quit is in his vocabulary.)

The next day I joined him for another mile around the concourse -- a much slower mile, he told me, which I pointed out might be part of the reason he was hurting so badly after his first run.

He still didn't feel right, so brought his shoes back to Runner's Alley, exchanged them for another pair and chatted with the manager for a while about possible problems and fixes.

Not long after that, we ventured outside for a three-mile route in downtown Manchester that he created on -- which actually included scaling a brick wall (obviously not shown on the website route).

Three miles and he did it. And he finished strong, sprinting to our finishing point.

Again, I played it cool, congratulating him mildly on his accomplishment and patting him on the back (I know it drives him crazy to have his T-shirt pressed up against his sweaty back, so that move was partially congratulatory and partially intentionally annoying.)

He tried to play it cool, too, but I know he was proud of himself. (He sent a couple of text messages off to co-workers telling him he finished the three miles.) He also used the phrase "farther than I've ever run in my life."

TnT-ers use this phrase a lot. There's nothing like the feeling of running farther than you've ever run before.

And there's nothing like having a Charming Friend who takes up running -- or at least is willing to give it a try.

Friday, April 4, 2008

This Little Piggy ...

I have eight toenails.

In case you're wondering, I have 10 toes. But only eight toenails.

This toenail deficiency is a recent thing. It officially happened last weekend, although it's been a while in the making.

The day after my Disney race, I noticed that the second toe on my right foot was particularly tender. I wasn't sure why. It felt as if the tenderness was coming from underneath my nail. I couldn't see anything wrong with my foot, but it definitely hurt when I put pressure on it.

I chalked it up to the effects of my first half marathon. Could have been a lot worse, I told myself.

The next day, Ericka, a fellow TnT-er, ran the full marathon. Later in day, she complained of a painful toenail. Hers was worse -- she could feel and see the fluid build-up under the nail. I think she may have even tried to pop it. (Ouch!)

I didn't think much more of my toenail pain, but as the weeks progressed and my running continued, I found my nail getting yellowed - almost bruised. Eventually, it felt loose - almost as if I could flick it right off of my toe without any effort at all.

I did nothing, figuring if my body decided it was time for it to go, it would fall off.

Then recently, probably after my next half marathon, the same thing happened to the second toe on my left foot. Although the pain wasn't nearly as noticeable, that toenail suffered the same nasty process, yellowing, bruising and loosening.

Yuck. What had I done to my once-decent-looking feet? (At least I've been told my feet are nice ... well, were nice. No one's seen them lately. And at this rate, I won't be showing anyone.)

I stopped at Runner's Alley last week to pick up some socks and GU for my upcoming half marathon. While checking out, I decided to ask the woman behind the counter about my toenail mishap.

"Happens to people all the time," she said. She then asked me a series of questions: did I have my shoes fitted, how far did I run, how often does it happen?

She told me about the tendency for the foot to tighten during long runs, pushing the toes against the top of the shoe. She told me about various ways to lace the shoe to avoid pressure on the toes. But, basically, she told me that there's really not much I can do.

Great, another battle scar? Aren't the scars on my knees and shoulder from my fall enough?

Giving my nails a little trim on Sunday, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I made my way to the loosened toenails and gingerly started cutting. And kept cutting and cutting.

I discovered a fresh, new toenail growing underneath. I cut the old toenail all the way back. The new one was extremely delicate and thin -- like a baby's fingernails -- but it was definitely there. The right foot looks better than the left, but I'm hoping that the left one keeps growing into a full nail.

Just before writing this I decided to do a little research. (Like everyone these days, I consider 'research' to be typing something into an online search engine and trusting the information that pops up.)

I googled "running toenails" and found a host of website with stories and advice. The woman at Runner's Alley was right. It does happen all the time.

The consensus of the websites was simple: After ruling out possible causes (shoes that don't fit, socks that are too thick, running in hot weather, etc.) and watching for ongoing problems (extreme pain, infection, etc.), just deal with it.

I guess that's what I'll do.

I just hope my brand-new, baby-like toenails make it through the Great Bay Half Marathon on Sunday. They're only a week old. I don't want to lose them yet.