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.

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