Bunchgrasser’s World

My unique filter on life

Archive for October, 2009

Black toenails again…

Posted by bunchgrasser on October 29, 2009

I’m currently sporting two black toenails again (courtesy of my last marathon in early October). I realize I’m not alone in the running world when it comes to this particular affliction. Judging by the many, many questions about it that I saw on various forums and websites – it seems to be a common problem.

I was actually searching online for ways to prevent black toenails, but every site seemed to mention the same things over and over again: buy your running shoes a size larger to prevent your toe from hitting the end of your shoe, tie your laces tight to keep your foot from slipping forward, etc. These suggestions are certainly good advice – but I’ve been doing them for several years and they haven’t prevented my black toenails at all. So, I’m left wondering…what am I doing wrong?

I’ve tried all kinds of preventative measures, to no avail. Taping my toes, thin socks, thick socks, two pairs of socks, massive amounts of Vaseline or BodyGlide. But alas, so far – no relief. I’ve also consciously monitored my toes while running to make sure they are not hitting the top of my shoes (they aren’t).

My latest idea was silicon toe caps, which seemed like a surefire winner. And, I believe wearing toe caps on each of my big toes would have solved my problem, except for one small issue…once my feet became warm and moist from running, the (now sweaty) toe caps just slid off the end of my toes and formed a lump in the ends of my socks. I tested these toe caps on two separate runs (different days). Regrettably, both toe caps slipped off of my toes between mile 4 and mile 5 on both days. I suppose I could try taping the toe cap to my toe – but I’m not too excited about that. At some point, the preparation time and effort of going for a long run becomes too much of a hassle. I’m deeply envious of those who just throw on some shoes and go for a run.

For lack of a real solution to this problem, I’m starting to resign myself to the idea of revolving, colorful toenails. Maybe I’ll paint them over with black toenail polish (midlife crisis?), or have the nails permanently removed (seems a little harsh). I guess there is always the “badge of honor” thing. If anyone has solved this problem or has any (new)  suggestions please feel free to comment.


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Yes, I (kind of) ran the 2009 Portland Marathon

Posted by bunchgrasser on October 14, 2009

I’ve been avoiding this post for more than a week now. Not sure why – but most likely because there is little positive to say about it. The net-net is that after training for the Portland Marathon for many months I suffered a weird injury in my left calf muscle around the first week of July.

I’m still not certain if it was a calf muscle tear or an Achilles tendon problem. The actual spot was not right above my heel, but further up where the tendon spreads out and attaches to calf muscle. I’m equally perplexed as to how I got the injury in the first place. Although I did increase my mileage enough to warrant this type of response. I was also doing some trail running at the time which could have been the culprit.

Regardless of the cause, I was smart enough to stop all training in order to fully recover. It would be about 2.5 months later that I started easing back into a few miles here and there, which brings me back to the marathon. I had completely decided against running the marathon for obvious reasons (little/no training) during the 3 months prior to race day. Actually, I did run the Timberline Trail Half Marathon on September 14th as kind of a “test run”. That went ok, but it was clear that my body was not at all ready for 26 miles.

As fate would have it, my daughter’s soccer team volunteered at the Portland Marathon expo the day before the race, so I offered to drive her there for her “shift”. I figured that I would pick up my packet and browse through the expo for any cool running goodies or gadgets.

However, once I had my race bib in-hand, cruel forces began to conspire against me and my decision to sit this one out. I began to think how bummed I would be if I missed even one year of the Portland Marathon. I envisioned how much fun it would be running past the thousands of spectators, cheering and yelling my name…Go Danny! Looking good! And, finally I started rationalizing just how far 26.2 miles could possibly be. Heck, I could just run most of the race and then finish the remainder by walking! There’s no reason to skip this race at all! I mean, how bad could it possibly be???

Well, as you can probably surmise…I now know exactly how bad it could possibly be. And, yes it was that bad. For the record, I did finish the race in under 5 hours…but not by much. In fact, my splits were pretty good up until about mile 16-17. But crossing the St Johns bridge seemed to be a turning point for me, as both calf muscles started to cramp simultaneously. I pushed on a little further, but by the time I hit mile 19 the wheels fell completely off and my lower legs were in full-on mutiny. The calf cramps were severe which made running impossible and even walking seemed like too much to ask.

Needless to say, I found myself in a difficult situation with 7 miles left and no real ability to get there under my own power. I attempted to stretch out my calf muscles several times and continued to walk, hoping that eventually my condition would improve. Over the next 3-4 miles I tried running (slowly) a few times but couldn’t keep the cramping at bay. It felt so strange to be walking the course rather than running. I noticed things that I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed if I had been running. For example, I saw several groups of people along Willamette Blvd that were seriously partying. I’m not sure if they realized there was a marathon going on right next to them. I noted that people don’t cheer for the walkers much, other than an occasional, quietly-spoken “good job”. I also now realize that walkers aren’t a very exciting target for race photographers.

Well, not to belabor this any further…once I hit the long downhill section starting at the Adidas HQ I was able to manage a slow jog (mostly gravity I think). I eventually made it across the bridge and with an alternating run/walk strategy pushed myself up Naito Pkwy to the turn at Salmon and across the finish line.

I accepted my foil blanket and finishers medal, then stumbled through the food section – carefully avoiding the chocolate milk that didn’t sit well in my stomach last year. Bananas and fritos chips tasted good this year. I picked up my shirt, skipped the photo and did the zombie-walk through the cordoned-off section to the reunion area. Life would have been good had there been someone waiting to whisk me away to a hot shower and soft bed, however I spent the next 20 minutes walking the 6-8 blocks to where my car was parked in a garage. To make matters worse, I wasn’t quite certain where my car was and actually had to circle a few blocks before finally locating it.

I’m tempted to say…”let this be a lesson of what not to do”. But in reality even though it was ugly (well, actually very ugly), there was something that I truly enjoyed about the experience and I think it was pushing myself well past my “perceived” physical limit. It was ignoring the warning signals my brain was voicing loudly. It was venturing ever-so-slightly into that uncharted territory of the unknown, wondering just exactly what would happen if I just kept going. I think we could all benefit from pushing ourselves beyond our fears and our own limitations. It reminds me of a quote I jotted down some time ago:

“Few of us know what we are capable of doing… we have never pushed ourselves hard enough to find out.” -Alfred A Montepert


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