A big training week and some plantar fasciitis pain

It hasn't slowed down my training this week, but some heel discomfort is a cause for concern as I close in on the Canberra Marathon.

It was another solid week of training, with a couple decent workouts and 145+ km of mileage. On paper it looks great, but not everything is going exactly to plan.

I ended my post last week with an admission: I was beginning to feel some soreness in my left heel. It wasn’t bad enough to interrupt my training this week, but I did book into see my physiotherapist. I wanted to get some treatment, and advice on how to manage the issue going forward.

My physiotherapist reckons it’s plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the fascia. This is a length of strong, thick tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes.

People with plantar fasciitis often experience pain in the bottom of their heel, and the discomfort is often at its worst in the morning. Tick, and tick.

I first noticed the discomfort after running in spikes, and it seems to be something that recurs after hard track races. Usually it settles, but this pain has persisted for nearly three weeks now. Sometimes its a dull ache, causing me to walk gingerly; sometimes, when you hit the exact right spot, it’s sharp, like stepping on a tack.

When I’m running, it usually comes good once I’m warm, but I’m certainly conscious of it. And hard workouts have been aggravating it.

So what can I do? Rest would seem the obvious answer, but as I’m in the middle of a marathon training block, it’s not an option I’m really open to exploring. Not yet, anyway.

Management of plantar fasciitis

Instead, I’m dealing with the plantar fasciitis by icing the heel after every run (and periodically throughout the day). I’m also wearing cushioned heel inserts in my shoes, I’m doing some targeted stretching of my calf, hamstring, and foot, and I’m using a trigger ball to really dig-in and release tension in the problem area.

I’m also making sure I get my strength work completed. This is often the aspect of my training that gets neglected or sacrificed when life gets too busy, but just six weeks out from the race, I need to make it a priority.

My physiotherapist reckons my plantar fasciitis and other foot issues are stemming from weaknesses higher up in my legs and hips. My body is compensating for that weakness by absorbing the loads of running further down the chain (or limb).

Short-term, I might be able to manage the pain and can get through the next six weeks to race; but long-term, managing this issue will require a more holistic approach; one that makes strength training non-negotiable.

For now, I’m not making any major adjustments to the program, but I’ve talked to my coach about the need to be flexible, if it worsens. Maybe that’s lessening mileage, or maybe it’s easing-up or modifying sessions.

Training week at a glance

  • Total KM: 146. I was down in Canberra for most of the week visiting family, so ended up running mostly solo.
  • Longest Run: A 35 km long run on Sunday. I found some undulating hills for the first 15 km, and then finished on the flat. I averaged about 4:07/km, so it was a touch quick, but nothing too strenuous.
  • Toughest run: This was the Sunday run. I left it late, because dad duty called, and ended up running from 9 until 11:30 am. By the end of the run, it was pretty hot and sticky, and I was definitely ready to finish.
  • Biggest confidence booster: The Tuesday workout went well: 8 km at marathon pace, and then a few quick 500s. I probably ran the first part a but quicker than my goal pace, but I finished feeling pretty strong and in control. The one downside was the plantar fasciitis, which I was definitely feeling on the cool down and the next day.

Key sessions

I swapped my sessions around because I couldn’t get to a track in Canberra. So on Tuesday, instead of Deek’s quarters, I ran an 8km tempo at marathon pace, followed by 6 x 500 metre efforts (off a 500 m jog).

This session went well, though I was probably a bit hot on my tempo pace (I averaged 3:16/km). I chalk that up to having some cognitive discrepancy in what my marathon pace should actually be.

The aspirational goal is to run sub-2:20, which works out to roughly 3:18/km. However, I’ve spoken with my coach and we think the 2:20 goal is more achievable in the spring, in Melbourne (or another race).

For Canberra, we’re targeting 2:23 or faster, which is closer to an average pace of 3:23/km. Five seconds per kilometre may not seem like much, but I’m conscious I can’t over-exert myself too much in the early stages, particularly when the goal is to negative split.

I need to be disciplined and make sure I’m running within myself. So, for the remainder of my training block, I’m going to try to make sure my tempo work is more controlled, and closer to 3:20-3:23 range.

A failed track session

On Friday, I was back in Wollongong, but couldn’t get to the track in the morning because I had to see the physiotherapist. After I got the all clear to run (and monitor), I planned for an evening workout.

Unfortunately, I let time slip away. I got to the track, and started my session, but got waved to a halt by the gym manager, who told me they were shutting the facility and I needed to vacate. Damn!

I was meant to run quarters, but only managed 3km of the 4.8km session. I wasn’t feeling great, and towards the end, my floats and efforts were starting to feel pretty similar in terms of pace. Still, I would have liked to have knocked out the last few laps.

I ran 3km in about 9 minutes, then I drove home, and ran another 3km on my regular path, as I tried to salvage the workout. Getting kicked off the track was a bit of an ‘Own Goal’ but… these things happen.

Closing in on Canberra

We’re now six weeks out from the Canberra Marathon. I’m officially registered, and we’ve got a solid group of Wollongong-based runners descending on the capital for the festival.

There’s a chance I line up at the Weston Creek half marathon (also in Canberra) in two weeks time, as a tune-up. If not, I’ll have a tough marathon workout built-into the Sunday long run on March 14th.

My mates Greg and Stefan have 5×5 km on their program. They’re planning to set-up a drinks table and (hopefully) get someone on a bike. If I stick around, I’ll look at getting involved, with a slightly modified workout.

Whatever happens, the countdown will be well and truly on. I’m excited to finally have a crack at another marathon. The training has gone well, I’ve had some good success on the track. The main thing now is staying healthy!

For now, that’s all. You can follow me on Strava. Or message me if you have any questions or tips at myles@runcreature.com. And you can help us grow RunCreature by reading and sharing our great content.

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I’m Myles Gough. I’m a distance runner, writer and teacher. I started RunCreature to tell stories about athletes, runners, and the issues that matter to our community. 

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