Now this is the story all about how, my life got flipped, turned upside down. And I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there. I'll tell you how I became the girl with a running love affair. Oh wait, that's my version of the theme song to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. How embarrassing. Dear Reader, as you may know I'm kind of into running. In the way that you'll see me out running almost everyday but NOT in the I have a bazillion adorable matching running outfits way. Because I don't. Do I wish I was one of those cutesy runners? To be truthful, yes. Buuutttt...I pretty much wear the same thing every run. Um yea, we won't expand upon that.

However, my running has changed alot over the years, as well as changing me. My story will make you laugh, make you cry (this might be exaggerating) and make you thank god you've never had plantar fasciitis! Oh what's that? You have? Well, you might want to read my story then. But first, I'll fill you in on my current running workout and why, as a health-conscious vegan, you need to know that diet isn't the only part of the "living healthy" puzzle.

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Oh and you'll need a dog too, of course.

Why Eating Well Isn't Enough

Eating well is great. Eating vegan is even better. But when it comes to being your healthiest, eating well isn't enough to keep you in great health. Vegans aren't off the hook either. We all know how it's possible to eat pretty poorly as a vegan (can you say Oreos and Reese's Puffs Cereal?) Yet, even if your diet is plant-based, you'll still need some form of exercise to help you sleep better, stave off cravings for unhealthy foods, stabilize your mood, build and keep muscle strength as well as help with increased blood oxygenation and keeping cancer at bay. This shouldn't be news to most of us, but be sure to check out all that exercise can do for you here.

So, if exercising is only something you do while walking to the car to leave work, you might be asking, "What should I do?" Well, here's where to start, if you're in moderately okay shape, get a pair a running shoes and go for a light jog. Start out with 20 minutes, 4 days a week and build from there. As you get better, alternate every 5 minutes with a slightly faster pace than normal and then the next 5 minutes at a slightly slower pace than your average. If you're pretty sure you haven't jogged since you were late for the school bus in the 5th grade...well, get a pair of running shoes and start out with a 10 minute walk after dinner. Start slow and then as you begin to feel stronger, build up the time and speed. Continue until you can lightly jog.

Jogging is great because the only thing you really need is a pair of  running shoes. That's it! I think you'll find, apart from feeling stronger and healthier, running helps with a sense of wellbeing and decreases stress. It allows your mind time to free itself of everyday struggles and muddle through what's important in life. If you have a more robust budget and an a certain affection towards the general public, grab a tennis racket and hit the courts! Join a co-ed softball league, a lot of companies are now forming their own so you might even know a few people! Grab a pair of skis and go nordic skiing! The possibilities to engage in a beneficial and fun form of exercise are endless.

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My Current Running Workout

For the about the last year now I've been running anywhere from 4-6 miles on the treadmill during my lunch hour at work. Monday through Friday. Sure, I'd vary the minutes per mile, etc. but it was starting to get old and I knew I should be varying my workouts more. As an employee of a brand new and fabulous care clinic I have access to our Wellness Center...aka gym. So, I started doing Boot Camp on Mondays, Strength and Balance on Wednesdays, Yoga on Thursdays and Boot Camp again on Fridays. This left me with Tuesday and one weekend day to run. I did this for about a month but I didn't feel like I was getting in the exercise I wanted or as much running as I felt I needed.

So, I went back to the 5 miles on the treadmill routine and started to look up something new. I found this six week sprint workout on T-Nation. Yes, that's Testosterone Nation, people....it may be one of the last sites on earth I'd imagine finding a workout, let alone taking advice from (no offense T-Dawg). Yet, here I was looking at a spirit workout. Let me say that I've never been a sprinter. Nope. I don't even think I have a single fast-twitch muscle in my body. Long distance is in my blood, definitely not sprinting, which is why I decided it was just the thing I needed to break up my exercise rut.

I did, however, slightly adapt the "Testosterone" version. My sprint workout is six weeks long. Each week you'll do a different, designated sprint workout. You'll have a workout five days a week with one day reserved for a long run or other activity you fancy and one day of rest. Beware, the first week I was pretty sore. This girl doesn't do a lot of sprinting and if you don't either, be prepared for that and take a day or two off if you need to. I use my watch and by now I pretty much know what's 10, 15 or 20 seconds of sprinting so clock-watching isn't really an issue. I do my sprints outside on a flat, level, dirt road that's not busy. However, if you are super skilled in the art of sprinting full-speed on a treadmill I suppose you could do it there. I, personally, would probably crack my head open though, not to mention die from embarrassment.

Start with a 5-10 minute warm up run and be sure to stretch well, especially the hamstrings and the quads. Then start the sprints. After each sprint, walk/jog back to where you began and if you're still feeling tight do a little stretch and then repeat with the rest of the sprints. Follow with a 5-10 minute cooldown and stretch sesh. Feel free to also do some light strength training after this workout, yoga or even a longer cooldown/short run, depending on how you're feeling.

Let this sprint workout work for you and don't push it. Make sure to be nicely warmed up and well stretched. If you get too tired to keep good sprinting form then slow down, you don't want to hurt yourself. Use your head and practice safe running.

I'm currently on week 3 of this sprint workout and I'm feeling great! I feel stronger and I'm running faster, sprinting really is a whole-body workout. I love this workout because it's quick and besides the 20 seconds of sprinting , it really doesn't take a lot of effort and I always feel so accomplished afterward.

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My Running Story

The Littlest Runner

Growing up with runner parents, my brothers and I did every race in town. Even before we could walk we were still in the race...just in a stroller. We did triathlons, foot races and we ran with my parents as we got older. I grew up with David Morris as an uncle so running kind of "runs" (a pun!) in our family. Big time. He held the American Marathon Record in 1999 with a smoking time of 2:09:32 before Khalid Khannouchi from Morocco got his American citizenship in 2000. My dad was the head track & field coach for one of our high schools in town and so I grew up on the track.

My Middle School Rule 

As yes, my middle school years were pretty rad. I won the track and field state 1600 meter races as well as the cross-country state championships. I wasn't heading to the high school my dad taught and coached at and I remember being bribed extensively to go to that high school. I remember being interviewed by the newspaper, and winning my age group in many local races. Yes, I was a star! Haha, no, just kidding. Our town has like 5,000 people. My only claim to fame is winning way too many XLL golfing sweatshirts that I ended up giving to my dad.

A High School Tragedy 

High school was an awful time. No, not in general. I was a straight-A student, graduated with a Merit Diploma, received scholarships to several different colleges, was voted "Future Olympian" (only god knows how) as well as "Best Smile" and was Prom Royalty. No, the tragedy wasn't high school itself but what happened the summer before the start of my freshman year.

During the school year I played all the sports I could. Basketball, volleyball, track & field, cross-country running, and nordic skiing. During the summer when school was out, I played softball. The summer before my freshman year of highschool I made the All-Star team. It's where they pick select players from different teams in the region and create one 'All-Star" team. Makes sense right? Yes. Okay, well during the very first practice of the year we were to practice sliding. I thought this was incredibly daft. To me, sliding is instinctual. Who is seriously needing to practice sliding on an All-Star team? Pretty sure we should all have that down by now. Well, long story short, I utterly destroyed my ankle "practicing" sliding into second base. It was unnatural. I had slid hundreds of times in games and never once got hurt. It's absurd people. Anyway, I couldn't run for six months. I got depressed and chunky out of shape and never recovered to my running glory ever again. My dad (with a Masters in Biology) will tell you it was because I was blossoming into a young lady. Barf. I knew better...

So, I wasn't able to do nordic skiing or be on the cross-country running team my freshman year of highschool and I began to feel more unlike myself with each passing day. I ended up doing track & field (sort of), which was probably a mistake. The rest of my high school running career was spent trying to get back what I once had. I overtrained, never performed as well as I wanted to, ran our practices sullen and alone and was always getting in trouble by the coaches. I actually had my watch taken away from me during races because I couldn't focus on anything but making the time on the intervals. I'd get caught after practice was over, running more intervals on the track. After being reprimanded several times, my coaches finally had an intervention. One telling me, which I will never forget, "I am the doctor and you are my patient. You will do as I prescribe. Nothing more, or else you're going to hurt yourself." And that was the point in which I knew that what I once had, would never be mine again. The hardest part was knowing that it didn't matter how hard I trained. I performed in my high school years as a mediocre runner, maybe slightly above average, but only slightly.

College: A Lonely Time 

High school was over and I decided to go to the college that gave me the most money. When you're paying for college on your own, these things matter. The University of Montana in Missoula was where I chose to go. It was also where my Uncle, David Morris went! Invigorated with the idea of starting fresh I picked up running again and soon I was running twice a day, everyday, and sometimes even three times a day. You might be asking how I had time to do this while in college and on a scholarship. Well you see, I am a horrid introvert. I only knew a couple of people there, I didn't like drinking or parties, and of course I was a strict law abider. I pretty much stayed in my room studying and reading or I was outside running or at the gym on the treadmill. With each run I began to feel more and more like myself again.

However, this is a time in my life that I deeply regret. I ran a lot. I lost a bunch of weight (too much, my friends would say) and I only made a few friends. During my second year my best friend, Anne, decided to attend Montana too and I had a better time during that year. Halfway through, however, I decided to come back up to Alaska and apply for the Radiologic Technology program. It's one of the best RT programs in the nation and why would I pay out-of-state tuition when I can pay in-state for a better program? I got in. I still don't know how, it's terribly competitive. I'm fairly certain they just took pity on me as I sat, shaking, in front of a panel of ten interviewers. I worked at REI while I was permitted to and then had to quit due to the program, but I still found time to run.

Orthotics, Injections and Casts! Oh My!

During my second year of the program I found myself in the Operation Room a lot. No, I wasn't in surgery as a patient, it was part of our clinicals for the program. Ironic, as I decided to become a Radiologic Technologist because I thought it would be the least gorey of  the medical professions. Um...no. Anyway, I noticed after my days at the hospital were over, my feet would ache to the point where I had to sit for hours at a time and I was in a great deal of pain.

Of course I just thought, "Oh, this is just what happens when you're on your feet all day. They hurt!" Right? I mean haven't we all heard people complain of sore feet after a long day of work standing? As the days passed, my feet got more and more achy, to the point where I literally could not stand up in the OR for more than 20 minutes at a time. I was constantly having to sit and I could barely make it through the day without crying in the bathroom at least once out of frustration and pain. I brought four different pairs of shoes with me to the hospital and changed them intermittently throughout the day. That's when I realized that something just wasn't right.

I decided to go to a foot and ankle specialist. He told me I had severe plantar fasciitis. He molded my feet and made me custom orthotics. I had to wear them everywhere, even in the house. I was also given night splints to wear to bed. I had to stop running. I had to try to stay off my feet and allow them to heal. Saddened and frustrated, I stopped running completely. By the time I went to the specialist I had already pretty muched stopped, because it was just too painful to run but now I had to completely stop. I didn't run for over half a year. I didn't hike. I didn't even walk around the grocery store for an extended period of time. I had a doctor's note and I had to sit as much as I could at the hospital. I got completely out of shape and became mildly depressed. Stressed from school, a bad relationship and the thought of losing who I was and becoming an apathetic slug, I went to see a psychologist to talk about it. Actually, what I really went to see her about was what I later found out to be "familial tremors", but I was hoping we could talk about all that other stuff as well. She prescribed me Prozac (which I was very leery about), telling me I only had to be on it as long as I felt like I needed or wanted to.

After a year of staying off my feet and the orthotics not helping, I went back to the specialist. The next step he said were steroid injections. "I'm sorry, say what?", was pretty much my exact reaction."Well, okay...", I thought. I'd try anything. We decided to do one foot and then if it worked, three months later do the other. So, I had one cortisone steroid injection on the bottom heel of one of my feet. It was the most ex.cru.ci.ating things, I have ever experienced, in.my.life. Hands down. And people, I was prescribed Vicodin for cramps okay! TMI? Yes. But lets get real. If I was physically able to speak through the pain induced by the injection, I would've yelled for him to stop. If I was physically able to move any part of my body during the injection, I would have lifted my hand and slapped him across the face. This is no theatrics, I'm serious, and he is a very nice man. Afterward, however, was no great shake. I walked right out of the office. Unfortunately though, it didn't help (as he said it might not) and I decided I'd rather suffocate to my death under a hippo 's butt than have another injection. To be fair, I was told that they can be very, very painful.

So, with the injections failing to help and surgery looming, we decided our next conservative step was to try pneumatic air cast boots. You know...when you break your ankle and you're given a cast walking boot? Those boots. I had to wear cast boots...on both feet. Oh yes, people. I wore two of these...all-day...everyday...for six-weeks straight. Even at night. Can you imagine? It went something like this, "Hello, I'm Katie. I'll be doing your x-rays. No, I was not hit by a bus." Our family Christmas tree that year was decorated has high up as I could kneel...which was about 1/3 of the way up since our trees are generally around 13 feet tall. I'm the only girl you see, so I am the only one who cares about the tree being decorated. It was a sad, sad Christmas for me that year.

Equalizer_Air_CAM_WalkerSexy right? The boots were pretty bad, but it was just another thing to try before resorting to the scalpel. The boots helped...but only when I was wearing them. So, after trying to go bootless after the six weeks ended and failing, we decided surgery was the last and only option.

A Fascia Was Cut

I had a "Bilateral Plantar Fasciotomy" on December 7th. It was scary. I didn't know if it would make the situation better, make it worse or whatever else was lurking ahead for me. I remember it was interesting being on the opposite side in the operating room. I remember I made sure to wear my most "grandma-ish" underwear because while I was out I didn't want anyone seeing anything they shouldn't. The OR is a strange place people. Anyway, the surgeon cut about 70% through the ligaments. He said when he cut them, they retracted like a bow string being plucked and that he'd never seen one react quite as profoundly. Thanks for that visual, Doc. Unnecessary. Anyway, the hope is that the space where the fascia was cut will grow back as scar tissue;. Now, obviously scar tissue isn't very stretchy at all, but it does allow for more freedom of movement than fascia and thus, more stretch. More stretch equals less tearing, less tearing equals less bleeding, inflammation and consequently, pain.

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After the surgery, I had to lay on the couch for a week straight. This sounds like it'd be great but it just plain sucked. Dozing in and out of a narcotic drowsiness. You can't read while you're on Vicodin. I was told this, but I didn't believe it to be true. It is...it's true. Thinking I didn't need my pain meds any longer because, "Hey I'm not hurting!" Only to realize a few hours later that it was because my foot was still numb days after the surgery and, "OMG I need the meds NOW!" I could only begin to crawl on the third day and had to always have my feet above my heart due to pain and Doctor's orders. And guess who should take care of me but my brand new, only two weeks into dating, boyfriend Todd. So scary. He could have been a murder, people! Yet, now he's my husband. So it all worked out. I can't believe he actually stayed with me. Refilling my ice boots, making sure I got my pain meds, carrying me to the bathroom and even when I puked up all my Spaghettios from the pain meds! He recalls those memories fondly (not). What a trouper.

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These were the very first steps I took without crutches. Here's Todd, pretending I'm a toddler learning to walk. That was helpful. I felt like a baby bird learning to fly! Okay, not really. I was on crutches and those damn, bastardly pneumatic air cast boots again for about a month. Afterward, I couldn't run for many months out of fear that my fascia would just up and snap!

Present Day

So, nowadays I wear my orthotics dutifully and I continue on with my regular, moderately healthy (I love Oreos), vegan life. I can run just fine. The week before Todd and my wedding we did the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon here in Alaska with my maid and matron of honor (Gracie and Anne). We had a blast! Gracie and I just did the Twilight 12k a couple months ago as well. Here we are at the very end of the race. So happy.

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I'm not the crazed and obsessed runner I used to be. Though I still run five to six days a week, races don't matter so much. In fact, I would much rather just run along a forested trail, alone with Bob or with a good friend than in an anxious crowd. Running allows me time to observe nature and all life has provided me. It allows me time to quiet the nagging voices in my head and listen to the ones of thankfulness and thoughtfulness. Running gives me the strength I need to find and settle myself each day and to hold tight. If you're the cynical type you'll call this a load of bullcrap. I feel the eyerolls. Yes, it may seem mildly emo and cheesy and you can laugh...but it's the truth. And I must say, this is coming from a usually, vastly pragmatic person. But enough about me, what's your running story?

Thanks for listening to me ramble.