The 10% of readers of this blog who have experienced plantar fasciitis will understand completely. The other 90% will not. I know that because I was once part of that 90%, and when Alanna finally underwent surgery for her case many years ago, I was, quite simply, ignorant and consequently unsympathetic to her plight. Well, higher authorities have now decided to damn my soul … er, sole. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In preparation for this walk, I logged over 3400 miles of training walks, mostly in the DC area, between October 2014 and December 2016. I learned how to treat most typical ailments, from blisters, to sprains, to stone bruises. I visited a podiatrist, had my gait assessed and was fitted with a computer-designed set of orthotics. I pre-purchased 4 pairs of my favorite hiking boots, including one set that was half a size larger (specifically for walking down the back side of the Rockies). I couldn’t have been more prepared if NASA was overseeing my operation. I set a personal daily record of 31 miles, and completed many 20+ mile walks. But then something odd happened around November 2016 (no, not Trump being elected, although that certainly was unusual). After about 3000 miles of walking, I noticed an odd pain in the sole of my right foot, which was most severe when I started my walk each day. By the time February came around, I decided to see an orthopedic surgeon in Bend, who diagnosed this as plantar fasciitis (look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls!). Great! Now what??
“Never fear!” said the orthopod, and he fixed me up with all I would need. I was given clear instructions on how to stretch and massage the plantar fascia. I was told to ice my foot once a day. I was outfitted with a special night splint, used first in the Spanish Inquisition, and little rubber heel pads (those are great for your heels, but they also push your toes into the tip of your shoe, meaning you get a choice … heel pain or toe blisters …wonderful!). But wait, hiking friends, there’s more. The good doctor had one last surprise in his bag of tricks: a corticosteroid shot. This magic elixir would – he assured me – quench all pain for many months, and allow me to run faster and leap tall buildings in a single bound. “Sounds great, ” thought I. And the next thing I knew, Dr. Spikeneedle was stirring a syringe full of steroids around my heel, like a painter mixing a fresh gallon of wall paint. Yow! But sure enough, within 2-3 days, no more pain. Until 3 days ago, or roughly 4 weeks into the walk.
David and I finished a 13-mile day and after a 45 minute ride back to the hotel I was hobbled. My foot felt like someone had driven a railroad spike into it. Even though I’d been massaging and icing and splinting and ‘Aleve-ing’ for nearly 30 days, my plantar fascia finally caught up with me.
Hence the title; the tendon in my foot has dictated, with full authoritarian disregard for anything or anyone else, that this walking must pause for now. By any definition that is fascism: plantar fascism to be exact.
What to do? Well, it’s obvious. We’re in the Allegheny mountains, so the first thing I did was buy a jar of moonshine. No kidding.
A little white lightnin’ (okay, maybe more than just a little) was a start, but all it really did was fuel the fires of self-pity and denial. Why me? Why, after nearly 4000 miles total, and 400 miles into this walk? What do I do now? I know, I’ll just gut it out and walk through the pain (another shot is poured). Oh, hell, let’s just can it and drive home to Oregon and surprise everyone when we get there (another shot is poured). Maybe I’ll just sleep on it.
So that’s what I did. Alanna, David, Peg, and I talked about it, and we’ve decided that David will walk for another couple of days before he heads back home to Annapolis (as he had always planned). Alanna and I will take it easy for two weeks, when we’re supposed to fly from Cleveland back to Oregon, where I have a couple of speeches to give. Then we’ll return to Cleveland. That’ll be almost three weeks of recovery for my PF. If I take care of it in the interim, I might be okay for the rest of the walk. If it hasn’t recovered by then, well, I’ll just buy a bigger bottle of moonshine and decide what to do then. Stay tuned.