While those who follow this blog might not know, I posted the following a few weeks back on my Facebook page.It’s over. Despite my highest hopes and commitment to multiple treatments, I am still plagued by plantar fasciitis. I reached the Ohio/Indiana border yesterday, and am now 800 miles from the starting point, but I cannot go on. After my last blog post I started building up to a steady pace of 15 miles a day. To finish this walk before winter hits the western mountains, that’s the rate I must sustain. I learned, over the last several weeks, that walking 5-10 miles per day is quite tolerable. But last week, I walked nearly 100 miles, and now the pain is back. Apparently, optimism is not a cure for plantar fasciitis. And my threshold for pain is lower than can be accommodated by the schedule for this walk.

The frustrating thing for me is that I logged more than enough miles to walk across the US during my training period. My Fitbit notified me with great fanfare that I’d passed the 4132 mile mark last week (significant, as that is the length of the Nile, the longest river in the world … do Egyptians get plantar fasciitis?). Of course, that distance was covered over 2.5 years. Doing the math, that comes out to about 4.5 miles per day. Last May I did 31 miles in one day during training. Then I rested for several days. So the message is clear. I could do this walk over a period of several years, if I was willing to limit the daily distance to about 10 miles. But today, with some 2300 miles to go, that’s simply not an option.

What now? We’re not sure. This setback, along with all that is happening in the world right now, makes for a bad environment for strategic decision-making. On the other hand, Alanna and I are unbound by major obligations or commitments. So, for now, it’s one day at a time. We might hit some National Parks that we’ve always wanted to visit, take a few day hikes, and wander across the US over the next several months.

It’s now about 3 weeks later, and while the plantar fasciitis is still there, Alanna and I have done some amazing things. Since leaving Indiana we’ve:

– Traveled most of old Route 66, from outside Illinois into New Mexico

– Visited the National Weather Center (and some old friends) in Oklahoma, where only hours later we were hit with golfball-sized hail and just missed a tornado

– Walked through the battlefield at Wilson’s Creek (MO), where the first Northern General was killed in the Civil War

– Quickly drove through, and left, Branson (MO)

– Climbed the tallest mound at Cahokia, in Illinois, where ancient pre-Columbian tribes lived in the largest settlement in North America

– Toured the UFO Museum in Roswell (NM)

– Toured Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield (IL)

– Ate at the world-famous Big Texan restaurant in Amarillo (TX)

– Visited the courthouse where Billy the Kid was tried, in Mesilla (NM)

– Hiked through several miles of pure white dunes at White Sands National Monument (NM)

– Toured the King’s Palace, the Queen’s Room, and the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns National Park (NM)

– Hiked up a dry creek bed to Devil’s Hall in Guadalupe Mountains National Park (TX)

– Hiked through the Gila Wilderness (NM) and orienteered our way to a cave dwelling from the late 1200s

– Visited Saguaro National Park (AZ)

– Ridden mules down the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

As the old saying goes, “When you’re handed lemons, make lemonade”. So, lemonade it is. We’ve had lots of fun touring the Southwest, and plan on staying on the road for several more weeks. However, I’m not sure what to do with this blog, as it was designed to follow my walk. I’ll think about that for a while, but in the meantime, if readers have thoughts about the future of this blog, I’d welcome your comments.

Back on the road

It’s been a month since my last blog entry. In that month I’ve walked a total of about 50 miles. That’s the same distance I would’ve walked in about 3 days during March. Having been hit with a bad case of plantar fasciitis (PF) in early April, I went back to Oregon with Alanna (where I had been asked to give two speeches anyway), and tried every possible treatment for PF known to (modern) medical experts. I have to thank all of my Facebook friends for their offers of support and cures. I assure you, I tried every one of those (even the Australian magic oil … see item 13 below)! More on that later.After the last entry to this blog, I came to terms with the realization that this problem with my foot might mean the end of this walk. Now, that probably would have meant saving a lot of money, getting back to Oregon in time to work on our new house over the summer, and taking a fun, leisurely drive across the US. But it also would have meant the end of a long-planned adventure, and a sense of – at best – “incompleteness”, and at worst, failure. I prepared for this walk for nearly three years. To abort it only 14% of the way through would have been deeply disappointing. Alanna assured me that we could always try again next year, but I knew that personal circumstances and physical readiness had all converged to make this the optimal time for the walk. I resolved to do all that I could to fix my foot.

Alanna and I decided that rather than wait two weeks in Ohio and then fly back to Oregon, as originally planned, we’d go back to Oregon early, leaving the car parked at the Cleveland airport. So, after the obligatory visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (R&RHoF), we flew back to Redmond for a couple of weeks of the other kind of R&R. The recuperative period in Oregon was punctuated with a number of very rewarding experiences. I gave a keynote speech at the finals of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, in Corvallis, and was the speaker for the March for Science in Newport. In Newport (where I will end the walk this fall), we were joined by 675 rabid supporters of science (incidentally, given Newport’s population of 9500, that would be the same as having 600,000 people march in New York City!). They all marched in spite of temperatures in the 40s, wind in the 30s, and rain by the buckets. I had a lot of fun speaking to the group, and then Alanna and I enjoyed the marvelous hospitality and generosity of my friend Michele Longo Eder, who put us up in her cottage, and provided us a wonderful dinner at Local Ocean, a Newport landmark. We also had a thoroughly enjoyable visit with Bob Cowen (Director of Hatfield Marine Science Center) and Su Sponaugle (a marine biologist at OSU) at their yak farm, where Alanna was able to get her critter fix, playing with the baby yaks (when I asked Bob what you call a baby yak, he said, “Cute!”). All during this time back on Oregon, I was applying the full spectrum of treatments for PF (again, see below). I was very encouraged that the pain had subsided considerably, and I found I could stay on my feet all day without any adverse consequences. I was confident that the treatments might have done their job, but I was also praying a lot for some higher authority to save my sole.

We got back to Cleveland on Tuesday, April 25, and I started walking again the next day. I hadn’t gone far (maybe two miles) when my left ankle rolled and I went crashing down. When I stood up my right plantar fascia was throbbing. I walked only another mile or two, convinced the pain would go away, but it didn’t. When Alanna picked me up, I was despondent beyond description. We drove over to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (a beautiful setting), and sat down for a beer in the quaint village of Peninsula, Ohio. Because of my mood, I think I could have been drinking the most exquisite Belgian brew, and it still would have tasted like a rejected lab test from a racehorse. I was all but convinced that the walk was over. We made plans for the drive home, and decided we could visit the Canadian Rockies along the way, and take several months if we wanted. But somewhere deep inside of me I felt I had to make another try at prevailing over this damned ailment. I had three last things to try: new boots, more aggressive massage, and ultrasound.

It’s at this point that I need to recognize three individuals for their contributions to this continuing saga of plantar fascism. One, of course, is Alanna (again!) who redoubled her efforts to massage away the pain. She was greatly aided by my new friend, and Bend-based physical therapist, Lisa Corrigan. Lisa is the second who deserves great thanks. She is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and, even better, an Oregon State grad. She showed Alanna how to administer what I call the “knuckle drill” to exorcise the evil spirits of pain from my sole. I’m convinced that in her spare time Lisa should offer her services to remove dents from the bumpers on Mack Trucks. That woman knows how to apply pressure, and it works! Additionally, Lisa hooked me up with a company called JAS, who make a portable ultrasound unit. The unit is no bigger than an iPhone, and it provides a strong dose of focused high frequency sound, a proven therapy for treatment of PF. JAS was kind enough to provide me one of their devices, called the JAS Pulse, if I was willing to test it on the walk. Finally, a tip of the hat to my professional colleague, Steve Rumrill, who works at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and who wrote me “Rick – Sorry to hear that you developed PT at this point in your historic Walk Home to Oregon. I also have a bad case of PT. The solution for me was heavier, stiffer boots (3/4 shank) coupled with padded orthotics.” With nothing to lose, I went to REI and tried on about 857 different pairs of boots, finally settling on some nice Lowas (handcrafted in Slovakia by native maidens working under bear-oil lamps, in dark caves high in the mountains, I guess, judging by the price). These boots practically walk themselves.

So I decided to put on the new boots, zap my foot with ultrasound, do one more massage, and hit the road the next morning. Miraculously, after nearly 4 miles, I stopped and felt NO PAIN. Next day, 8 miles, then 9, then 10. Now, a week since the last bout of pain, I am cautiously (VERY CAUTIOUSLY) optimistic that I’m over the hump. I’m walking through Ohio, and while I’m not covering great distances yet, I’m confident that if I keep up the massage, the ultrasound, and the new boots, I might beat this thing.

So, for now, not a lot of great stories about the walk, but I’m pointed west and hoping to have a lot of good tales to tell soon.

Actions taken for plantar fasciitis

1. Cortisone shot

2. Night splint

3. Heel cups

4. Stretches several times a day

a. Heel drops on stairs

b. Toe presses against wall

c. Calf stretch from sitting or lying position

d. Pulled foot from cross-legged position

e. One-legged stand

5. Ice 2-3 times a day

6. Ibuprofen/Naproxen as needed

7. Full foot/calf massage daily

8. Rest/elevation

9. Ice/Heat alternate baths

10. Rolling a spiked ball under foot for 10 minutes daily

11. New boots with steel shank and ankle support

12. Never barefoot … used Doctor-recommended Oofos

13. Australian eucalyptus and tea tree oil (really!)

14. Physical therapy with deep tissue massage

15. Ultrasound

16. PF strap around arch of foot