Saturday, September 17, 2011

Morton's Neuroma

Today, I saw my podiatrist, along with a bag of shoes, pedals, and foot beds.  After deep palpation of my 3rd inter-metatarsal spaces, which elicited a few whimpers, my doc said,  "I believe you have a Morton's neuroma in both feet.  I also had the classic gap sign between my third and fourth toes where the fibrotic nerve is so large it is pushing apart my metatarsal heads.

See the space between the 3rd and 4th piggies!

Radiographs ruled out any bony pathologies.  When he placed the ultrasound on the area of suspicion, he outlined the two neuromas.  Basically, the nerve that runs between the metatarsal heads is normally the size of angel hair pasta.  My neuromas, however, are the size of large green peas!  No wonder the pain was so intense!  

Doc then outlines different methods of treatment.  One is a series of 5 alcohol injections over 5 weeks to kill the nerve.  He sees a 50% success rate.  The other is surgical removal.  Two small incisions over the top of the foot, and cut out the offending portion of nerve. No real down time; I could be back on the bike the next day!  The only potential complication is a stump neuroma, which he said happens about 10% of the time.

For the short term, he injected the area with marcaine and dexamethasone, bringing about instant relief!  If you look closely at the picture above, you can see a needle mark on each foot at the 3rd inter-metatarsal space.  I love any doctor that can relieve pain without prescription drugs!

He agreed on all my methods of orthotic management with the wide toebox, the Specialized BG footpeds with the metatarsal bump, and the XTR pedals.  But he said that more than likely, until the neuroma is excised, I will have recurring episodes of pain.

He said the injections could help for 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, or maybe even a year.  We shall see, I guess.  But I am prepared to have those little bastards cut out if necessary.  As much as I am on my feet at work and on the bike when not, I will probably have to undergo the knife in the future.

Today was the first pain free day on the bike since TNGA.  I felt so good I almost cried!  I did not feel every friggin little bump and for once forgot about my feet.  I also tried out my modified Specialized MTB shoes.  I was able to move the cleats back 1 cm with the modification.

I was able to drill out the carbon sole and move the cleat plate further aft.

Riding my SS today, I really did not notice any difference in this new cleat position or power transfer.  It might be more noticeable when riding gears and staying in the saddle more.  I suspect I will have to make saddle adjustments and will defer to Eddie for that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Otherwise known as hot foot, this condition was my undoing at Trans North Georgia.  15 hours in to the race and it had me writhing in agony on the climb up Hogpen Gap at 10 pm.

Two weeks later, with a week off the bike, it is still there, a constant source of burning, tingling, numbness which is beginning to take its toll on my sanity.  The pain is bearable now, more of a sense of intense pressure, but it is never ending.

I have spent almost every waking hour trying to come to some "light bulb" solution to end my misery and get me back on the bike with happy feet.  I have enlisted the aid of bike crack addicts Dave Byers, Lynda Wallenfels, Ruth Cunningham, and Eddie O'dea.

I have done all the usual things:  wide toe box, aft cleat positioning, wide platform.  All those were in place pre-TNGA.  Post-TNGA, Eddie  addressed pedaling technique.  Yep, after several rides, I figured out that I was pretty much following his advice during the race.

So two things are gonna happen ... soon.  Tomorrow, I am going to see my podiatrist, hoping that he has "the magic pill."  After much research and seeing how my hot foot has progressed over the past year, I am almost convinced that I have Morton's Neuroma.

Hopefully, the doc will give me some promising information with regards to surgery ... if indeed that is what I have.  Otherwise, I am gonna ask him to cut off both feet and attach artificial feet made out of carbon fiber!

In the meantime, I have put on my cobbler hat and started to alter a pair of old Specialized MTB shoes with carbon sole.  My intention is to move my cleats back another centimeter.

This plus

this plus

this will hopefully equal pain free pedaling!

I gotta run to Lowe's to get a 1/4" drill bit.  I hope to give it a go tomorrow.  As there are many of you out there that have this condition as well, I will keep you posted on my progress.  Being in pain and not being able to pursue your passion is NOT FUN.

Monday, September 5, 2011


It is 10 am on Monday September 5.  At this point I had expected to be pedaling up Strawberry Mountain, not blogging about calling it quits with only 13 hours and 115 miles into this monster of a race.  I had what I thought was a solid race/fueling/rest plan but I was also mentally prepared to adapt to hiccups along the way.

Pumped at the start!

I felt great at the start.  We all took off at a conversational pace.  Once we hit the first gravel climb, the pack broke up.  I was in my happy all day pace and slowly watched people pass me one by one.  A lot of standing and cranking going on around me while I just sat and stayed all spinny, using granny early on.  The roads were in good shape; there had been some rain the day before and the gravel was a bit more settled than when I had reconned this section back in July.

I slowly started reeling the others back in once we hit the climb up to Blackstump Gap along FS155.  This is a doozy with steep pitches and super loose gravel.  A couple times I had to get off and push a bit as my rear wheel would lose traction and spin out.  No worries, though.  Walking was good as it kept me from digging too deep too early.

I walked my bike down the Darnell Creek Horse Trail until I got to the purple painted tree.  Here I dropped trowel and urinated.  It was 10 am.  I then motored on and enjoyed the gradual descent down to Hwy 441.  I refilled my 70 ounce bladder at the post office; they had an outdoor spigot.  It was now 11:15 am.  A little over 3 hours in and I had drank close to 80 ounces of fluid.

From there I began the arduous task of climbing up to 3 more gaps before I would hit the fun descent down to Moccasin Creek State Park.  I was feeling great at this point and my mantra was, "Don't force the climbs.  Let the gaps come to you."  I alternated between my middle ring and my granny as the terrain dictated, keeping my feet light on the pedals.  I continued to drink every 15 minutes and eat every 30 minutes.  I kept my mind busy by going over my refueling plan and making sure my body was taking in enough.

I never really felt hot, but was later told that temperatures hit 96 degrees.  Granted I had sweat dripping from my nose and elbows, but I felt o.k.  That is, until I picked up FS164 off of Hwy 76.  This is at about mile 58.  When I started descending, I started getting "hot foot."  The pain was intermittent and more of a nuisance at this point.

I rolled into Moccasin Creek State Park at about 3:30 pm.  I stopped at the campground for water and a short break.  When I kneeled down to open my Camelbak, my left hamstring cramped.  Yowzer!  I stood back up and the cramping stopped.  It was then that I noticed just how salt-stained my shorts were.  After refilling with another 60 ounces of water, I ate a Hammer bar and took a few Endurolytes.

Although my chain was holding up quite well, what with all the creek crossings, I decided to do some preventative maintenance and lube it up with some ProGold Extreme.  When I reached in to my back pocket for the tiny bottle, I found nothing!  Apparently it had yard-saled itself in the past 3 hours.  I guess now I would get to see just how good of a product ProLink has. (BTW, the chain was quiet all day!)

After about 20 minutes, I headed for Addis Gap.  The climb up Wildcat Creek (FS26-1) is gentle compared to the previous climbs, but was not any easier.  It was here that I had the first inkling of fatigue.  I figured that this was just my 60-70 mile slump period which I usually have when doing hundies.  So as I climbed, I counted calories and ounces and was right on track.  However, I was continually interrupted by the nagging pain in my feet which slowly began radiating up my toes.  By the time I got to the top, it felt as if someone was stabbing the balls and toes of my feet with a searing hot dagger.  I stopped at the top for a moment.  I dropped trowel and attempted to pee ... nothing.  Let me remind you that this was about 7 hours after my first pee.  Not good!

I applied more Chamois Butt'r, forced myself to drink 10 ounces immediately and began the descent.  Man o man, that was some sloppy, stupid descending.  Every jolt sent waves of pain through my forefoot.  I was lucky to stay upright.

The climb up Tray Mountain was miserable.  This 10 mile loose gravel climb did me in.  What normally takes me 1 1/2 hours on a loaded bike took a little over 2 hours today.  Each pedal stroke hurt and then my knees started to hurt.  This was probably due to a sloppy pedal stroke caused by me trying to find a painless way to pedal.  I got off the bike and tried to walk; that hurt more.  So back on the bike. 

This was just not fun anymore.  Yeah, I love to suffer, all ultra-endurance racers do ... but not in this fashion.  With night falling, I made the decision that if the fun did not come back by Helen, I was out!  I got to ride Hickory Nut in the dark.  Thankfully, the 4 racers ahead of me had cleaned it up a bit.  As riding was less painful than walking, I rode more of it than I ever had.  Got squirrely a few times, but managed to keep the rubber side down.

I stopped at the convenience store at the intersection of Hwy 356 and Hwy 75, went inside, and purchased some food to see me through to the next refueling point.  By this point, it was 9 pm.  My feet actually felt slightly better, so I motored over to Wendy's, eat, and reassess my body.

Hoping this would make me feel better.

While waiting in line for my food, I started getting light headed.  I then began to see stars.  Sensing that I was going to pass out, I immediately sat down.  The dizziness subsided, but I got some strange looks from those around me.  I guess they were not used to seeing (or smelling) a fully kitted dirty mountain bike racer who had just raced 102 miles through the Chattahoochee National Forest.

After eating one of the most delicious Wendy's meals EVER, I made the decision to ride up HogPen and find some place to settle for the night.  I went to the restroom and urinated.  A decent volume but pretty yellow.  This was my second pee of the day. 

My feet were still hurting a little, but I was praying that the pain would eventually turn to numbness.  I called my family and told them of my plans.  I left Wendy's at 10 pm.

I was feeling o.k. riding out to the base of Hogpen.  But once the pavement started going up, my body imploded once again.  It was taking me 12-14 minutes to ride one mile and my foot and knee pain returned with just as much intensity as before. 

With no regrets, I stopped at a pull over and called Zeke.  At 11 pm it was game over!  Continuing would only be stupidly selfish on my part.  I had not only myself to be worried about, but I have a loving husband and wonderful daughter who need me.

Looking back at that day now, I could have made some choices that probably would have prevented my moderate electrolyte depletion/dehydration.  I could have stopped and layed over at Moccasin Creek or Helen, replenished, and rested.  At the time, I did not think I was dehydrated.  During the first 12 hours, I had drank 200+ ounces of  fluid. Apparently I was sweating it out faster than I could take it in. 

However, I don't think that would have fixed my foot issue.  In prior races, I would have bouts of metatarsal pain, but it always went away.  Today it did not go away; it only intensified.  Ultimately, I would have had to throw in the towel at some point. 

Then there was the fact that Tropical Depression Lee was fast approaching.  Prior to my debacle, I had accepted the fact that I was probably going to have to ride for 12-18 hours in the rain.  On a good day, I have the strength and will power to do that.  But when my body started failing, so did the mind. 

I guess my only regret is that I did not make it to Mulberry Gap.  I was so looking forward to the camaraderie and Ginni's fabulous grub.  Bailing there would have been a lot more fun!

Live and learn to race again!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Off The Beaten Path

North Georgia Mountains

In just a couple days, I will be making about 240,000 pedal strokes through the Chattahoochee National Forest.  I have been waiting for this adventure ever since the inaugural event back on September 4, 2010.  This season has been centered around preparing for TNGA.  Countless hours of training, researching gear, reconnoitering, and going through dozens of "What if?" scenarios in my head. 

If you had asked me 2 years ago if I wanted to race hundreds of miles over gravel roads and trail, I would have said, "That's insane!  I hate gravel road racing!"  Fast forward to now and although single track is where my heart is, I have begun to enjoy those long gravel grunts upward to the sky.  The race is 350 miles with 60,000 feet of climbing.

There will be a lot of this terrain; fortunately most of it tree-covered.

The first half of this race is mostly gravel roads.  Some are really steep and with the drought have been chewed up by the vehicles.  It is will be slow going on some of these:  two pedal strokes forward, one pedal stroke backward.  It will be frustrating at times, and that is where it would be easy for my morale to splinter.  But I have a few mantras to keep me happy. 

The other morale boost for me will be receiving texts from my family.  Cell phones are allowed in this race and although service will be sketchy and usage limited by battery life, I will turn it on occasionally.  Carly got an iPod Touch for her birthday and we are both geeked up about communicating with each other.

Zeke is somewhere in that mess. 

Most of the course is open, but there are some sections that will require bush-whacking.  I am hoping the wild hogs do some trail maintenance on those sections.  Poison ivy and I don't get along very well.

A lot of single track in the last 1/3.

The last 120 miles will be brutal.  After pedaling 230 miles on a heavy-ass bike, eating convenience store food, and lifting 35+ pounds of bike/gear over numerous downed trees, I then get to contend with The Snake portion of the Pinhoti.  This is 34 miles of gnarly, rocky, and rooty single track that has 5500 feet of gain.  The Snake Creek Gap TT Series takes place on this section every January, February, and March.  Average finishing times for the race are between 4 and 7 hours.  And that is during daylight.  I am expecting to be riding a lot of this in the dark.  O happy, happy, joy, joy!

Back in March, this creek was a foot deep.
The other big obstacle will be finding water.  The western portion will be fine, but a lot of the creeks and small rivers on the eastern portion are dried up or just trickles at this point.  Daytime temps will soar into the 90's and night temps will drop to the mid-60's.

I will be riding my 2008 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR.  It weighs 24 pounds.  The gear on the bike weighs 12 pounds.  My Camelbak, with a full 70 ounce bladder weighs 5 pounds.  That is 41 pounds of bike and gear. 

Stumpy, aka The Yak!

My vision quest will begin at 8 am on Saturday, September 3.  My goal is to reach the GA/AL border on Monday afternoon.  I am only halfway towards my goal of raising $1000 for Trips For Kids-WNC, so if you could find some spare change in your vehicle or couch, I would greatly appreciate a small donation.  Just click here

Enjoy what the out of doors has to offer!
Thanks to all those who have supported me in my efforts this year:  Charlie, Carly, Moms, Dads, Zeke, Coach Lynda, and cycling friends.  You can track my progress here.