The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that in an isolated system, entropy always increases over time. In scientific terms, entropy is the measure of a system’s energy that is unavailable to do work. In a sense, its disorder and waste. Thus, the natural order of things is to degrade into disorder. The human body follows the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
March 5, 2016 – Jackson decided to be a part of the karate “demo” team, which had two hour practices every other Saturday morning from January to May. Thus, since January I’d been squeezing in runs while he was at practice. The practices were actually off limits to all observers, so I had time to kill anyways, and I could usually get in 8-10 miles with time to spare.
This particular day was no different, but around the middle portion of the run the three middle toes on my right foot began to hurt. Shortly thereafter, I developed a nagging pain in my upper left hamstring, which ran up my butt and into the left side of my lower back. The pains continued for the remainder of the run, but I didn’t think too much of them at the time. After a few years of training, I was used to tweaking things, dialing it back a bit and then recovering within a few days.
During my next few runs I had ongoing toe pain in my right foot, but my left-sided pain was only intermittent. The toe pain would come on after a few miles, and it felt like there was a small pebble in my shoe under my middle toes. The pain wasn’t debilitating, but once it came on it was difficult to ignore. I was also concerned that it was throwing off my gait, so I was worried about causing other injuries.
After a few weeks of no relief, I finally broke down and saw one of the foot experts at OrthoVA. He diagnosed metatarsalgia, which is basically inflammation in the toe joints. He assured me that he’d had it as a soccer player, so he knew what a pain it could be – pun intended. I asked him how he got rid of it, and he responded that he finally had to give up soccer because of it. Not exactly what I wanted to hear.
There were two options. The first was to get fitted for orthopedic inserts and hope for the best. The second, particularly if the inserts didn’t work, would be surgery. Option one included a laser measuring of my foot and a $400 payment since the inserts weren’t covered by insurance. Under Obamacare, I could get depression screening, obesity counseling, domestic violence screening and many other things for free, but apparently, pain-free bipedal forward motion wasn’t covered.
So, after having my foot scanned and after swiping my credit card, I waited patiently for a week or so for my inserts to come in. When they finally arrived they looked oddly similar to $10 Dr. Scholls pads, but the unnatural ridge in the right one felt quite odd. There was a raised arch under the pad of my foot, which took the pressure off the bottoms of my toes. They took some getting used to, and I was told to limit my mileage for the first few runs.
I am now nearly a year out from getting the inserts, and I’m happy to report that I’ve no longer had ANY pain in my right toes. One problem solved, but unfortunately, another had just begun.
The left-sided pain that started in early March refused to go away. Initially, it had come and gone for the first few weeks, but soon enough, it became a constant problem. Sometimes it was in my upper left hamstring. Other times it ran from my butt up into the lower left side of my back. It would even come on after sitting in the car for more than an hour.
Thanks to Google, I figured out that I probably had Piriformis Syndrome, which is caused by a tight piriformis muscle pressing on the sciatic nerve. This was eventually confirmed by a doctor, who referred me to physical therapy. Over the next several months, I attended physical therapy at Tidewater Physical Therapy in Chester. I also had a home exercise program that involved a lot of stretching and band work. The therapy and exercised helped somewhat, but the problem was slow to resolve. Any time I pushed the pace on a run I suffered. Any time I ran uphill I suffered. Prescription anti-inflammatories helped, but I tried to save them for when the pain was at its worst.
After about a dozen sessions of therapy, I was finally pain free in May for about a week. I reported my success to my physical therapist, who discharged me. That night I had a bike trainer session scheduled, with a transition run thereafter. As soon as I began running the piriformis pain flared up again.
Thus, my 2016 season would be filled with near-constant piriformis issues on my left side, with fluctuations in the intensity. Thankfully, there wasn’t any pain while biking, but most runs would involve some amount of leg, butt or lower back pain. I’d use the prescription meds and KT Tape for some of my races with decent success, but my training runs were almost always affected.
So, in 2016 my efforts to overcome the Second Law of Thermodynamics would fail. My body degraded a bit, but I wouldn’t let it stop me or even slow me down. In fact, my third year of triathlon would be the best thus far.