Even though I grew up in North Pole, Alaska, about fifteen miles from where I currently live (as the crow flies–in reality, those fifteen miles are a forty minute drive), I was never one to engage in winter running.
But when I moved to Washington five years ago, I got more into running than ever before. I did track for a year or two in high school, but I wasn’t good enough to be super interested in it, and my interests lay more in soccer than boring running. I think I was talked into joining track by a friend of mine. (It was more social than anything, and I never distinguished myself.)
Anyway, in Washington, I began running. There was a fantastic trail near where I lived that went on for over thirty miles. I could run and run and run and
not grow tired not run out of paved trails. I had finally found the enjoyment of running, and I began to see just how far I could push myself.
I began to run longer distances. I upped my distance from three miles to five. Five to six. Six to seven. Seven soon became ten, and ten finally became thirteen. I ran half marathon distance.
Not only was it great for me, but great exercise for the high-energy dogs too.
Like most runners, I’ve combated injury. After running half-marathon distance for the first time, I injured my foot and ended up in a boot because I could hardly put weight on it. After that healed, I got back into running, but stayed shy of that distance for awhile. I was finally working my way back up to it when I got pregnant.
Pregnancy does weird things to your body, and although I didn’t disagree with running while pregnant, I didn’t feel good, and felt tired most of the time. Motivation was difficult to come by, and my running slipped off the daily “to-do” list. Ironically, toward the end of my pregnancy, I developed “runner’s knee,” which usually afflicts runners due to a weaker inside quad muscle. (I never had this problem while running, mind you, just when I stopped running.)
Now, I have a seven and a half month old. And I just started running (for real) again. Dare I say I’ve found the pleasure in running again? It’s not that I haven’t run with my baby before, I’ve done the sporadic, guilt-induced exercise, knowing I needed to get out there and do something, but I didn’t really feel any pleasure in it. This past week, I’ve found the pleasure. Finally.
After my first two runs this week, realizing how much I missed it, and, even though the roads around my house are hills and hills have never been my friend, I knew I needed new shoes. I had some old Adidas trail shoes that I used the first couple of times, but I’m running on ice now. Pushing a stroller. It’s not so much a matter of my own safety, but the safety of my baby that I’m worried about. What if I slip and lose control of his stroller? He’ll go zooming off down the hill, and I may be injured–unable to run after him.
So I headed out to a local outdoors store that is popular in Fairbanks: Beaver’s Sports. I’ve been there before, lots before. It’s a local place with a great variety of winter gear. They have bikes, skies, snowboards, shoes, coats, hats, gloves, sunglasses, camping gear, pretty much anything you can need for outdoors in Alaska. Think REI, but think Alaskan, and local.
It was there that I purchased my first pair of winter running shoes. I half expected to get studded shoes, like snow tires, you know? But the helpful young man there showed me two pairs, a couple of Icebug shoes and a pair of Salomon shoes. I had heard of the Icebug shoes, and even gone so far as to look them up online. But I’m glad I didn’t buy them online. When I tried them on, they felt quite uncomfortable for my feet. My toes were a little smushed, and my foot almost felt as though it were slipping over the sides of the sole. The Salomon, on the other hand, fit extremely comfortably.
And so, I found my new shoes.
Aren’t they pretty?
I never should have downloaded it.
At first, it didn’t quite set in what I was seeing. After all, I knew what was coming, what it should show. But denial is strong, and I’ve been living under its grip for far too long.
Well, no longer.
It’s an extremely rude awakening. Seven minutes of sunlight may not seem like much, but by November 6th, we’ll have lost 47 minutes of sunlight. 47!?!! That’s three quarters of an hour. That’s a lot of sunlight.
Already the sun rises past 9:30 and sets around 5:30. Already, the days are short. And they will only get shorter. We’ve a long way to go before the December 21st turnaround.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, we get less than four hours’ sunlight that day. 3 hours and 38 minutes, to be exact.
Oh it felt good to hit the trails today.
Okay, it wasn’t a trail. And it didn’t feel so much as I was hitting it as it hitting me, especially now, eight hours post run.
But that first half mile, before the cramping sets in, and before you recall that your lungs aren’t in the condition they used to be, and it’s cold out, so they start to burn anyway, before all that, on that downhill slope, there was a spring in my toes propelling me on.
It felt good. No, not good–awesome.
Running these days is a little different from pre-baby runs. My knees hurt more lately, partly from lack of exercise, and pushing a baby in a jogging stroller over packed down snow and ice isn’t exactly what I envisioned for myself when I started running years ago. But it works. True, it takes a nap time to complete the run, but mental and physical health is worth it.
Whew. This weekend was a whirlwind of busyness. I’m sure everyone feels like that on their weekend, especially after moving and with a young child. There is so much to do that you attempt to pack it all into about 48 hours, and, more often than not, it just cannot be done.
We spent half of Sunday and all day Monday in Anchorage, Alaska for my son’s appointment with his new orthopaedic doctor. My son, now 7.5 months old (and cute as a button, I might add), was born with one of the mildest cases of club feet our doctor had ever seen. Club feet is when the feet turn in at the ankles so that if he were to stand upright, he’d actually only be able to stand on his ankles. (Side note: we were originally in Washington State, and our son saw Dr. Mosca at Seattle Children’s Hospital for the first four months of his life. We had a great experience with Dr. Mosca, and the Children’s Hospital overall–even though we felt we were there far too often!)
Club feet are treated through a series of corrective casts from hip to toe, which often includes surgery where the Achilles’ tendons are cut in order to release the ligaments and further allow the feet to straighten. Post casting and surgery is then followed by 23-hour-a-day wearing of what is termed a “Ponsetti bar” after the doctor who developed it, along with specialized boots. The 23 hour wear lasts for about 3 months after the casts are removed, and then the child goes down to wearing the boots and bar at night only, or about 10-12 hours. This contraption is to be worn for 2-4 years at night.
Thankfully, my son’s case was so mild that he is in the 10% that did not require corrective surgery. Instead, he endured 3 sets of weekly casts, from age 2 weeks to 5 weeks, 3 months of 23 hour wear of the boots and bar, and is now in the 2 years of wearing them only at night.
But we’ve been bad parents lately. And, thankfully, the doctor can’t tell just how bad.
Our son is a side and stomach sleeper. Now let me explain. When the bar is on, he cannot roll over. His legs are spread shoulder-width apart, with the toes pointing outward 60 degrees and knees bent. How comfortable can that be?! Our son is not the greatest sleeper to begin with, and we live in a chronic state of
fatigue exhaustion. Like most parents of an infant, we’d do pretty much anything to get a few hours more sleep every night.
So, since he has had a cold the past 2 weeks, he hasn’t worn his boots or bar for that time. He has already been so uncomfortable that he ends up being held half the night, upright, so he can breathe and sleep. Oh, and he hadn’t worn his bar for about 2 months before that.
That’s really bad parenting. We all want to do the best thing for our children, myself included. But when there is such a divide between sleep so that you can be a good parent during the day and these formative months, and a treatment which is to prevent recurrence (which may or may not happen with a case as mild as his), it is far too easy to rationalize forgoing the treatment.
But yesterday, we were mildly chastised for our behavior when we admitted how little our son has worn his bar lately. “There’s always an excuse,” our new doctor said.
This was a bit convicting to me. Even though our son’s feet checked out great (nothing to even be concerned about, but merely to keep trucking along with the prescribed treatment), there is the very real concern that his club feet could return. If left untreated, 80% of children’s club feet return within the first two years of their life. There’s a reason doctors prescribe what they prescribe. Even though I think I may know best for my child, doctors make a living out of this. Even if I am right this time, is it worth the risk? There’s a 20% chance that our son may not have his club feet return if he doesn’t wear his boots and bar, but an 80% chance that they will.
I’m not a gambler. I don’t like to lose, so I don’t like to gamble because I’m not good enough to always win. In this case, I shouldn’t be gambling with my son’s health, even if it is treatable (again).
So, lesson learned. Follow your doctor’s advice.
And, because this is a blog on Alaska and Denali, I have to attach some pictures I took from the airplane on the flight down. What a view, no?