By Jason HarrodThere is only one cycling legal singletrack trail on all of Mount Tamalpais. It’s called Tenderfoot. It is this awesome little conduit from mid-mountain down to the town of Mill Valley; roots, rocks, redwoods. It’s a fantastic trail but this column is not about sweet singletrack. It’s about my busted old feet.
I have no idea how my foot injury originated. I can place the approximate time it occurred, though; September 2011 at the first race of the Sacramento Cyclocross Series. I had a good race, was suffering a ton and with one half lap to go and I washed out my front wheel on a dry, grassy turn. I dabbed my right foot and caught myself and finished but with a new and severe pain on the outside of my right foot just behind the little toe. It was already swollen by the time I got back to the truck. I could tell. I could feel it pressing against the outside of my shoe. I removed the shoe and there it was like some kind of extra appendage, meaty and red hanging off the side of my foot. My 12 year old son, who races with me, looked at the throbbing growth and winced and mentioned something about a tumor.
I tried to race two more races and finished mid pack in one and bailed on the other. The pain was too fierce. Now, I am not one who sits around sedentary well, so I cut out the material on my cycling shoes around the offending areas and kept on spinning through the pain. There was a six month period where walking was impossibly painful. I had to wear slippers to work and there was no way I could run, let alone jump over manmade barriers.
Here I am a year and five doctors later and still no resolution. There is good news, though. The pain has shifted from my right foot to my left foot; same stupid spot, too. It occasionally rears its ugly head on my left heel and the ball of my left foot as well, but my right foot, where the problem originated, is completely fine now. So friggin’ weird. I have seen my general practitioner, a sports med guy, a podiatrist, the foot and ankle specialist for the San Francisco ballet and now I am seeing a rheumatologist. The first three doctors were 100% sure I had a Tailor’s Bunion. My foot and ankle ballet type guy dispelled that myth when he flicked the injury with his finger and said, “dude, if that was a bunion you would have punched me in the face. You need an MRI”. Awesome. Soft tissue damage. Just what my 42 year old chassis was in dire need of. The MRI came back all clear and foot and ankle ballet guy ran about 87,351 different blood tests on me. Those came back all clear as well. Off to the rheumy.
Now this lady rocks. She poked. She prodded. She asked a million questions and even took notes. She sucked at her bottom lip in deep thought and consulted tomes, licking her finger and flipping pages like the Tasmanian Devil. She checked my breathing, my kidneys, my ears, nose and throat. She tapped on my chest and pressed on my belly. She had me lie on a table and gave my broken old body a thrice over. She quizzed me on my bowel movements and the color of my urine. Nothing. She, after much thought and exploration of my, well, self, decided that I have arthritis. Not sure what’s causing it or why, but arthritis nonetheless. Sweet. She prescribed a NSAID for me and that seems to be taking the pain away, the swelling, well, that is still there. She also wanted me to start this arthritis drug with wicked side effects: orange skin, rash, diarrhea, dry mouth, liver failure, kidney failure, loss of back hair. Sh.., this drug requires monthly blood work to make sure my liver and kidneys are functioning properly. I thought about that and took a pass, will save that for another day.
So now it appears that this is something I must manage and live with, a possible side effect of aging or simply the years of abuse I have handed my body. Or is it? I met this cat out riding the road bike the other day and described to him my malaise. His reply, “Man, the same thing happened to me. I bought these insole shoe shimmy things from Specialized and the pain vanished, was gone”. (And no Specialized are not paying me for this, though I kind of wish they were). I have ordered some and will let you know how it goes. I guess it can’t hurt. Hah!
At least now I can ride on the dirt again. There was a time where the pain was too much for me to weight my pedals properly when descending, making mountain biking impossible. And I can assure you that following my line on the road was not a good idea. Those days are behind me now and I can ride the mountain bike, the ‘cross bike, even stand up and climb out of the saddle. My lines still suck but I am in control of the pain … for now … and I am planning on hitting my first race on the weekend of October 20-21. I may even race both days if my family schedule will allow. And believe me you will hear about it.
Now if there is a moral to this story, as there should be with all stories, it would have to be ‘take care of your feet because you’ve only got one pair and they get you to where you are going and without them you are stuck, and never, I mean never, ever, follow my line’. Yeah, those, and there should be way more legal singletrack on Mount Tamalpais.