Right foot nerve again

I have been having issues with the nerve on the ball of my right foot for about the past week, similar to late last summer. Interestingly, this time around, I’m noticing the discomfort more so with running than with climbing, which is the opposite of what I reported last September. The lack of issues while climbing could be because of my shoes — last summer, I was climbing in Scarpa Force Vs, while lately, I’ve been wearing a pair of Tenaya Araís. Maybe the latter just agree with my feet better. The Scarpas are awaiting a resole, so I won’t be able to test that theory any time soon. It could also have something to do with my footwork, which I believe has improved over the past year or so.

Where running is concerned, I think I should adopt a new motto: “It’s the gait, stupid”. I started today’s run with a metatarsal pad on my right foot. Metatarsal pads have their place, and I’ve found that they often help with walking, static standing, and driving. Today, though, the pad seemed to aggravate the problem nerve. Two miles into the run, it was really bothering me, so I stopped to take the pad off. The nerve was still painful without the pad initially, and I was thinking I might have to cut the run short. Then, I noticed that on the right side, I seemed to be landing and pushing off towards the outside of the foot. I corrected that, mentally trying to engage the side of the foot towards the big toe, and the nerve discomfort improved significantly. Doing that must take pressure off whatever nerve is irritated. Flexing and relaxing my toes frequently, to keep them loose, also seems to help. Ultimately, I was able to complete my planned distance of 10K.

All of this has me wondering what is causing this recurring issue. It could be a combination of things: gait irregularities when walking/running, poor climbing footwork (climbing on the balls of my feet instead of the toes), etc. Hopefully, as I work to correct these, I’ll start seeing this problem less frequently. In the meantime, travel and other activities are going to prevent me from running or climbing as frequently as usual over the next couple of weeks, which might be a blessing in disguise, as it’ll give my feet a little bit of a break.

Climbing notes

Interesting evening of climbing last night. By the way it started, I figured I might be done after two climbs. I started out leading a 5.8 and a 5.10-, and just felt really awkward/hesitant/rusty on the wall. The “problem nerve” in my right foot wasn’t really happy after the first climb, which makes me suspect that my footwork wasn’t great, either. It had all the makings of an “off” day. However, as I warmed up, my climbing improved significantly, and after climbing my third route, I felt much more confident. I ended up leading 5 routes and top-roping 1. I even climbed on the lead wall for only the second time ever. I think the moral of the story is that I need to spend a little bit more time warming up before starting to climb. I used to be pretty good about it, but lately, I’ve been falling off, partly due to timing of when I get to the gym, when my climbing friends arrive, etc. When I’m rushed or on a tight schedule, the temptation is high to skip warm-ups and just jump right into climbing.

I have found that I really like climbing lead on overhung routes. Part of that has come out of improvements in my technique, as I’m able to do it without killing my forearms now. Also, for some reason, the fear of falling doesn’t seem quite as intense. It might be because the routes are more physically challenging, and take more concentration, which leaves fewer brain cells to think about falling. Also, I think there’s less risk of injury from falls on overhangs vs vertical/slabby routes, as you’re falling into space, and there are no holds, volumes, walls, etc. to potentially hit on the way down. Lastly, overhung routes put less stress on the feet than slabs, because the weight is distributed to different parts of the body. In fact, I occasionally find it challenging to keep my feet from falling off the wall. I think the trick there is to engage the core muscles to keep the hips close to the wall, something I probably need to improve at. Footwork (e.g. heel hooks vs toe hooks) and shoe choice also likely play a role.

Grab Bag

A bunch of random topics tonight.

As I had hoped, I managed to get out of the house before 7 this morning for a 10-mile run before work. My schedule precluded a longer run this past weekend, and with a COVID (and flu) shot scheduled for this afternoon, I wasn’t sure I’d be up for it later in the week. The run went pretty well. My right hamstring has improved since last time, but still is not 100%, which would have been an issue on a faster run (extending the hamstring was a tad uncomfortable), but didn’t bother me much at today’s pace. Now, I have to decide if I want to run another 10 miles this coming Saturday. As for the COVID shot, it’s now been 7 hours, and I’m still feeling fine, other than some mild aches. I guess I’ll see how I feel in the morning.

I’ve now climbed twice since I got home from Minneapolis. After the first session, I noticed that the nerve in my right foot felt a little weird. For my second climb (last night), I wore a metatarsal pad on that side, which I had done one time before, and it seemed to help quite a bit. I think I’ll continue to do that for a while, and see how it goes as I start to work back towards climbing slabbier routes that put more weight on my feet.

I tried brewing the coffee beans I bought in Minneapolis in the French press this afternoon, and my first attempt was not all that great. I used 21 grams of coffee to 300 grams of water (around 1:14) with the following recipe:

  1. Preheat French press
  2. Heat brew water to 95°C
  3. JX grind setting: 30 (3 rotations)
  4. Start timer and pour at the same time
  5. 60 second bloom (including pour time)
  6. Stir a few seconds until grounds settle
  7. Steep 6 minutes, press slowly, and pour

The first problem is that I forgot to preheat the French press, and since it is ceramic, the brew water likely lost a good bit of heat pretty quickly. I didn’t heat the mug, either, so the cup was not very hot at all. The flavor was watery and under-extracted. I think I just need to try to keep the water hotter for longer. Next time, I’ll remember to heat the press, and I might bump the starting water temperature up closer to boiling, as the brew time is a lot longer than (e.g.) a pourover, so the overall average brewing temperature likely will be a few degrees lower than the starting water temperature.

This and That

I’m trying a new WordPress theme out. I had been using “Twenty Twenty” for a long time, but never liked that it didn’t have a widget sidebar. So, I’m trying one out called “Simple Life”. It’s responsive, has a sidebar, and seems fairly lightweight, without a lot of bells and whistles and other stuff I don’t need. So, I’ll probably use it for a while until I get tired of it.

As promised yesterday, I brewed a pourover cup of my medium roast Mexican coffee beans using 18 grams of coffee to 250 grams water (around 1:14) and it was just about the perfect strength. It did have a tiny touch of bitterness that I didn’t notice yesterday, but I think that was because I wandered away and let the coffee sit and drip for a little too long. I’ll fix that tomorrow, and if it’s not perfect, I’ll try it just a tiny bit coarser.

I did my usual Friday morning session at the climbing gym today, and felt pretty good after climbing 8 routes ranging from 5.10- to 5.11-. There definitely is a huge difference in my energy level between my morning and evening climbing sessions. I suspect part of it is because I typically commute 22-25 miles on the bike on the same days as my evening climb sessions, with the 8-mile homeward leg wrapping up an hour or so before I leave for the gym. Something probably needs to give there…


After a hot and humid day yesterday, this morning saw a cold front sweep through and take a lot of the humidity with it. I got out for my run at about 8:30, which is later than I typically like in August, but it worked out in my favor today, as the dewpoint had dropped considerably by then. I ran a very typical weekday distance of 7 miles at a very typical pace of 10:30.

Last week’s tweaked foot nerve seems to have mostly resolved. I had no issues climbing last night. I climbed somewhere around 6-7 routes, about half on lead and half on top rope. Instead of my usual Scarpa Force V shoes, I wore my La Sportiva Solutions for all of my climbs. Although they are less comfortable than the Scarpas overall, they put less weight on the balls of my feet (because the soles have a downturned shape), which seems to help with nerve issues. Running did not aggravate the nerve at all last week, but I did feel it after 45 minutes or so on my treadmill desk.


Today is day two of our predicted 3-day heat wave. In lieu of pool running, I headed to Movement for my usual Friday morning climbing. I climbed 7 routes, all on TR, with grades ranging from 5.10b to 5.11a. It was a reasonably good climbing session with some challenging routes, particularly the 5.11a, which was very crimpy at the top. I’ll probably swim in the late afternoon again.

I had a $20 bonus card from REI that was only good for a week, so I ordered another pair of REI Swiftland running short tights. I bought my first pair back in May. I like the fit as well as the pockets, and they also seem to be pretty resistant to odors, at least in typical late-spring and early-summer running conditions. I’m thinking about also trying them for climbing, as I’ve had some chafing issues recently with looser athletic shorts.

I’ve gotten fairly predictable with my morning brews lately, as I’m working on using up some of the beans I’ve had for a couple of months. I brewed this recipe again this morning, with the only change being that I ground the beans ever so slightly finer (2.5 turns – 3 clicks). To be totally honest, I didn’t notice much difference. It was a good cup — not the best I’ve ever had — but I do like that this recipe seems to produce fairly predictable results. Yesterday’s (exact same beans and recipe) was maybe a tiny bit more acidic than I have been used to, but not overly so. Next week I’m hoping to try pour-over for the first time, as I have a Hario V60 dripper on order. The first one arrived broken, so I’m just waiting on the replacement.

Random notes

Still experimenting with the light roast coffee beans I picked up the other day in Bethany. This was an improvement over yesterday:

  • Local Coffee Roasting Co. Breakfast Blend (Guatemala/Colombia)
  • 11 grams coffee, ground at 39 clicks on the JX (1.5 turns minus 6 clicks)
  • 200 grams water at full boil (1:18.1)
  • Two paper filters
  1. 20 second pour
  2. Steep 2 minutes
  3. Take off scale and swirl
  4. Wait 30 seconds
  5. Press 30 seconds

Compared to yesterday, this was ground slightly finer (39 vs 42 clicks) and poured right off the boil, instead of 99°C. Arguably not much of a difference there, but I suspect that due to heat loss, this gives an actual steeping temperature close to 99°, which is what the Hoffmann recipe calls for. The cup definitely had more flavor than yesterday’s. Just to make sure I’m extracting these beans as much as I can, I may try drawing the brew time out a little longer, and see if I can get it to the point where I start to taste some bitterness. At that point I’ll back off the brew time a little bit, and see if the cup is as strong as I would like. It’s worth noting that the instructions on the bag of beans specify a 1:17 ratio, which is slightly more coffee than I’m using here.

I got out at around 6:40 this morning and ran 5.3 miles. I felt a little better than I did Sunday. I woke up slightly sore after climbing yesterday evening and swimming yesterday afternoon, and wasn’t initially sure I wanted to go out, but once I get moving, I felt fine. Climbing went well last night. I climbed 4 routes on lead and 4 on top rope, at grades ranging from 5.8 to 5.10+. It was my first time leading in about a month. Lead climbing is one of those things you have to keep doing regularly to stay comfortable and confident on the wall.

Pillar Climbing

I drove up to Pennsylvania yesterday to find a geocache at the top of a 30′ pillar. This is the third like this I’ve found, and a popular type of “extreme” cache hide. Most of these old pillars carried railroad tracks “back in the day”, which have since been abandoned, but the pillars (built to stand the test of time) remain, usually alongside or in the middle of rivers. Many of them have caches on top. These caches typically aren’t found very often — while there are a large number of people with the skills and equipment to ascend pillars, and also a large number of geocachers, the intersection of those two sets is relatively small. The cache we found yesterday had not been found in 4.5 years.

Typically, to climb these, you need to shoot a line over the top of the pillar, use it to pull a rope over, anchor the rope, ascend the rope using appropriate gear, and then rappel back down. Sounds deceptively simple, but throw in a fast-moving stream or river, trees to snag the line, nooks and crannies at the top where the rope can get stuck, etc., and setting the rope can get tricky. Ascending up can be physically challenging, and the technique takes some practice to master. Getting up over the edge takes upper-body strength, and rappelling back down can be scary. But it’s a great adrenaline rush, and a real feeling of accomplishment when you succeed.

I’ve used a different rappelling technique with each of the 3 pillars I’ve climbed. The tricky thing about these is that the rope is typically very low — most often running across the top of the pillar, at foot level as you start. The first technique was shown to me by someone with a lot of rope experience. You start by standing up, legs straight, with a low center of gravity, and slowly pivoting backwards until you “pop” onto the wall. It’s really cool, but really scary. With method two, you sit on top, legs dangling off the side, and then kind of roll yourself over into rappel position. Less scary, but fewer style points.

The third method, which I used yesterday, worked out well. We put an ascender on the rope above the rope protector, attached a rope (actually webbing) ladder, and dangled it over the side. I got into position by grabbing the ascender and stepping down onto the ladder to get below the rope. Not sure it will always be possible to rig this, but I felt more confident with this method than with the other two.

Anyhow, every time I do one of these, it whets my appetite to more. I hope to get a group together to tackle another one of these in the not-too-distant future.

Back to Climbing

I climbed this morning for the first time in a while. Two weeks ago, I took a lead fall and tweaked the middle finger on my left hand somehow. Not quite sure what I did, but since both of the people I usually climb with were out of town last week, I took it as a sign that I should give the finger some time off. It is still not 100%, but I’ll keep an eye on it and cut back if I feel like I’m doing anything to aggravate it. That strategy worked well the last time I dealt with a tweaked finger.

I climbed 8 routes on top rope, which is what I usually shoot for when Cathy is belaying me. They were all in the 5.10a-5.10d range. I had climbed a few of them before, but a couple were new sets since my last visit. I felt a little rusty on the first climb, but the rest went pretty well. No issues with the finger while climbing, but we’ll see how it feels over the next day or two. Just wanted to test the waters before I climb with my friends next week, when I’ll likely do a little bit of lead.

Early Fall Ramblings

It’s that time of year where I always feel like summer has slipped away before I had the chance to do everything I wanted. This year, in particular, I didn’t get out in the kayak very much; lately, though, I’ve been making up for that. Last weekend, Michael and I joined a few of my geocaching friends for a really nice 9-mile paddle on the Patuxent River in southern Maryland, and today, Cathy and I drove over the bridge for a morning paddle on the headwaters of the Chester River. I love paddling this time of year, as the temperatures and humidity start to drop and the leaves start to turn. I hope to get out one or two times in October. I’ve occasionally considered starting to acquire some colder-water paddling gear, so that I can keep paddling later into fall and early winter, but have yet to take the plunge. It seems like a paddling jacket, wetsuit and neoprene socks might be an economical way to extend the season for a few weeks. Then, I could see if I get enough use out of that gear to warrant a larger investment in a dry suit, which would allow for year-round paddling.

Many years, I find myself wishing that I had gotten in our pool more often, but not this year. According to Apple Health, today was my 83rd time in the pool in 2021. Working from home 3 days a week provides more opportunities to swim during the day, as I can keep an eye on the weather and pick the best time to jump in the pool. The weather this month has helped to extend the season, as well — we have had a lot of sunny days, and no extended runs of cool, damp weather, which is what led to the early demise of last year’s pool season. I can’t even remember the last time I was in our pool as late as September 30. We will see how long we can keep the season alive. In October, the leaves make it tougher and tougher to keep the pool clean, and eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns, where the hassle of cleaning the pool exceeds the desire to swim.

I am hoping to do a little bit of outdoor top-rope climbing this fall. I have still been climbing regularly at the gym, and still really enjoy it. Earlier this year, I picked up some equipment to rig up a top-rope self belay. When I can get my act together, I want to head to Ilchester or Alberton Rocks and do a couple hours of solo top-rope and rappelling. I had been waiting for cooler, less humid weather, and it seems like it’s here now.

Anyhow, that’s enough for now…