Last weekend I ran MGM, a local 50K. This is a big deal, because it was the first time I had ran “long” since the Bigfoot 200 in August.
This 50K meant a lot, because it’s been a long frustrating and road back to my regular running routine.
After Bigfoot I decided I needed to take some time to let a nagging ache in my foot get better — turns out I had been running all year with Insertional Achilles Tendinitis.
What does ignoring a problem like this for a whole year get you? Eight weeks of no running, six weeks of physical therapy, and a new found appreciation for cross training and overall strength.
Why did I let it go so long? Because not running sucks.
Late last year, I began running in a pair of zero-drop shoes. While I loved the shoes, I was perhaps a little aggressive in my transition and quickly developed some pain in the arch of my foot.
It was bad enough that I dropped out of last year’s MGM and had to hitch a ride back to the start.
In an effort to over compensate for my new, slight limp, I reverted back to my typical 4- to 7mm drop shoes. This change successful made my arch pain migrate to my heel.
It was bad enough that I dropped out of the Frozen Heart 50K in February.
Despite the pain — and exhibiting what I will call some “slight stubbornness” — I found a way to keep training and completed the Bighorn 100 and Bigfoot 200 over summer. While I had found a way to keep the pain from getting worse, it also never improved.
After Bigfoot, I took almost eight weeks off from running, but the pain never improved. So, finally, I visited a sports medicine doctor.
We had a long talk.
She asked me how long I had been having pain.
I said 10 months.
She asked how much I had been running.
I told her how awesome it was to race 200 miles across the Cascades.
After judging the hell out of me, I was given a prescription for physical therapy and permission to run some low miles. Twice a week for the past six weeks I would go to PT and be humbled.
While I can run 200 miles, don’t ask me to balance on one foot … or do a single leg pistol squat. The physical therapists seemed to enjoy watching me struggle with simple exercises. Especially my unique interpretation of pistol squats and many failed attempts at balancing.
On the days that I did not have a PT appointment, I tried to remain diligent and perform as many of the routines at home as I could. This involved a lot of walking on my tip toes, working with a resistance band, and more calf raises than I can count.
I also started running with heel stacks in my shoes. These devices start out with a pretty significant wedge and have individual layers you can peel off like an onion. This slowly lowers the angle of the wedge so you can progress back to a normal, unmodified shoe. The stacks reduce the strain on your Achilles, allowing you to continue to run while your body repairs itself.
At some point early this fall, I realized that this injury was going to take a while to heal properly. I also realized that I am not going to be able to continue running the types of races that I enjoy without considering my overall fitness.
I love to run and I hate just about any other kind of exercise. I will never be a gym rat. But, I need to start working in some cross training so that I can continue to run.
It doesn’t take much to spend a few minutes doing some resistance work at home. It also is cheaper to attend yoga twice a week than it is to go to physical therapy twice a week. Hot yoga also has the benefit of heat training, which could be beneficial to some of my summer running plans.
So far, it has worked. Each week I have felt a little less pain and a feel little stronger. I have been slowly rebuilding my mileage each week while still allowing my body time to heal.