Thursday, January 8, 2015

My most lingering running injury, a year later

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About a year ago, during a 5K race on a cold January morning, I injured both of my Achilles tendons. I managed to finish the race, but it was a subpar time for me, mostly because I had run the 1 mile race just 30 minutes earlier. (It was a double race.) I'm guessing that the cold and fast pace combined to push things over the edge.

At first, I didn't realize I was injured. I thought it was just the kind of DOMS you sometimes get after a hard workout. Unlike the DOMS soreness, however, this didn't go recede the next day. When we went out to brunch with friends, I found that I was limping.

That evening, I discovered that spending a lot of time rubbing at the painful tender spots helped to a degree, but that there were still two spots - one on each ankle - that hurt just to touch.

Like the stereotypical runner, I went ahead with self-diagnosis and treatment. It wasn't too hard to figure out that I had some form of Achilles tendinitis, and that eccentric stretching/calf raises are a commonly recommended course of physical therapy.

In looking over my running log from last year, I see that did not run at all for six days, and then I went for a 5+ mile run on the treadmill.* Apparently that was not a good idea, because I did not run again for five days.

* This was the run when I learned for certain that I do not heel strike, because for the first half mile or so, the Achilles tendons were pretty rigid, forcing me to heel strike - and it felt quite weird.

After that, my Achilles tendons were still sore, but not while running, so I went ahead and resumed something vaguely normal, although it was more than three weeks since the initial injury before I got up to 9 miles, and 10+ miles wouldn't come until late February.

Not surprisingly, total mileage for January and February were well below my usual monthly totals, and it wasn't until April that I got back to the 150 mile mark.

In retrospect, I would have had a faster recovery if I had taken more time off from running, rather than resuming when I was able to. I don't think I aggravated my injuries, but it's highly likely that I slowed the healing process. In fact, while I was able to run several races from March onward, I didn't feel completely pain-free until halfway through the year. Until then, even if the tendons didn't bother me, I could easily pinpoint the injured spots by squeezing.

I would like to think that the next time something like this happens, I will accept a longer period of non-running in exchange for a faster recovery. Now that I have my own rowing machine, perhaps that will be easier to do. For now, though, I am reveling in feeling 100 percent and hoping to set some PRs this year!

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