So this fall, it’s not just a figure of speech. My achilles heel has been … well … my achilles heel.
Three weeks ago, I had a 12-miler on my schedule. It was my last long run before the North Face Endurance Challenge, which was a trail half-marathon I’d been training to run with Nicole. I got up and out the door early that Thursday, and decided to document the run with a photo every few miles accompanied by a random thought (I have lots of random thoughts when running 12 miles). Mostly I did this as a way to entertain myself, but I also knew Nicole and a few other runner friends might enjoy it too.
I began at mile 4:
“Photo stop at mile 4. Gotta get 12 today. Slow and steady. So far it has been dark so I’ve been extra cautious about footing. Looking forward to sunrise.”
“Mile 5. Here comes the sun (now that song is stuck in my head).”
“Mile 7 and I’m mouthing the words and doing hand gestures to the Katy Perry song Roar. I’m kind of in love with that song.”
“Mile 9 and wondering why I feel the start of a blister on my left foot. New-ish shoes but I’ve done 11 in them with no trouble. Not stopping now though. 5K to go!”
“Royals by Lorde carried me to Mile 11. Had to play it off YouTube but it did the trick. One more to go.”
Just after this pic, I started my last mile. I was feeling pretty solid, but somewhere in that last mile, I felt a twinge in my left achilles. Nothing alarming or severe enough to make me stop running. It was just a twinge.
After the run, as the day wore on my overall soreness diminished as it usually does. Except in that darn achilles. I realized it was actually changing my walk a bit and pinching with each stride.
So I googled it. Oh man, was that scary. I basically learned this, “If you injure your achilles and you don’t let it properly heal, you are done running. Forever. Game over.”
After I stopped hyperventilating, I emailed a doctor friend who said to give it a week of rest and then re-evaluate.
That sounds reasonable, right? But I am not kidding when I tell you that I totally fell apart. I have adhered strictly to my running schedule for two years now, and perhaps did not realize how important that had become to my overall well-being.
I was terrified that I wouldn’t get better. I was also pretty pissed off – I’d been using a training plan that touted itself as being injury-free. And I’m a conservative runner – I don’t do all those things more ambitious runners do that cause injury! I’m supposed to be injury-proof!
So I wallowed in a pool of misery, fear, doubt and depression. I ate everything in sight, with an uncharacteristically pessimistic view that I was no longer capable of a healthy lifestyle. So I punished myself with beer and Doritos.
I knew it was ridiculous, but I think I just needed a moment to be grumpy and pitiful.
A week went by, and there was still pain, so I made an appointment for an evaluation at a sports medicine clinic. I was holding my breath, hoping the physical therapist would slap some tape on it and tell me to go run that trail half-marathon. But I think we all know that was not what he said.
He ordered another week of rest, ice and ibuprofen, and then another evaluation.
It was difficult going to the race last weekend and sending Nicole off on the trail. Thankfully Andrew agreed to run in my place so she wouldn’t go solo, but this was supposed to be our run. Our girl time in the woods. Ours.
I just had to keep reminding myself that if I wanted to get better, if I wanted to run 100 more races with her, then I had to sit this one out.
I went back for re-evaluation Monday, and the PT said I needed treatment. Rehab starts tomorrow. The good news? He thinks with a couple weeks of physical therapy I should still be ok to run the Rock N Roll half-marathon in November. The other good news? I’m finding other ways to regain that feeling of good health. I’m swimming. I ate all those Doritos and haven’t bought another bag yet. I’m saying no to the beer (for now) until I ditch the few pounds I put on during my mega pity party.
And I’m feeling hopeful that I’ll soon be back on the road again, ready for my comeback tour.