Walking Tall and Finding My Stride

Running injuries are a lot like deli patrons. While they mill around in front of the refrigerated case, you’re alone behind the counter calling numbers, never knowing for sure what’s next. Sometimes, when running is fun and you feel great, you get through the entire line and nobody else is waiting; but more often than not there’s at least one straggler in the back who needs a quarter pound of turkey.

You recognize the repeat customers immediately and have their orders ready before they can say anything (three days of the Stick and two bags of ice, for example), but are routinely floored by the weirdo ones with puzzling requests, like a suckling pig or the entire bowl of potato salad. Some, like blisters are quick and easy – a half pound of fruit salad. Others, like hamstring tightness never seem to go away. They put in a catering order for their niece’s Sweet Sixteen then come back two months later to complain that the ham was sliced too thin.

A couple of months ago, my right Achilles approached the counter and ordered a ridiculous two-foot long sandwich, the sort of nightmare that takes forever to prepare. I tried to ignore it and ducked into the walk-in freezer to read a magazine, hoping the injury would leave and go to some other deli, but it was still standing there when I came back out a half hour later. And to make matters worse, it had gotten irate and swollen in the meantime. I sighed, rolled up my sleeves and started cutting meat and cheese, but realized I had no idea where we kept the Scooby Doo sized sandwich rolls, so I begrudgingly had to make an appointment with my sports doc for help.

After listening to my symptoms and poking around a little he told me I had Grade 3 Achilles tendonitis, the kind that doesn’t loosen up and feel better after a few miles, with a side order of bursitis. In addition to prescribing physical therapy (which I never actually went to), he gave me little wedge-shaped squishy inserts for my shoes – lifts! The lifts shorten the Achilles and give them a little rest. Basically, he wanted remove the stress from my tendon during my day-to-day walking. That way, I’d only stress them while running and hopefully could continue to train.

That’s right – five foot, eight inch tall Mr. Bacon just got taller.

I noticed almost an immediate affect on my tendonitis but more importantly, unencumbered by my once debilitating vertical handicap, I was now more self-assured and headstrong. I stood during meetings – lofty titans of industry sit before no one. I finally had the confidence to ask for a raise, to order “off the menu” dishes at fancy restaurants and return to the counter to ask the barista to fill my coffee to the top of the cup (when I say “no room for cream,” I want my coffee to practically overflow). Meek Mr. Bacon is gone and a new, more headstrong version has replaced him. I know, it sounds scary and marvelous all at the same time.

In addition to wearing the lifts, I was actively rehabbing my tendonitis, and my discomfort dwindled as my height soared. The pain I felt while running went from unbearable to manageable to mild, and my running started to click. I felt very nearly cured at my recent half marathon and was ready to go three days later when I took to the track for some pre-dawn, headlamp Yassos.

My legs were still a little tired from the race, but my ankle felt okay and I was ready to rattle off some 3:05-3:10 800s. My original plan was to run sub 3:05s, but I didn’t want to push it.

Splits:

3:09
3:06
3:05
3:06
3:07
3:04
3:05
3:06
3:05
3:05

In addition to running a comfortable 3:06 average, this was the first time I’d really nailed my goal times on the track in months. In four days, I’d run a solid half marathon PR and followed it with a controlled, consistent 10×800. I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders, and Philly is less than two weeks away. Maybe I can salvage this marathon, after all. I had a tough training cycle and initially thought the Achilles thing was going to ruin my race, but feel now like things are looking up.

So did the lifts cure my tendonitis? I’m not sure, but I do know that I don’t need to stand on my tiptoes to get my food out of the microwave.