Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Long and Winding Road - My Transition to Minimalist Running, Part 3

The Ellipse of Life
After being attacked by Thor as punishment for doing Too Much Too Soon (TMTS), I stopped running for a couple  of weeks. Instead I "rode" the elliptical machine in the gym. Joy of joys. If you think the treadmill is boring, don't get on an elliptical machine. You may fall asleep standing up. I recommend vast quantities of caffeine to prevent this. If the caffeine doesn't keep you alert, it will at least force you to take bathroom breaks at regular intervals.

The Top Of Foot Pain (TOFP) in my left foot slowly faded away. As long as I kept my foot flat on the elliptical pedals, I could stay on the machine for up to an hour with no pain.

After two weeks of elliptical workouts I started to lose my focus and feel a bit eccentric. I had to get out and try to run again. That or just give up. And I'm too stubborn to give up.

The Perigee of Recovery
So it was that I found myself once again standing on the track in my VFFs, ready to attempt running. Afraid of re-injuring myself, I focused on keeping my foot more level as I landed. This seemed to work well. I completed a mile with only low level pain. The elliptical workouts had at least given me a bit more cardio-conditioning, so I was able to run within my breath and not feel like my heart was going to burst from my chest and flop away into the bushes attempting to escape from the torture I was inflicting upon it.

In the 3 months since I started running, my calf muscles had really strengthened. I could see muscles that I thought only existed in anatomy diagrams. Of course, this gave me a false sense of confidence. After completing my second run (2 miles) of the week with no sign of foot pain, I decided to return to my previous training distance on Friday. Surely my Schwarzenegger-like calfs could carry me to a successful 3 mile run.

Running is a Pain in my Latus Rectom
Friday. High noon. March 19. Spring-eve. I'm feeling particularly good today. No foot pain to speak of and the previous 2 runs have not left me with the usual crippling soreness. Let's run!

I cruise through the run feeling better than ever. The 3 miles go by and my foot feels great! I decide to go for a new distance record. I'll run FOUR miles today! Yeah, I'm stupid.

Thor vs. Achilles!
Half way through my fourth mile, I'm out of energy and struggling. I stubbornly plod on, determined to make my new distance milestone. I'm obviously favoring my right leg, in a semi-conscious attempt at protecting my left foot. My right calf starts to feel tight and cramped. I stubbornly plod on. A few minutes later, I feel a pinching sensation in the center of my right calf.

"Probably just a cramp" I think. I stubbornly plod on. Only one third of a mile left in my record setting run!

Out of "nowhere" (if you haven't notice, I'm seriously self deluded about running), Thor makes a dramatic return, engaging in an epic battle with my Achilles tendon.

It's no contest. Thor hammers the acid covered ice pick straight into the heart of my Achilles tendon. Within 3 steps, I go from cramp pain levels directly to gun shot pain levels.

I wouldn't be finishing my run. In fact, I could barely walk back to the locker room.

The Apogee of Recovery
Two days later and the calf pain is still extremely intense. I'm allergic to insurance co-pays, so I limp across the street to consult with my neighbor Katie, who just happens to have a PhD in physical therapy (and is also a phenomenal triathlon competitor). She thinks it's obvious that I have a small tear in my Achilles tendon where it connects to my calf muscle. She gives me a recovery plan.

Four weeks of no running.

I'm seriously depressed.

This wouldn't be the last time.

Next installment - Don't Call It a Comeback!