Thursday, March 25, 2010

"She's Actual Size...

But she seems much bigger to me."  For some reason, those lyrics to the classic They Might Be Giants song run through my head when I think about my achilles tendon.  I think anyone else looking at my ankle would think it looks the same as the good foot, but to me it seems ginormous.  I still find myself favoring my left foot here and there when phantom pain presents itself. However, for the last couple of days, I go for long stretches without even thinking about it.  Progress.

This is an improvement that makes me happy, of course, but I am being more careful about my rehabilitation.  I found it interesting when I looked at my training log that I have actually run 12 days since I was afflicted with this injury 28 days ago.  Most of those days were trial runs, between 1.5 to 6 miles, that showed promise until I pushed it a little too hard.  Over the last three days, I have run slow, short runs.  I have been paying close attention to any tightness or pain I feel during the run.  I have found that, if I feel tightness for more than a mile during the run, the calf/achilles will be sore later and usually the next day too.  My new threshold is no tightness and definitely no pain during the run.  If I feel it, I stop.  I am happy to say I’ve met that mark for the last three runs.

What came as an even bigger surprise to me was the concept that I should run during the rehab phase.  This first came from my Miracle Worker when I suggested I just take another week's rest from running. He shook his head and said, "No.  You need to keep running, just not as much."  His explanation was that without the stretching that occurs during running the scar tissue that inevitably forms with this type of injury would heal the tendon to a shorter length or at least create a tendon with less running specific flexibility.  This was my interpretation of what he said, anyway.  The second place I saw the suggestion to rehab with running was in this article about the achilles tendon that focuses a lot on the concept of "active loading".  The authors state:

A short period of rest from running during the initial acute painful phase followed by a specific loading programme is sensible. However, the tendon loading and coordinative challenge of running suggest that running should become a central component of your rehabilitation strategy and indeed there is scientific support for continuing to run during rehabilitation, as long as the pain does not exceed moderate intensity (26). Accepting a tolerable amount of running discomfort may also help avoid the negative tendon and muscle consequences of protracted rest. The margins are vague, however, and the line between acceptable discomfort and disabling pain is very individual.

This advice is definitely contrary to what I've read almost everywhere else, and that's probably why I like it.  I think the key is in making sure that the use of running in the rehabilitation phase does not cause further damage.  That's the fine line I walk these days.

While somedays I am frustrated with this injury, I have been enjoying my cross training.  Tonight, I tried out my alien swimmer outfit at the Y and made quite a splash (couldn't help myself with that pun).  I purchased these AQx aqua running shoes and was quite pleased with how they performed.  I also bought my own floatie belt. So, picture me walking next to the pool in my cornflower blue bikini, black swim cap, goggles with Michael Phelps tune case attached, shoes with fins and a bright red swim tube around my middle.  Dead sexy.

I also enjoy my bike rides on the bike trail where I do fun interval sessions.  The best part of these rides is passing people like they're standing still.  The other night, I was doing 3 minutes hard/1 minute easy repeats and had this dude come zipping past me while I was spinning before starting the workout.  He passed me decisively and I thought to myself, "I'll see you again soon enough Postal Service Bike Dude."  Once I started my intervals, I started gaining on him.  As I approached his bike, pushing about 23 mph, I could see him kick it into gear and speed up to keep me from passing.  He lasted about 30 seconds before dropping back as I pounded right on by.  Now, my heart rate zipped up into the 170s during that little frenzied episode, but I didn't see him again until I turned around at the 22.5 mile marker.  He gave me a big smile and a wave.  Love it!

Here's what I've been up to the last two weeks:

I'm looking forward to a little longer test run tomorrow morning and hope to report that it is pain free.  I have a super long and hard bike ride planned for Saturday and an even longer run planned for Sunday if all goes well.  The spin instructor at my gym (complete with calf-muscle triathlete branding) is trying to recruit me and Sprinkles to the dark side of triathlons.  While I might be competitive in an aqua-jogging-run-bike tri, I would totally lose it in the gang swim.  For now, I'll stick to running with a side of bike and aqua jogging as cross training.       


  1. Crossing fingers for you, girl, here's hoping today is pain free, all the way! Excellent cross-training schedule, you're working as hard as I'd expect an Effin' J to do. :-)

  2. I wonder if there's a biathlon in your future, given your aptitude on the bike.

    Anyway, make a little birdhouse in your soul.

  3. Hi Jayme,
    Have been enjoying your blog for some time now. Wishing you a speedy recovery. Humor us and post a pic of the swimming attire.
    Maureen Sproul
    New Gloucester, Maine

  4. I'll just throw in some personal experience re the Achilles tendon. This is from years ago. I played some soccer, with lots of stopping-and-going and righting-and-lefting. I had never done that before. A few days later, my AT hurt quite badly during a run. After a few runs like that, it evolved into a nagging ache. Not enough to alter my stride, but a constant annoyance. I was resigned to always having it as a companion, and so it was for months. I just ran with it.

    Then it just went away, never to return except for brief patches (one of which was a couple of weeks ago, when it bothered me chiefly when I got up in the morning and right after a run and slightly during a run, but it too has disappeared, not even appearing during or after last night's repeat workout).

    True, a sample of one. I would agree that the AT can be different from other types of pains.

  5. I am disappointed that you previewed the outfit last night and I wasn't there to approve. Now, when we aqua-jog, I'm going to look a little boring in my plain blue one-piece, my YMCA float-belt, and no shoes or MacGyvered head-set.


  6. J-
    All that was missing from your sexy swim outfit was the black compression socks!
    As for triathlons, take it from a longtime run-only guy who blames his parents for not getting him swim lessons earlier -- you can teach yourself to survive the traithlon swim, no problem. If I can do it, anyone can. The key is: don't panic in the water. That, and have a good wetsuit. An Olympic length tri is quite a fun change for a runner during the summer, between marathons. The swim portion is almost over before you know it. Give it a shot. You'd be a natural.

  7. Jenn K (Sacramento)March 26, 2010 at 9:24 AM

    Wow, you are an inspiration! I really enjoy reading your blog. You give me encouragement to push myself harder in my own training. Good luck with your recovery. You're in my thoughts!

  8. GIM--Thanks! Keep those fingers crossed.

    Julie--While I can ride fast on a bike, I do not trust my handling skills in close proximity to other riders for more than a few minutes. I would likely find myself splayed out on the road in any kind of race. Nice TMBG reference!

    Maureen--Thanks for your comment. I thought about asking someone at the Y to snap my picture with my iPhone, but they all seemed a little afraid of me.

    Joe--Your story of triumph over Achilles makes me happy and gives me hope.

    Sprinkles--I believe you will likely be the first person I know to see me in this outfit. But, I think we need to have matching outfits for our next pool jog. You now have the website for the shoes!

    Sam--I knew someone would mention the socks! Of course, it would be S. Diddy. Still not convinced about the tri, though.

    Jenn K--Thanks for your comment and for reading my blog! It makes my day that you find it inspiring.

  9. Ah, not sure "dead sexy" is the description I'd use. I'm amazed they make special shoes for water running!

    I hope Sunday goes well. Another personal story about AT -- I had it many years ago -- gradually subsided when I switched shoes to ones with a better padded heel counter (the bit that 'rubs' on the achilles). I mention that because the shoes in your header photo look like Lunar racers, which have a heel counter lacking in padding.

  10. Ewen--I think you can buy special sporting equipment for just about any sport these days. The shoes do serve a useful purpose I can say: added drag and they make you feel more like you're running on land than running unshod. This is likely due to the fins on the side directing your foot to flatten out on the down "stride" where as I tend to keep my toe pointed without the shoes.

    Actually, my trainers (Nike Max Moto) have a very low and well-padded heel counter. I sometimes run in the Pegasus too, but they irritate my achilles right now. I do agree that the Lunar racers would cause irritation of my achilles if I wore them more often.

  11. Interesting about the shoes. I'll keep it in mind... not that I have any desire to be running 100s of ks in the pool!