On this Monday, six weeks ago I got to sleep in and no one was allowed to judge me for it. I was also incredible proud of myself for walking down a flight of stairs without limping or whimpering and I was weirdly proud of my enormous cankles. It was the Monday after my Run, Rabbit, Run 100 mile finish. I was feeling accomplished and I thought I was prepared to take some time off my feet for recovery.
Going into RRR100 I told my crew + pacers that I was willing to get injured if it got me across the finish line. I knew the cards were stacked against me – I’d spent my “peak weeks” of training sitting on my butt nursing an overuse injury in my right Soleus/Achilles, I was just lucky to be toeing the start line undertrained rather than injured. I remember saying “I don’t care if I have to give up running for three months, I want to finish!” more than once during RRR100.
I finished…but I finished injured. It wasn’t until three weeks after the race that I realized just how much I jacked up my left Achilles [note: not the one I was giving all sorts of TLC pre-race]. After three weeks of very strict “no running or hiking” I laced up my shoes and headed out to Matthews/Winters Park for a test run before driving west for a 14er summit. Yea, that tester run didn’t go that great and that 14er summit never happened…just putting on running shoes pissed off my Achilles. Running didn’t hurt but walking did and my tendon was all sorts of crunchy by the time I got back to my car. That Monday I stopped by to visit my PT…
In the week right after the race I visited my PT for a quick “nothing is actually broken” once over so she knew just how crunchy and swollen my Achilles was [actually went to go get another PT just to have a “whoa, how are you walking on that?!” chat…I felt badass, or maybe just a little silly for taking an injury that far]. Luckily she said my Achilles was healing and it was much better than it was during my last visit. That was encouraging. But then she told me I just needed to rest…I get how that is incredibly important, I really do, but I was starting to go stir crazy! It had been nearly 9 weeks since I was able to do anything without the linger thought of “uh oh, my body isn’t going to like this…” and I just wanted to be carefree about running + hiking + whatever’ing again!
My face must have said all of those things and more because she followed that up with something along the lines of “we could do more dry needling right on the tendon, it won’t fix everything immediately but it will speed up the process”…and I answered with a quick “yes, please”. If you’ve ever had a muscle dry needled let me just say directly into a tendon is completely different. The muscle is a deep, cramp-y pain with visible muscle spasms, the tendon is an acute pain with a burning sensation. When needling a muscle the PT can usually see and feel the reaction when they find the right spot, when working on a tendon the reaction is more subtle and I spend a lot of time talking her through what I’m feeling. It’s interesting, to say the least…
It’s even more interesting to actually feel what the PT feels. When we were working on the tendons on the top of my foot [since I was already there with the needles and those tendons were sort of cranky…] she actually let me poke and spin the needles once she put them in my foot. Sounds so gross but it was actually really cool! I could feel when the needles grabbed onto fibers and felt them twist – both in my foot and in my hand when the tension increased. So weird!
Anywho…we’re now three weeks into dry needling on my left Achilles and while the tendon isn’t 100% back in the game yet it has made some HUGE progress! I’m not pain free 98% of the time and I’m allowed back on my feet for short distances and/or low impact exploring, which is awesome. Heck, this past weekend I even ran a 5K with friends! It was low key and involved costumes…who says “no” to something like that?!
I’m also doing my part to be a responsible runner and joined a gym. Yup, a gym. Not only did I give them my money…I showed up, twice! The cleanliness of my teeth and general appearance of my hair has been suffering since I’m focusing on upper body strength training but it feels SO good to have a routine again! That sounds cliché but I swear I’m not exaggerating. Yea, I still hate my alarm at 5:07am but it feels good to [eventually] get up, be active and feel accomplished before I even sit down at my desk at work!
Plus, if I have any hope of surviving the big plans I have for next year I need to do more than just lackadaisically run around mountain trails. I wish I was the kind of runner who could pull 100+ mile races out of a hat but I’m not…so I’m going to do what I need to in order to avoid another long stint of nursing an injury! If this involves strength training and yoga, fine.
On a less positive note – oh. my. goodness. The back and forth fixed/not fixed crap my body is throwing at me right now is literally making me crazy! It is so incredibly frustrating…and this frustration has nothing to do with “oh, I’m losing my climbing legs” or numbers on a scale and everything to do with the fact I am so tired of saying “sorry, I can’t run” when invited out on trail runs or mountain hikes. Turns out a huge part of my social life went down on the trails and now I’m only around for the beer + burgers post-run fun. Which isn’t all bad, but come on body…I’m being nice to you, get your freaking act together!