If you read my blog regularly (and God bless all three of you 🙂 ) then you know I have been having some recurring issues with my Achilles tendons: I stressed them pretty good back in May and June, when I crash-trained from 10K distance up to half-marathon in only 6 weeks, and then ran that race barefoot on sand – don’t look at me that way, like you NEVER made a spontaneous decision that, in hindsight, you knew wasn’t your brightest moment! (Besides, that race is still my PR for that distance, so it wasn’t all bad…right?) It took two months to regain my confidence in running anything over 2 miles; I then immediately began a 6-month plan aimed at a sub-4 hour marathon, starting with building a solid base, and then gradually upping the mileage and intensity. I am now two months out from the Chevron Houston Marathon, and facing a new set of issues, each one leading directly to the next – and possibly causing some radical changes to my plans. Let’s look at the progression:
- My wife’s cancer treatments are over and done, and she is in full remission, praise the Lord. But, while she was doing radiation the first part of this year, I was missing a LOT of work, and our finances took a pretty dramatic hit – wiped out all our savings, ran up some debt, dipped heavily into my 401K, etc…no reserves, nothing extra.
- I suffer from mild-to-moderate bipolar disorder, and I HATE all the medications I have ever tried, so I pretty much just ride the roller coaster and cope the best I can; sometimes are better than others, and this summer was not the best I have ever had…not the worst, but not good.
- The combined stresses began to show up in my performance at work, and led to my employer becoming increasing dissatisfied with me, adding more stress; this played a part to my being placed on suspension and referred into the company’s Employee Assistance Program for counseling (there were other issues, too); successful completion of the program was a condition for returning to work, failure would lead to termination…easy choice to make, huh?
- While attending counseling, I had to find other income, so I took a ridiculous job installing office furniture at 40% more hours and 50% less pay. The bills got further behind, and there was even less for non-essentials. I continued running, staying the course on my marathon training plan, because by now it was my only link to sanity and my primary means of coping with myself; my counselor recognized the value and supported my decision. I was now into the upward curve, running 4 days, 25-30 miles a week. Unfortunately, one of the “non-essentials” in our budget was new running shoes, so I just kept going in the same pair I have been using all year…to the tune of about 600 miles. I knew they were pretty much shot, I could feel it – but the alternative was to just quit running…and that was off the table for me. I sucked it up when my ankles and heels hurt, started taking NSAID’s daily, iced after every run, began using KT Tape every time I ran, cut workouts short when it hurt too much…but I kept going.
- The back-breaking straws were the last two long runs: the Houston Half Marathon, three weeks ago; and then the 15 miles the following week – for the first time, I had pain not only in my ankles, but now also in my right knee – bad enough to make me limp, and not be able to walk up stairs without hanging on to the bannister. The knee pain faded in a day or two, but came right back with the next run…and quicker each time. I began skipping workouts or cutting them radically short, hoping to “heal” a little in between, or “train through it”.
- I finally bought some new shoes, but not the top tier model I really need; I got a very inexpensive, much less cushioned model because it was the best I could afford – I could not continue with the shoes I had – but I just don’t think they are going to cut it…brand new, they feel just about the same as the worn-out ones.
- Yesterday I was supposed to do a double pace workout on the TM, with a 5K easy run in the middle. I did the first set; just made it through 5K – with a couple of stops to rest and stretch – but could not do the last set…had to stop within the first 30 seconds because the knee would not go any further. Something had to change.
This morning I could barely walk when I woke up, but I made it to work and got through the day. I also emailed my running coach and explained what was going on, asking for advice on how long I need to take off from running, and what she thought of dropping back from the full marathon to the half – I am that shaken off my confidence right now. She replied pretty quickly, and advised me to take a week off, and schedule a visit with a sports-medicine doctor to see how bad it really is; also to ask for a referral for PT, to get advice on stretching and strengthening exercises to help with recovery; we should wait on a decision about dropping to the half until the doctor has a look. Great advice – wish I could take all of it, but that may take some time…
I completed the EAP counseling, and went back to work this week…that means I get a paycheck NEXT Friday. I will receive my last (partial) check from the furniture job this Friday, but we are juggling utility disconnect notices, bank overdrafts, and day-to-day expenses, so that won’t go very far. Doctors appointments; physical therapy; deep-tissue massage; new, quality running shoes – all the things I need to stay on track, or to keep running, period – these things will just have to wait, maybe three weeks, maybe four…we are in survival mode right now, and I can’t look that far into the future yet. So where does this leave me? Not running, that’s where!
I am going to take Coach’s advice, as much as I can, as soon as I can, and I will not jeopardize my body any further than I already have…because that is what I have done, no question about it. It also means that I will accept this with as much grace as I can muster, and keep my eye on the bigger picture – if I drop to the half, if I just let the time goal fall away and try to finish 26.2 in one piece, or even if I don’t run it at all…so be it. I don’t like it (and if you have ever been in a similar position, you understand) but I will do it…because I am an athlete, a runner…and that is what we do. My only problem now: how do I keep from losing my mind in the meantime? I have the Internet, and a wealth of advice from many great bloggers who have been where I am; I can continue with non- or low-impact cross training, to maintain base fitness; it’s not the end of everything…it just feels like it, y’know?
Have you ever injured yourself by force of stupidity? What made you realize you had gone too far, and how did you cope with the fallout? (I am not as bitter as that sounds, I just can’t believe myself sometimes…) Just let me know I’m not the only one who ever did a dumb thing, and if you have some tips on how to survive this, I will be glad to hear it – thanks!