Monday, December 5, 2011

Achilles Tendonitis, Cross-Training and Other Musings

Grant Swamp at Hardrock. No, this isn't Kansas.
Congrats to everyone who got into the 2012 Hardrock 100! Hardrock is a dream race of mine. For me, Hardrock is going to have to wait until I finally achieve some measure of satisfaction at the Leadville 100. Satisfaction at Leadville is a time under 20 hours and maybe 21 hours depending on conditions (as well as a 1,000-mile buckle and Leadman trophy). I'm close. Once that goal (sub-20) is achieved, I will turn my attention to Hardrock...but not before the Bear 100 and/or Wasatch 100. Having done some ridiculously hard mountain races like the Jemez 50-Mile in New Mexico, I have to improve my hiking before any attempt at Hardrock. With the benefit of knowledge from having moved out West to burly Colorado from back East, where the land is flat and the air is thick, I honestly think folks who enter Hardrock without mountain experience are, well, a bit crazy. Do they even know what they've gotten themselves into?

Having said all of that, my plan is to be down in Silverton next July for some pacing and volunteer work.


This is a fantastic podcast with elite mountain ultrarunner Anton Krupicka. As many know, Anton's battled a broken leg and tendonitis in his shin all year, effectively missing all of 2011 save a strong effort at the Rocky Raccoon 100 back in February. He's a heck of a nice guy and so I wish him all the best and hope he busts out a huge comeback at the Bandera 100K in January.

Last Tuesday morning on a 9-miler I felt a twinge in my right Achilles tendon but I got through my run without missing a beat. The next morning I headed out for my usual run in the Parker hills and, about 5 miles in, felt that twinge again. It quickly turned into full-blown pain in my Achilles, with no option for cutting my run short due to where I was on my loop. I almost called Anne to come pick me up, but instead I slowly jogged home, walking the uphills to minimize the damage. Since then, the farthest I've run is about 5 miles flat on my treadmill. I'm now in full-blown cross-training mode and only running a few miles at a time so to avoid any further aggravation to the Achilles.

It sucks that this injury has crept up on me just when my training for next March's Georgia Marathon had started to take off. I was feeling good, logging 70+ miles a week and getting in some nice quality when the injury hit. It's hard to say how long I'll be sidelined--maybe a few weeks, maybe more than a month. One thing's for sure; I will not try to "run through" this injury. Running through just about any injury sounds well and good, but in reality it is a recipe for disaster, as I learned late last summer (2010) when I got hit with a near "career"-ending injury that lasted for five months (plantar fasciitis).

In fact, I would say the #1 mistake most runners make is trying to run through injury. You can often cross-train through injury, as I'm doing now with light jogging, hard walking and plenty of cycling (indoors) but, when an injury hits, the best course of action is to cut back and/or stop running altogether. This is where cross-training can be very valuable in helping to maintain fitness. Fortunately for me, I feel no pain if I jog only a few miles, cycle hard and walk fast.

So with my Achilles inflamed, a PR effort at the Georgia Marathon on March 18 may be in doubt. Only time will tell--only I don't have a lot of time....


Over the past five days I've been cycling on my new Blackburn indoor bike trainer. In the winter of 2009-2010 I used a similar trainer that I borrowed from a friend and really enjoyed it. I'd intended to buy one but have only now gotten around to it (actually, it was a very generous, thoughtful Christmas gift from my mother- and father-in-law that I was forced to open early thanks to this injury). I've really enjoyed my trainer; it's quiet, smooth and a great workout. I've also noticed improvement in my performance. I have to think cycling is a fantastic cross-training activity.

I'm not just cycling. I'm also walking at about 12:30 pace, which is pretty fast, and doing push-ups and core work. I want to get lean and strong for the spring and summer racing season.


Next Saturday I find out about the Western States 100. I really want in but I'm very realistic about the odds. If my calculations are correct, I have about a one in ten chance of getting in. Obviously the math is stacked against me, and that's OK. I'll just keep entering the lottery until I get in :-)

If I get into Western, it will be my big goal race for the summer...and then I'll do my best at the Leadville 100. If I don't get into Western, the Leadville 100 will once again be my focal point and I'll then I'll start penciling in other races, such as the Mount Evans Ascent (want to break 2:20), the Leadville Marathon (want to break 4:30), and maybe the Jemez 50-Mile or San Juan Solstice 50-Mile. I'll know after next Saturday!


  1. Good luck Wyatt with WS100, hoping you get lucky! Battling a little injury myself, don't know where I'd be without some indoor cycling to keep the spirits high and training efficient.

  2. I have problems with AT from time to time. Let me give you what works for me:

    icing: put your foot in a pan / bucket with ice and water. keep in there until it hurts. Remove and warm up then repeat.

    If you feel pain in the morning when stiff etc put some shoes next to your bed so you can get up without making them worse.

    Put some heel lifts in your shoes if you are feeling any pain during normal walking around. You need to be kind to the tendon while healing.

    After healed do your eccentric leg lowerings to strengthen things.

    HTH! Love reading your blog!

  3. Wyatt - I just finished 4 months of rehabbing my left AT after injuring it for the 1st time on a long snowshoe hill run last winter...did all the extensive research - Eccentric Heel Drops (per Paul) were key to my rehab; 3 sets of straight leg, 3 sets of bent leg (15 reps/set) - twice per day with increasing weight (in backpack) every week or so - allowed me to run thru the rehab (just fewer hills during that time). Mine was 4-5 cm above heel (not at insertion point) and not stiff, but was sore to the touch (still is a little, but much less & I don't feel it running). I cut a V in the back of my shoes to (to avoid it rubbing) of luck that yours is of a very short duration -- either way the heel drops will help a ton to prevent...Patrick

  4. Sorry to hear it. I've got no experience to offer on this one :\

    On the other hand, you made a comment to me about orthotics helping your plantar fasciitis during GZ's 100. I finally bought some Soles and tried it, and symptoms were pretty much gone in a couple of days. I had resisted it before, but sometimes it just has to hit you when you're receptive, and I was getting pretty weary. So thanks for that!

    Now I'm slowly working on foot strength and form.

    Hope you kick the AT as easily as possible and get back to where you want to be.

  5. I truly feel your pain. Man, after four years of minor running injuries and then knee surgery 2010, I finally had one full season injury free. I seemed to hit them all. I went into 2011 promising myself that I would do everything right and stay healthy; I did. But honestly, was I just lucky? I ran twice as much as the previous years. The main thing I did differently was losing weight.

    Now is a great time to focus on diet and getting down to your racing weight, particularly with the upcoming holidays. I am sure you will continue cross-training hard, but is it the same effort as running (it depends)? Your caloric needs will be lower now, but you will probably eat the same. My body was craving calories and I had to stop training cold turkey. I added fifty pounds in like four months. Now it is easy to say, that won’t happen to me, but I did not see it coming. In previous years I was in rock climbing training mode and just did not have the same caloric needs as running. And if I had stopped, might have gained a few pounds, but not fifty. I was also a lot younger.

    If anything, December / January are the best months to be in recovery mode. I popped my meniscus in May after signing up for a too many races. And you know what; it might even lead to a stronger season.

    Keep Positive.