Monday, January 2, 2012

Blessing in Disguise

Today marks day eleven of my doctor-imposed two-week shutdown because of posterior tibial tendonitis, or "post-tib," in my right leg. My leg is doing much better. I no longer have tendon pain running up the inside of my calf. My ankle is better, but still not 100%--a gentle reminder that I'm not yet over my injury. My Achilles, which is where this whole injury originated (compensation led to my post-tib), is doing very well, too. I occasionally feel some discomfort in my Achilles, but, all in all, it's healing (pun intended).

On Friday I'll resume running, going for an easy 4-miler, or less if my post-tib acts up. If all goes well, I'll gradually increase my mileage, taking a few days here and there to cross-train, with a goal of being back in action by the start of February. I'm not going to worry about quality until February, assuming all goes well. Looking way ahead, I want to be at 15-17 hours a week (~90-105 miles), by June and totally locked into the Leadville 100.

It's really quite amazing that I average one significant/semi-significant injury per year:

2011: Posterior tibial tendonitis while training for the Georgia Marathon
2010: Plantar fasciitis while training for the Leadville 100, but I still got 'er done, as usual
2009: Heel bursitis (felt exactly like Achilles tendonitis) after the USA 24-hour national championship in the fall
2008: Wicked runner's knee (patellar femoral pain) after finishing 4th at the Mohican 100; nasty hamstring pull in the fall while training for the Columbus Marathon (still went sub-3:00)

I was pretty healthy in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, save a case of hip bursitis in 2006 that gave me problems during my Boston Marathon training and the race itself, and a brief bout with IT band syndrome in 2007. Hamstring tendonitis has been an ongoing deal for me, but it's never been disabling, thank goodness.

Anyway, I think this shutdown is a blessing in disguise, and I say that not from rationalization but from pure reason. I've been racing 100s since 2007 and eventually the mileage and punishment catch up to you, especially when you're knocking on the big 4-0 and live at 6,200 feet, where running takes a lot more effort. I'll be 39 this June and maybe a few weeks off each winter going forward will do me some good, physically and mentally. Right now I feel mentally recharged and ready to get back to running with a goal of having my best year ever (that's saying a lot because I had a decent little run in 2008-2009). Physically, we'll see. But I do believe these two weeks have helped bring some much-needed, long overdue healing to my body, especially after a pretty aggressive 2011 racing schedule that included demanding events like the Jemez 50-Mile, Leadville Marathon and Leadville 100. I've read that ultrarunners like Scott Jurek and Yiannis Kouros take time off each year, and recently I read that Geoff Roes is going to take the winter off from running (but will stay quite active). A little time off each year, I think, is a key to longevity and staying healthy.

It's hard for non-ultrarunners to really understand what we put ourselves through. The back-to-back 20s, the early morning long ones, the monster climbs and never-ending descents we hammer, the races themselves, the roots and rocks that twist and turn our ankles and feet in all directions--it all adds up after a while. The volume stresses not only the joints, muscles and bones, but also the mind and endocrine system. If you ever find yourself struggling with sleep, apathy, burn-out and, yes, decreased libido, it's probably because your body is telling you to take some time off. So take it before you come down with an injury!

I love watching this sport and following the exploits of a few notable athletes and friends. I see a lot of ultrarunners out there right now who are on or near the top of the sport, but seem not to incorporate any real recovery or time off (a trap I fell into for years). They may be running well now, but my guess is that they'll flame out because of injury. I think this can all be avoided by taking time off. Yeah, some fitness will be lost in the short term, but you'll be able to get that fitness back fast, while benefiting from a well-rested, recovered mind and body.

I guess that's all a long way of saying I feel ready to get out there and get myself ready for an awesome year. I truly believe I have what it takes to go sub-20 at Leadville.

Totals for the year:

Running mileage: 3,407
Running time: 474 hours
Cycling mileage: 360 (most of it in the past two months)

A down year mileage-wise. Normally I'm at 3,800+. Oh well.


  1. Hey - I hope we can cross paths soon now that you are getting back at it.

  2. Feels good to rest, doesn't it? :)

    I didn't know you had runner's knee. I had some pain in both patellar tendons this summer and shut things down totally for a while. At this point I'm pretty confident it was just tendons and there was no damage.

    Anyway, I went back and read your knee posts, and one thing I didn't find was: did you make any changes (other than more rest) to avoid knee pain? I found my knees were wobbly and made changes to stride mechanics.

  3. What was your healing process like for Heel Bursitis?

  4. GZ: Absolutely. I haven't yet started running--will start on Friday.

    Jeff: I almost always have runner's knee after every 100 I do. I find that it usually clears up fast provided I do the recovery process right. I use ice therapy. In 2008 I had a really bad case thar required some PT. I think it plaqued me for about 3 weeks.

    Tyler: I had PT for my heel bursitis. It involved iontophoresis and stretches. Keeping the calves stretched is important.

  5. Are you also stretching or doing any massage/foam rolling/tennis ball action? I am having the same pain and am unsure about stretching. I know my calves are tight and i need to stretch regularly in the future. But right now stretching is pretty painful- I'm wondering if I'm doing more harm than good... Just curious about your thoughts. Thanks!

  6. Anonymous: My doctor ordered total rest. He also referred me to PT, which I begin today. I'm sure PT will involve some stretches and stengthening exercises, as well as ultrasound therapy, iontophoresis and probably massage. If I were you, I'd see an ortho or sports medicine specialist right away. I got the distinct impression that this is no injury to fool around with. A rupture of the tendon is a major injury. Also, early treatment dramatically improves your ability to get over it more quickly. I anticipate dealing with lingering effects for a few months. I just want to be back to 100% by March.

    Good luck!