I know, I know. I've neglected the blog. For those of you who check back regularly and found no new adventures, I do apologize. For those of you just tuning in, I promise to be better going forward. There was some method to my madness. Well, there was/is definitely madness.
Things all started to fall apart shortly after my last post - the run around St. Helen's. I did a fabulous training run on the Wonderland Trail and felt... you guessed it... pain. It wasn't bad pain, but it was ACHILLES pain. It scared me to death. I was looking at views like the one below, though, so how can one really complain?
See, even now I'm doing everything I can to avoid talking about the injury. I refused to acknowledge it in public thinking it would just go away. I'd never had Achilles pain before but I knew enough to know it's not something you mess around with. I took a rest week and hoped that would fix me up and well, it didn't. I sucked it up and went to the dreaded doctor. Achilles tendonitis, or more accurately, Achilles tenosynovitis. I had fluid in the sheath around the tendon. Tendon itself looked to be in good shape (so little chance of a rupture), but the fluid would take 6 weeks or so to go away. For this little tiny bit of fluid? You must be joking. As it turned out, my journey was just beginning.
I spent the month of October and November doing some intense deep water running and PT. When I say intense deep water running, I mean it. I was in the pool at least 2 hours a day for those 2 months, running without a flotation vest and keeping my heart rate high. This usually required intervals. It wasn't fun by any means. I used to run in the pool in college as a 2nd workout but the maximum time was 30 minutes. 2 hours is a long haul in the pool. Especially day after day. I got a waterproof Ipod and I honestly think it saved my life. I did all this because I planned on running the HURT 100 in January and I desperately wanted to keep my fitness and hope alive that I'd still be racing. Tickets were purchased and I was very excited to run that race.
Come mid-November I had to face reality. I still wasn't running, the Achilles was taking its sweet time to heal and someone else deserved my spot at HURT. I agonized over it for days because it meant giving up. I'm not a quitter and I worked so hard to stay fit... but reality was my body was telling me something and I needed to listen. My Achilles wasn't ready to train and if I pushed it too soon I would pay a hefty price I was sure. I cried for days. My pool workouts were insanely good, though, that week as I worked out my frustration. I got my heart rate up near 200, where my usual high was in the mid 180s. I still get teary thinking about how hard that was.
As I started running again in small amounts I wanted to believe all was well. It wasn't. I'd fixed the "symptoms" but not the cause. It came back when I put it under any load in November. To say I was crushed was an understatement. I immediately sought out another opinion from a PT in Seattle. He quickly determined my corrective orthotics were sending me the WRONG way when my foot struck the ground. With some stretching, strengthening and abandonment of my orthotics, I thought all was good. And it was... for a while.
I got up to some reasonably good amount of mileage in December and January as I built slowly from some easy base running. Things looked to be back on track and I was flying high. I felt surprisingly good when I ran road miles, the pool workouts really do keep your aerobic fitness. I did a few trail runs and the anaerobic fitness isn't there but that returns fairly quickly. I was/am hoping to run a 100 in June and I thought things were looking way way up.
However, about 2 weeks ago I had another setback. I am not sure if I increased too much too soon (I doubt this highly because I really was being smart - honest!) or if I torqued it funny on a trail run. But I'm seeing a new PT who has some ideas about my body being out of alignment. From her evaluation I think she's on to something. With some realignment and strengthening I think I might FINALLY be on the road to recovery. Hope is hard to come by sometimes when things keep going as they have been, but I've gotta keep it alive. I'm an ultrarunner and that's what we do. We never give up.
Injury teaches you an awful lot. Some lessons are easier than others. I've learned so much about myself... who I really am, what my tolerance levels are, what really motivates me and most importantly, that I can take one hell of a beating. But I've also learned that I need to be even stronger. I'm not perfect. My body needs things and listening to it is the only way you're ever going to get where you want to be. The mind is a powerful thing but the body has to be healthy and ready to go before limits can be crushed. And finally, I've learned a lot about who my real friends are. I've had several people just totally surprise me with their kindness, their support, their compassion and their never-ending faith in me. I've had some very rough days lately and I feel truly blessed to have these magnificent people in my life. These kind of surprises - where people love you enough to be there when times are hard - are gems in life. I will never forget the people who have touched me and helped me beyond words.
Stay tuned for the injury finale. :)
And watch out - many more blog posts coming soon with some EXCITING stuff.