Saturday, June 14, 2008

Found my Achilles heel

Well, I knew it was there all along actually. But yes, my Achilles heel is my Achilles heel. It has brought me down. Undone. A non-runner am I.

There have been further minuscule signs of improvement in it over the past couple of weeks; I even ran a few km on the treadmill a few nights ago (somewhat painfully).

But today I finally got around to going to see the highly recommended orthopedic surgeon in Hatsudai (thanks to Numasawa-san for giving up her yoga to come and help interpret for me). The doctor did a lot of head shaking and saying, "You really should have come in when it was first sore. It is too late to do anything now. Even top runners stop running when they get Achilles soreness...yadda yadda yadda." But he was also very understanding and sympathetic. He basically said if I get it better to come back and tell him how I did it because he doesn't really know what to recommend except complete rest ... no elliptical, no bike ... swimming and weight training, sure, but nothing that puts the Achilles through repetitive stresses. I respect him for what he said. It wasn't borne out of ignorance because he said cortisone, bah, you don't want that because it will weaken your tendon and it will snap. Operation, well, it might work and it might not and you can't run for six months after it. He himself had an Achilles operation and it didn't work, so he was not falling over himself to recommend it. He basically said you just have to suck it and take the time off. As long as it takes. Which was OK because it just reaffirmed what I had already set my mind to do. But his stridency about the complete rest was going a step further than I had been able to bring myself to do. I am going to keep up the heel drop (eccentric contraction) calf strengthening though. I asked whether anti-inflammatory creams would be worth trying and he said yes and prescribed one.

He took an x-ray too, by the way, and it clearly showed the thickened lumpy bit in the tendon, not that I needed an x-ray to know it was there. But something new it showed was that right behind the tendon in line with the thickening there was a bit of bone protruding off my heel bone. He thinks that is probably contributing to the pain, so that is a bit of a worry as it is not going to just dissolve.

So, that's it folks. No Ohtawara this year. No Tokyo Marathon next year. No trail running on sweltering summer days followed by swims in the river at Musashi-itsukaichi. In short, a bit of a bummer.

The great challenge is now to see if I can keep up the motivation to exercise at the gym and whatnot, because just a couple of evenings of that really bites into work/family time so much more than when I was getting up at 5:30 three or four mornings a week and logging
100 km a week of running -- so much of my workout time was done while the family slept.

Anyway, that's where I am at. Updates will follow as and when I can.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Bumpety bump, bump, bump

That's me at the moment. Bumping along in the current of life. I'm enjoying certain aspects of being able to put some focus on things other than running--family, brewing, lazy afternoons--but it is certainly different not having that driving pull of the next run hanging over the head. No sooner one hard session under the belt than looking to the next one by avoiding late nights, sleeping in, over-indulgence, and overtime. None of that any more.

Last Sunday night I "celebrated" my first entire week with no run in, well, I don't know how long. It would have to be measured in years rather than months. A far cry from last September when I ran every day in the month.

I nearly made it a second consecutive week, but late this afternoon, with a sense of some improvement in the Achilles (and a DVD that needed returning--I am Legend--don't bother if you haven't see it), I headed out for a "jog". Yes, it really was a jog. About 5:30/km pace most of the least the times when I wasn't standing at lights or handing in the DVD or, and this shows how slow I was going, being stopped by a funny little old lady who insisted on giving me two nodoame (throat lollies) because she likes to, "minna ni shitsetsu shimasu" (be kind to everybody--she was a cracker, in every sense of the word).

I clocked exactly 6 km (according to the footpod) in 34:13...average pace 5:42/km. See? It was a slow jog. There was even a couple of minutes when I was tearing along at 5:00/km, so I guess the "5:30/km most of the time" that I mentioned above was a bit optimistic.

Anyway, no point dwelling on the stats. There is no joy to be had there. The point of the run was just to see how my Achilles is going. And the goodish news is that it was not as sore as it was two and a half weeks ago when I last ran. On a pain scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is no pain (and the target I am aiming at) and 10 is sharp, shooting agony, I guess I moved from 6 to 5. Waaay hooo! Such progress!

But really, I am encouraged. Encouraged enough to know that very little to zero running is the right course. And to keep up with the tedious heel drop exercises.

Apart from this, I have been along to the gym sort of semi-regularly (twice a week if I'm lucky). Managing about 30 minutes on an elliptical trainer-like thing (actually called "Arc Trainer": picture; discussion) and 20 minutes on a bike followed by an upper body strength workout from "Run Strong" (edited by Kevin Beck). The main point of all the weights is to get a body like Harvey Keitel in "The Piano", you know, a few muscles to go with the gut ;-)

Gym sessions are best endured by borrowing Mr 15-year-old's MP3 player and listening to his collection of Offspring, RHCP, Nirvana, Sum41, etc. and, his latest, Hadouken!