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.


plu said...

Thnaks for the update. I guess we need to find alternatives to running as well as running when we can run.

cheers PLu

Christian said...

steve, sad to read that...
bad news but shoganai, you can't change it... take your time - we're all looking forward to your comeback!
cheers, christian - who currently isn't running either

Scott Brown said...

There is somehow a relieved tone to that post Stephen. I might be reading that into it but it is better to really know what the problem/solution is and steel yourself for the remedy.

I know exactly what you are saying in the last paragraph, but if there is nothing else you can do you are going to have to take the time away from work and family and spend it at the gym or some other way. It does sound like I'm advocating being selfish, still if you don't keep up a certain level of fitness you won't be happy and more to the point it will take much longer to come back to where you're getting up early, running, and not taking so much time away from work/friends and family.

Just keep thinking and looking for evidence, and there is plenty out there, that people even those much older and with far less talent than you come back stronger from such injuries. You should fully expect to be PBing at all distances within a year of getting over this, whether it takes 1 or 5 years to satrt running in earnest again.

Keep your chin chin up!

Ewen said...

That is bad news Steve, but like Scott said, at least you know where you're at. A good surgeon not to recommend surgery!

Fingers crossed that in time (6-9 months) it will settle down. I do know a runner who has come back well from achilles surgery in his 50s, but he was out for 12 months (and running like a dog for another 12).

Do enough at the gym to keep the weight down. Start brewing low-carb beer! Hang in there mate, and keep in touch.

Clairie said...

Hiya Matey,

I dont know what to say :(
"bummer dude" doesn't really convey the meaning of the big hug I want to give you..
As someone who has struggled to come back to running (after initially struggling to give it up) I know how you are feeling and even what you will go through in the weeks/months to come.
The whole social aspect and the psychological aspect are so much keener than just the physical act of running. The fitness itself is something easy to replace...the others are not.

I agree that there is nothing like running that you can do anywhere at any is so convenient to fit in around the family and you can be very unselfish with arranging it when it least affects others. The gym doesn't always give you these options and I am finding that neither does a 7 month old baby....

anyhow I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing the woes of a wannabe runner even if it is just to hear how the brew is brewing....I mean it - keep in touch.


Jay said...

Hi Steve - I was distressed to read of the confirmation of your fears regarding the achilles. As someone dealing with nagging running injuries for a quarter of a century, I know the frustration. But also I know from experience you can come back and run PBs. And who knows, in the meantime maybe you will grow to love swimming - and soon be joining us at open-water swim races.

Gordon said...

Steve, I reckon you should give Onogi-san at Idaten in Yotsuya Sanchome a go. He's cleared up my achilles pain in the right leg and he's got me running again. ¥5,250 gets you two hours of treatment - and he attacks it three ways: massage, acupuncture and some lazer thingybob. Like I mentioned before, after the treatment I feel no pain for two days, but then it creeps back. I reckon if you strung a few days of treatment together with complete rest it might even do the trick (I just read that Aussie cyclist Cadel Evans cleared up his achilles pain in three weeks with treatment every day - expensive, but for the price of a new stereo you get your legs back - maybe).

Joachim said...

this news is not good news. But at least you know where you're at right now. Whether you're running or not, you ARE a runner. Take your time off and even if it takes some months you'll be back for sure. Hang in, I'll be looking for you at Yoyogi park on Wednesday from now on ;-)
I'll be doing the 100k Ultra in October for you my friend!

Tesso said...

Bugger bugger bugger :( I really didn't think it would be that serious, I guess you hoped it wouldn't.

I made the same mistake as you several years ago and ignored achilles pain, I ended up having to take about 2 2/1 months off running. I recall the physio suggesting I don't even cycle or swim, or if I did swim then not to kick.

He recommended water running though which I did and it helped heaps. A couple of my (very fast) training buddies up here were injured last year and water ran their way back to such a good level of fitness that they set PBs. Both are in their mid 40s and had been running for years. What they did is do in the pool the same sort of session they were scheduled to do on the road ie speed, long runs etc.

Robert Song said...

You have years of running ahead of you. The time taken off to get this right will quickly be forgotten. In the mean time, do make sure you keep fit even if it does mean some sacrificies. I'm sure your family will understand how important it is to you.


MilesandMiles said...

very sorry to hear that bad new. I have been struggling with plantar fascia injury recently and it's not fun! I agree that you have to try to somehow find the time to do alternative exercise (if only weights at home)... you cant go from 120k per week to no exercise, you will go nuts... My sport doctor recommended hamstring/quad exercises (low resistance very high number of reps...), water running and upper body weights routines... Hang in there . Arnaud