Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Achilles heel is my...


I mutter that word (or its equivalent) sotto voce (or louder) at some point during almost every run.

And that's really OK. My wife and I both take odd comfort in the fact that running is--per my buddy Glen--all about "managing discomfort." Neither of us is a teenager, and over the last nearly three years, I've learned that many aches and pains are not true injuries but simply the body's pouting at the loss of its cherished inertia. A little soreness, a little tiredness? No big worry.

Of course, our running is occasionally halted by actual injury: IT band pain kept me off the roads, trails, and treadmill for nearly two months early last year. Nagging knee and ankle injuries sometimes sideline my wife. But those setbacks have been rare and short-lived. Most of the discomfort we manage is more annoying than debilitating.

But what about discomfort that somehow falls between those poles?

I've been experiencing soreness in my Achilles tendons for several months now. Not every run, and not during the duration of any run...but it's there. I originally thought the pain was due to a switch to a softer-heeled shoe early this year, as I felt the pain more while wearing that pair than when wearing the older, slightly stiffer one. But despite a recent shoe upgrade, the tenderness persists. I've read horror stories of exacerbating Achilles tendon injuries; just the term rupture makes me shudder.

The prudent decision would simply be to replace running with, say, cycling for a few weeks. But because I'm a stubborn ass, I've refused to simply take an extended break from running, especially now that I've "officially" begun training for my fall marathon. Fortunately, increasing distance (I ran my first official long training run this morning) doesn't seem to irritate the tendons; running fast, however--and especially running fast up hills--does.

So while I've committed to a training plan that includes more speedwork than previous plans I've followed, I think I'm just going to have to focus more on the distances themselves than on the specialized speed training (intervals, hill repeats) that seem to hurt more than help right now. Maybe I can reintroduce those runs in a couple of weeks. But the short-term goal is to prevent discomfort from degenerating into something more sinister.

Running log: 10.3 sweaty miles: 4.8 alone and 5.5 with the Breakaway training group

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