Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pride Cometh Before...

It was really more of a stumble than a fall...

I made it to the Memphis Greenline around 8:45 this morning. The air was beginning to warm in the sun, but the shady spots were still deliciously cool. With a near-balance of anxiety and excitement, I walked the half block from my car to the High Point Terrace Greenline entrance, reset my stopwatch, and started my slow, easy run.

My physical therapist OK'd this run, but instructed me to note any stiffness or soreness in either achilles tendon, especially the extra-vulnerable right one. My first glance at the stopwatch was about 30 seconds in. All felt fine. Along the way, heading east from High Point Terrace, I met numerous cyclists, several other joggers and walkers, some in pairs, some with pooches. It was a lovely morning to continue the Greenline's "soft" opening.

Three, four, five, eight minutes passed pain free. I paused a couple of times to snap a few photos (one of which is shown above)...just a nice, relaxed jog. At about the 12-minute mark, I came to the Waring intersection and decided to turn around (my therapist OK'd "one or two miles," so 24 minutes total would probably push me slightly over that limit, even at the easy pace).

My time totaled 15, then 18, then 20 minutes, and my tendons still felt fine (though my other joints began to feel the effects of a 2-month layoff from running!). At about the 21-minute mark, I began to approach High Point Terrace. After all my worry about "failing," I'd passed my first test in my recovery. I was pleased, maybe even a little cocky. I stepped off to the right to snap one more photo to preserve the moment, to bask in the glow of victory and the warmth of the morning sun.

Then I looked down at my camera phone, misstepped, and promptly sprained my ankle on the edge of the newly laid asphalt.

At least now I won't be tempted to run further than prescribed...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I completed my third round of physical therapy today. I can honestly say that I've never in my life stretched more than I have the last week. It's a mental challenge completing my three rounds each of multiple sets of multiple stretching and "eccentric" exercises (ones that serve to lengthen tendons rather than contract them) every day.

Compared to my daily rounds of on-my-own assignments, the actual PT sessions are quite pleasant. My therapist is originally from South Africa, and I enjoy listening to her accent as she speaks. Also, in addition to reviewing old and introducing new exercises, my sessions also include ultrasound and icing therapy. The former is essentially a foot massage with the warming ultrasound cream (there's probably a correct, technical name for it), and the latter involves not actual ice but a cold pad or wrap that is placed over the backs of my feet for about 8 minutes. Heretofore, I'd heard of ultrasonography only in the context of obtaining scans of unborn children in the womb; I didn't know I could "have an ultrasound" as well. (ps: It's a boy!)

I have one more session scheduled, for next Monday. At that visit, my therapist will let me know if she recommends that I return to my sports medicine specialist for a follow-up exam. At this point, I'm willing to accept pretty much anything--recovery short cuts ultimately prevented me from running, and since the ultimate goal is to get back out there, I want to make sure I'm really ready when I am finally cleared to run.

As a possible harbinger of that day, though, my therapist asked me to go on a short run--on a flat road, slowly--sometime this weekend to see how my tendons will respond. I'm planning to run for 15 or 20 minutes this Saturday on the newly opened Memphis Greenline paved path (pictured above), noting if and when pain arises and then how long before any such pain subsides after I finish my run. Having resisted the urge to run countless times over the past several weeks, I'm both thrilled and nervous about the idea of actually going on a run--and doing so with the therapist's blessing.

Most Saturday races here in town start at 8:00 a.m.

I wonder if I'll be able to wait that long...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Back in November 2007, I ran in the Race for Grace 5K.

That race was special for me for at several reasons: (1) the Race for Grace serves as a fundraiser for the Church Health Center--a most worthy cause you can read about here; (2) it was my first race after many years of not running; and (3) the course wound through the neighborhood in which I lived for most of my childhood and teen years.

Now, I wasn't really "ready" to run that race; in fact, I did it in response to a request from my mom, a nurse who, at that time, volunteered regularly at the Church Health Center. Accepting her challenge, I experienced side stiches, shortness of breath--and the joy of crossing the finish line. I can really look back at that day as the one on which I started to become a runner.

If my recovery from achilles tendonitis goes as planned, I should be more than ready to run by the time the Race for Grace arrives this year.

But I'm not signing up for it. Instead, the 2010 Race for Grace may very well mark my wife's racing debut.

Unlike me in '07, Cindy wants to be extra prepared for her first race. By her reasoning, if she's able to run 4 miles on the treadmill (her "comfort zone"), she'll be able to handle 3.1 miles on the road. I think she's already more than ready for any 5K she'd choose, but I understand the need to feel psychologically as well as physically prepared.

I'm planning to cheer her on, hold a sign, play auxiliary percussion instruments, and generally make a fool of myself on her behalf. She'd do the same for me; heck, she's done so more than once. In fact, Cindy has been more supportive of--and patient with--me in my running obsession (er, endeavors) than I could reasonably expect someone to be. A closet full of stinky shoes (and shirts and shorts) and a husband who crawls out of bed in the morning dark time and again are only a couple of the inconveniences she endures patiently, calmly, sweetly.

She may officially run in that 5K for the first time in November. For me, though, Cindy has run, and won, the Race for Grace many, many times over.

What's Up, Doc?

I finally sought medical advice for my aching achilles tendons.

It was a big deal for me to do so: I'm not afraid of doctors or medical care per se, but like many folks I tend to avoid them unless I have no other recourse. After several weeks sidelined from running, I felt I had no other recourse. Fortunately, my primary care doc is also a friend and fellow songwriter--and his office is within walking distance of mine. A quick exam of the tendons yielded his recommendation that I see a sports medicine specialist, who happened to be a distance runner herself.

After accidentally arriving an hour early for my appointment (a bit eager, Dave?), I had x-rays taken (negative, no surprise) and then was introduced to Dr. L, who has to be one of the most energetic, enthusuiastic people I've ever met. Noting my rather wide calves and tight achilles tendons, she commented, "You must've played field sports growing up, eh?" She was right, of course. Turns out that, while I'm "built" well for sports like soccer and football that require quick shifts and turns, I'm not exactly the ideal physical specimen for distance running (no real shock there).

My treatement, then, will consist of two related arms: (1) reducing the pain and swelling in the achilles tendons themselves and (2) loosening my tight lower legs. For the former, she gave me a cortisone shot just above my right achilles tendon (the left one is much less tender and swollen), provided me with an air cast for that foot, and sent me home with topical anti-inflammatory cream. To address the latter, she referred me to a physical therapist, whom I'll visit for the first time tomorrow.

Perhaps the best part of the visit, though, was Dr. L's empathy. "You miss running, don't you? And that makes you sad, huh?" I could only nod my head affirmatively. "Well," she concluded, "we'll have you out there running again within two weeks."

I wasn't wearing my iPod, but that was the sweetest running song I'd heard in a long, long time. I hope she's right.