I never contradict myself except when I do. Having gotten that statement out of the way, I’ll tell you that I always preach looking at the long term, assuring that you’ll be running ten years from now, and not worrying so much about next week. I found myself echoing that approach last week when queried by the parents of a cross country protégé I’d coached through her middle-school years, now worried about a high-school injury. Take the time, heal, this is only one season, you want to be there over the long run. But it’s a lot harder to adhere to that good advice when you yourself are the patient.
I find myself hobbled of late, and stuck on precisely that contradiction. My brain knows that the long run is important, but my heart doesn’t want to stop running. With the two-year anniversary of my run-every-day streak approaching, it would be a significant disappointment to turn it off now, thus forever (or for at least another two years) having to say that I made it almost two years. As we half-Polish folks always say (because you’re always free to insult yourself) almost only counts in horseshoes, darts, and Polish brain surgery.
But do I hang on, hobbling through pained three-mile jogs, just to hit that two-year mark? Does that impart additional injury? Does that only extend, or worse, prevent, my recovery? Or will this too pass, and will my strategy of reducing training intensity to something just above slug-speed in fact succeed in bringing about healing and wholeness? Will time tell, and if so, how much time?
What’s going on is that the Pesky Achilles that’s been on-and-off annoying for over a year suddenly decided to be on in a major way, causing downright alarming discomfort even for someone accustomed to pain and agony. Alarming enough to make me worry about things that could but aren’t likely to happen, but would be really bad if they did. Tendons do tear, as I know from personal experience, but there’s no strong reason to think this isn’t anything more than inflamed and perhaps bound up in its sheath again. Tendons do separate from their skeletal anchor points, as I know from a close friend who managed not to actually rip his Achilles off his bone, but rip the bit of bone that held his Achilles out of the surrounding bone. Ouch. But lots of things can happen every day in every aspect of our lives, and we don’t stop living.
So the game becomes determining how serious this thing really is. Short of going in for a full MRI and finding a tear, highly unlikely given no loss of strength, any medical assessment will likely result in the phrase, “It’s inflamed”, with the usual treatment recommendations. But I wouldn’t be writing this if it hadn’t gotten bad enough to make me drop my mileage to its lowest level since that presumed stress fracture in the fall of twenty-ten. Maybe this is ugly. Ugly things can happen.
On the flip side, as much as I tell myself this wasn’t related to Boston, a statement made in defiant defense by an old guy determined not to let his Half-Century Club status appear to be a limitation, it more than likely is. No, it didn’t reveal itself till a week after the race, but the utterly shredded state of my muscles for that first week pretty much disabled my ability to feel anything else, let alone stress anything else. And if I shredded the muscles, what would be the surprise of other bits standing up in protest when given their moment in the sun? In a way, believing this is a result of Boston is a comfort. It didn’t just decide to go south, it had a very good reason, and therefore my demise is not at hand. Or as GBTC buddy Doug put it, “An Achilles is a small price to pay for a huge lifetime PR!” Let’s just call this the defiant defense determined to deny demise.
And on that assumption, I haven’t broken the streak, I’ve only broken my training intensity, which in reality is a healthy thing to do now and then, at least physically. Mentally, a week and a half of daily three-mile snail-outings has me crawling up walls, especially considering the perfect May days I’ve been largely missing out on, Today I simply couldn’t take it any longer, and stretched out a longer, though easy-paced, amble. It wasn’t healed, (I’ll avoid the bad puns about getting an Achilles heel to heal), but I’d like to think it was better. Or perhaps my brain is also hobbled into wishful thinking.
Meanwhile, any thoughts of a second spring race went out the door long ago. No trying out new venues like Burlington’s Key Bank or that interesting small marathon I heard about in southern Vermont, nor a repeat trek to favorite Buffalo. The Clinton Tribute passed, unraced, as did a few other local races. Time ticks away, but by backing off, by not racing this week or next, I hope to be racing in ten years.
Maybe I don’t contradict myself after all.