"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it will last forever."
- Eric Thomas, quoting Lance Armstrong
We went again this morning for an hour. It's supposed to be a "day off" on the program, but I'm determined to work out this Achilles thing. The alarm sang at 4am, and I hit snooze. My eyes opened at 4:30, realizing the alarm wouldn't be reminding me again that it's time to awaken. I kissed my wife, forced my feet onto the floor and hobbled down the stairs. My first several steps in the morning are with stiff ankles, since both Achilles are incredibly tight out of bed. I again wondered if I'll run this thing in October pain free, accepting I probably won't.
I did a pre-run yoga routine (thanks to YouTube) and pulled things together before walking upstairs to get Hank. Laying peacefully on the bed, I whispered in his ear, "Want to go for a walk?" and BAM! he went from zero to four legs in half a millisecond. Hank's excitement elicited a giggle from my semi-sleeping wife. I kissed her again on the forehead, then Hank and I were out the door.
It was an uneventful walk. I sped to a jog a few times to test the legs (although I'm not sure using a form of the word "speed" is appropriate to describe what I did this morning). They were tight - as expected. The left shin and the right Achilles were stressed and sore. When I extended my stride the pain in the right Achilles sharpened so I kept strides short. While walking I lengthened my stride to stretch the calves. It provided small relief, but tightness remained. Near the end, I tried something new. A half mile from home, I started lifting my knees up high. Stretching between runs has focused on calves, hips, hamstrings, and groin - but very little on the quads. Amazingly, loosening my hips and quads with the high knees somehow caused the pain and tightness in my right calf / Achilles to disappear. It was a fragile peace, but it was peace. I tried skipping with a high knee, but the extension of the "launch" leg caused sharp pain to return - so I stuck with just raising knees high.
On Saturday when I returned from my 13.1 mile experience on the West Orange Trail, my wife tried to cheer me up by telling me how far I've come, and how much I'm learning about my body. She's amazing. Aside from all she's fought and won, and her incredible looks, she's also incredibly sweet and very smart. That's not sucking up to one of my only readers. These are things I tell her every day. In this case, she's right about how much I've learned about how my body responds. Brett Klika first showed me how the muscles of the lower body are all intertwined with the tennis ball trigger point pressure on the bottom of the foot, calves and butt. But I never thought of a connection between the quadriceps / hips and the calves. Checking the Internet, I'm not finding anything linking the quads and the calves, but I know what I experienced this morning. The lesson this morning is the ENTIRE lower body needs to be kept loose because it's all linked together.
This week will continue with an aggressively conservative approach. That means something new every day throughout the day, but keeping off the road until this Achilles / calf issue is solved. I draw strength from a memory of my mom's friend in Alaska who ran the New York City Marathon after training exclusively on a Stairmaster in the early '90's. I remember meeting her at the gym while visiting my mom and stepfather in Anchorage soon after Christmas just after finishing college. The next time I saw her was from a distance the following November as she ran by the spot where my roommate and I were stationed on First Avenue watching the marathon a half block from our apartment on the Upper East Side. This week, I'll adjust the time spent on my Stairmaster routine to assume 10 minutes per mile for the distance I should be running instead of relying on the Stairmaster to determine the distance. That means rather than run three miles tomorrow on the Stairmaster, I'll run thirty minutes. Stretching will be a constant presence in the day, along with some strength training at the gym and while I'm in my office.
I'll continue getting comfortable being uncomfortable. And the pain I feel over the next couple months will NOT be from quitting. It'll be from fighting through this to get to the end.