The Road Back

Posted: January 14, 2013 in Training

At 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning 15,000 runners stood outside of Minute Maid Park in Downtown Houston for the 41st running of the Chevron Houston Marathon.

Another 7,000 runners were nervously entering the starting corral at the 3M Half Marathon in Austin.

On Palmbrook Drive a runner stood in his driveway waiting for his GPS Watch to find its satellite signal on a morning that was perfect for a run.  40 degrees, light winds, sun rising off to the East.  All 22,000 runners were nervous, wondering what the first few strides would tell them.

For everyone but me, they were thinking about Marathon Medals, PR’s and post-race satisfaction.

All I wanted to do was run a mile without any pain in my left foot/Achilles.

I wasn’t going to be greedy.  Just a mile.  If I could stretch it out to 2, that would be beyond my expectations and I would shut things down right then and there, no matter how good it felt to run.

Well, I never really got a chance to find out as when I took my first strides up the block I could tell that we were not quite right yet.

The good news is that the pain in the Achilles and bottom/outside of my foot is gone.  The 3 weeks of rest has done its trick and we are now in a good place from a pain perspective.

The bad news is that all that time I have had to walk a little more stiffly, landing a little more gingerly with a slight limp.  It has made my Achilles tendon tight and I have lost some of the flexibility in my toe off.  I was running without pain, but I was heel-striking in a big way.  Something that if I continued on would manifest itself someplace else in my body.  That is the difficult part coming back from a lower leg injury.

The knee bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the ankle bone  – so the story goes.

At 1/4 mile I turned around and ran back to the house.  1/2 mile in the books.  Not enough to even post in my training log.  But I was happy nonetheless.

Big progress was made since I visited Dr. Fernandez last Monday.  I’m very close to being back.  I just have to regain the strength and flexibility on that lower left side of my foot and up into my Achilles.  It’s coming – so now it is going to be a mixture of being patient, while helping it along.

The remedy?  Swimming.

This morning I will hop into the pool for really the second or third time since we finished the Half-Ironman in Kerrville.  The zero impact activity – along with flexing the tendons in my feet to kick and stay streamlined is exactly what we need to get the mobility back in the area.

I was going to start preparing for Triathlon Season on February 1st.  A couple of weeks after Houston when I was fully recovered from the Marathon.

Instead, we are going to get a jump-start on TRI season, get back to running pain-free and set our sights on the Pocono Marathon on May 19th.  If all goes according to plan, we will race our first Triathlon of the year about 4 weeks later than we had planned, but slide in our 2013 marathon in its place.  When we look back on 2013 at the end of the year, hopefully we will hardly remember the few weeks we had to take off early in the year to get over our injury – and instead we will focus on the accomplishments.

A few runners might have been let off the hook on Sunday as we missed a couple of marquee running events here in TX.  But with an extra two weeks of cycling and swimming that we would not have done – perhaps a few triathletes in June are going to be a little bit surprised with our early season fitness level.

Either way, I’m feeling close to 100% health and mentally this break has served me well.  I feel like I have never wanted to train so hard and race so badly as I do right now.

That’s a dangerous combination.

Onward and upward.

  1. Ann says:

    I thought of you all day yesterday Joe. I am glad you are on the mend. I know this was a hard decision but you are a role model for so many runners on Daily Mile and I do believe that you made the smart decision. Having done that you have shown others that it is okay. Sometimes you have to know when to say when.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thank you Ann for the message and the kind words. I know you’ve been through this exact situation. It’s an uncomfortable seat on the sidelines- but that doesn’t mean we can’t cheer on our friends. Thanks so much!

  2. kymklass says:

    Great intro to this post — very telling. I’m sorry for your injury, and know you are making smart and promising choices. Hang in there.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thank you Kym! Coming back from this will be just a minor bump in the road hopefully. A lot of athletes have struggled with far greater setbacks than this. You included in that group. Thanks for all the great support!

  3. Jim in Maine says:

    Really great to read that your patient rehab is paying off Joe. Your plan to start your swimming a tad earlier should pay dividends in many ways and I have no doubt that you will be back to being a race beast in 2013. Missed ya’ this weekend but completely agree with your decision. Looking forward to following your progress the remaining 50 weeks of the new year!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks Jim and congrats on your race Sunday! Conditions were a bit dicey I’ve heard and you ran a very even and strong closing race. No change in pace from 30k to the finish. Congrats Jim! We’ll hook up at the next one I hope! Best to you and Patti and thanks for all the support. Was a bit of a downer yesterday, but we’re going to be just fine moving forward.

  4. Joseph Hayes says:

    I hope this doesn’t sound selfish but you being hurt right now is helping me a lot. I’ve been having some minor patellar tendonitis in both knees so I’m taking some time off. It’s only been two weeks since my last run but it feels like forever and I feel alone in my desperation. I’ve become a major hypochondriac and every little twing or ache in my knee region has me feeling hopeless that it hasn’t healed yet. I’ve got plans on my books and it’s all I can think about right now.

    I wish you had run Houston of course but it is very therapeutic to know that I’m not alone. It’s great to hear someone else speaking positively about the bump in their road and it’s contagious; thanks Joe!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Joseph, so sorry to hear you are on the shelf right now. The good news is you are already two-weeks “to the good”, so just TRY to stay positive and don’t get too down. You will be back and trust me, better than ever. I always learn something about training from an injury and end up stronger and faster when I recover. Keep the faith Joe!

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