Well friends, it’s been a while….
In my last post a couple of months ago, I rather brashly described my impressively linear progress. As tends to happen, I then immediately proceeded to Overdo Things and then did not make a ton of progress for about a month.
A work trip to New York in mid July made it clear that I really still could not walk around for hours without consequences. Consecutive days of walking a little too much every day resulted in some swelling and soreness which took several days to settle. I have no regrets however about this better than usual work trip. I stayed opposite Central Park and spent hours walking around its inviting greenery and glorious trees.
Unexpectedly, I also ended up catching up with an old friend, Tim, whom I had not seen in over 20 years. My reaction to the prospect of catching up with people from previous chapters in life usually ranges from hesitation to outright avoidance. I can’t entirely articulate why I do this but it has something to do with the gulf between former and current times and selves being uncomfortably vast. On this particular occasion though, I didn’t hesitate. It was a wonderful couple of hours spent talking about life, careers, and complicated feelings towards New Zealand and the US in a way that I haven’t been able to with anyone else because no one else I know shares quite such similar experience. We probably could have talked for several more hours but instead we walked up to Grand Central Station so Tim could catch his train home. It was getting dark and New York was looking beautiful all lit up on a hot summer evening. It was great end to the day but my heel was on fire by the time I got back to the hotel. It took several days for things to settle down after this trip and I ended up not being able to run at all that week.
For the next few weeks I was running on the Alter G at physical therapy and doing one run/walk a week outside. I was stuck at 1:30 run/1:00 walk intervals and to be honest it really didn’t feel that good. My discomfort level during that 90 seconds of running, while not great, was enough to provoke anxiety and interfere with any of the usual running endorphins. My heel would always be a bit sore afterwards but usually back to baseline the next day. The physios insisted that I was not hurting my tendon so I kept persisting.
In early August, I stopped going to physical therapy although not for reasons to do with my heel. I felt like I was still benefiting from going and had been mastering more and more advanced strength and stability moves. I had got up to running at 95% of my bodyweight on the Alter G but was still finding that outside running was uncomfortable. The last day I went, I was getting laser on my heel as I always did at the end of every session (I am convinced that laser therapy really helps both pain and healing) when the person operating the laser started asking me when I was going to stop coming because I was “really advanced.” I said I wasn’t sure but probably sometime soon. She then made a remark about “some people” having “difficulty transitioning.” This person was not anyone who had worked with me over the past four months, just one of a number of people at the clinic who were frequently around but whose role was a bit unclear. Suddenly I felt like I must be the subject of conversation amongst the staff. Was I that patient that keeps coming when they don’t need to anymore? That person who is wasting appointment time that could be spent on more deserving patients? Most likely this was not in fact the case but I had the unpleasant feeling that a cutting remark, whether intended or not, produces. Upon leaving, I canceled my next three appointments and have not gone back.
The exchange seemed like yet another manifestation of a general lack of professionalism at this clinic that had long irked me. The two main people I primarily worked with were individually excellent and did a tremendous job with very focused specific rehab for my injury. My current status today is in large part due to their good work. Unfortunately other aspects of the clinic were less impressive. The staff would often ignore patients and get wrapped up in talking and laughing amongst themselves in a way that felt vaguely discourteous. There seemed to be a suspiciously high rate of staff turnover. (Both the aforementioned excellent PTs are no longer at the clinic.) There was a constant stream of physical therapy students doing their clinic hours who were often not introduced or supervised properly. Most of them were eager and nice but I tired of explaining the same thing to so many new people. Sometimes I would have to tell the new person of the week to check my notes because what they were telling me to do was inconsistent with what I was doing before. As is usually the case though, businesses that could really stand to improve are never the ones handing out comment cards and asking how they are doing.
After I stopped going to PT, I started doing all my run/walk intervals outside. It didn’t feel like I was making much progress for a while but for the last month I’ve been doing 30 minutes total running time every few days without any setbacks. I’ve slowly increased the running interval by :30 every week or two and now I’m handling 3:00/1:00 just fine. More significantly, the discomfort level has really improved in the last couple of weeks. I’ve gone from a 3 -4 or sometimes 5/10 on the discomfort scale to a 2-3/10. My heel settles down more quickly after a run and is noticeably more resilient to everyday stresses. And of course diminished discomfort brings increased running happiness.
It was exactly a year ago yesterday that I started an easy run and was near felled within a mile by a sharp pain in my tendon. It would be the last time I would go for a run in 2018. I scheduled surgery two weeks later and I was unable to walk without limping for a month. One of the challenges of this surgery is you have to take a big step back to go forward. For many months I was in more discomfort and was far less able to walk (let alone run) than I was before surgery. The occasional peek at my 2018 training logs would remind me that I was still nowhere near running what I was able to run on a sore heel last summer. This week though, my September 2019 self just ran past my September 2018 self. Coincidentally, I saw the surgeon today for my first follow up in months. He confirmed that I’m doing great and that all I have to do from here is not Overdo Things. My next appointment? Not till 2020. Upward trajectory, friends.