It’s been a whole year. And then some. It’s also been five (!) months since I last wrote an update. I’ve been writing this post for about six weeks but keep not quite finishing and then something changes. One of my favorite maxims is “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” so I decided today to just post whatever I could manage in all its unedited incompleteness. (Also, I have a massive work assignment of the brain strain variety to do. Therefore, I am suddenly feeling most inspired to do all sorts of unrelated activities. It never fails.) So, the last few months…
Over Christmas, my Dad remarked “I assumed that things must be going well with your foot since you haven’t posted any updates in a while.” That pretty much sums up the last few months and the reason for my radio silence. The nearly linear upward trajectory since surgery did however hit a bump in the road late last year.
By October, I had worked up to running 40-45 minutes every three days. My heel still felt more niggly than I would have liked but was within the parameters of acceptable, i.e. 2 or 3 out of 10 on the pain scale, no more painful the next day. (In case you are wondering, these are not my rules but rather frequently dispensed advice from the medical profession). My heel was able to tolerate more activity generally as the weeks went by. On my non-running days, I would bike or swim.
At the end of October, I had to go to Miami for a three week trial. As I’ve described before, there’s a lot to dislike about multi-week trials, not least of which is very limited time and opportunities for exercise. I did not have my bike or any opportunity to ride and no access to a pool designed for actual swimming. I thus found myself testing out whether I could increase the frequency of running from every third day to every other day. I feel like there should be a word specifically for a test for harm in which the test harms you. I bet there’s a word in German for it. Anyway, the test run to see if I could handle running every other day ended in an inflamed posterior tibial tendon and four weeks of zero running miles. I’ve always been very prone to compensation injuries and they sometimes turned out to be worse than the original injury. I wasn’t going to mess around with the post tib tendon. It’s a devilishly difficult spot and I suffered through months with it on my other foot several years ago (exacerbated, I have to admit, by a stage of denial). And thus, November turned into a month with only a single run.
When I came back after the trial, I got several shockwave treatments on my post tib tendon which helped almost immediately. I then started up some short run/walk intervals, beginning back at 1:00. It was a bit depressing to feel like I was starting back from scratch again but this time because a different part of my foot was hurting.
In mid December I left for New Zealand. A couple of weeks passed where I largely forgot to think about running and my heel because I was too busy enjoying life. I did an amazing two day ride through magical rainforest with my sister and her family. I rambled over hills and valleys with Dad. I walked around and around the town with Mum. I managed to end all these days without limping around.
For the pièce de résistance, I planned a potentially punishing hike with Husband which I knew would be unrelentingly uphill for several hours. It was exactly the kind of thing that would have rendered me a sad, limping figure a year ago. Instead, my heel was merely a little grumpy at the end of a 5 1/2 hour steep hike and back to baseline in the morning. It was a significant checkmark on the Am I Better Off Than Before Surgery scorecard.
In the midst of all this idyllic frolicking, I also ended up going for a few short runs. My post tib tendon didn’t feel bad but didn’t feel quite right either. My Achilles wasn’t really feeling, well…anything which was a good sign.
A couple of weeks after I came back, virtually on the eve of the one year anniversary of my surgery (it was January 14, so actually the eve of the eve) I woke up and my foot suddenly felt bizarrely normal. As in, just like the other one. I walked around all day wondering if my mind was playing tricks on me. It was not supposed to be a running day as I had been for a run two days ago and was sticking to my every third day schedule but, damn the torpedoes, I went for a run. (Apparently I had temporary amnesia about the test-for-harm-that-ends-up-being-harmful.) Nothing bad happened and nothing bad happened the next day. Since then I have gradually worked up to running 45 minutes every other day. This is a huge step forward over late last year where I really needed two days between runs. Everything just feels massively better too. Running feels likes it used to. I run the same easy pace for the same effort as I used to. I cannot run faster than an easy to moderate effort yet however as it feels like too much load on my Achilles (my heart and lungs could still seriously push the pace though), so there will be no track workouts or races for a good number of months. My post tib tendon is still occasionally slightly niggly but my Achilles feels pretty good. I hate to tempt the running gods by saying this, but I’m feeling pretty positive about things. I’m leaving for another trial in a few days which will almost certainly ensure that I won’t be running more than this amount for the next few weeks due to lack of opportunity.
A few weeks ago I had a follow up appointment with the foot surgeon. It was nice to see that my Achilles looked noticeably better on the imaging than it did even in late November. I received the usual admonition to not Overdo Things, and was strongly counseled to stick with bike and swim training and keep my running mileage lower going forward. All things I’ve already concluded myself.
Finally, after spending last February in a boot on the couch, I was able to resurrect our annual Valentine’s Day/President’s Day weekend outdoor adventure trip. Husband and I spent a wonderful weekend backpacking this loop in Death Valley National Park. I am planning to write a trip report (really!) so I won’t rehash it all here.
Suffice it to say, we covered 26 miles over two days with over 4000 ft of elevation gain on very varied terrain. My heel held up really well. It was a little sore in the evenings but back to baseline by morning. An even more significant checkmark on the Am I Better Off Than Before Surgery scorecard. At the end of the trip, I had some muscular soreness in my right calf and the rest of my right (surgery) leg felt like it had worked slightly harder than my left leg, but it was good soreness, as if I had been to the gym and only worked that leg.
I really, really missed the ability to ramble freely in the outdoors last year, so I’m trying to take advantage of every possibility that comes up. It would be in my best professional interests to show my face at the firm retreat this year. It’s in Atlanta so I’m going up a day or two early to hike the AT approach trail from Amicalola Falls. At the end of May, Husband and I are planning a long weekend in the mountains of North Carolina where his parents have a cabin. Before then though I have a stretch of seriously officebound weeks. So friends, wish me forbearance and a continued upward trajectory.