I started 2016 by putting in a lot of meters on my Concept2 rowing machine, and very few miles on the road or treadmill, because I finally decided it was time to let my nagging Achilles tendinitis resolve itself. My miles run/meters rowed by month tell the story:
- January: 29 miles/141,800 meters
- February: 53 miles/78,300 meters
- March: 67 miles/84,600 meters
- April: 91 miles/56,000 meters
- May: 117 miles/60,000 meters
- June: 118 miles/40,000 meters
That’s 475 miles of running for the first half of the year, or a pace just under 1000 miles for the full year. To put it in context, I ran over 1700 miles in 2013 and over 1600 in 2014. On the other hand, it’s a gentle increase in running mileage with a corresponding decrease in rowing mileage. I may have wanted to get back to my usual 140-150 miles a week, but I also wanted to get over that stupid tendinitis and never have to deal with it again, so whenever I felt any kind of twinge, ache, or funny feeling, I rowed instead of ran, or ran easier/slower/shorter.
I actually started my break from running in late 2015, the day after Thanksgiving. My doctor had suggested three weeks off, so I was targeting the NewYearathon in early January as my return race. But my tendon didn’t feel right even after a month off, so I re-evaluated and looked to resume racing at the Mommathon in February. Those 29 miles in January went all right, except that any attempts at running fast seemed to retard the healing process. I could have registered for the Mommathon anyway and run at a leisurely pace, but I knew that when the race started, I foolishly would push it. I really enjoyed the inaugural Mommathon, but I let it go.
I finally got back to racing at the Luckython in mid-March. Time-wise it was far from my best 5K, as all those meters of rowing didn’t keep from me de-conditioning a bit; but the most important thing was that my Achilles tendon tolerated the race without problem.
If I thought I was completely out of the woods, well, I was wrong. It was more like two or three steps forward, one step back. I still felt occasional soreness, forcing me to cut short or skip runs altogether during the spring. I iced my Achilles tendon a lot, too.
But I was able to keep racing, with the Double Five Challenge in April, the Chocolatathon and Uberthons Spring 10K in May, the Daddython in June, the Freedomthon and Ladybug Run in July, the Scrub Run in August, the Uberthons Fall 10K in September, the Halloweenathon in October, and the Turkeython in November.
What I learned: Like many runners who love running and can’t imagine not running, it was hard for me to resist the urge to “run through” the soreness and to get back to my usual mileage. And the particularly challenging aspect of Achilles tendinitis for me was that I was never so debilitated that I couldn’t run. Even when it was at its worst, I would feel some pain for maybe the first mile or so, and then it would go away … for the moment. Later, though, I would fail the pinch test. I had to re-orient my mindset so that instead of running unless I felt something wrong, that I would run if everything felt right. Otherwise, it was rowing time.
What I came to appreciate: At first, it was a little demoralizing to be running 5Ks and 10Ks at a pace that was about 10% slower than what I was used to. But with frequent racing, I could see tangible improvements from month to month. It reminded me of how I felt when I first started racing back in late 2011-early 2012, when just about every new race resulted in a PR because I was constantly improving. These results weren’t PRs, but they were PRs for 2016. It can be easy to fall into a rut about running, and to do it because it’s become a habit – an enjoyable one, but nevertheless, a habit. I spent much of 2016 feeling like I recaptured a sense of sheer joy and anticipation about running and racing. I’d prefer not to be forced to take another multi-month layoff again, but I’m glad I was able to take something positive out of the Achilles tendinitis.
How I finished the year: The year may have started off in a bleak way, rehabbing, but it ended on a positively high note. My last 5K of the year was the Halloweenathon, and I ran my best pace for that distance in three years, not too far from a PR. My last 10K of the year was the Turkeython, and I ran my best pace for that distance ever. I felt so good after those two races that I decided to end my racing year with the latter. It’s got me looking with anticipation toward 2017,