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I'll try to keep the history short, but with enough detail to be complete.
I ran in college, then did triathlon and marathons (3:00 PR) until adult life had me sitting at a desk and in the car for a long commute for a number of years. I admit to not doing regular stretching, like ever! When I decided to start running again, the first pain was at the bottom of my calves, and then it moved down to the heel where the Achilles attaches. So I'd back off, pain would decrease.
If I go slow, like 9:30 min/mile, I'm good. But if I surge to beat a light, or up he pace, the pain is back. I was fine during 2 half ironman events this year, since the pace is slow but even managed 8:20 pace in a 10k during an Olympic distance event.
This last Monday at Crossfit, we did 400m repeats and I knew I would be screwed. I did them all at 1:28, and on the third one I felt tightening. On the fourth, the last one, I pushed and moved into third place. 40m from the end, I felt the familiar *pop*, and just finished (in third). Gentle stretching etc and its only mildly tender at this point. It happens on both sides, but mostly the left.
The question is how to strengthen it while stretching so I can start improving w/o risking set backs. I'm 45, so no visions of setting PRs, but don't want to fade into a dreaded "jogger".
This is the best advice I've found.
There are a several sources for this information online, some more comprehensive than this, including some youtube videos. Google eccentric treatment for achilles.
Not sure if it really is "chronic." Looking back at your 2008 post, it followed another period of prolonged sitting, this time in a car. I've noticed a tendency among those with sit-down jobs, such as drivers and desk jockeys (among whom I have been numbered at times), to make up for lost time with an aggressive training regimen during me-time.
There really is no lost time, because sit-down jobs are a form of training as well. They train the muscles to be immobile for prolonged periods of time, to be short, to be stiff. Combine that with endurance running, and a layer of cross-fit with more vigorous activity, and it's too much conflicting use of muscle. Something's gotta give.
If you were a professional athlete, this might be your breaking point - but still, it would be your job, and rehab is part of that job. Being a middle-aged endurance buff with a job and a life, and less time for proactive training, you need to resist the urge to cram. You need to find a way to fit all these pieces together in a less destructive way.
The article on eccentric exercise techniques for loosening the posterior calf muscle/tendon group is helpful, but the hidden message is that gentle and consistent use of this group is much healthier than letting it sit and stiffen up. Maybe you can put a step under your desk for frequent use, to counteract the sedentary job. I've often said that after doing well in school, they punish you with a desk job. It is very bad for you unless you can keep moving somehow.
Amidst all this, do not neglect the option of massage, especially regular self-massage, of the posterior calf to reduce muscle tone. It will reduce the pull on the achilles and its tendency to lock your stride. Damage comes from overuse, but also from under-preparedness. Plowing into workouts with stiff muscles is just asking for it.
I went through the same phase around your age, of wanting too much in too little time, and paid the price as you have. If you are not planning the PRs, it's ok to relax into the gentle rhythm of a "dreaded jogger." It brings helpful circulation without taxing the calves as much as those sprints, and may be one of your best rehab strategies until things have mended well enough to start pushing it again. Just take your time coming back.. patience is the best lesson of endurance sport. You will get over it as I did.
James, I didn't look back at the 2008 post, but basically considered them separate incidents because of the time between. In reading his post this time, the "pop" seemed to take precedence, thus a recommendation of slow, gentle recovery, based on the achilles. Your ideas are more comprehensive and should cover most of the bases.
Good point about the "pop." I wonder what it's about, but it didn't bother me too much because mpderksen calls it "familiar" (which could be a figure of speech, maybe meant "common"), and describes it as more of an annoyance than a game-ender. Says whatever it is happens on both sides, so it's possible some bones or other firm tissue are being pulled out of their normal path and making noise, or maybe it is only felt.
I once had an achilles tendinosis that was audible in a quiet room, but never had a popping sound in that area. It took months of inactivity to recover in my case, but this runner keeps chugging along. In any event, the eccentric training sounds like a winner if it works here. I'll trust that the data show better modeling of repair and diminished symptoms vs. rest alone. Wish I'd known about it back in the day.
If mpderksen ditches the athletic stride in favor of something flatter with less loft and quicker turnover, it might be therapeutic. Running is based, after all, on sustainable eccentric contractions, but the authors of the article no doubt had less repetitions in mind, lol. I wonder if the excess pronation mentioned in the article comes into play here? That could elevate this injury to "chronic" status...