I've been preparing for a 3:10-ish Marine Corps Marathon goal, and have done the long runs, the speedwork, and taken the rest (I'm 41, and need it) and seemed to be right on track for that time, with recent speedwork times predicting something like a 3:07 pace. This was a big deal for me, because I had a couple of pretty horrendous ankle sprains that kept me off running for more than a year, and I managed, with the careful training, the right shoes, and Sole footbeds, to eliminate all the nagging ankle stuff that had plagued me for years.
So far so good, except for this mystery pain in the achilles!
I've been tapering like a good boy, reducing mileage about 30% 3 weeks out, and was aiming for 50% or so this week, and then I got a couple of curious problems. This being the second week of my three week taper, I did some speedwork monday, 4 miles at about 6:40 (a pace I was doing for 6 and 9 mile runs in the prior weeks). Felt great afterward. I only mention that because I can't for the life of me figure out what caused the problems I'm going to describe next.
The next day, the tendon at the bottom of my hamstring felt a bit funny. I was doing a slow 4-mile jog with the baby and it spooked me so I just walked it in. No pain or even awareness of the issue on walking. Figured maybe I tweaked it carrying the kid up the stairs, or from sitting funny in my Dilbert cubicle at work with my legs bent under me.
I rested it, iced, and compressed it with ace bandages (day and night, with breaks) for two days. Did my gentle stretching (especially in the warm shower.) After two days cold turkey, I tried a slow 4 yesterday, and it seemed to go OK until about a mile in when my achilles began to feel tight. (The hamstring was fine.) As usual with achilles twangs, it warmed up quickly and the light pain (probably a 3 on a scale of 1-10) went away. Iced that and went out this morning for my LSD 8 miler. It still felt funny, so I turned two blocks into the run, went home, and have been icing and resting.
First instinct: throw money at the problem! I bought new walking-around running shoes, a new pair of trainers (don't worry, I have a pair with 40 or so miles on them for marathon day) and an achilles support gizmo that has a band for under my heel. I've also popped in some 3/8" gel heal inserts. No pain at all walking, which I think is a good sign.
I'm icing every two hours, taking my supplements, and I *think* I found a knot in my calf which may have precipitated all this and have been rubbing that thing out.
Now, I'm wondering if my marathon is shot. Of course, I'm freaking out with the inactivity to begin with.. I'm pretty sure I can get this healed up in 8 days, but I'm worried that I'll be way too sluggish and flat with a too-relaxed taper. Obviously, if this thing hurts on marathon day, I'm going to junk the entire thing. I'm finally smart enough now to know that no single race is worth the 6 or more months off that a really aggravated injury can give me.
If I can spin on the cycle in the basement in front of the tube without aggravating the achilles (while the treadmill taunts me) will that bit of cardio help keep me from detraining? Water jogging is not, alas, an option.
Or should I just chill a bit, rest, and live with what seems the obvious bet (that any additional performance degradation I'll get from detraining will be minor compared to the performance degredation I'll get from an achilles tendon that decides not to work on race day.)?
Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much about the missing miles. Getting healthy is far and away #1. If spinning on the bike causes no pain, it will help you keep the muscles loose, which is all you really need. Try a sort run Friday or Saturday - don't know how you feel about running the day before. I'll be there too, though a good ways back.
I just ran a marathon with an Achilles problem. I injured my Achilles a few weeks before the marathon and it was probably at about 90% on race day. Stiff and sore, especially in the morning. Felt OK once I warmed up. I did OK in the marathon, my second best time, a little less than 5 minutes slower than my PR. Ran conservatively.
You might try some KT tape for extra support. I didn't use it during the race, but I did use in on some of my long runs leading up to the marathon. Here's a post that I wrote about it:
Boston Marathon Finisher
Thanks for the support, guys. I'll try some of that KT tape for a little more support. The guys at the running store suggested I try it, but not having any idea what it was, I passed on it until I could do a bit of research. Seems like a reasonable thing to try, especially since it just looks like an additional (sticker) method of getting the same kind of support I'm already getting from the velcro and elastic dohickey I bought.
I really worked on what appeared to be a knot deep in the calf of the affected leg, plus alternating ice and heat, and only 12 hours later, the achilles feels much much less tight. I'll keep at that, and maybe try some easy treadmill a day from now just to see how it goes. If it's iffy at all, I'll rest until a couple of days before go-time, then run a couple of short 3-4 milers slow the 2 days before the race to get a feel for whether or not I'm OK to do the whole enchilada. I guess I could always just run Richmond a couple of weeks later if this one goes awry.
I use a Tiger Tail to workout small knots like that. You might want to consider getting one. A foam roll is also good for larger areas.
Boston Marathon Finisher