Today was a good day as I was able to start running again. Six weeks ago I strained my Achilles, limiting my activities to swimming, biking and hiking.
Are you appreciating my distress?
My Achilles has been “my Achilles.” Pun intended. The first time it happened was about fifteen years ago training for the Rome Marathon. Yes, that Rome. I did not realize the damage being inflicted as I continued to run in pain, nor the length of time it would take to heal, six months.
The second time it happened I showed a little more respect for the situation, reducing my activity level in the hopes of a faster return to normal work outs. I was back to running after two months which I considered a moral victory.
Early in June, my sights were set on tying last years best time on the Sunset Ridge trail at Forestville. It was a Thursday night warm up for the Sunday morning criterion. Ascending the hill at a pace just below race speed, a sudden sting on the back of my right leg, half way between calf muscle and heal, notified me an unplanned change in exercise routine seemed likely.
As is my default I initially resisted. However as the memory of earlier Achilles episodes emerged through the fog of my nonspecific recall, I relented to the fault code coming from my internal CPU, derated the motor, and finished the course at a brisk walk.
Since then I had avoided the temptation to exert or move too fast. I biked or swam every day. Even climbed a couple Fourteeners in early July. But these activities do not rely on that natural bungee chord in the back of your leg to store energy with every step and snap back to neutral, propelling your hips upward and forward as you become temporarily air born between strides, aka running.
Nothing like a little injury to remind one of the elegant perfection of our bodies.
On Monday of this week I decided that by Thursday it would be safe to try a short run. It would only be six weeks of rest but there was no pain and I had been careful not to strain the tendon.
Forecast was for a rainy, cool day. As I drove to the park at 5:00 PM after working in the nursery calibrating inlets for two hours, it was hard to be confident. Heavy rain and strong winds tested the Edge’s new tires and wipers. I was developing alternate plans just in case the parking lot by the park shelter was submerged in a torrent of churning dead fall, floundering livestock, and inundated campers.
No such luck. The rain eased up as I entered the park and it looked like the most severe storms had stayed south. I was committed.
The dash thermometer said 62 degrees and the light drizzle was intensifying. I parked by the dumpster and went through the usual pre run calisthenics.
Even my Ironman watch was out of sorts. As I set the mode to chronometer, I noticed the time was off by eight hours instead of the usual two, Mountain Standard Time. Not a good omen.
Heading down the trail towards the first climb, there was some stiffness but not the stabbing jolt of a provoked hornet. Even as the rain became heavier, I was feeling lighter.
By the time I reached the horse camp at the top of the ridge, I was thoroughly soaked, muddy, chilled, and thrilled. Despite the adverse conditions, muscle discomfort was minimal, effort was sustainable, the park was predictably unpopulated, and the clouds were breaking.
By now I should recognize the inverse correlation between observable indications of positive outcomes and the probability of improving atmospheric conditions. Simply put, it is darkest before the dawn.
As I laid a work shirt on the seat of my car to avoid saturating it with mud, sweat and rain, (sorry no tears), I considered this experience an example of how despite the inevitable decline in physical capabilities as we age, maturity can have its rewards. Viewing setbacks as gifts of insight is one.