Locked in battle with Achilles

10 05 2012

In the Star Trek original series episode called “Bread and Circuses”, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are captured on a planet that resembles a Roman Empire with 20th-century technology. They are set to die at the hands of gladiators for the sake of public spectacle.  One of the gladiators named Achilles was assigned to fight Spock.

Spock holds his own against Achilles, but McCoy is severely outmatched and Spock overpowers both opponents, saving the day for our Starfleet heroes.

Once again, for maybe the third time in the past six years, I find myself in a battle with my own enemy called Achilles and I could really use a Vulcan hero to come swooping in and save me from this dreaded combatant.  However rather than an extraterrestrial opponent to contend with, my Achilles lies between my left heel and calf.

My first run-in with this Achilles tendon was in 2006 when I had the misfortune of prescribing myself a course of Levaquin for an infection.  My reason for choosing the drug was mere expediency because the clinic where I was working happened to have a supply of samples in the closet.  About the fourth day into the course, I was doing step aerobics when I suddenly felt left Achilles tendon pain.  I thought I must have tied my shoes too tight so I loosened them and kept stepping.  No change.  A few minutes later, I abandoned my workout and began what would become five months of intermittent pain and limping.  I knew from the med school mnemonic that “quinolones hurt the attachments to the bones”, but I never thought it would happen to me so easily and last so long.  I have continued to have 1-2 out of 10 pain on a daily basis ever since but have lived with it and worked out in spite of it, including running three half-marathons.

Flash forward four years and a bad left ankle sprain (with inevitable scar tissue) later to August of 2010 when I began to experience twinges during speedwork while training for the Rock and Roll Las Vegas half marathon.  Naturally, I ignored the pain at first but it persisted.  And then it worsened.  And then I was sidelined for another five months.  I never did get to Vegas that December, and didn’t even start running again until February of 2011.

Moving yet ahead in time we come to the present day whereupon I recently advanced my Long Run mileage from 6 to 8 to 10 miles within a matter of 15 days, with two of the occasions being races rather than leisurely Long Slow Distance runs.  Even still….I was okay after that 10 mile race and the Achilles didn’t bother me any more than usual.  It was after last Saturday’s Lake Bloomington 12k (7.44 miles), done on a day I likely should have rested or severely cut back mileage instead of racing, that I heard the familiar short sharp shriek of the left Achilles tendon piercing the pleasant soundtrack of my life.

And so here I am again locked in battle with Achilles, and trying to strategize my way to victory.

I have registered and paid entry for a 10 mile race this Saturday in Lemont which I will not be running.  In fact, I will not even be walking.  There is a 5k portion still tempting me, but we’ll see about that later.  I didn’t run a step after Saturday.  Instead I rested and stretched, finally venturing out this morning for a quick 3-miler of walk/run intervals (75% of which I walked) just to see what I could do.  The pain is not horrible but it’s there.  I’ve been wearing a plantar fasciitis night splint to bed every night to keep the tendon lengthened and massaging the living daylights out of in between sporadic stretching throughout the day.  I REFUSE to let this get the better of me!

I know an Achilles injury is one of the few that you just don’t “run through.  Thus I have respect for the healing process required to ensure I make it to the start line of the half marathon in good enough shape to rock the damn thing.  But I want to run.  I really really really want to run.  Even though I know I shouldn’t and can’t.  And it’s killing me.

I was thinking today during my outing that if I lost my legs, I’d get a wheelchair and race by pedaling it with my arms.  If I lost my arms, I’d find a device that I could power by blowing through a straw.  And if I lose my whole body, it will because I won’t need it anymore and will be able to leap like a gazelle in the realm of the spirits.  Nothing short of death will keep me from running.  But it’s driving me CRAZY to have to take this break and heal.

I could really use Mr. Spock right about now to come beaming down, Deus Ex-Machina, with a solution to my quandary that would fit neatly within a 42-minute episode of my life.  Ah, if only…

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