Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Achilles Tenosynovitis

I didn’t know there was such a thing either, but I sure know what it feels like. Turns out it was not the achilles tendon itself that had been bothering me for the last few weeks but the sheath that surrounds it. That could explain why it took much longer to shift than any previous occurrences.

Anyway, in preparation for my cross-country début this Sunday I had been doing an interval session of sets of 200/200/400 with equal distance recoveries on Tuesday morning. Right at the end of the second 400 the discomfort level from my right heel suddenly jumped from 2 to 8 on a scale of 10. I stood there in the dark and rain, gasping for breath, whimpering in pain and trying to come to terms with the sudden realisation that I was injured for the first time in years all at the same time. Doing repeats on the road in front of our house had the advantage of getting home quickly, but I was rather despondent as I was limping the quarter mile back home. As I was getting into the shower I chided myself for being so stupid, doing repeats like that despite carrying a niggle, but eventually calmed down. If I stopped running every time I had some discomfort I would miss significant chunks of my training and since I had not been injured for several years I obviously had been doing something right all along.

A work colleague urged me to see a doctor and I was pleasantly surprised to get an appointment that very day. I actually felt better already by the time I was in the surgery. He started poking my achilles, “does this hurt?” “no”, “this?” “no”, “this?” “no”. Then he started pinching it “what about this?” “no”, “this?” “no”, “this?” “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”, and the diagnosis was the aforementioned tenosynovitis. Then came the dreaded part about how to cure it, and I sure expected to be told to stop running for weeks. “When did it start hurting today?” “After 4 miles”. “Well, you can always run 3 miles then”. “But I ran 12 on Sunday without problems”. “What did you do differently then?” “Today I did speed work”. “Don’t do speed work”. Anyway, turns out I don’t have to rest at all (Great doctor, eh? I’ll make sure to see him again next time I’m crippled), just have to make sure to take it easy and avoid things that hurt. In my case that means no fast running. That also means that Sunday’s race is off, and I’m pretty sure next week’s as well. The Dublin marathon is in 4 weeks and I will have to make a decision eventually, but right now I’m still optimistic I can do it, 8-minute miles have not been troubling me in the last few weeks, but 26 of them in a row might, of course.

This morning I tried something new. I put on a brand new pair of off-road running shoes and climbed over a gate into a nearby field to run circles, away from the tarmac. One loop was about 0.2 miles and I did 3 miles, about 15 loops, not that I counted. The achilles seemed to take it fine, but later that day both hamstrings felt really sore, very much to my surprise. I had not expected the load from running on grass to be so different as to bother my hamstrings. Running circles round a field for any length of time is not exactly the most riveting option so I don’t think it will replace road running any time soon, but as a supplementary exercise it will be taken into account.

As far as my other news are concerned, sorry to keep you all waiting but since I haven’t yet gotten a reply from my last communication and therefore am still waiting for confirmation, I’d better not spill the beans just yet. Honestly, I’m not deliberately trying to pan things out.
28 Sep
4.1 miles, 33:55, 8:17 pace, HR 151
200/200/400 ~, aborted after 2 sets
29 Sep
3.3 miles, 31:56, 9:43 pace, HR 137


  1. yikes - look after that achilles and get that tenosynovitis sorted. good plan to pull out of the weekend race. heal quickly, thomas

  2. Certainly a new one on me. Doesn't sound too bad if you can continue to train, although you 5k training plan is a bit up in the air. The key is to keep to the Doctor's advice. Did he give a timeframe for laying off the speedwork or is it a case of "suck it and see"?

  3. Who's your doctor - Tommy Cooper?!

    You may want to talk with a physio who may be able to give you some exercises to help reduce whatever is causing the problem. Whenever I have a problem it nearly always is caused by weak hips/glutes, regardless of where the pain is felt.

    Good luck with the recovery

  4. I'm good at waiting.

    Be wary with that injury, especially about running Dublin if it's at all still hurting. Good idea to stick to the soft surfaces. That would be my pick for the short speedwork too if the light's good enough.

  5. Thomas, take care of the injury and take it handy in Dublin.
    My guess for your exciting news is you've secured a place at Comrades 2011! What's my prize for guessing correctly? ;-)

  6. I had an achillesomething a year or two back and I remember it was slow to heal. You really want to be careful and back off. Careful stretches and rice is good too.

  7. Thomas did you get my email answering your questions?
    sorry to hear about the injury, I think the advice to seak out a physio is a good one.
    Trying to find the cause is important, so it won't come back to haunt you!

  8. Oh and check out Marathon Talk, great podcast talk with 10 time Comrades winner Bruce Fordyce.
    Really useful training advice for all you Ultra junkies!