It’s been four months since I first injured my achilles. A full recovery has eluded me, but I’m committed to coming back to long distance running.
At the time of injury – back in February – there were four weeks left before the race in Antarctica. I went to a physical therapist because after resting and icing it for two weeks straight, it was still hurting and I was worried I might have partially torn it.
The PT did a few stress tests and decided I had not torn it. He was explicit in his instructions. Continue to ice and rest it for a few more days, then start stretches and some heel lifts to strengthen it. Come race day, if it started to hurt, which it probably would, it was okay if I pushed through it. I couldn’t hurt it any worse.
Got it. Okay, thanks, PT. So, I did as instructed. I rested it. I iced it. I stretched it. I did heel lifts.
When race day came, I ran through the pain knowing I couldn’t hurt it any worse. All in all, I don’t think I did. Of course, it was really sore after the race and throbbed during, but the pain in the following days wasn’t any worse than the days that followed the initial injury.
When I got back home in late March, I rested some more and resumed with the prescribed therapy: stretching, ice, rest, and heel lifts. My achilles was feeling a little better, but not back to normal. I tried running a couple of easy miles on it at the beginning of April, but it ached during and after again. I took another two weeks off.
In the middle of April, I did a six-mile slow and relatively easy hike and it was just as painful as if I ran on it. So I rested it, I iced it, I stretched it and took another two weeks off. I also called the PT and asked for help on expediting the healing. He prescribed more exercises.
I did more exercises and the pain and soreness increased over the following two weeks. Finally, on May 5, almost three months after the original injury, I went to a new physical therapist.
After listening to the history of the injury, she did a few strength, flexibility, and balance tests. Then she spent twenty minutes digging into my leg and foot to feel out the inflammation and loosen up the calf and fascia. It hurt and I was sore after the appointment, but it helped and lessened the pain the next morning.
She also prescribed far fewer but more targeted stretches and exercises, which I did as promised. She recommended coming in 2-3 times a week, which I was happy to do.
It’s been nine days since I started, but the change in treatment has made a world of a difference. I’m actually starting to feel like I could really be running again in a few more weeks with this treatment plan.
I’ve learned two lessons in all this. First, it’s important to seek help early and often. It didn’t help that I waited almost two weeks before my first appointment and it didn’t help that I didn’t visit the PT again before the race or after I got back home.
Second, who your PT is matters more than you might think. I guess it’s like anything, the person who does a good job – either installing a dishwasher or repairing your knee – matters a lot. Whether it’s for your body, your mind, your mental health, or your spiritual healing, get help quickly, but shop around. Meet more than one expert. Get a few opinions. Don’t settle.
If you’re in the same boat, I’m happy to share any of the exercises or stretches that have helped me so far. Actually having the PT put their hands on your injury and work out some of the knots has made a huge difference too.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to take a little time off, but I’m so ready to get back to it. 🙏🏼🏃♀️❤️
We did it!
A race four years in the making finally came to fruition. Even after illness and injury, I completed one of the hardest half marathons on the planet. It was hilly, rocky, windy at times, and unbelievably muddy. It was everything but freezing cold.
The race was set on King George Island. It was a little over a four mile loop out and back, set along the Uruguayan base. The race director said it was the best and warmest day in the race’s twenty year history. Thank you, global warming.
Although we started out on a frozen tundra of dirt and rock, twenty or so minutes into the race, the temperature rose and capped out at a balmy 36 degrees. That increase along with ninety-some-odd runners trodding the path and a steady stream of glacier runoff created a sticky, sludgy mud path along with sizable puddles – the kind that steal your shoes if you happen to step in the wrong one – on the race course.
The first loop was mostly run on tractor tire treads frozen in the mud. Every tread was an ankle bender so each step was placed carefully. It made for a concentrated effort and although it was cold, there was almost no wind, so I was very warm about half way in and ready to shed a layer.
On the second loop I pulled off a middle layer – a three-quarter zip fleece – and ran in a long sleeve technical tee and windbreaker the rest of the race. I also shed my gloves, which was a bad idea as the wind picked up during my second loop and I was shivering by the time I got back to my gloves around mile eight.
The race was entirely self supported and no plastics of any kind, including those that house nutrition from gels, beans, or in my case Starburst, were allowed on the island. Runners found interesting ways to squeeze their single serve packs of Gu or other gels into bottles that hopefully didn’t clog during the race.
I unwrapped about thirty candies and popped them into the little bag on my water bottle. The red stains on the blue bag still haven’t come out even after a couple of solid washings. Mental note: I need to find a new nutrition strategy. My friends used sport beans, and they seemed pleased with them. I’ll try them next race.
The last loop was the muddiest and messiest. My achilles was screaming and pulsing with pain, but I wasn’t about to cave. I had come this far and with only four miles left, I wasn’t about to stop. I walked up the hills and plodded lightly down limping a little to help relieve the throbbing.
When it was flat, I ran at about 70% effort. I didn’t want to miss out on all the hiking and excursions if I totaled my ankle. In fact, I ran all the way to the finish line.
I completed the half marathon with a time around 3:30-ish and a smile. It was the worst time I had ever run, but I was happy to cross the finish line at all, with both shoes still on my feet and my achilles mostly intact.
Today, I leave for Antarctica. In a few hours, I will board a plane first to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Actually, we’re headed to Houston for an hour and then on to Buenos Aires, but that is a small technicality. We’ll spend a few days in Buenos Aires and then on to Antarctica by way of ship, which we’ll board in Ushuaia.
I’m excited, nervous, frustrated my achilles is not one hundred percent, and did I mention excited? This trip has been over four years in the making and it’s finally here. 🙌🏼
A cold is trying to weasel its way into my system. With all the rain and cold, damp days lately, people have been coughing, sneezing, and sniffling at the office, in the grocery stores, and forget about hitting the gym.
There is something going around. I can feel it worming its way through my sinuses and lungs trying to find a place to settle and get comfy. But, as my grandmother would say, I’m not having any of it. I completely refuse it. To counter its intentions, I’ve loaded up with EmergenC chewable tablets and Coldeeze (zinc), and will continue until both packages are empty.
Plus, there’s so much going on at work that the stress of all the change might have lowered my immune system as well. Change is never easy, even if it’s good. So it feels like it’s either the absolute worst time or positively the best time to be away. Perspective is everything, I suppose.
I’m going with it’s the best time, and will try to put all the change on a shelf for the two weeks I won’t have internet access or cell coverage. That’s right, no cellular coverage on the ship or on the white continent. I’m going to have the shakes for the first 24-48 hours. 😁
When I’m not marveling at the expanse of the Arctic Ocean or gazing at the billions of stars I’ll see from the ship’s deck, I plan to spend indoor cabin time with books – downloaded ten or so – and music. I’ll also bring my Mac to journal and capture the days and moments as they happen, plus do some other writing. And maybe just a teeny, tiny bit of work. Don’t judge.
All in all, I’m pretty much packed. Minimalism certainly has its advantages. I’ve managed to squeeze almost my entire wardrobe and running gear into a carryon and North Face duffle bag. The same duffle I used when I trekked to Everest Base Camp. The bag is enormous and I was able to fit several days of clothes for different climates (Buenos Aires is 75 degrees and Patagonia is 35 degrees) along with a short foam roller, dry bag for the Zodiac, day pack, extra pair of shoes, additional jacket, and much more.
In my carryon, I have all my running gear for race day, which is substantial because of how cold it will be. It’s packed to the brim with running shoes, socks, hat, gloves, balaclava, three layers of clothing, a sports bra, and so on. Plus, I packed all medicine in there too, especially the seasickness patches and my mini first aid kit that mostly consists of moleskin, ibuprofen, bandaids, and blister repair patches.
I also packed the GoPro gear in my carryon along with the bare minimum of clothing should my duffle go missing. No no no, not going to happen. But just in case. South America has a reputation for losing gear. I’m just hoping it’s not mine this time around.
With all of this packing and preparation, I still feel unsettled and unprepared, like I missed something. And I probably did, but I’ll figure it out as I go. Although I had more than four years to prepare for this epic journey, it really boiled down to the last few months and weeks, which happen to be a little tumultuous complete with a heavy dose of sickness and injury.
But, I’ll figure it out. Things always sort themselves out in the end. This is just my experience and I’ll make the best of it, work a little harder, spend a few more cycles making sure I’ve covered all the bases, check my packing list yet again for the fifteenth time. I’ll do – and have done – the hard things now so I can enjoy the fruits a little bit later.
Speaking of fruits, it’s time for breakfast. Next post will be from Argentina.
Buen día! 🗻🏃🏻♀️ 💪🏼
In two weeks, I will hop on a plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina, then another to Ushauaia, and last, board a ship to sail the Drake Passage down to Antarctica.
The race is a little over three weeks away and I did something nasty to my achilles on the last, long and very hilly training run. Again, I tried using trail shoes, and again, they didn’t work out. I’m sticking with my road shoes. Hills, rock, and snow be damned.
The problem with an achilles, let’s call it, aggravation, is it takes a long time to heal. I’ve been limping around since Sunday, and that’s walking. Running has been out of the question, and still is almost a week later.
I feel like my fitness level and endurance training will carry over another two to three weeks if rest is all I need to heal my achilles, but I’m not happy about it. I’ve been grumpy and a little down lately as the realization that due to this setback I won’t be running the best race I could.
Don’t count me out yet. Two weeks is still long enough for me to recover sufficiently to get the job done. I just hope it’s enough for the tough arctic terrain that lies ahead.
Race participants received a final informational email from Marathon Tours on logistics, avoiding scams in Buenos Aires and what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled. They said all of this tends to happen quite a bit in South America.
There will be no internet and no cell phone coverage while on the ship or on the white continent. I have an option to register for a ship, text-only, email address. I’m guessing this is a small data channel on a ship-to-shore radio that can allow for a limited amount of communication to and from the rest of the world.
The email also included a few pictures from previous races. The inclines on the race course looked intense. I’ve had some hill work – some that’s nearly done me in – but those long ass hills go up and up forever. Gulp.
Deep breath. It’s going to be fine. Carry on.
There are no ports or docks on Antarctica. Instead, the ship drops anchor and they lob us (hopefully it’s gentler than that) into a Zodiac. A Zodiac is a rubber boat with a motor, think what navy seals use. The Zodiac will bring several of us to land. Then we’ll step out of the boat into calf-high Arctic ocean and walk (or run) to land and ice and snow.
Zodiacs will be used for race day and other activities on Antarctica. Before and after the race there are several excursions like arctic ocean kayaking and penguin viewing. Count me in!
With the help of a check list from Marathon Tours, I’m still narrowing down my own packing list, which I’ll publish when I have it pretty much locked. More to come.
Stay healthy, stay strong. ❤️🙏🏼💪🏼
Excited to share the good news that I just passed the ISSA-certified Sports Nutrition Specialist certification. It took months of lectures, lessons, lots of studying, a 638 page textbook, a 183 page workbook, more studying, over twenty quizzes, and one big, badass final exam.
I have a deep interest in learning how to fuel athletes for top performance, including the basics, i.e., maintaining the right macronutrients mix, as well as digging into the details, like getting into the nitty gritty of micronutrients, i.e., vitamins, minerals, specific amino acids, sodium, etc.
In the past, I thought if we ate enough spinach and nuts among other things, we’d basically get enough iron, calcium, vitamin C, D, and so on from food.
It wasn’t until 2014, a few months after I ran the Chicago marathon (unknowingly and completely anemic) that I went to the doctor to try to find out why I was so tired and weak during workouts or runs.
Blood tests revealed that I was severely anemic and probably had been for the previous two years or so. My levels were alarmingly low, and yet I just thought that was how I was supposed to feel while running long distances. I figured people get tired when they’re running, so I didn’t question it until my performance was laughable.
The last straw was when my personal trainer at the time had me doing assisted pull-ups and I could only complete four or five. I would just stop mid pull-up and start laughing. I couldn’t manage to get myself up and yet by all accounts, I should have been able to knock out ten of them easily. My trainer asked me to get my iron checked.
After my diagnosis, I started taking supplements on and off while staying vegetarian, but my levels didn’t improve. Maybe because of my veggie diet or maybe because I wasn’t consistent with the supplements, or maybe because of both.
After seven years of a vegetarian diet, my doctor asked me to start eating fish and meat again. Even after that, however, my iron levels still remained low. Not as terribly low as they once were, but low enough that the doctor insisted I take an iron supplement in addition to eating meat and fish. So I did, on occasion, when I remembered. I still had it in my mind that I would and should eventually get everything I needed from food and the supplement was mumbo jumbo. I’d heard that most ingredients in any supplement or vitamin leave the system before it’s taken in, so I didn’t think it really mattered.
For a couple of years after that, my blood tests would inevitably come back low in various micronutrients like vitamin D or iron (again), or I’d have a wonky thyroid number. But each time, I’d try to fix it with food and forget all about the supplements. I’d remove sugar from my diet and add in some black beans for iron. Ironically, after eliminating all processed foods from my diet, my thyroid number went back to normal, but the micronutrients still came back deficient.
It wasn’t until I put myself on a high quality, steady (meaning I took consistently it every day without skipping) one-a-day vitamin, plus additional vitamin D, calcium, and raw iron supplements, did my blood work – and more importantly – energy levels, recover sufficiently.
I never knew how good I could feel because I thought tired and weak was how everyone felt when running, until I was on a solid vitamin and mineral regiment. Now, I run long distances and feel strong.
If this is you, there’s hope. Of course, check with your doctor on what’s right for you. But if you’re feeling tired or weak, a blood panel might give you an indication of why. You’ll probably have to ask specifically for them to test for iron deficiencies. It’s not included in a regular blood test.
All of this is why I decided to specialize in sports nutrition. It’s important and personal to me.
If there are other people out there like me, who believe they can get all the nutrients necessary to perform at peak levels without vitamins and minerals or additional supplements but still struggle to do so, I’d like to share my story and the science with you.
Not saying my story is going to be yours, but the transformation in my diet has helped me perform at a higher level, recover faster, and I get to keep running without injury.
If only I knew this back in my thirties, but those days are gone.
Right now, it’s time to celebrate. 🎉
Stay healthy, runners. 🙏🏽