Well after wrapping up our vacation in California after the Big Sur marathon it was time to get back to training for the Grand Teton half marathon just 4 weeks away. This was also another race I had been wanting to run for some time, I was registered for it 3 years earlier but had to cancel it but was looking forward to it and vacationing in the Grand Teton area. I noticed some pain in my left heel at the back of the Achilles and under my heel but it would ease after a couple of miles. I managed to get a couple of 7 miles runs in each week leading up to race week but my heel was getting stiffer, as I got up out of bed it was sore to put weight on it and get any flexibility with it. Now I had a noticeable lump on my Achilles which would take a mile walking before it loosened up. Was it a side effect from the Big Sur race, the rolling hills and camber, or something unrelated. Whatever it was once again I wasn’t able to train how I wanted for a race and wasn’t confident on how I would do.
The Tetons are around 6,500 feet elevation and from my race at Bryce Canyon the year before I knew the altitude would have some affect so for this vacation we went on vacation the week leading into the race rather than after the race. I don’t like doing this as on vacation I want to eat and drink well and also do lots of hiking, not ideal planning for the race. Furthermore as we were driving towards Jackson Hole across the mountains it was snowing, I knew it would be cold but didn’t expect it to be that cold at the beginning of June. I didn’t run the first couple of days but went for a run on the third day. Within the first half mile my heart rate was high and I was puffing, the altitude working to full effect. I was only planning on running 3 miles but was enjoying the views and the warmer afternoon temperature I ran 5 miles and by the end was breathing more normal. I would get a couple more shorter runs in before the race and each time my heart rate jumped up but I think it was lowering quicker each time.
Race day came and it was another cold start but would warm up to the lower 50’s by the end of the race. The first 6 miles are relatively flat before a gentle constant climb to the finish line. I let the lead pack race off and I started a little way behind. I wasn’t sure how my hip and/or heel would hold up so didn’t want to get too caught up in the initial rush. However my first 3 miles were quicker than I had planned around a 7:20 pace and faster than my training would support. By the end of the third mile I could now feel my hip to get tight so I decided to back off the pace close to 7:45. My breathing was still heavy with the altitude but I pushed through it and just tried to keep a nice steady pace. I had passed quite a few of the early race pack and the field had thinned out and I could see a handful of runners ahead of me, one of whom I thought could be around my age so wanted to try to keep him in my sight and see if I could pass him later in the race.
My hip wasn’t getting worse but each step I could feel it reminding me so I wasn’t able to push any harder, I’m not even sure I could have ran faster either with the altitude and lack of training, but I was pretty steady in the 7:50’s now. A runner passed me on one of the climbs and then another but they didn’t really pull much further ahead so I ran a couple of miles with them a little ahead of me. As we got to about mile 11 I started to gain on them and eventually passed them and continued to close in on the handful of runners that were ahead of me. My target was still about the same distance ahead of me and I decided I would push harder on the last mile to try to catch him. As we hit mile 12 we were in a steady climb and I dug deep, dropping my pace now to 7:36. I caught up with him with a half mile to go and I expected a reaction from him and a chase to the finish line. As I passed I acknowledged him and said something like “good job” but tried to look at ease and strong. I continued to pull away from him and passed a couple more runners as I rounded the final corner and raced to the finish line. 1 hour 40 minutes and 25 seconds, good enough for 4th place masters (40+) and 27th overall out of over 2,000. I was very pleased and happy with that result and after recovering from the pain that hits you immediately after you cross the line was able to hobble around and enjoy the views.
That was going to be the last race of the year for me unfortunately as my heel continued to get worse. I eventually went to a podiatrist and he diagnosed me with Insertional Achilles tendinopathy, a build-up of calcification within the Achilles tendon where it attaches into the heel which causes a bony protrusion situated at the back of the heel bone. We started a treatment of 3 sessions of shock wave therapy which normally relieves the issue after about 3 months but I still was in pain. I decided to stop any running activities while I started a second set of 3 sessions, the most he had given anyone before was 5. Unfortunately those also didn’t have any affect and I was now probably faced with surgery, but by now it was heading towards Thanksgiving and surgery requires 2 weeks with no body weight, followed by 4 weeks in a boot before any gradual exercise. Not something I wanted to have over the holidays and have my wife having to support me at a busy time of the year. I have signed up for the Manchester Marathon in England on April 16th, so now it’s too late to have surgery and recover in time to even start training. So now I’ve resumed running and building my miles up a little and attempting some faster runs. I have to wear shows with no back support in them to minimize the rubbing of the swelling on the back of my heel. I’m hoping it won’t rupture before the race, or even during it, but again will be going into a race without being able to properly train for it. My hip feels good right now, perhaps the downtime and lower mileage helped that. I’m grateful to be running and hoping it will get easier but time will tell. I ended up 2022 with just over 1,700 miles of running and 1,286 miles of walking my dog.
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