Sunday, August 29, 2021

Achilles. Heat. Boston.

I have multiple topics to cover in this blog. First, my Achilles Tendinopathy has flared up in both feet. Second, I have ramped up my training in the heat. Third, I'm going to comment on the Boston Marathon letting additional qualifiers in. 

My insertional achilles tendonitis (or tendinopathy, more correctly) flared up at the end of last week due to repeated treadmill runs. I have been battling Achilles tenderness and stiffness off and on since 2017. It goes away completely when I take a break from running (like with my recent 8-week lay off), but comes right back the moment I resume training. I try to stay on top of my rehab exercises--eccentric weighted heel drops--but I admittedly have not been doing them every single day.

For whatever reason (lack of variation, change of gait, amount of impact), my Achilles tendons do not like the treadmill. Last week it was abnormally warm and humid so I ran on the treadmill Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And then on Saturday I did my long run outdoors, which is never really Achilles-friendly!

The good thing about insertional Achilles tendinopathy is that you aren't at risk for rupturing the tendon when you run. And it doesn't hurt that much while running. What sucks about it is that it's very difficult to cure 100%, and walking can be painful, particularly barefoot around the house. 

I went to my doctor on Tuesday for a follow up on my groin injury, and while I was there, we talked about my Achilles issues. He did an ultrasound and we could see where there was irritation and small little holes in the tendons. He recommended I have a procedure done called ultrasound-guided tendon scraping. I am having this done in a few weeks. He will go into both Achilles tendons with a needle, using an ultrasound, and create space in between blood vessels that are rubbing together and creating friction. (This might not be a 100% accurate description, but it's how I remember him describing it.) The recovery is only a few days and then I can start running again. He says he does this procedure frequently and if my symptoms are caused by what is seen on the ultrasound, it will provide immediate relief. 

Of course the only way to really recover is 8-12 weeks of the PT exercises every day, twice a day. I am committed to doing them, but they sure are time consuming and boring. My physical therapist theorizes that because my glutes still don't always fire, I'm pushing off with my calf, creating tension in the soleus, resulting in the irritation of the tendon at the insertion point. He dry needled my glutes on Friday and also gave me a painful calf massage. Later that day I was walking around without pain, so it definitely worked.

My plan is to continue training on it (since it's not at risk for rupture), do the PT exercises, go to PT weekly to get needling and massage, and have the procedure in mid-September. 

Training in the Humidity
Because the treadmill had caused such a flare up, I did not use the treadmill at all this week. I would have liked to because we had dew points at 72-73 each morning and the air was incredibly thick. My solution was to run extremely slowly (except for the one track workout) and drink loads of water + electrolytes throughout the day. 

Compression socks support the Achilles
I was able to knock out 49 miles this week with most of them being slower than a 9:00 pace. But in this weather, it's all about effort, time on my feet, and not over-exerting myself. We won't see the heat and humidity drop until Thursday, so unfortunately I'll have to do another speed workout in the heat on Monday. If my Achilles are feeling okay, I might resort to the treadmill Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Last weekend, I knocked out 14 miles at an average pace of 9:00. Yesterday, I ran 14 miles at an average pace of 8:59. Both were progression runs starting in the 10's and ending in the low 8's. It's always good to NOT bonk in the heat and still have a little more to give in that final mile. The Richmond Marathon is on November 13, so my long runs will start getting longer very soon. I'm also running a half marathon on October 3. At this point I really don't think I will be in half marathon shape, but a decent amount of fitness can be built over 5 weeks. (Well - 4 weeks excluding the taper week leading up to the race). 

It's actually hard to know what kind of shape I'm in with all of my runs being in such crazy humidity and I am just trying to survive them. But I have only done one lactate threshold workout since returning from injury + the two 5Ks. Why? Because my coach and I prioritized coming back safely rather than pushing me into tempo runs right away. It was the right approach but unfortunately doesn't bode well for my confidence at least as of today!

The Boston Marathon
Recently, the Boston Marathon allowed all qualifiers who were registered for the virtual race to run the live race. This decision definitely ruffled some feathers among those who had qualified, missed the cutoff, but did not register for the virtual race. For example, if someone qualified with a cushion of 2 minutes and registered for the virtual, they were invited to run the live race. But if someone qualified with a cushion of 5 minutes but did not register for the virtual, they were not invited. 

First of all, I am skeptical that the race will actually happen. We are already seeing marathons being cancelled and Massachusetts is one of the more risk-averse states. But regardless if the live race happens or not, my thoughts are as follows.

The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) can do whatever they want. It's their race, and they aren't obligated to be fair. I do believe they try to be as fair as possible, but there are many other factors that come into play. We, as runners, don't have visibility into their decision making process so it's impossible to know exactly what they were dealing with. They are already having to deal with towns like Brookline threatening to deny them a permit if they don't meet certain demands. 

Is it entirely fair that someone with a 2:00 buffer gets to run the live race and someone with a 5:00 does

Boston Marathon 2016
not? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it is fair because the person with the 2:00 buffer committed to Boston. They paid for the virtual race. They said "I will run Boston no matter what, even if it's virtual!". There is a lot to be said for that level of commitment to the spirit of the Boston Marathon. And they did, in fact, qualify for the race. This doesn't follow the traditional method of "fastest first" - but that doesn't mean it's not a viable method for selecting race entrants. 

What most likely happened is that the Boston Marathon had some spots open up, and that number of spots was similar to the number of virtual entrants, so boom- it was logistically easy. And they even offered up spots to those who missed the cutoff by 20 seconds or less. And imagine how happy those virtual runners must be! The B.A.A. didn't have to release any extra slots. But they did, and now more people get to run it, which holistically is a good thing.

I feel badly for the 2020 entrants who didn't get into 2021 and don't have a qualifying time for 2022. That sucks, especially if it will be difficult for them to ever qualify in the future. I do believe that the majority of the qualifiers WILL be able to qualify again, it just requires more hard work and more patience. 

Life isn't always fair. We can't expect the B.A.A. to always do the most fair thing. All we can do is train our hardest and try our best. 


  1. I was one of those who qualified with a 6 minute buffer. Then snatched away because of whatever reason they decided in. I had no interest in running the “ Boston “ virtual because its NOT the Boston marathon. And yes Im a little bitter because to many of us it felt more like they were trying to simply generate money. This was the first one i had ever BQ for…and yes ill try again. But even the cutoff for 2022 is a bit frustrating. Perhaps they could have given those of us who qualified till the end on 2021 to submit for 22. There are many more options available in November December.

    1. I Agree that Nov and December have more options! And I understand the way you feel with a six minute buffer. That’s super impressive and I know you can do it again!

    2. Like Elizabeth said, we don't know what the BAA's thinking was, but I would be really upset if this had happened to me. "Unknown" - use that disappointment energy and qualify again. Sorry this happened this way.

  2. This has been the most ridiculous summer for heat and humidity. You are so right that it does not inspire confidence. I know, I know "summer training brings fall PR's" but sheesh I bet a few months of running in 50-ish degree weather would bring fall PR's also and be a lot more fun. Fingers crossed that the heat will clear out this week.

  3. If you’re constantly wearing yourself out and getting dehydrated, it definitely won’t bring fall PRs! I’m with you, training in cooler weather will bring PRs!

  4. For the first time in my running life, I'm glad to not be running right now! The heat and humidity always suck the joy out of my runs and this year is off the charts. I'm definitely looking forward to fall running. I see the ortho in 2 weeks, so hopefully I'll be cleared to start running again. I hopw you have good results from your procedure. Sounds painful! But if it works, it will be worth it.

  5. Hmm! I've had plantar fasciitis in my left foot for over a year now and there are so many similarities to your situation- it doesn't hurt that much when I run but walking is painful, and forget walking barefoot. I also think the root cause is a tight soleus. Well... it sounds like the procedure you're having will fix it (along with the PT exercises- I know, they're so boring). Good luck with it- can't wait to hear how it all turns out.
    i have no words of wisdom on the heat and humidity issue- it's a way of life for me. Don't move to Florida!

    1. For PF I use a frozen water bottle and roll it on each foot for about 15 mins and it does wonders . At some point, I wasn't able to walk did exactly that, boom. I was walking within 15 mins. Now it does not hurt at all even if I'm barefooted. I still do my regular calves exercises and make sure to not be changing shoes that often and stick to the ones that work for you.

  6. Well Zebra you certainly have "Tenacity" and no matter what confronts you, you dig in and find a way to make something positive of it! Regarding BAA and their decision-making, can be difficult to understand their logic and rationale; sometimes they elaborate and explain in releases onsite...other times just what they decide and dictate. I suspect if the Virtual Runners laid out cash in registering upfront, they figure they deserve to move up into the open slots. But I would say that would counter their philosophy of seeding the fastest, but definitely those that ran 5, 6 or faster than their qualifying time, would seem to be the priority to offer to first.

    You know me and my history of running Boston Marathons and from 2009 thru 2019 R qualified for and ran 11 consecutive. I did not requalify at Boston 2019, running a solid first half in cooler temps and clouds, then fading out quickly into mile 17 when the sun was out and heating up quickly into 70's. After a long winter, not acclimated to it and wilted.

    Plan was to requalify 2-wks later at Illinois Marathon, just like I did back in 2018 after failing to requalify in that cold all race rains I call the "Big Deluge." In 2018, I ran Illinois 2-wks after Boston to a tune of 4:05 plus a few seconds over...good enough to get me invite as 2018 was my 10th straight. In 2019, 2-wks later, I never made it to Illinois Marathon, coming down with flu the night before, side-effects of a shingle booster vaccination a day earlier. Tried to run Spring Marathon up in Oak Brook in May, came up with nausea in Mile 9 that lost too much time and coming into 1/2 point, some 4-min behind and not going to run a 2nd half any faster so I dropped out with the HAlf-Marathon finishers. Last Chance Marathon in Geneva was my last chance, and despite having trained and good enough conditioning to run 4:00-3:59, dropped-out end of 1st loop, with a lot of throbbing discomfort behind L=-knee, turned out to be onset of Thrombosis in L-popliteal vein.

    So my streak ends at 11 consecutive and I doubt I will ever regain performance capacity to run 7-10 min faster than my QT, especially now that BAA dropped it -5-min from 4:10 to 4:05. But I am ok with it, was a "great run" while it lasted! But like you say, life is not fair. Leader of our run club, Yankee Runners in Oak Forest, always likes to refer to the "enemy"...any and all that can happen in a marathon to derail you. So life is not fair, BAA may not be fair and the Enemy is always lurking to break down the marathoner mentally, physically or both.

    Of course you with such great Tenacity, will likely run many more Boston Marathons. I may have run my last, and Virtual Boston Marathons is not something motivates me and certainly not the same as running actual Boston. Maybe now will become the time to start pursuing that project to detail the Boston Marathon course mile-by-mile and finally make that conceptual book a reality.

    Sorry for such a long post and filled with much bout me, but felt it had some relevance to what you posting about BAA's decision to accept the Virtual Runners vs those that missed that 7+ min cut-off threshold. And for those of you that did get left out, I hope you all find the Tenacity that Zebra has to hang in there and te that race time gets you into Boston. There is nothing like running the Boston Marathon and all of that qualified faster than the Virtual Runners deserve to run there!

  7. Forget BAA bc to me it's hard to criticize them (outside of their tranny policy that allows a biological man to run as a woman, but as we saw with the Olympics that failed and I'm glad it did but it just means they'll do it more often which is disgusting in my view.)

    More concerned about your issues and being ok. As one of my running pals and heroes, I want you to be healthy and not get hurt. I'm not doing any truly hard all out runs at all.. I did one between my 5K last night and my 4 milers on July 4th. I'm too drained with my new job to run hard much but that may be a good thing!!

    Appreciate your blog and your support more than you can imagine!! Be smart about your approach and how your body feels. Boston Marathon 2022 awaits my hopeful meeting this great lady (I need to qualify unlike you though and who knows if my marathon will be cancelled, NJ Marathnon just got cancelled, hopefully Mohawk Hudson happens.) We don't even know anymore and I hope I haven't done all this training for nothing!

    I pray you'll be ok with your achilles issues. Do not run uphill at all!!! Be wise!!

  8. Hi Elizabeth, just seen a post where you describe recovering from Achilles Tendonitis with the aid of shoe inserts. I am a new runner and was going into week 5 of C25K when it kicked in. despite having therapy etc, I am now starting to limp and losing heart!😔 Is there a brand of insert you would recommend? Also any other advise appreciated.

    1. Sorry to hear this. I use these inserts: