Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MRI Results

Well, the culmination of my foot frustrations came to a head today, with a meeting between my sports medicine doctor and me. The MRI results are in, and the diagnosis isn't a big surprise to me.

As I mentioned previously, there is a bone deformity on (or as a part of) my right heel. The MRI not only confirmed that, but it also showed the resulting damage to my Achilles tendon. The “Tendinosis” was caused by the tendon rubbing up and down over the protruding bone growth on the back and top of my heel. He also pointed to an “Equinus” (tight calf muscle & Achilles tendon) as a factor which increases the tension of the tendon, thereby exacerbating the damage. He told me to envision a rope being grabbed from both ends, pulled taught, and rubbed back and forth over a sharp corner of a counter.

There are two paths of treatment. One involves surgery (I'll explain that later). The other is a conservative approach, and the one I'll be taking, based on my doctor's recommendation. It's a 3-phased plan. Phase 1 is Rest & Protection. I'll be in a walking boot for 3 weeks, after which the condition will be reevaluated. If things have improved, we move to Phase 2Strengthening. After this is, of course, Phase 3, which is Return to Activity. The lengths and activities of phases 2 & 3 will be determined after phase 1 is complete.

I'll do my best to maintain optimism during this entire process, but there's a chance this will permanently affect my future running goals. Most doctors like to hint at worst-case scenarios, and this guy is no different (except for the fact that he's a Sports Doctor with a lot of knowledge and experience with endurance racing — running and triathlon). He said that, due to this deformity (man, that word makes me sound like Quasimodo or something), maybe I won't be a “marathon runner”. Perhaps I'll only be able to run limited mileage, possibly combined with cross-training (the latter not being a bad thing, necessarily). Swallowing the possibility of not being able to run as much and as far as I'd like to is difficult. I'm choosing to focus on the word “possibility”, and not the phrase “not able to.” The wild card in this whole scenario is the protruding heel bone. As long as that's there, the condition could return (and possibly worsen) in the future.

Which leads us to...

This condition has proven itself to be chronic before, so there's no guarantee that the above-mentioned “conservative” approach will take care of the problem. If it doesn't, surgery will be the option. This will involve cutting around the heel and slightly up, detaching the Achilles tendon, shaving the heel bone, removing scar tissue from the tendon, then reattaching the Achilles tendon to the heel bone...after which I'd be completely out of commission for a half a year, minimum. Even after healing from this procedure, there's no guarantee I could run the way (or as far as, or as much as) I'd prefer to.

In the meantime, I'll be preparing to sell tickets to the Gun Show doing upper body weight work until I'm cleared to start working my legs and feet again. I'll also be doing my best to NOT have to break out the 'fat jeans' (the few I've saved, anyway). Oh holidays, how I resent your culinary temptations.

To be honest, I'm feeling pretty melancholy about the whole predicament. Part of me wants to stay plugged into the running community (both online and local) because it's a great bunch of people, and part of me wants to completely disconnect because it reminds me that I can't physically be a part of it (if you're reading this and you're NOT a runner, this probably sounds pretty extreme). Odds are that I'll pull back a little... but running is in my blood, so I'm sure I'll still be part of the “gang”.

And of course I'll keep you posted on my progress (and still post some crazy videos from time to time).

I have a two-mile “race” (fun run) scheduled with my oldest daughter next Saturday. There's no way on Earth I'd miss this. I can't think of a better way to end my running for the time being.

Here's to hoping my blog title has even more relevance in a few months, and that I don't have to change it to The Retired Runner.


  1. Geez, Colin! Good luck with that!
    And may Quasimodo not bother you long!

  2. Damn. Really hope the conservative approach works out for you. Good luck with the fun run. Sounds like a nice way to enter your break. Crossing my fingers for another resurrection.

  3. This all sounds so creepy! I hope you don't have to do surgery.

  4. I have no doubt you will be back. No doubt at all. In the meantime, maybe it's time to really embrace your inner Andy Schleck?

  5. Thanks Lars. I will be back. In the meantime, I'll still hang out with you sweat-covered ambulators most Saturday mornings.

    And the fact that I had to think for a couple of minutes about who Andy Schleck was probably answers your question already!

  6. Yikes! I was hoping that you'd get a clear path towards complete recovery - at least under the surgery scenario. Good luck, and I hope no matter what happens that you remain plugged-in to the community of runners that you helped build - and which you'll always be part of.

  7. Good luck with this Colin. I really hope things work out for you. Please keep us updated.

  8. Colin, I hope the conservative approach works for you as well, and can understand the frustration and melancholy that you are feeling. In the event you aren't able to return to marathons, there are plenty of runners who impress and dazzle at shorter races, and setting and achieving goals for such events can be just as rewarding - I have no doubt you'll figure that out. I too would be torn between the need to stay engaged with the running community and the urge to withdraw a bit; I hope you do choose the former path as you have a lot to offer in terms of advice and inspiration, and I'd hope that you'll be able to draw the same from others as you work through you strength training and recovery. Best of luck to you.

  9. I know how you feel. Having a chronic injury I waffle between living in a cave and getting out there to support the run/tri community. My mood varies from day to day. I once found a blog post on the stages of an injury, I'll see if I can dig it up.

    Glad you are starting with the conservative approach. While it sounds good to just get it fixed right away, your recovery time will be so much longer than if you rest it for a month and start healing then. Keep that in mind. Again, I am going through the exact same thing, surgery or not?

    Here is my other piece of advice (whether you want it or not!). Get another opinion. Shop that MRI around. The more knowledge you can get the better. My friend has a chronic ankle problem that was finally determined to be her Achilles. The doc she really likes is Dr. Blahous.

    Good luck!

  10. I could not find the hysterical one I once had, but here are a couple that may or may not be interesting/helpful:



    Also, check out Joanna Zieger's blog. She is great - funny and observational. She is also looking at surgery for a chronic injury:

    OK, I will stop commenting now...too much time on my hands since I'm not training! :-)

  11. Sounds like you will likely end up with surgery in any case, if you desire to run regularly again.

  12. Adam, that would be my guess as well. I'll go with the doctor's "conservative" recommendation for now, but the deformity isn't going to go away on its own. Once I start running again and increasing the mileage, this will start all over again, I'm sure.

  13. ^%$#@!&*+ Colin, man, I am bumming about this. I can relate to wanting to disconnect. Big time. I almost shut down my blog a few times over the summer when I was injured. Maybe you can post your surgery on your blog kinda like Carney Wilson did for your gastric bypass.

    Do you know what Dean Karnazes said was the trick to being a good runner? He said, "Choose your parents well". You got dealt a bad card, but you can overcome it.

  14. Colin - once again sorry for the delay in posting.... just catching up on some blogs. I know I mentioned something to you on facebook, but I hope things are still looking up for you!