Free at last! Free from the death grip of Pain and Injury.
As laid out below, I've gone through several interesting processes during this L leg injury. The final -- and most important -- was LETTING GO.
On Wednesday January 5th, my boss, who's sick of not having his run partner around to drag him around town, put his foot down and insisted on a noon treatment, followed by a run. Prior to that, I was content -- if not mildly excited -- by the progress I'd made POOL RUNNING; that is, literally running ON the pool surface (in the shallow end). By that point, I could do 20-30 minutes with very little soreness.
That day, Jeff did some "Strain/Counter-strain" treatments, which identified "trigger points" -- places in muscle that were very tight and sore, due to increased muscle tone (this is important to note for later!). Then he taped my calf/achilles (to unload it), then insisted on a run. I was not particularly confident, but I went along.
We made it maybe 3/4th of a mile before I felt The Tightness come on, then turned back. Same s##, different day. It wasn't terrible, just not good. The rest of the day, if felt crappy -- "tight, achy, throbby, irritated". I told him so that night, via email.
His response? "It's IN YOUR HEAD".
And he was right.
Did I MAKE UP the fact that my leg hurt? No, but my constant worry, obsession and PROTECTING of the leg was changing my muscle (and arguably nerve) tissue tone -- all day long. The next day, after his comments, I noticed I would go through the day with my left leg FLEXED and TENSED. For HOURS. Imagine flexing your bicep halfway, but maintaining it ALL DAY LONG. How good do you think it'd feel? Now add a stressful, repetitive sport activity to that constantly flexed arm. Think it'd be "pain-free"?
Jeff and I agreed: Running had become A THREAT. And based on that threat, I would mega-tense my leg and make it this stiff, dysfuncional STUMP, rather than a smooth, relaxed, powerful limb. And, until I could TURN OFF that tension and bracing, and no longer view running as a threat, I had to rest.
Jeff wanted two weeks off, then a week. I took exactly ONE DAY off, then got after it.
The first couple days: 1 mile, with lots of self-talk: "Relax. You're fine! LET IT GO!". I would literally say these things aloud, trying to keep my lower leg relaxed, even when it perceived "The Stiffness". The first few days of real mileage -- 3-4 milers -- were a challenge, but I kept talking myself through it.
And within a week -- NO PAIN. The Tightness? GONE.
Incidentally: the reason the pool felt so good was because the WATER presented a stimulus to my skin -- on my leg and throughout my body -- that distracted from the protective, straining "Is it there? Is it there?" mind-body effect. Once I was able to replicate that with my mind, on dry land, I was completely fine.
Last Saturday, a week+ out from not being able to run for ten minutes, I did a 14-mile, 5.5-hour snowshoe up Maiden Peak. No pain. Legs were sore as hell, but no pain! The next day, I ran 10K with my roommate Matt, and besides being rolled up on by Jordan Hasay, it was a great run!
It was that easy. As soon as I was able to LET GO, my muscle tone became normal, and I quit re-straining it. I continue to stretch both calves and achilles with relative diligence, but nothing else.
Yesterday I ran with Jeff for the first time since November 22nd. We did 5 miles on the river path. My stride felt great -- long and smooth -- and we were rolling along at 6:30. Per a strung-out, panting Jeff afterwards: "You are officially discharged!"