Sparkle Leg

I haven’t been writing much about running, mostly because I haven’t had much nice to say about it. I’m still doing it, in the absolutely minimum quantities required to keep up with the triathlon group. I’ve run some not-awful times at track workouts — which is surprising because even though the schedule calls for only a track workout on track days, my life has generally required putting a swim or a run in the morning anyway — but nothing mindblowing. Other than track, most of my runs are done as bricks, so they’re always on tired legs, and I’ve found my happy place in the back of the longer-distance pack, chattering away through conversational-pace miles.

But running workouts bring with them a fair amount of dread, because my leg still hurts. It has hurt in one form or another every day since January 25, and good lord, it’s getting old.

There’s one thing that can reliably make my leg not hurt. Go figure: It’s running. There’s also one thing that can make the pain come back full-force (and granted, full-force here is maaaaaybe a 6/10, but bear with me). Want to guess what that is? Ending a run. Within the first five minutes of any run, I don’t feel even a trace of pain, and I continue to feel awesome until I slow to a walk at the end, at which point I spend five minutes feeling like my leg is going to fall off. The rest of the time, it feels … fine. Not great, but fine. It doesn’t matter if I run for 5 minutes or 5 miles; the pattern is the same. And while it’s not getting worse — and believe me, I would stop if it were getting worse, because: Berlin — it’s not really getting better, either.

None of this has been enough to stop me from running my 10 or so weekly miles, but it’s tiresome and annoying and I’m sick of trying to remember to put the good ice pack back in the freezer. But now I finally think there might be a light at the end of this stupid tunnel, because yesterday — after a variety of scheduling- and insurance-related debacles — I finally got to see my physical therapist.

I may have mentioned before that when doctors do the “does this hurt?” thing, even on the spot where I’ve told them it hurts, it almost never hurts. When I say that to most doctors, they’re like, “OK, well, nothing’s really wrong then.” When I say that to my PT, he pushes harder. He’s the only person who I trust to find the exact place that hurts and then dance right on the line between “that feels … effective” and making me cry big fat tears.

So anyway: His theory is that at this point there’s very little inflammation in or around the tendon, which is good news — but there’s a lot of scar tissue and other crap in there, and it moves around, which is why my pain moves around. His solution: “I’m gonna dig around in there.” To be clear, this isn’t Graston or ART or any of that fancy shit; this is him sticking his thumb on a trigger point and then instructing me to push and resist against it. This hurts so much all I can do is laugh, because if I don’t laugh, I might black out. At one point yesterday, he had his thumb somewhere in my leg and was telling me to flex and point my toes, and by the second round, my whole leg felt like it had erupted into a flaming branch of sparkles and I could no longer flex or point my toes because I had forgotten what toes were.

Also, we all know a foam roller is a torture device, but to me it now sounds soft and lovely, because what I have been instructed to roll on now is a lacrosse ball. I managed 90 seconds with a small pink rubber ball at the PT office; my “prescription” is 3 minutes a day with the lacrosse ball. If you never hear from me again, it’s because I’ve been replaced by a person-sized bruise.

The thing is, I’d roll on a freaking brick if he told me to, because he whipped my IT band into shape and because I actually believe this is going to work. So with that, I’m off to do calf raises on the stairs and then find a lacrosse ball to make my leg feel sparkly for the next month. Because something has to work.

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