After completing Ironman Texas about four weeks ago, my calf and Achilles tendons are still tender and painful. Having muscle pain and edema after an endurance event is normal. Ironman distance races are incredibly draining and affect my whole being. Typically, I’ll have muscle soreness for about a week. Then, after the soreness subsides, I’ll continue experiencing mental fatigue. My body will be fine with training sessions, but my mind still feels sluggish. I’ve found that doing shorter, low-intensity sessions work well to get me “back in the game”.
As I resumed my training, I noticed that my Achilles would hurt shortly after I began running. It was also very tender to the touch. Then, I noticed that my lower calf was also tender. I didn’t attempt to push through the pain. I talked with Johhny and wore calf compression sleeves all day and night for about a week. During this time, I walked instead or running. Fortunately, Cycling and swimming were unaffected, so I continued training in those disciplines. The calf sleeves helped. I rode planes in them, wore them throughout the day, and slept in them most nights. The swelling, but not the tenderness subsided, so I decided to see a physical therapist.
The PT evaluation revealed muscle imbalances between my left and right legs as well as weaknesses along my posterior chain. For example, my right foot lacks meaningful internal rotation. My hamstring muscles have developed unevenly; the lateral muscles are stronger than the medial which contributes to improper foot placement as I walk and run. Also, my hips are still weaker than they should be. Although practicing yoga has improved their flexibility and strength, the PT graded them as weak. All of these things contribute to improper biomechanics as I run. As my right foot lands improperly, the left foot absorbs a greater impact. Combined with insufficiently strong calf and foot muscles I’m placing an excessive load on my Achilles tendon. The strain and poor movement patterns certainly aren’t new, I may have just pushed too long and hard enough that my body is losing the ability to compensate without accumulating tissue damage.
Rather than just continuing to walk and allowing the swelling and tenderness to subside. I will also continue with the physical therapy and then begin performing additional strength work. Focused routines that will build strength in my posterior chain with an extra emphasis on calf and foot strength. I don’t think it will take very much additional time but will yield a lot.