The fall season at Zap ended on a high note with our team’s victory at the Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington. Considering how prevalent injuries are in our sport, I was especially satisfied that we had five healthy bodies ready to toe the line on race day. Each person executed his race plan, especially Dave Jankowski, who took control of the race by the 4k mark and ran away with the individual title. Jankow’s winning ways continued without interruption as he also captured MVP honors at the after party that night.
Following a light transition week, I returned home to Connecticut for the holiday, ready to build on the best fall training cycle in my running career. Unfortunately, the conditions awaiting me back at home proved especially cold and slippery. On Christmas Day, I embarked on a seemingly innocuous medium-long distance run through the reservoir in West Hartford. Although I don’t remember a specific moment in which I slipped on a patch of ice or landed awkwardly, by the time I finished stretching that morning I could tell that my right Achilles tendon was pretty jacked up. That afternoon, as my extended family and I engaged in a spirited discussion about how the Nightingale family is cursed with excessive chest and back hair (Yes, these are the things we talk about on Christmas Day in my family.), I repeatedly tinkered with my right foot and tested out the Achilles. Sadly, the visible swelling indicated that this was likely a serious injury. The recovery process would ultimately drag on for over a month. I tried a few test runs early on before finally realizing that I would need to take at least ten days away from running to allow for the tendon to heal properly. Starting in mid-January, I gradually returned to running as my Achilles began to feel better. My former teammate at Princeton, Michael Maag, and I have talked repeatedly about how much we dislike the uncomfortable process of returning to running following an injury. You cannot help but ask yourself “Did I just feel something?” every single time your foot strikes the ground. It usually takes me several weeks before I fully trust that my body has healed.
I have now spent the last few weeks training without any anxiety about my Achilles. Thanks to the aforementioned fall of training and an equally aggressive cross-training program this past January, I feel like my fitness is at a solid level. We are currently in the second phase of our winter training on the edge of Furman University’s campus in Greenville, SC. As the snow continues to accumulate back at Zap, we are very fortunate to be running in shorts on trails in Greenville and Clemson. My upcoming training will be geared towards racing well in the 5k this spring and summer. In the meantime, I’m hoping for healthy training and for the Redskins to draft anyone but Jimmy Clausen in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.
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