When you think about rupturing your Achilles… Your skin crawls, and you wonder how and why. Same thing that went through my mind the day I ruptured mine.
To give a little background, I was training for my second Ironman in my hometown of Coeur D’ Alene, and I was expecting to conquer the course just like any amateur racer... Attempting to put in the time and miles like my professional triathlete friends that let me draft off them on rides, or pace them on their runs (the only area I can keep up). Putting the much hated time into the pool, spending quality time with my bike, and loving the run! The day I ruptured my Achilles, I had done a solid 2.5 hour ride and right into a 12 mile run and then decided to go play in a men’s league basketball game. I know what you’re thinking…Why do that and then go play a basketball game?!?! Well I thought it would be fun to go run circles around them as a speed workout. Well, I didn’t make it very far. Less than a minute into the game and a few times up and down the court, POP! A slight push off and my game and hopes of racing in June were over. I had no Idea that was just the beginning of a long and emotional journey.
I had surgery to repair the Achilles by one of the best Doctors in the areas that is a local Triathlete as well which was comforting. Recovery went well up until the day they took the cast off to remove stitches. There wasn’t skin there to remove anything…Just a large gaping hole with a white Achilles. The problem was that the incision got infected and the skin died around the sutures. This was the beginning of the nightmare that was the beginning of a 1.5 year recovery.
Without a play by play for the entire year this is an overview of events:
-Incision got infected
-Wound vac for 6 months
-Failed skin graft from my hip, 2nd graft from our friend Bacon :) -2nd infection… Picc line for 12 weeks
-Infection came back stronger than ever before… Met with prostethetic’s doctor 2x to discuss next steps… Yes next step. :(
-After an entire year of struggle they decided to remove the infected Achilles and tissue surrounding nearly 25% of my Achilles -Told to find another passion and be ok with not racing again.
You could imagine the pain and disappointment I felt when that doctor told me that…And it just wasn't one, 9 of 11 of them told me the same thing.
I obviously wasn’t ok with being told this after all the hard work and miles I had put in over the years. I knew I had more to prove.
After having that much of my Achilles taken out, efficiently learning how to run again, and rebuilding muscle after 18 months of atrophy running and competing was a daunting journey.
To put it in perspective:
The day I ruptured my Achilles I rode 50 miles and ran 12 miles… THE ENTIRE TIME since my rupture and recovery which took over a year I didn’t total that many miles… SAD and depressing I know. I don’t know how I found peace and sanity when I had a hard time taking a day off for recovery.
AND that is where Recover Pump comes into this story. (Thank you for listening to me rant on about this… Now the info)
My Doctors recommended compression sleeves and socks for recovery. In my research for the best system, I came across Recovery Pump and their compression system. I instantly asked my doctor about them and they gave me the green light, and said especially in my case, increased blood flow and circulation will speed up recovery.
From the day my doctors gave me the ok to start walking I was using my boots. Started off with lower pressure and shorter amounts of time and slowly but surely I increased the amount of activity and time in my boots along with intensive PT.
I would catch myself sleeping in them for an hour, two, and even 3+ hours. My doctors could see a difference in the color, and swelling once I started using the system, where months prior, the level of swelling and color looked was significantly worse.
I was cleared at the end of February to do “normal” activity and begin my training to get back to normal. Secretly I had signed up for Ironman and told myself I would do it with just over 4 months to go. To be fair I was doing pull-ups and abs until I was blue in the face, and once cleared to bear weight… Lunges and body weight squats 100 at a time, numerous times a day.
Throughout this journey I can say that having a solid support crew, amazing doctors, and technology gave me the best chance to get back in such a way that I could run again, and better yet compete at a level close to where I was prior.
*I came back in my first race, running amongst 54,000 people in Bloomsday 12k. I ran it in just over 45 minutes! Instantly into my boots (2 hours). The next day: long bike/ Run. FELT GREAT *Couer d Alene Marathon: placed 2nd in 25-29 and top ten overall finisher in 3:09. (A quick dip in the 50* lake & a nap in the boots) *My biggest test was IMCDA. I not only finished it within 30 minutes of my best time, but I ran the last splits in a 7 min mile. Thinking the entire time, thank you to the doctors that doubted me and said no… Look at me now!
Thank you to the RecoveryPump team and athletes that kept me motivated through education on recovery and provided me with the tools to recover faster and smarter.
You can see my entire journey on Instagram @ Matthew_Mattison
-Matthew Mattison, IM Finisher & Conqueror of doubts