The doctor said Run!
He didn’t use these very words, but he was very pleased with how the Achilles tendon is recovering.
To wrap it up, I decided, at the beginning of the summer, to not stress over the Achilles anymore, take the summer off completely, and see how the tendinosis will progress and more importantly whether the PRP shot I had in February did resolve the chronic inflammation on my left Achilles. The follow-up appointment was therefore scheduled for the beginning of September.
The summer flew away: I had a great vacation in Iceland early June and I then dedicated the following months to study the cell cycle and motor proteins, and to strengthen core, calves … the whole shebang; I even bench-press now! (45lb, not much, but considering that’s more than a third my weight…)

At Námafjall, Iceland - June 2011

I was fairly optimistic seeing my doc: it’s not that I stayed entirely away of running. Even though the elliptical is nowhere close to real running, I was able to endure the torture five times a week without or only minimal discomfort (on the Achilles, of course), and that is only half of it.
I didn’t say a word for fear of jinxing it (athletes can be absurdly superstitious), but in mid-July I went for a couple of laps, roughly 1/5 of a mile, around the indoor “track” at the Rec Center: the Achilles felt weird, I felt elated — my body welcomed the sudden rush like a smoker their first morning cigarette. I was at peace (and without the certainty of cancer).
Still, I was freaking out: I overanalyzed the “run,” every single pain or discomfort my muscles were signaling the brain was categorized and compared with previous data. During the “run” I felt the Achilles stretching at each stride; it wasn’t pain, it was precisely like stretching. Pretty weird. Afterward, the Achilles felt sore, not overly sore and it went away after carefully stretching and massaging. The following days I went back and ran no more than half a mile.
The “track” is not a real track: the surface is just the usual gym cement floor with three lanes painted over and it has awful tight 90º turns, but I didn’t want to go to the track or run outside; for one, my “runs” were not even a mile, and moreover I didn’t want to have to walk back to the gym if I was to realize I couldn’t continue the run. At times, I hopped on a treadmill though I always felt like I’m running at my worst on those machines and they also constrain my pace at a given speed when I wanted the freedom to slow down or speed up at will.
This went on for a month or so. Every run was better than the previous, and also the discomfort during or the soreness after the run was diminishing, the more I was running. (Talking about born to run, right?)
In August, I was probably a tidbit too overconfident and I started doing intervals; truth to be told, those “intervals” were run at my 10k, maybe 5k pace so there were not real, all-out intervals, but they were probably too much for my deconditioned legs to handle and I started developing shin splints on the right! I felt cheated. I took a couple of weeks off, trying not to glare the students jogging around campus, and sucking up some more elliptical. The end of those two weeks off was right before seeing my doctor on Friday.
In the morning before my appointment I laced up my shoes and went outside! Just an easy, slow run around campus, no more than 2 miles. Finally outside! Running indoor can’t be called running; only outside, on the road, accommodating variation in the terrain, changes in slopes, and the wind. That is running.
“Hundred yards in, the weird stretching feeling started on my left Achilles. It accompanied me for a mile or so to then disappear. Afterward the Achilles wasn’t even sore.”
This is precisely what I told my doc few hours later. He explained that the “stretching feeling” might just be the Achilles and the muscles readjusting to running after nine months on the sideline. Also soreness, he continued, should be expected as this is muscles readapting to a regimen they are not used to anymore.
I knew all this, obviously. His words were just reassuring me that the recovery is going well and the Achilles is remodeling just fine, and more importantly I should try not to freak out for any single, little sensation at the left Achilles (because of course were they on the right, I wouldn’t even think about twice).
[what’s ahead] All the conditioning is gone: I didn’t gain any weight, and probably I’m stronger than during marathon training, but I can’t hope to go out today and run an easy 10 miler, not even a 5 miler. It will be a long road up to my base mileage, but it’s a road for too long I waited to run on. I just have to be very careful. My hope is to get to base mileage by March. If it all goes well the beginning of, if it will take longer the end, either way I want to be able to start training for a fall marathon during spring 2012.
Right now the focus must be on endurance and bare mileage. I shouldn’t care about pace and speed, that will come later when my legs will be strong enough to handle the strain.

I will keep you posted of my (hopeful) progress: it will be probably a bit lame in the beginning, don’t expect any 50 miles a week training schedule any time soon.

Fingers tightly crossed!