Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The good, the bad and the stubborn

Two weeks ago I ran a 10k trail race. It was difficult, hilly, landscaped with large rocks and roots. I started slow but picked up quite a bit of time on a steep downhill at around mile two. It was almost like flying. I struggled up one hill and then another, jogging at an abysmal pace as I passed walkers who would only pass me once they too reached the top of the hill. I ultimately walked one hill only to feel like the largest failure. I berated myself for the next half mile until a cramp just under my chest had me wondering whether or not I could finish the race. And then I found myself approaching mile five and I found my second wind. I picked up the pace and finished out with my normal sprint at 1:02:09. I didn't feel particularly good or fast but somehow came in second in my age division, bringing home a nice medal with a bald eagle on it.

Two days later I managed a nice tempo run of four miles. I wanted more. I have three races within eight days of each other at the end of the month. I needed more miles, more training, more speed and confidence. We went out the next night for another tempo run.

I don't know if it was the veggie hot dogs or the heat but I almost immediately took to a cramp in my chest not unlike the one at the trail race. I hoped it would pass so instead of slowing down I continued to try and pace with Todd who was after all, pushing the massive Triplette holding our three children. At three miles the cramp was only worse. Then at just over three and a half miles, I had my first ever knee pain. At four miles I was grimacing and contemplating tears with my family long gone ahead of me.

Todd came back and asked if I was OK. I managed a no and told him about the pains in my side and my knee. Well stop running you fool. I did and took over the Triplette responsibility so that he could get a decent run in. My side eased up by mile five and we were approaching the tunnel that rains down whether we've had rain all week or not so I thought I would try and jog through the tunnel pushing the more than one hundred pound stroller. Bad. Idea. Immediately my knee hurt worse than before and I knew to stop. I pushed the stroller another mile before Todd once again took over. I cursed the seven mile loop and the distance left to make it to the car. I was embarrassed that I was walking. I was frustrated that after so many warnings about knee pain that it had finally happened to little old invincible me.

I would have cried had I not already sweat out all the fluids in my body. We iced the knee and later wrapped the knee in ace bandages. I hoped the next morning would find me well rested and good as new. The next day I could barely do stairs. I took a few Advil and continued on worrying only a few dozen times whether my knee injury was serious.

I listened to Todd and rested. I took two full days off of any exercise. Then on Friday I thought I would try again to go for a run. I would take it easy, listen to my body and bring along a knee brace. The first mile went fine. And then the second. I started to get cocky and thought about pushing through to six miles when the pain came back. Then another female runner passed me. I never let other female runners pass me on the course without a fight. Unfortunately, there was no fight in me, only pain.

I stopped, I put on my brace and tried again to run. I could go about 200 yards before the pain was too much to keep going. I would walk and the pain would go away. So I would try again to run only to have the pain come back a little worse each time. Again, I really wanted to cry. Or kick something. Or scream. Instead I started to sulk and turned around.

I pledged to take the next several days off from training. Four days off from training gave me ample time to search the internet for a diagnosis. It was easy to come by. It is more than likely that I have an Iliotibial Band injury. I know it's a self-diagnosis on the Internet but it sounds exactly like the pain I am having. Especially since the only other pain I have had as a runner has been in my hips. I spent several hours yesterday reading up on the iliotibial band and exercises to strengthen it alternated with time spent worrying about whether or not my training will be further postponed.

But I am pretty damned stubborn. So I iced my knee for a while before bed last night. Then I stretched this morning doing several of the stretches I read about on the Internet. Then I loaded up the car with my beautiful children, took 600 mg of Ibuprofen and headed to the gym. I did several reps on a few machines focusing on the part of my body I believe to be weak. Then I stretched some more and headed to a treadmill. I really wanted to do a mile, play it safe, see how my knee felt. I wanted to focus on my pronation (I was just recently told I overpronate), as well as my overall form.

I began my mile on the treadmill, walking three minutes, running three minutes. No pain. Only a little stiffness. I upped it to six minutes running, two minutes walking. Then I decided to run two miles. I followed through with eleven minutes of running and decided to go for three miles, then four. I even got to a sub 7:30 pace, which on the treadmill is pretty good for me. At 3.8 miles my knee started to give me just the slightest twinges. I'm not that thick headed so I decided to cool down. I don't want to end my training, I told myself. Three races in eight days three weeks from now.

I did some more stretching and a few more reps on the hip abductor machine. I came home and iced the knee some more.

So far it isn't giving me any trouble. I am so thankful. I realized this past week that it has officially occurred. I am indeed addicted to running. I have been really distraught all week that I couldn't run. Both my husband and his brother told me I might have to take a few weeks off. I know it may sound irrational but I don't have a few weeks to take off. I have PR's to set and new distances to cover. I have already been slowed down by weeks of blistering cold weather, then by a terrible sickness. As I see it in my stubborn little head I really can't afford an injury. Especially one that may take visits to a physical therapist.

I am going to continue to ice the knee, take the ibuprofen and work on stretching and strengthening the hip abductor muscles. I am also going to make wishes in penny fountains and see to it that Bailey and Cooper jump cracks in concrete. And of course pray that I don't have to take a month to six weeks off of training for a bum knee.


Cheryle said...

Please take care of your knee, even if it means going to a doctor, taking time off from running, etc.

I was once your age and never dreamed that my body would betray me. Today, at almost 63, I am waiting to go on Medicare so I can afford two knee replacements. I have no cartilage in either knee and the pain wakes me up at night, and my grandson asks every day if my knee is okay and can I play with him. This is not a fun way to live.

Please, please take care of your knee!

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