Winter Knee Drama Part II

Read Part I first.

It was only a mile or so later I noticed the same tightness again. Not much later I felt some pain during a foot strike. In frustration, I turned around to head back to the car. I walked for a bit, devastated to have such a good day turn sour so quickly. After walking some, similar to previous occasions, I was again able to run pain free back to the car.

That’s when the endless googling and self-diagnosis began in earnest. I also knew I needed to have a professional check it out. The first sports doctor (chiropractor) diagnosed it as ITBS. Immediately I was introduced to electrotherapy, ultrasound therapy, proprioceptive therapy, and my personal favorite, deep torture – I mean tissue – massage. Seriously. That hurt way worse than anything I felt running.

"Normal" Knees

Uncertain it was really ITBS (because I have to be different), I went to my regular doctor. He is a relatively new, but serious runner. He ran the 2009 New York City Marathon. I started going to this doctor specifically because I knew he was a runner. You know, because we runners are all a bit crazy and non-runners just don’t get it. First of all, I was thrilled he didn’t tell me to stop running. He agreed it was likely ITBS and recommended I continue with a weeks’ worth of daily therapy as my chiro suggested.

I shared with my doctor I was concerned about Osteoarthritis (OA) because my left knee popped a lot. OA is typical in soccer players, which I played for many years, including the less fit years of my mid 20’s. He asked me to show him how it popped.  When I did, his tone changed suddenly. He still didn’t tell me to stop running, but started talking about how not many people run for multiple decades. Apparently the “grinding and popping” in both knees warranted an x-ray to examine the joint space for degenerative cartilage.

Thankfully, my xrays came back “within normal limits.” Still the sudden change in my doctor’s tone had me concerned. But with the xrays in the clear, I couldn’t worry about OA for now. I already started taking Glucosamine and Chondroitin, supplements with promising studies showing they alleviated the symptoms associated with OA. If OA is going to be a problem for me in 10 or 15 years, so be it. I had more pressing matters: ITBS.

My first snowy trail run. Bliss!

With OA ruled out as the culprit for the knee issues, I went forward with the ITBS therapy.  I took that weekend easy, but had to go out for a 5.5 mile run in the snow. You just don’t get to run in snow very often in Texas. I didn’t have any issues on the snow run or on any other of a handful of short 6 milers. The light weekend yielded a paltry 17-mile total week. That plus a weeks worth of daily therapy, convinced me I needed to test things out. I went for a medium back-to-back 15 mile – 10 mile (Jan 15-16). No issues! Ecstatic, I tried pretty much the same mileage this past weekend (Jan 22-29). But I was disappointed to have considerable tightness on the second of back-to-back 12 milers.

Looking back, in my mind the mileage cut seemed larger. But the shortest week was still 17 miles. After the 12-12 weekend my 4-week moving average was still well above 30. So while I don’t have the mileage base I would like for the RR50, in the grand scheme of things, I haven’t taken much of a break.

I’m hopeful some exercises I got from my new sports doctor (had to switch to in-network) will help improve my symptoms. They were chosen based on my specific biometric analysis. I’ve also been foam rolling more consistently. I’ve gotten much better at rolling every inch of muscle from the hips down. Needless to say I won’t be doing any more long mileage. I’ll take a break from running this weekend and cheer for Sarah as she runs the Houston marathon. Hopefully, I can recover enough to avoid problems at Rocky Raccoon. I plan to stretch on regular intervals during the race to prevent problems from escalating. Most of all I don’t want to injure myself more seriously. In the end, while I don’t plan to run through sustained pain to finish this race, I will definitely continue running through tightness. I can’t wait to see what happens. This is just another chapter in my ongoing adventures of ultra-running.

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  • Kelly Garman

    Thank you for providing us with the rest of the story! However, it pains me to think you’re now worrying about knee issues….anything like that is hard to deal with for a runner. Sounds like you’re doing the right thing though….