Where have I been?
More or less, I’ve been hiding. Hiding from blogging, hiding from people, hiding from reality.
Because my reality is that I’m not running, and that’s not something I want to talk about much at all.
It started out a couple of weeks ago; I’d feel the tiniest tug on the outside of my right knee when I’d get up from my desk. I was curious, but also a little casual about it; sitting for a long time will make already-fatigued muscles cranky, so I pressed on—promising myself to get up more often and roll more.
Running at this point was fine. No pain, no irritation even, just regular ole running. The twinge in my knee subsided too, so I figured I was in the clear. However, last week, after a soaking-wet rain run, things weren’t so okay. The knee ache was definitely there, and it was trying to get my attention. It wasn’t even really painful, just a nuisance. I’d been around this block before to know exactly what that knee pulling was (IT band stuff) and so I decided to take two days completely off and reevaluate on Sunday. Sunday came, and everything felt normal. I prided my over-cautiousness and set out to test my leg on a run.
And things felt great! It was great, cold running weather, my leg felt a little stiff but good, and generally everything was going swimmingly.
Until it wasn’t.
Within the course of about 30 seconds, everything completely fell apart. My knee started throbbing, and then my groin was on fire, and my entire IT band seemed to shorten my leg to the point that my stride was completely lopsided. I pulled to a dead stop, frustrated, and I knew my only choice was to take a runner’s walk of shame back to my car. Bonus: my car was 2 miles away. I had no phone, no money, and was essentially forced to endure a gimpy plod back. And that “great” cold weather? Not so great when you’re slowly walking along a windy beach front in short shorts. The looks I got ranged from sheer horror to “you look so pathetic” sympathy, and none of them did anything to help my already-fuming mood.
Eventually, I got back, got home, stood in the shower for nearly half an hour trying to warm up, and tried to evaluate wtf happened. My “slight knee ache” had turned into complete debilitating hip/quad pain that ripples whenever I walk. Over the past few days, it’s gotten marginally better, but not enough to alleviate the limp that I’m forced to trudge around with.
I went to the doctor yesterday (a very running-specific ortho, highly recommend him) and he asked all kinds of questions, moved my legs in all different kinds of ways, and deduced the somewhat obvious potential diagnoses: it’s either a muscle or a bone.
My instructions are to baby it for a week (no weight bearing, ice, cross training to get blood flow) and if it’s not improving by next Tuesday, more intensive (and expensive) measures will be taken. He left me with some interesting, but conflicting, observations:
-Femoral stress fractures do happen, but since my mileage/intensity hasn’t changed drastically recently, I don’t really fit the profile.
-A quad muscle strain is possible, although they’re rare in runners given the likelihood that their quads are in solid condition
So, basically, neither are likely, but it’s probably one or the other. Confused? Me too. But mostly just disappointed and sad. I’ve spent over a year running pain-free and feeling strong and confident. To go from that to being completely incapable of running (or really even walking) is really discouraging, to say the least.
Somehow, I still have yet to have a total meltdown, which is ordinarily one of my injury-induced specialties. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in denial, if I don’t really have a diagnosis, or if I’ve just gotten used to the process—but no matter what, I’m still expecting some heaving sobs to happen at some point.
The other thing is that while there’s no good time to be injured, this isn’t necessarily bad timing. The next race I truly care about is Boston, and my healing focus is 100% on getting ready to train for that race. Relatively speaking, I still have a long ways to go until training even starts (beginning of January), so circumstantially, it could be worse. I’m not exactly thrilled about the idea of my fitness going down the tubes right before training starts, but I suppose I’ll just need to roll with those punches when the time comes.
However, at the same time, the beginning of January isn’t that far away. And if this is something serious (stress fracture), there’s a high likelihood that recovery will start to overlap with the technical “start” of training.
But, without any kind of diagnosis, I’m going to hang onto cautious optimism for now. While I really, really don’t like the idea of being totally impaired over the holiday season and during my favorite running weather, it’s a price I’m 100% willing to pay to be healthy for Boston training.
So there’s my update. I’m in an okay mood for the time being so it felt like a good time to get it all out there. It’s also been feeling better little by little every day so that’s helping. I have a lot more to say on the matter, in terms of both how I should have and shouldn’t have seen this coming. But like I said, for now, I don’t really feel like talking more about it. The thought I’m clutching tightly to right now is that I’ve been in this position before, and I’ve seen the other side of it. Patience is needed in all aspects of running, and this is just another one of those things that needs time.
When I have updates, I’ll post them. For now I’m going back in my cave, protecting the world from the fumes of an angry, sidelined runner.