Not Dead Yet (But Close, Perhaps)

I came across this essay by Anton Krupicka, and it’s rather appropriate, given how things have been going with my running. We went to Florida early in February, and given the relative lack of elevation changes and fine weather, we both ran, a lot, including a 14 miler at a local regional park (more on that in a bit). I think I managed a little over 30 miles for the seven days we were there. Most of the time, my left knee hurt, but given that none of the runs were more than 6 miles, I could generally deal with the ache. That all changed, however, when we did the 14 miler. The trails were nice, built primarily for mountain bikers (though there is an annual trail race there, too. Like the rest of Florida, the trails are generally flat, but there were a few sections of contour trail, some of it rather severe in its ups and downs.

I managed just fine through the first 8 miles or so, but when we hit the worst of the rollers, my right knee and shin started giving me trouble (likely because my gait was trying to compensate for my gimpy left knee). We stopped briefly for a gel and some water after the rollers (about 10 miles in), and that was it–both my knees called it quits. While Jen finished out the run, I limped (literally) back to the car on horse trails (adding another mile and half), wanting, as usual, to throw my shoes to the top of the highest palm tree and be done with this stupid running thing.

But, I am too stubborn to do that. I like running, for crying out loud. I tried a short run once we returned to Pittsburgh, and my knees hurt, still. So I took a few more days off, tried another short run, and managed to survive. Jen suggested I bit the bullet and get some sort of training plan to both deal with the IT band issues and continue my training for the race. So, that’s what I did–I talked to Jason at Stretgh Running, and he gave me a program that would hopefully deal with both my IT band (and the muscle imbalances that caused the problem) and prepare me to run a good race in April. Yay! I was saved!

After five days of just strength exercises, I did my first two mile run. That was fine. My left knee was still a bit sore, but my right knee felt alright. Yay! Progress. Two days later, I did a 4.5 miler, on the contour trail in Highland Park. This felt okay. After about 3.5 miles, my knees started feeling a bit gimpy, but I got home without any sharp pain, and aside from some tightness in my hamstrings (likely from stacking wood the day before), I felt pretty good. Yay! More progress.

Then I ran my 8 miler this morning in Frick. After a couple of miles, the familiar aches set in, and I would feel a sharp pain in my left knee every so often. I resigned myself to walking the longer descents to preserve my knees, but even this wasn’t helping. By the time I was back in the Hollow, both knees were pretty sore, with moments of sharper pain. After a few profanities (the park was empty, at least), I slumped into a mix of walking and grandpa shuffling and made it back to the van. This was hardly the result I was expecting.

So, here I am, stuck. I’m ready to take a few weeks off, perhaps find someone to do some Active Release massage (apparently a boon for IT band issues), and hope that I can build up enough of a base in a few weeks to actually complete the GRT 30k without dying, or giving myself a permanent limp. Resting will be hard. I know tomorrow my knees will feel fine, and I’ll want to test them out, but I have to resist that temptation, because I know what the result will be. I’ll follow Anton’s advice, I think (well, except for perhaps breaking a bone), and see where it leads me. At this point, it can’t get much worse, can it.