50k Training Started Yesterday

50k training started yesterday with about a dozen laps from my parents’ kitchen to the living room. On crutches. I figure I can call it at least 0.1 miles. So let me explain how things got here.

Running has become a surprisingly integral part of my self-identity over the last few years. I really derive a lot more internal validation and satisfaction from it than I ever expected to, so I consider that an added health benefit in addition to the obvious physical benefits.

So when I tell you that being injured sucks, understand that it’s more than a sense of induced boredom, lack of endorphins, or anything like that. I feel like I have been less of myself for months now.

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As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I took a fall on day three at the Grand Viduta Stage Race back at the very end of April this year. I could tell pretty much immediately that something was Not Right with my right knee as the dust settled. My knees were feeling pretty wobbly by the third straight day of being on the trail, but I jammed it pretty good and had some immediate inflammation. I finished the day with some discomfort, but I wasn’t incapacitated.

To make a long story short, I rested, I did physical therapy, and I rested some more. My mileage was limited all summer due to pain during my runs and inflammation afterwards. My knee was also giving way on me occasionally, causing me to do some unpredictable and strange dance moves that had nothing to do with my being a white dude.

In November, I spent a weekend at the Pinhoti 100 crewing for my friend Brian. Having moved up to Franklin, TN in August, it felt a bit like a homecoming for me in a few ways, but I was taken by surprise by how much I was glad to be back around some of my Huntsville trail-running clan. A number of trail friends were there, and I became really conscious of how much this injury had been keeping me from doing the things I wanted to be doing. I wanted to be training, and I wanted to have races on the horizon. I hadn’t done any of that all summer, and I was getting pretty frustrated about it.

Like I said, it turns out there’s a lot of my identity tied up in running. I really needed to be back out there challenging myself and winning the struggle (most days). A trail friend of mine in Huntsville, Kim, had made some online comments about not being on top of her game lately either due to new medication, and I felt like I could really relate to her frustration. I’ve been down for a week or three here and there to let some tendinitis settle down, but this is the first major injury of my running career, and I was hearing a lot more of the negative voice in my head than I would like. I found myself really empathizing with Kim.

I decided it was time to get serious about getting things back on track. I got in to see an ortho/sports doctor, then I had my knee MRIed a few weeks ago. There was no smoking gun, although some tendinopathy on the north side of my knee was noted. No surprise… squats and motions that fire my quads (like downhills) were exactly what has been giving me problems. We talked about my meniscus, the MRI wasn’t conclusive on that or the presence of scar tissue, but I could reliably produce a nice grind-clunk feeling in my knee when I extended it.

Talking things over with the doctor, I opted for an exploratory arthroscopy. Although it wasn’t an easy decision, I felt no hesitation telling the doctor I was ready to move ahead with surgery to get things fixed. I knew it would make things worse before it made things better, but I wasn’t sure exactly to what degree.

I’m 48 hours post-surgery now, and things are going relatively well. My leg is handling some weight okay and I’ve got very little pain, although I still have enough swelling in my knee that my range of motion sucks, so my stability is still really limited. I’m still using a crutch just to get to the bathroom, so it’s pretty tough to think about a 50k in the spring/summer timeframe, but I’m going to keep my eye on the ball.

I’ll move on to physical therapy next week, and hopefully I’ll be logging a few miles very soon.

50k training started yesterday. It should only get better from here, right?

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