Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Knee Recap

Blogging Marathon Day #5
Running mileage and knee craptitude 

Well it's time for me to figure out what the hell happened to my knees, and what I can do about it.

For those of you who are healthy, this will be dull. But runners suffering from knee pain may get something useful from my experience. Der Scott just posted about his triumph over knee failure, which made me hopeful that I can recover from whatever is ailing me.

So let's look back to figure out what happened. Much of this is enumerated in a previous post here.

Before 2000
I ran sporadically. Never more than 3 miles, and never two days in a row. If I tried to run any more than that my knees would hurt like hell. I just assumed that was the way it was.

I found I could run for a longer time if I was out on the single track trails. I just figured because it was a softer surface. Still never two days in a row.

I ran my first race ever in 2003, after my sister talked me into it. I met Shannon and she talked me into running more races, and even a few marathons. I bumped up the mileage and started running more and my knees got correspondingly more painful. After the Salem Lake 30K in 2005 my knees swelled up like balloons, and filled with fluid.

I quit running for about a year, and sought professional help. They diagnosed it as "runner's knee" and recommended stretching,  strengthening, and orthotics. None of which seemed to help.
One doctor recommended lateral release surgery, which I declined.
I went to another doctor at Raleigh Orthopedic. After an MRI, he told me that there was nothing really wrong with my knees, and I could run if I could take the pain.

I started running again while icing my knees all the time and taking a lot Advil.
For some reason, my knees seemed to get better the more I ran. I stopped icing, pill popping and stretching, and ran more than 2000 miles in 2009 and 2010.

In February of 2010 I declared myself cured of "Runner's Knee". I thought I had it solved with "small steps".

Satan makes an appearance
In the fall of 2010, I was running my fastest times ever. I did a 3:02 marathon in Detroit, and followed it up with a surprising 1:23:58 in the City of Oaks half. I was feeling good.

But of course, the following week I had to push it too far.
In a single week, I ran 75 miles which included: a hard race at Raven Rock, some training runs, a PR at the IO Turkey Trot, and finished up with the Faust Marathon, where I had to give a tendon to Satan in order to finish.

I was never the same after that. I hobbled through December, trying to get some miles in for all the big races in 2011.

In January, I finally got over the tendon problem, and tried to cram in an 80 mile training week for Uwharrie, which was a bad idea. I pushed myself as hard as I could in Uwarrie but missed my goal by 5 minutes. Shannon did awesome, of course.

The week after I was battered and broken. Both of my knees were wrecked. Not under the kneecaps like with the "Runner's Knee" before, but instead it seemed to be the tendons in the back, on the insides, and down the shin.

I hobbled through the next months. I did not do much running during the week, but instead rested for the races on the weekends. I had to take Tylenol to get me through the races, and I managed to do pretty good.

However, after every race I felt worse. My right knee was making some horrible crunching and popping sound every time I bent it. Sometimes it would be a stabbing pain behind the knee that left me limping. A couple times it suddenly "gave out" and buckled for a second.

Obviously I needed to take a break. But the strange thing was that when I would take an entire week off, my knees felt worse, not better. It felt like some strange disease radiating and spreading out further from my knees.

Circling the Drain
I went back to the same orthopedic surgeon I had seen in 2006, who had told me to go ahead and run.
I wanted to see if it was something really serious, if I had done some damage or if I just needed to take a break. 

I told him how I was running less and less, but my knees seemed to be getting worse. His reaction was not encouraging: "Wow. You're really circling the drain," he said.

The X-Rays showed no major problems, but we would have to schedule a $2000 MRI for a diagnosis. In the meantime he recommended two expensive placebo treatments, glucosamine and hyaluronan injections.

I declined both of those  (I will do a post explaining why), and opted for sacrificing a chicken. I went over to Bospherous and got the chicken kebab.

How about a Marathon?
So at the end of May, Shannon and I were signed up for the Bayshore Marathon. Shannon was really looking forward it, I was not.

I was unable to even run a mile without either severe pain or taking a handful of Tylenol. In the previous 3 months, the only "long" runs I had done was the Owls Roost Half marathon and the MST 12 Miler.

It seemed insane that I would try to run it. Still, my sister and Shannon would hear none of it.

"Oh, you can do it! You will probably PR!"

Next: The Bayshore Marathon race report.