One lone trekking pole by the fireplace

I haven’t yet posted my Rocky Raccoon 100 report, but may still once the story is complete.  In short, I tried to run RR100 with some leg pain left over from Across the Years.  The hope was that the problem was minor and would calm down and go away during the race.  By mile 8, things did feel much better, but by mile 40, I knew it would be a painful finish if I continued.  I did continue and finished my 5th RR100 in my slowest time ever.  The last 20 miles took 8.5 hours and I used trekking poles like crutches.  I promised myself that I would stop if my knee swelled up.   It never did much so I continued to the finish, and later was pushed through the airport in a wheel chair.

It wasn’t a very smart decision.  Hey, but I did get my 500-mile RR jacket, and I did finish my 48th 100-miler, and I did extend a string of 30 100-mile finishes without a DNF.  Normally I’m running again within five days.  Two weeks later, I can still barely walk and it is pretty painful.   Running is out of the question.  So, what do you do next?

 

  1. Put away thoughts that I will be a cripple for life.   This one is tough to do.  I’ve joked with my family that just like Tiny Tim, when I am gone, they will remember me by one lone trekking pole by the fireplace.
  2. Go visit the doctor.  I did and the X-rays looked fine, but X-rays can’t detect recent stress fractures.  At least it showed me that my knee is not bone-on-bone yet.  The structure all looked good.
  3. Research.   I’ve learned more about knee and lower leg anatomy than I ever dreamed I would.  I’m pretty sure I know more about it than my general family doctor.   This is good, it has really helped me classify my problems and search for treatments.
  4. Visit a specialist.   I finally went to my orthopedic surgeon, who scoped the same knee in 2003.  Physical tests of bending the leg were good.   I’m hopeful that there isn’t anything serious.
  5. Get an MRI.  Done and waiting for results.  I’m hoping and praying that I won’t need surgery again.

So, I’m waiting for answers.   My biggest problem seems to be bursitis in two bursae below the knee.  These can get badly inflamed by over-use, but can also be a signal for more serious issues with the meniscus.   I’m hoping that it is just bursitis which can quickly be helped with shots.   We shall see soon.

However, mentally, I’ve just been preparing myself to face a long period without running, or maybe a retirement from ultrarunning.   It is a difficult mental process because ultrarunning has been an important part of my life for seven years now and I think I got pretty good at it.   This has been a great lesson on patience and life priorities.  There are far more things important than running.  I need to take care of those.   I can live without running but other things can’t.

Update

Well, believe it or not, the MRI came back fine.  Great news!  My ortho mostly laughed as he listened and talked to me about what I do.  After he discovered that I have run 23,000 miles since he fixed up my knee in 2003, he bragged to his receptionists.  I asked him specifically if I’ve damaged the knee at all from my running.  He said the MRI just shows what he did with the surgery, no new problems.   So what have I done?  “Overuse.”  He couldn’t rule out a stress fracture, but didn’t seem very concerned about doing anything more to find it.  He did say that he should have ordered a brain scan.

He prescribed a steriod to be taken this week which should bring down all the swelling and solve the bursitus.   As we walked down the hall to the front desk, he yelled out and pointed to me limping, “I didn’t do this to him!  He did it to himself.”   He got me crutches for the next few days.   Hopefully I’ll start mending now.

Update 2

The steriod didn’t help at all and affected a kidney.   I had terrible reactions like passing a kidney stone.  Thankfully things calmed down after I went off it.  A few days later I started to see real improvements, and now 4 weeks after RR100, I can finally walk normally again, but still with pain.  I returned my rented crutches.  Little milestones like that make me happy. Swimming is fine and eliptical can be tolerated.  Running is still far away.  I’ve been having many running dreams lately, far more than I would when I could run.