Recovery Mode

rest001The after effects of my weekend exploits are not as bad as I expected. Although there was some pain in my left knee the next day, it was nothing more than expected and subsided over the course of the day without the aid of painkillers. As promised, I have to shut down all running activities for the next few weeks to (hopefully) allow my knee to recover. Obviously, I would prefer not to stop but if it’s a choice between taking a break for a few weeks or having to stop forever – well, that’s not really a choice now is it.

I am planning to travel to Poland in June for the European Championships, meeting up with some friends from Ireland and heading to a couple of games. I return on the 16th, which gives me four weeks of recovery time. During these next few weeks I will focus on the stretching and strength building routines I developed with my physical therapist and do some bike work to maintain fitness, but absolutely no impact activities that will put stress on the knee.

As you can imagine, things will be a little quiet around here for a few weeks, but should start back up again around the middle of June. There’s a 5M race in Central Park at the end of June and training for the Philadelphia Marathon starts in early July, so there’s not a lot of time to sit back and relax.

The Brooklyn Half

05192012 Brooklyn Half 003With all the knee problems I had been having in advance of this race, I had not set myself a target time. Instead, I preferred to focus on getting to the finish in one piece. Surprisingly, I completed the half-marathon in a time of 1:56:26, just over two minutes slower than my first half-marathon in March. What was remarkable about this particular effort was that I stopped at almost every water station to hydrate (it was wickedly hot) and walked for 30-60 seconds to take some pressure off my knee. I’m not saying I could have gone faster without the walking, merely speculating that at full health I might have a sub 1:50 half-marathon in my old legs.

The day started early, with a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee in an attempt to start my internal system and get the all important bathroom visit in ahead of the long run. Shortly thereafter Jess dropped off Sarah (a good friend of hers) and I close to the start. Sarah is a much better runner than I and is also part of Team in Training, a great organization who work to support fellow runners while raising money for good causes all year round. Anyway, we made our way to the museum and then went our separate ways as we began our pre-race warm ups. I inhaled a banana and hydrated with some free bottles of water than were being handed out behind the museum. From there I headed over to the corrals and started stretching out my legs. So far, my knee was holding up just fine.

I bumped into a colleague and runner, and we chatted for a while which helped to take my mind off how to manage my knee over the next couple of hours. As the start time quickly approach, we turned our attention to the PA system and began to get psyched up for what promised to be a fast course.

The roads were well marshaled and even though there was a big crowd (15,000+) there were minimal delays in getting the runners going and very few bumps through the opening miles or two. We wound our way down and around the east side of Prospect Park, entering after 3 miles at Park Circle. I felt good at that point. I was holding a nine minute mile pace and my knee was giving off no signs that it wouldn’t hold up. Jess came out to cheer and I caught sight of her on the park’s West Drive. Many people have said it, but it’s so true – seeing a friendly face and getting a shout out provides a great boost to a runner.

We exited at Park Circle and proceeded onto Ocean Parkway, heading over the big ramp and down onto the flat, straight expanse of concrete. With the sun shining, there was little or no shade to provide relief. Prior to the race, I thought this would be a quick section, but the straight roads and hard concrete reminded me so much of the West Side Highway section of the NYC half. Both were long and difficult, more so for the mind than the body. However, it was around mile eight that my knee started to hurt. Just a little at first but enough to set off alarm bells in my head. Wanting to avoid a major injury, I began to take walk breaks to give the knee a break. At each water station I slowed down and re-hydrated while ambulating along for thirty seconds to a minute. After the quick respite, it was back up to jogging speed until the next station.

By this time I was still pulling a relatively fast pace. As we turned right off Ocean Parkway onto Surf Avenue, the crowds got larger and louder. I checked my time and I was headed for something under two hours! Immediately I got a lift and pushed on, passing Jess (who had a big smile and kiss for me) as I hit the boardwalk and upped my speed through the last quarter mile. As I crossed the finish line I couldn’t help but smile; I had done it and in a decent time too. The next 24/48 hours were going to be telling though – just how would my knee feel tomorrow morning and had I pushed myself too far? Only time will tell.

Patellar Tendonitis

patellaA couple of weeks ago I wrote about a recurring issue with my knee, specifically a sharp pain in behind the top of my knee cap. The pain only started in the weeks after the NYC half-marathon and initially I was self-medicating. As time went by and the problem remained, I started to get worried. Last week I had a doctor’s appointment regarding another issue, so I decided to bring up the topic of my knee pain. His initial diagnosis, based on the flexibility of my joint and location of the pain was bursitis, but he recommended I go for an x-ray to be certain. When the results of the x-ray came back and confirmed there was no structural damage he referred me to a physical therapist.

I found a therapist near my home and started to attend regular sessions. During my first visit the staff put me through some rigorous tests and determined that I was suffering from patellar tendonitis. Tendonitis is not a particularly debilitating injury, although it does get quite painful when trying to climb stairs or simply sitting down for extended periods. However, as I had continued to run on the injury over the previous week’s my body was not getting a chance to heal. And, according to the physical therapist, would not recover unless I stopped running for 4-6 weeks.

The news could not have come at a worse time, particularly with the eagerly awaited Brooklyn half-marathon quickly approaching. I was only two weeks away, but here was a medical professional telling me I had to stop running. Stubbornly and against all advice, I refused to stop until after the half-marathon – although I did concede and agree to skip the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K scheduled for May 12.

Despite my stubbornness, the staff at the physical therapy office agreed to work with me to get me through the half-marathon, using a combination of stretching, strength exercises, and K tape. Essentially, the two activities that I had stopped paying attention to following the NYC half-marathon (minus the taping of course). Because I had neglected to stretch and build muscle, my quad was pulling my patella in an uneven manner (one side was stronger than the other) and therefore causing irregular wear and poor traction to put additional strain on the tendons. For the next few weeks I have to take it really easy with the running, trying to maintain my current condition while stretching and working out with weights. The goal is to get me through the half-marathon without further aggravating the injury and then taking time off to allow it to heal properly.