Tuesday, September 27, 2016

CIM WEEK 8 of 18: Knee Troubles :(

I am always superstitious about filling out my weekly logs before the runs are actually done, like it's somehow going to jinx me & cause me to get sick or hurt or some kind of emergency to come up. But this week I had some extra time early in the week & just thought, "Eh, that's stupid, let me just get this stuff typed up now while I have time." Three days later, I kid you not, I could barely walk.

Here's how the week went down:

Monday 9/19: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate.

This was the day after my 19.5 miles in Half Moon Bay, and I felt totally fine. No knee pain. Now, I was quite tired so pushed strength work to Tuesday, but throughout karate I was completely fine--no hint whatsoever that anything was wrong.

Tuesday 9/20: a.m. strength work / p.m. 2 warm-up, 6 x 200m / 200m jog, 4 miles marathon pace, 6 x 200m / 200m jog, 2 cool down = 11 total

Good solid track workout; again, not a twinge anywhere. I finished it thinking how weird it felt to have these double-digit track workouts starting to feel normal.

Wednesday 9/21: Rest

I had planned a short, easy run as long as I felt good, but in the grand tradition of WTF Wednesdays, I felt awful and exhausted and spent most of the evening sleeping, rising only to devour Shalane's recovery salad & a slice of marathon lasagna.

Thursday 9/22: a.m. strength work / p.m. 8 easy.

This run felt no good from the very start. My calves & Achilles tendons felt very sore & tight, & I wondered if running fast 200m's for the first time in a while was maybe catching up with me. Then after about a mile or so, I started to feel a bit of soreness on the outside of my right knee, but nothing that made me think I should stop running.

But, it kept getting worse, & I guess it was a sort of a frog-boiling situation because right as I hit four miles it hit me that, no, my knee REALLY hurt, especially on the outside, with the occasional sharp slicing pain under my knee cap. It actually did get a little better in the last couple of miles, but still bad enough that I could tell something was really, really wrong.

I spent the rest of the evening limping around my house, wringing my hands, & swearing I would never ever ever fill out the weekly log before the end of the week ever, ever again.

Friday 9/23: 2 warm up, 4 x 2mi @ HM pace / 2:00 jog, 2 cool down = 13 total.

It was obvious to me on Thursday night that this run was not happening. I mean. I was still holding onto the possibility that some sort of miracle would happen & I would wake up Friday morning completely pain-free, but that didn't happen, & instead I spent the day limping around my office & made an appointment to see a doctor right after work. She was just a GP who I'd never seen before, but since I had no clue what had happened I really wanted the opinion of someone with an MD.

She said that my knee was very slightly swollen & it was probably either mild IT band irritation or mild patella-femoral irritation. I was a big fan of the word 'mild,' but a little annoyed because really these are both just fancy ways of saying "your knee hurts because something in or around it is irritated." She prescribed the usual GP formula of rest, ice, & anti-inflammatories.

I won't bore you with my injury history or all the various little things I know about my form/stride/body parts, but based on all of that, I suspect that the culprit is either:

  • a) Super tight hip flexors, quads, & adductors which I have kind of slacked on rolling & stretching lately;
  • b) Glutes and abductors that, while still fairly strong (and I do work hard at that), are suffering some cumulative fatigue as I've been upping mileage these last couple of months;
  • c) MANY more fast, counter-clockwise laps on the track than I have done in *quite* sometime, which I've heard/read can sometimes cause right knee issues;
  • d) Some combination of the above.

I also may or may not have sent pathetic !!FEELINGSMAIL!! to Coach Ashley basically requesting that she provide me some sort of immediate magical fix for this obviously ridiculous situation, plzthnx.

Saturday 9/24: Rest, have All Teh Emotions

You guys get this, right? You've been there, so I don't have to explain it? Cool.

Sunday 9/25: Elliptical -- 16 long w/ fast finish

By Sunday morning, I more or less had my shit together. I've been working pretty hard on my mental game in the last few months, & dealing with this situation was really not so different than the "Accept what the day brings" mentality that I've been trying to carry into races. Like, you can be pissy and depressed and bitch and moan about how unfair it is and how much it sucks and whyyyyy is this hapeniiinnggg, but the fact is that whatever is happening is happening, and the sooner you accept that the clouds have already rained, i.e. this is happening no matter how badly you want it not to be, the sooner you'll recover (at least emotionally) and make the best of it.

So? I had a 16 mile long run with a fast finish on the schedule. I went to the gym and got on the elliptical.

When I was recovering from my stress fracture last winter, I figured out how to adjust the resistance and steepness on the elliptical such that my heart rate and effort level and the pace the elliptical was showing all lined up fairly well with actual running. While obviously nothing is truly equivalent to running except running, I feel like this gives me a way to approximate the effort & exertion of a run fairly well, so that's what I did, for 16 "miles" and 2 hours 27 minutes. (9:12 pace & ~150 average heart rate, which is about what I'd expect if I'd actually been running.)

More than one person has asked me how the holy hell I could stand being on an elliptical for 2.5 hours, and I'm sorry to say there's no magical secret to it. You get your ass on the elliptical and just fucking do it. You watch the miles and you don't fucking get off until it's done. Yes, it sucks and it's boring as hell but when the goal is to be as fit as possible for your goal race under the circumstances and the options are 1) try to run on grumpy knee & make it worse, 2) do nothing and get less fit by the minute, or 3) park yourself on the elliptical for 2.5 hours, it's just not really a choice. Like anything else hard in life, you just. Fucking. Do it. The end.


Grand Total: 19 real miles, 16 elliptical "miles," 2:00:00 strength

    * 12 easy
    * 3 speed
    * 4 race pace/tempo
    * 16 elliptical

But wait! There is also good news!!

1) In response to my !!FEELINGSMAIL!!, Coach Ashley promised me that it takes 4-5 days of rest to lose 1 workout's worth of fitness, so honestly, I could do nothing for like two weeks and it still wouldn't be that bad; I just wouldn't be getting fitter. And while obviously nothing is running but running, cross-training for the same amount of time would still let me make some gain while my knee heels. (Of course, her bottom line was to take as much time off as necessary and do NOT NOT NOT try to run through this kind of pain, period. Thankfully I'm at the point in my running life where I've done that enough times to know it's not worth it.)

2) I had no pain at all on Sunday or Monday (except, weirdly, sitting down with my knee bent), so Monday afternoon I took an easy 1-mile jog around my neighborhood (where I could easily stop) just to see how running felt. There was no pain at all but I did not push it any further than that; I've put too much work into this training cycle already to risk it. So we'll see how the next few days go.

In the mean time, I'm planning to get back to rolling & stretching my hip flexors & quads more consistently, especially on the right side, & doing glute/hip strengthening exercises every day, at least for a while, instead of only 2-3 times a week.

* * *

CIM 2016 Week 1 of 18

CIM 2016 Week 2 of 18

CIM 2016 Week 3 of 18

CIM 2016 Week 4 of 18

CIM 2016 Week 5 of 18

CIM 2016 Week 6 of 18

CIM 2016 Week 7 of 18


  1. I can't believe you did that elliptical workout! Hope your knee keeps improving. This is a good reminder to me to keep up with all the little things I've been neglecting!

  2. Fingers crossed your knee starts feeling better. Your training was looking so awesome!

    I laughed at your description of how to handle 2.5 hours on the elliptical. I'm pulling my hair out after 10 minutes on those things. But I don't mind the treadmill for hours for some reason.

  3. Good lord, that elliptical workout! However, a friend of mine has done multi-hour sessions on the elliptical when she's been injured, and she just ran Badwater, as well as running four 100-milers in an 11-week span last year, so.....

    As for the knee pain, I'm definitely no expert, but the pain while sitting with the knee bent and the "sharp slicing pain under my knee cap" certainly sounded familiar. In fact, that pain is what made me take up running in the first place, which is not the normal trend and is a story for another day. However, if it IS a form of runner's knee/patella issues, a little focus on strengthening the quads has worked more than once for me (most recently, last week -- and then I had zero knee pain during a 12-mile run). For me, that means slow reps on the leg extension machine at the gym, and some cycling with high resistance/big gear, rather than fast cadence. Sure, runners' quads should be strong, but for me, it's something about isolating and working that muscle to keep the stress off my knee.

    1. When I was recovering from ACL surgery, leg extensions were one of the main exercises my PT prescribed. He said that strengthening all of the muscles around your knee (quads, hamstrings, calves) helps support it.

  4. Ugh, hope your knee feels better soon! I feel you on the 2.5 hour elliptical workout. There have been times in my life where I actually did double-digit mileage run/walk intervals on the treadmill when I was recovering from an injury, because I just did not want to risk running out to the middle of nowhere and then having to slowly limp back to my car (in near tears... this may or may not have happened once).

  5. Urk. Hope you're feeling better now! I completely feel you on the 2.5h elliptical workout. Did the ITB rolling/ stretching work? Good reminder to myself to keep it up because my ITBs are my nemesis...