Wanted: Better Knees & Functioning ITB

You have no idea how stir crazy I’m going not being able to run.

All those good feelings acquired by the endorphin production of running?  All gone.  Sure, I’ve been swimming, I’ve been spinning, but nothing beats a good foot pounding of the gravel trail.

I’m edgy, I’m anxious, I’m nervous.  Coupled with the fact that I’m moving and trying to figure everything out before that happens, I am not very pleasant these days.

My iliotibial band is still bothering me.  I stretch it, I roll it, but it’s still sensitive.  I think it’s beginning to affect my actual knee and the other muscles surrounding it.  This has gone on too long.

Some days, it doesn’t bother me at all.  Some days, it feels sore.  Some days, other parts of my knee bother me.  But dammit, if I’m training for a marathon, this needs to improve soon!

I’m going to attempt to walk the loop around Memorial Park today.  If I can stand it, I might try to run some of it.  I need to know what I’m up against here.  And I’m really tired of “pretending” that I’m training for a marathon here.

The group runs are up to 10 miles now.  I couldn’t make the last one, so the last distance I’ve run was the 10K, at 6.2 miles.  I’m getting nervous.  The further behind I slip in my mileage, the less capable I am in completing that marathon in a healthy way.

It doesn’t matter.  This isn’t happening.  I’m going to recover.  Mind over matter, and matter will come.

I hope.

Ain’t good for me.


As a result of my iliotibial band syndrome, I haven’t been running this week.  At all.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting on my butt at home!  On the contrary, I’ve been swimming instead!

Thank goodness for cross-training workouts like swimming that allow me to continue to feel like I’m still training for this marathon instead of bowing out when injury strikes.  Not that I don’t feel a little bit worthless right now; after all, there’s still pain accompanying me when I walk, and I clearly won’t be joining my team on the eight-mile group run this weekend.

But that’s okay.  Sometimes Fayza’s gotta do what Fayza’s gotta do to make it happen.

Swimming, mind you, is not all fun and games like I hoped and thought it would be.  No, um, swimming is quite difficult, actually!  The stamina I’ve built up through running most certainly doesn’t translate directly into swimming endurance.  I’ll do a lap and feel like I’m pretty close to dying, or internally combusting, at the very least.  But each day, I notice my stamina improving, and that’s pretty remarkable in and of itself.

I’m not solely planning on swimming, however.  I’m going to swim today, but I may shoot for something different tomorrow.  But next week for sure, I’ll be working some bikram yoga, spinning, and weight training back into my routine.  The yoga worries me because of all the sitting and stress on the knees (when your IT band is in pain, the smallest thing feels like a stress on the knees).  I went last Friday, and it did aggravate my knee, as I assumed it would.  What kinda sucks is that I just purchased ten bikram sessions, and I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to use all of them with this injury before I move at the end of the month.

According to the sports medicine doctor I saw today, weight training and squats and things like that are a-okay, just as long as I keep my feet grounded and push through my heels, not the balls of my feet (pushing through the balls of the feet puts more pressure on the knees, as opposed to pushing through the heel, which engages the quads).

At any rate, I never thought I’d say this, but I miss running.  This marathon has come to symbolize so much more than I ever thought it would, and I am learning so much about myself in the process.  And I ache to get back out on the trail again.

Bayou City Classic 10K Race Results

  • 90th in my 25-29 year-old age group (my friend that registered me thought I was born in 1980; I’m really 28, not 27)
  • 1178th overall
  • First 5K time: 34:17
  • First 5K pace: 10:53
  • Second 5K time: 39:52
  • Second 5K pace: 12:52
You can see where I really started to hurt in that second 5K.  Especially when you look at the runners that finished before me.  The person before me had a 37:46 initial 5K, and her pace was almost a full minute behind mine.  In fact, my first 5K pace matched the pace of the person who finished eight people before me.
And then, the dreaded knee injury – which my coach has diagnosed, based on my description, as iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome, as suspected – slowed me down to an almost thirteen-minute mile.
Sigh.  I’m going to work with my coach tomorrow at practice for some exercises and stretches to strengthen the ITB.
Sigh.
Even though I know I was injured, I still feel disappointed in those race results.  I know it was only practice, but I’m trying to be the best that I can be.
At any rate, I’m going to bounce back from this.

I am trying to break your heart.

Good news:  I finished the 10K today!

Bad news:  I was dragging my left leg for the last mile.

Let’s start with the good news.

I made it through the race!  In one piece!  I felt great before, during, and afterwards!  Okay, so that first mile, I was feeling a little more winded than usual.  But I know the beginning is the toughest part, and you just gotta keep on keepin’ on, and you pass through that struggle in the beginning if you just motor through.  So I motored.  And I motored.  And lo and behold, there was the finish line, and I felt really, really good.  Not out of breath, not fatigued, just very, very good.  I was speaking without panting and it was a nice feeling.

Now, the bad news, and the inevitable focus of all of my concern.

I’m in pain.  My knee is not well.  Around the second mile, I felt it becoming tender, and by the fourth mile, it began to seriously hurt.  From the fifth to sixth mile, I was in pain to the point where I was crying.  Thank goodness I was wearing sunglasses; I didn’t want anyone to see me doing that.

I am so disappointed.  I don’t know what this means, but I’m sitting in bed with ice on my knee, and it isn’t getting better.  I know my body well enough to know that this isn’t a small injury.  It’s happened twice in the past week now; it’s not going away anytime soon.

The pain is on the outside of my left knee, and it feels like the equivalent of a sprained ankle.  I can walk on it, as long as I don’t bend at the knee, and if even if I do bend at the knee slowly, it won’t hurt.  But getting out of bed, getting in and out of a car, walking up and down stairs, well, those activities cannot be accomplished without a significant degree of pain.

This is bad, bad news.  At first I thought it was runner’s knee, but there’s no inflammation and there’s no grinding.  The symptoms sound almost identical to those described as iliotibial band syndrome.  And yeah, just the sound of that is scary to me.

Symptoms:
  • Dull ache 1-2 kilometers into a run?  Check.
  • Pain remaining for the duration of the run?  Check.
  • Pain disappears soon after stopping running?  Well, it did Wednesday, but not today.
  • Severe sharp pain which prevents running?  Check.
  • Running pain is worse downhill or on cambered surfaces?  I wouldn’t know entirely; this is Houston.  But there were some changes in grade during the 10K , and yes,  it felt worse during those inclines and downgrades.
  • Local tenderness or inflammation?  Well, it’s not inflamed, but it is tender.

And the hard knocks just keep on coming.

Treatment:
  • Stop running, especially in the case of severe pain.
  • If pain is mild, then reduce training load and intensity.
  • Avoid downhill running and running on cambered surfaces.
Oh, okay.  I will just train for a marathon without running at all!
So, what do I really do about it?  Well, I can drug up, ice up, or massage.
  • Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.
  • Apply ice to the knee for 10 minutes every two hours to avoid inflammation.
  • Self-massage, using arnica oil or an anti-inflammatory gel to the muscle (outside of the thigh).  I should not massage the side of the knee where I feel the pain, as this only aggravates the friction syndrome stretching of the ITB.
Or I can exercise (which is what I’d prefer anyway; I believe in muscle strengthening as the best method of physical therapy).
  • Stand with the right leg crossed in the back of the left leg.  Extend the left arm against a wall/pole/chair.  Lean my weight against the object while pushing my right hip in the opposite direction.  Keep my right foot anchored while allowing my left knee to flex.  I should feel the stretch in the ITB muscle in the right hip, and along the outside of the right thigh.  Hold for 30 seconds, then relax.  And repeat on the other side.  And do this two to three times a day.
  • Swimming.
  • Pool running.
  • Cycling in low gear and/or spinning.
  • Avoid any exercises that place strain onto the ITB, and specifically avoid stair climbing.

The worst news?  I should “return to running gradually,” because “full recovery is usually between three to six weeks.”

Oh god.

My roommate tells me not to self-diagnose, but I tell you, if any symptoms match what’s going on in my left leg right now, iliotibial band syndrome is right on the money.

And I’m hangin’ on.

In light of the fact that I’m running (read: signed up for, committed to, excited for) a 10K tomorrow, I have been particularly cognizant of my knees.  So yesterday, instead of running, I cross-trained, doing some lifting at the gym (in a class, of course; I really don’t know what I’m doing otherwise) to strengthen ye olde quads and such.  Although I wish we’d focused more on the legs, I do think the leg exercises we did were good.  I also did a few quad-strengthening exercises on my own, and my knees feel well.

I am not going to lie and say that I’m not worried about them with tomorrow’s impending run, though.  Especially since I’m going to a concert tonight, and while I am most certainly going to be a good girl and will be in bed by midnight at the very latest, I am going to be standing on my legs all night at the show.  I’m not sure that’s a good idea.
At any rate, I’m going to do some yoga this afternoon.

Strangely enough, I’m less worried about me holding up through 6.2 miles than I am about my knees.  I am sending up a silent request to the God of Running to please, please let me get through tomorrow’s run injury-free and comfortably (i.e., I don’t want to feel like I have to stop).  I promise not to push it, and I promise to go easy on myself.  Just please don’t let me collapse or ruin my body this early on!

You Want a Piece of Me?

Okay, knees.  Listen up.

You are NOT going to give me trouble, you hear me?  That little stunt you pulled today on our run?  So.  Not.  Cool.  We ran for 30 minutes anyway, didn’t we?  Oh yes, we did, and you’d better stop acting up, because I don’t want to have to cut any of my runs short because of you.  You already prevented me from getting a full three miles in today, and that’s not cool, because the wind was working against us as it is.

Come to think of it, this is really quite immature of you.  I haven’t done anything wrong by you.  I’m wearing the right shoes.  I’m running primarily (and almost exclusively) on gravel.  I’m resting you anytime that we’re not running.  So what gives?  Why you giving me lip?

Is it because you know I want to run in the Bayou City Classic on Saturday?  Is that it?  Look, I know it’s pavement.  Believe me, I understand that.  If you don’t want to run, we don’t have to run on Thursday or Friday; we’ll cross-train instead.  But we’re doing that 10K.  Because I said so.  So get your act together, knees.  Because you’re not going to slow me down like you used to in high school.  You got that?

Yes, knees, I am threatening you.