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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
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.