Big huge effing sigh over here in the Speed Laces camp. While I’d love to report that training for my spring marathon is going swimmingly, that unfortunately isn’t the case.
In case you forgot, I’m clumsy. And I fall a lot. And I had one particularly hard fall back in December that left my knees pretty banged up. I took some time off from running — though, looking back at my Garmin stats, not as much time as I originally thought, and not immediately after the injury, whoops — and swam and biked and did lots of yoga. After about two weeks of a self-imposed no-running mandate, I did some light running to gear up for my marathon training plan. I felt pretty good. Then I did a tempo workout, followed by a long run, and that was the end of all the good. My knees were stiff and sore and tender to the touch and I was really afraid I’d reversed any healing I might have done in that 12-day break. I made a PT appointment the following day.
So my wonderful PT (a fellow Blue Devil) first rolled his eyes at me and then asked me what the hell I was doing back in his office and then finally got around to checking out the damage. The hardest part was explaining the pain to him, as it comes and goes and I can’t exactly identify what triggers it and where it is and at that moment I wasn’t actually in pain. He said he didn’t think there was any damage to the cartilage behind the patella or any bone fragments floating around — all positive things — but that I should stick to pool running and do some stretching and range-of-motion stuff and other manual therapy in the meantime. We did a few rounds of dry needling and whoa was that a shock to the system for someone who is deathly afraid of needles, but it relieved a lot of the trigger points in my quads. So I spent two weeks doing all of my workouts in the pool — right — and finally was cleared to run 3 miles at a time on land every other day. I was allowed to run at any pace I wanted to, as his guess was that the volume, not the speed, was the problem. I also started jumping through the requisite hoops to see a doctor and get some imaging done.
My first two road runs were a little bit rough. I didn’t have any pain while running, but I got a little bit sore later in the day. My third run — at the track — was ah-mazing. No pain during or after, and if anything, I felt better after running (fast). I didn’t hurt again until 2 days later after a rest day. I think the message here is, run everywhere?!?
Then I finally got an appointment with my new primary care doc, who didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but was able to send me out for x-rays and refer me to someone else + PT. When I showed her my knees, she looked really surprised and said, “Umm, do you fall a lot?”
[Just so you know, not all of those scars are from falls I took myself. At least two of them I blame on other people.]
X-rays the next day came back clean, and everything is still in its place and there aren’t any little pieces of bone floating around and there’s no obvious damage to the meniscus (phew). Any other soft tissue problems would only appear on an MRI. I’ve continued to mix in lots of swimming and pool running and easy spinning and the big problem is still that I can’t identify the triggers and that sometimes it’s one knee or the other or both or neither. WTF BODY?!?
This weekend I finally consulted the Internet (note to self, this is ALWAYS a bad idea) after weeks of ignorance and bliss and read about all the strains and sprains and tears I could possibly be experiencing and then went back and forth between being totally freaked out that I’d need surgery for some long-term permanent damage and calmly settling on a self-diagnosis of minor tendonitis and a little bit of leftover bruising.
More than likely, what’s actually going on falls closer to the latter. While the course of treatment could still vary from complete rest (and giving up on this round of marathoning) to icing and strengthening, I’m fairly confident that I’m going to be okay.
I’ll finally get to see an orthopedist on Friday, so hopefully within a week or so I’ll have an answer and a clearer idea of what to expect in the coming weeks and months. He (also) went to Duke and specializes in sports medicine, so I’m pretty sure we’ll get along just fine. What stresses me out the most at this point is not the injury itself — it’s the ridiculous bureaucratic process that is our health care and insurance system that basically means it takes a month and lots of paperwork and back-and-forth to get anything accomplished. My parents’ health insurance is incredible, and my biggest mistake in recent memory — besides falling in the first place — was not jumping back on it when I was between jobs a few months ago. Lesson learned.
Also found in the my-body-is-falling-apart chronicles: my stomach is a mess. You may recall my six-week gluten free experiment before Ironman, which was a test of how my body would respond to eliminating something that could potentially be causing the uncomfortable cramping etc. I was experiencing. Because I did this leading up to my big huge race, I was strict. I avoided the homemade muffins my mom brought to our beach vacation. I didn’t drink any beer (THE HORROR). I was *that* girl when dining out and made all kinds of special requests. In general, I felt really good — almost no discomfort. Problem solved.
Fast forward to after Ironman. I love beer (have I mentioned this?) and bread and all other manner of gluten-containing goodness. I continued to eat mostly GF at home when I was preparing meals for myself, and I still bought GF crackers and Luna Protein bars and other special (read, $$$) food substitutes. Recently, I’ve been using other kinds of flour and making my own bread and brownies. We’ll say I’m casually gluten free. And this has been sorta fine, though I still sometimes feel that horrible full and heavy “yuck” I’d worked so hard to avoid over the summer. It seems like an obvious point that the gluten was the issue. However, when I asked my doctor about this last week, she noted that dairy allergies also cause all of these same symptoms and are more common — and that an excess of fiber also could be the culprit. I know, duh.
So begins a little bit of sleuthing. I’m doing a strict dairy-free/gluten-free week to see how my body reacts. I can then reintroduce both of these things, one by one, to see what happens. And if it remains unclear, there are actual tests for these things. In preparing and shopping for my meals this week, I realized how really freakin’ hard it is to avoid dairy. Gluten I’ve got down, made easier by the number of companies that cater to a GF diet and the fact that I shop at Whole Foods and the general habit I’ve created over the last six months. But dairy, man, dairy is in everything. Aside from yogurt and cheese, both of which I love, I have to cut anything made with butter (all kinds of crackers, cookies, baked goods) or milk (chocolate, ahem, CHOCOLATE). Also, dairy substitutes, like gluten substitutes, are pricier than normal foods. My grocery list gets shorter and my bill goes up. Sigh.
Anyway, I’ll report back if I figure any of this mess out. I will say that food allergies seem to be all the rage, though there seems to be new evidence daily that most people are affected by them in one way or another. [As a sidenote, I’m reading a really interesting book — Why Some Like It Hot — that talks about the origin of food preferences/allergies and how genetics, environment and culture are all at play. I highly recommend it.] For me, it’s not a life-threatening condition or even one that actually warrants a militant approach to diet. It’s more of an annoyance that could be mostly avoided by some basic awareness of what’s causing the problem. The reality is that if I have a minor gluten intolerance, I’m not going to give up beer. I’m just not. And I probably won’t stop eating baked goods (or fro-yo, God forbid) forever and always just to avoid dairy. But information is power, and I will be able to steer toward things that won’t make me feel like crap. I like food too much to associate the experience of eating with being uncomfortable.
I feel like I need to say something about what my body is doing well. Um, killing it in the pool? And the very regular yoga/strength/core work is really helping my muscle definition. I can almost taste that whole race in a sports bra goal…
Sometimes I think the subtitle of my life should be “Brought to you by Nike.” The gear, mainly, but I would also be pretty happy with those abs.
Does your body just up and decide to rebel on you? Anyone want to entertain me for 2 hours of pool running?