For about two months, I 've been having some trouble with my right knee. Weird kind of trouble. It was slight at first but now it's really an issue. It doesn't hurt when I run at all. But after cooling down, it starts to act up and hurt. By the next morning, it really hurts. Then, it gets better to the point that I venture another run (usually the day after) and the cycle begins all over again.
Two weeks ago, I went on an 8 mile long run and then on Monday, I could barely walk. The Philly Half Marathon is in 1 month now as of this writing. Time to go to the doctor.
So I went to the Doc and after an X-Ray and a check up, and after telling me not to worry too much, he told me two things that raised an immediate red flag in my head:
1) He prescribed Cataflam, an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. I've never taken Cataflam but I know of it. My Mom, who has had chronic back issues most of her life, calls them her "knock out pills". My Mom is one tough lady so if this is what she takes, it must be strong stuff.
2) He also prescribed an MRI. Never had an MRI either but I know this: That's what Doctors tell football players to get right before they tell them their season is over. Not a good sign.
Oh yeah, pending the MRI results and my next appointment with him, I can't run. My reaction:
I calmly tried to explain that I was running a Half-Marathon in November and that I was concerned the "don't run" indication was going to be a problem. He explained that the MRI was just to discount a few theories and that before taking any action he wanted to be certain of what was going on... blah blah blah...
Look, the guy is awesome (I've visited once before) and he actually operated my Mom, one of my cousins and an uncle so he comes very well recommended but all I heard was "You can't run." With the Half so close, I'm freaking out a bit. It's not so much that I can't run. It's the race, for which I already paid airfare, hotel and registration. The knee, I can deal with. Traveling to Philly to be the World's most expensive race spectator... not so much.
The MRI results
So I get the MRI and subsequently, the results which I don't really understand, of course but I read some stuff that seems to be good news. The L's are OK! Or as the results say, "unremarkable". You know the L's right? MCL, ACL... the stuff that gets pro athletes in trouble. Every time I hear of serious injury to the knees, these are usually mentioned so in that regard those are good news.
Further down though, some concerns. I see the words "tear", "cyst" and "defect". All these related (I think) to the meniscus. Now, you can't "tear" a meniscus (it's a bone right?) but you can tear stuff related to it. Maybe I shouldn't be jumping to conclusions and let the professional tell me where I stand.
Well, I hated the appointment. First, he looked at the MRI results and said there were several problems then I got the kind of ambiguous doctor talk I hate to hear but it boiled down to this:
1. There is a meniscus issue but it is very small. He doesn't think its the cause of my pain.
2. There are some degenerative issues that are causing the pain and discomfort. The Doc recommends lower impact exercises like cycling or swimming. Long term he could perform surgery. A kind of "cleaning" (his words) of the knee area.
3. It's not that I can't run anymore, but putting too much stress frequently on the knee will not help the situation. Cross training will be very important. (See #2)
4. Losing weight will help. (duh)
Based on what I know of the situation here is my take on it:
1. Up to this point in my running journey, I didn't have any major issues. The advantage of being a slow runner is less impact on the knees. Since my focus had been on just finishing, there were no problems.
2. This year, I vowed to pick up the pace. Many of you know that my goal for Philly was to run a sub-3 Half Marathon. As I increased my mileage while running faster, that's where the problems began.
Obviously, the Doc doesn't know how much I love running so I can't blame him for the way he looks at it. He just sees an overweight guy that runs and the solution is to not run and try something else to keep losing the weight. But I want to keep running.
He told me to take it easy with the training and run the Philly Half and if a couple of weeks from the race I was having too much pain, to go to his office and get an injection. Not exactly what I wanted to hear but I'll take it. With so little time left, there is no room for a new strategy. I just have to suck it up and run but the prospect of a sub-3 is looking grim. Long term, I'm gonna have to restructure the entire way I look at training and weight loss will have to happen faster. At least if I want to keep running long distances.