This is BS

ITBS, to be specific.

After a long season of running, that has varied, but not really stopped, since my half-marathon training for Pittsburgh way back in May, my body is finally tired of this. Starting two weeks ago, when 14mile run marked the beginning of my taper for the Stomp the Grapes half, I had some knee pain that faded as soon as I stopped running. I dismissed that as soreness, the product of a long season, but the pain was very immediate and very hard on me. Last week it cropped up whenever I ran fast, or occasionally when I got near the end of a more moderate paced workout. I dropped a day of tempo running from last Friday, asked Steph to drive back from Pittsburgh, and ran my Sunday 6.5 miles in Pittsburgh at a way below my capability, honest to god slow run, pace. It didn’t rear its head, and I thought I had it licked.

Last night, it demonstrated it was back, and that it wasn’t just random. I did a 5 mile run home from the gym in 45 minutes, and at about 1 mile, my knee started to ache, just below and outside of the left knee cap. I spent the rest of the run nursing it, telling myself it wouldn’t happen Saturday, telling myself that I could run through it, modify my stride, or something.

In other words, lying to myself.

At about 4 miles, it was bad enough that I had to stop, twice. After that, I finished out the last mile with it constantly lurking in my mind, and twinging every few hundred yards.

A quick call to Mom-in-Law & Running Advisor Sherry validated what I feared; this is the much maligned ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome).  Ilio means pelvis, tibia is the bone in your lower leg, and the IT band is the rope of muscle stretching up your outer thigh connecting them. I’m not normally much of a self-diagnostician. If something is wrong with me, I don’t consult WebMD. I either ignore it, nurse it, or go to a doctor. But Sherry’s guess that it is ITBS makes a lot of sense. Two of the causes line up with me; end of a long training season, runs on graded roads, facing traffic. The pain description also jives. It arises on runs, fades quickly when I stop, acute pain that leaves little or no soreness, appears right at the pinpoint where the ITB meets the tibia.

I don’t have time to consult a doctor before this race, and I still want 1:xx:xx for Saturday. My run last night, aside from the apparently-ITB pain, was really manageable, and I know my fitness is in a place to run this race for my goal. I’m taking today and tomorrow off, I’m performing ITB stretches like recommended (3 stretches, 3 times each, 3 times daily is my goal) and I’m hoping that I’m not already too late.If this torpoedoes my sub 2, I will live, but I really want to make this happen. After the race though, I’m going to drop my mileage to 15  miles a week or less, and focus on weight lifting more through the winter.

Nobody ever thinks of themselves as the kind to get injured. I trained slow, increased responsibly, and have given my body my fullest attention. Now I’m here, wondering if I’m going to fail my goal because of an injury that I just plain didn’t see coming. I don’t know what more I could have done, or how much smarter I could have been, but I’m second guessing every step I took for the past month. Every box I picked up, every physical task I undertook, every set of stairs I walked.

I’m feeling pretty low.


11 responses to “This is BS

  1. Every single serious runner I know has had ITBS. Welcome to the club! It kept me from my first scheduled half marathon five years ago, but has never returned since. Just know that it happens to most, usually when you start ramping up the miles, so try not to be so hard on yourself. You’ve done the work, your speed won’t diminish overnight, and your sub 2 will definitely happen–if not now, then very soon in the future.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I really want it now, but I guess that’s the most stereotypical part of this whole episode. I sword I would be smart, I fialed to be smart, and I still want the outcome.

      I still want that leading 1.

  2. You need to get your hands on a foam roller, if you don’t already have one.

    It sounds like classic ITBS to me, too. But I still think you’ll be able to pull off a good performance if you’re cautious between now and race day. I agree with the comment above – you’ve done the work at this point. You could sit on your ass for the next three days and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. (And I’m thinking maybe you should!)

    • We’ve got him on a strict schedule of ice, advil, and rest. No foam roller but we do have a stick, though I’m looking for a place nearby that might have a foam roller in stock.

    • I’ve already benched myself for today and tomorrow. I read somewhere a long time ago that with 7 days left to race you can’t run anything that will help you get more ready, but you can do a thousand things that will ruin your race.

      So I’m concentrating on that. And stretching at my desk like the worlds most ADD office rat.

  3. I hope that you are able to recover enough in the next few days to still have a good race. Last minute injuries are such a drag. I am the queen of nearly getting through a training plan, then having the sh!t hit the fan, so I know that it is hugely disappointing. Also, try to keep the big picture in mind; if running the race is going to significantly worsen the injury, be smart about your decision to do so. Good luck!

    • I am definitely not going to worsen this injury, even if it costs me my goal. I enjoy running too much to lose it now, over one specific race.

      Thanks so much for the encouragement/sympathy.

      The worst part is not knowing if the recovery is working. My knee doesn’t hurt now and won’t hurt until I try to run.

  4. Hi Don,
    Wow. I, too, am bummed.
    Sounds like ITB for sure. Looking on the bright side: maybe there’s hope that you diagnosed it in time for a full week’s worth of treatment.
    Judicious use of ice and anti-inflammatories, for a full week, with the addition of a roller, might be just what is indicated for relief. Maybe not a full cure (that will come with post race rest). However, a week’s worth of treatment and rest might get the situation under control enough to get you through 13.1 without too much pain.
    It has been inspirational reading about your training….. And now to have to face this hurdle. Ouch.
    However, taking the long view….. if no sub-2 this weekend, then certainly one next spring. And my crystal ball tells me that it will be a warm up, one month out, for your sub-4 marathon.
    ~ Paul
    PS – I will be in the Green Wave start this Sunday, 9:40 gun, bib number 837. Nursing fears, anxieties, sore right Achilles and left groin. I am impossible to live with. (More so now than usual….)

    • Good luck on Sunday, Paul!

      Your crystal ball seems to have a smudge or two on it. You have the year wrong. I promised myself I wouldn’t try to run a marathon until I was 33.

  5. I am honored that you would ask me for advice regarding running related injuries. Running for almost 25 years has taught me something…that yes, we as runners, get injured! If I havent suffered a specific injury, you can bet that I know someone who has.

    I certainly hope that my advice helped, and based on your 2 hour half time, you did heed my suggestions! Cant wait til next year…and specifically the race that we will run together.

    Speaking of which…how do you feel about trails?! LOL! I just registered for a race in MD, on March 3rd….wanna run?! I chose the 50K, but there is a marathon option and trails, well, they just dont beat you up as much. Here is alink to the outdated website. To be updated soon! Give it some thought and I will pull strings to get you in!!!!!


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