Sunday, November 23, 2008

the next (same) hurdle

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). The "IT Band," as it is often called, is a long strip of tissue-like material that runs down the outside of the upper leg, connecting the hip to the knee. Running causes friction between the band and the femur. Too much activity (along with a number of other contributing factors including length of the IT band, effectiveness of stretching, pronation of the foot, quality of shoes, etc.) can cause inflammation of the band, radiating dull pain to the outside lateral portion of the knee. Symptoms usually begin in the first 2 or 3 miles of a run. The sharpness of the pain increases with continued activity, and inflammation subsides when the activity is stopped. It often takes weeks to heal completely.

ITBS is the thing that kept me from finishing the marathon last Saturday. I first had symptoms back in the spring when I ran the Monument Ave. 10K, and the problem flared up intermittently over the course of the marathon training. But I'd been in the clear since late August...until our 20-mile training run in late October. It's been problematic every since. But I rested it a lot during the 3-week taper leading up to the marathon, determined to run on November 15.

I started to feel it somewhere around Mile 3 of the marathon. It was exactly what I was afraid of. I suspected then that I wouldn't be able to finish, but I stopped and stretched every so often and tried to push on. I had to walk most of Mile 7 - not because I was tired or my muscles sore or my lungs struggling, but because the pain in my knee had begun to stab. I stretched for several minutes at the Mile 8 marker in an attempt to get my IT band to cooperate. It was effective for about a tenth of a mile. Finally, after stopping every 200 feet or so to stretch (and still limping along), I had to give up at the Mile 10 water station and resign myself to the fact that I'd have to tackle 26.2 another day.

I'm headed to see the sports medicine doctor on Tuesday to start rehabilitation. I hope to get back to training as soon as I can, though I'll make sure I'm completely healed first. I will say definitively that I will not let my first marathon attempt be my last.

Friday, November 14, 2008

it's now or...maybe later

The Richmond Marathon starts at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. I haven't run in 8 days. I've been trying to get my left iliotibial band to heal so my knee will stop aching. Since my 20-mile run three weeks ago, I haven't been able to go more than 3 or 4 miles at a time without my IT band tightening and flaring up. Since this time last week, I've iced it, rested it, stretched it, heated it, iced it some more, taken ibuprofen, more ice, etc. It's better, but I'm not sure it feels 100%. The muscles in my legs are almost twitching with restless energy, ready to run. But if the knee doesn't hold up, it's to no avail.

So, I'm worried. I'm sitting in my study at home staring at the clock on the wall, realizing that, at this very moment, I have exactly 13 hours and 30 minutes until the start gun goes off. I'm just ready to get to it, ready to sink or swim.

And speaking of swimming...that idiomatic cliche may not be too far off the mark. Forget the cool, clear, crisp autumn mornings that we generally see around here in mid-November. Here's the hour-by-hour weather forecast for tomorrow morning:

Pushing 70 degrees in windy thunderstorms. At the very least, it will be exciting. Truth be told, I like running in the rain. It distracts me from everything else, and it makes the whole endeavor more challenging (not that tomorrow needs to be any more challenging).

So I'm hopeful that, with patience, a slow start, a careful pace, good stretching, and a whole lot of grace, I will have completed 26.2 miles by early/mid afternoon tomorrow. And if not, there's always Charlotte next month. In the meantime, it's time to load up on pasta dinner.