Monday, July 09, 2007


Update: Read here and here, point #3. I don't think it's ITBS, because mine is on the inside of my left knee. The Runner's Knee looks petty promising, though. I think I may see a doctor tomorrow after all. As usual, perhaps I am not the first person in the world to experience such a thing, and some remedies can be easily found. That said - nothing in this post really changes. I'll keep you posted.

So. A busy and family-centric 4th of July week, which was great and exhausting fun. Ate too much, drank too much, stayed up too late and saw too many movies, but wouldn't change a thing. That said, it's time to get back to real life.

Let's talk about this mutherfucking knee. Well first off, lately people are posting these things about how their blog is rated PG-13 or R or NC-17 or whatever. Because they say "ass" or something. Which is amusing. Anyway, I've never found it useful to censor my normal way of speech on this thing, so if ye be offended, I cry your pardon, thankee sai. Just part of being me.

Okay, on with the show. The season, I have to all but accept, is over. It never really got started, true, but I can tell you that it is depressing as hell to wait all winter for the sun to come out, thinking about awesome race day mornings and those great long rides and all the things that make up the context of our being triathletes, only to be sidelined when the time comes. I've been trying, for a week, to make some kind of peace with this. I can, only to an extent. I've learned a lot this non-season - valuable, expensive lessons - and I imagine I'll be learning for some time.

The first thing I learned was that - and this may come as no surprise, but is difficult for me nonetheless - Iron is privilege, not a right. When the fitness starts to go, for whatever reasons - in my case, the whole saga with the move really derailed me - just because one is an Ironman does not mean he's categorically at all times prepared for 26.2 miles, or 13.1, or even 10 or 6. Of course this is common sense, but when one finishes Ironman, and is in such absurd shape and such a ridiculous level of fitness, it's hard to accept that it's possible to not be in a constant state of ready to kick ass and take names. I don't know if this is arrogance - I hope not - or just foolishness. Maybe some of all. Truth is: I did this to myself, this knee injury. I can tell you precisely how it happened, and it happened because I was being reckless. I wouldn't have called it reckless at the time, but I know now that I was. In March and April, when my schedule just totally derailed, I was still trying to plug in 12, 13, 15 miles on the weekends without the 3, 4, 6, 8 mile maintenance runs during the week to support that kind of mileage. Classic overdoing it, undertrained. I had a great base this winter, but lost it in the spring.

Second lesson so far: For what? I scheduled an early season marathon, and right now that seems like a really, really stupid decision. What good, really, does an early season marathon do me when I want to be competing in triathlon through September? Running is difficult, hard on the body, and is activity that can leave one more prone to injury than the swim or bike. A late season marathon - with a summer full of tri to reinforce the training - seems appropriate. But all that running this winter/spring for a generally meaningless marathon was stupid. I think I was acting like I had something to prove, and that's also stupid. I can't think of what that is right now, but I can think of no other reason why signing up for a May marathon would seem fun or purposeful. And I've considered January marathons in the past. Maybe that's possibe if I just shift summer tri training to fall running training, but a May marathon, falling almost smack at the end of base training and just when it gets serious (and fun) for tri training was short sighted. I won't do that again.

Third lesson: Life happens. This isn't my job. I don't depend on racing to put dinner on the table. It's okay to not be super rockstar triathlete every minute of every year, even thought that's kind of what I want to be. If I'd have rearranged my plans and priorities when the move stuff went down, maybe I'd have had a season of just sprint races. Or something. That would have been okay - I could've happily lived with that. Adjust to the reality, whatever it is, instead of staying stubborn on the road, even if full of ruts and cracks.

Fourth lesson: buck up, shit happens. The recent Triathlon mag - the one about XTerra, had some useful bits in it about injury. Cam Widoff, who I don't know enough about to have an opinion but who isn't, for whatever reason, on my cool list, made a few comments about injury that were useful, which basically stated - it happens. It's part of the sport. People lose entire seasons, and that's life. All true. And some of the XTerra guys had some insanity - out for the season with broken necks, or broken wrists, or whatever. So hey - it could always be worse. Doesn't change the fact that - stupid knee or broken wrist, I'm still not out there. But injury - or illness, or babies, or whatever else life has in store for us when not on the bike - is part of the mystery of it all. To be respected and appreciated all the same.

Part of that last is, of course, bullshit. I'm trying to make this easier for myself. But much of it is true. And I need to deal with that.

Those that know me well - and I suppose in this arena those who are constant readers do - know that acknowledging a lost season is...incredibly disappointing. Incredibly.

Those same know that my return next season will be one of...assertiveness. Because I am pissed off. I have only myself to blame, but I will find a way to personify this thing - this injury and its roots, wherever they are borne within and without me - and anthropomorphize it, and turn it into my enemy, so that next season I will choose to see this lost season as an adversary. And it will be the thing chasing me through thunderstorms, and the thing infiltrating my head with fear and doubt, and Rider and Machine will mount up and slay some new dragons.

The worst thing you can do in this game is take it for granted. Get complacent with it. Get comfortable with it. Ironman is some kind of angry animal. You can figure out a way to harness it, maybe even approach it, the lucky few ride it, become part of it. But it's still an animal. It'll still bite your hand off if it deems you unfit for its company. I will have work to do to Become Ironman again. This is never more clear to me than when 4 miles leaves me limping.

So here's what happens now: First, an update. 4 miles today, and I managed it. I mowed the lawn afterwards. I was not left in excruciating pain like I have been. See, I don't know what to do with this. Unless it's in a full flared state, and it's not all the time and it seems a bit random after which runs it will flare - it will be difficult to communicate with a doctor about what's going on. I'm not afraid to do that or anything, but I kind of have to wait for "the next time" this thing goes out of control - otherwise it'll be a wasted trip. This calls, by the way, on my inherent distrust of the medical profession at large (do you count Pharmie? I don't think you do, I'll buy drugs from you any day), where I don't think they have a damned idea what they're talking about half the time. But, it's irresponsible to not see a doctor about this, and so I will just as soon as I have something to communicate to them. Otherwise it goes like this: "So where does it hurt?" - "Well, it doesn't right now, but it did yesterday. Here." - "Here? Is there pain when I press here?" - "No, there isn't any today. But yesterday, whoowee." - "Yesterday." -"Right." Etc. etc. So I don't know what to do with that.

Secondly, and I realize I'm falling into a self-diagnosis trap, but if it were some kind of seriousness, some kind of torn something or other, wouldn't it hurt, like, all the time? Not just during and after a run, but during and after all runs? And not 4 miles into it, but pretty right away? The next day too? Or when mowing the lawn? Or after a long walk with the dogs? Or a day of standing? Or whatever?

Anyway, back to the point: here's what happens now. You remember in Rocky 4, when he goes to Russia and grows a beard and chops wood? That's me. Except for the beard and the wood chopping. I'm going back to base training. Day One. January First. Three milers during the week, long runs of 5ish during the weekends. An hour, max two on the bike. Probably a lot of time in the water. Lots of walking, and rest. If the knee flares up - then off the doctor I go, the very first time. If it doesn't, and instead responds to the lower mileage and more relaxed workouts, then I know it needs continued "restful exercise".

It's not at all unlikely that the thing will require some kind of surgery. I'm prepared for that, I think. I have to just see how it goes. Sigh.

So, stay tuned. IMWI '09 is a go. These are my first steps. However painful they prove to be.


qcmier said...

Hey hang in there man. I've canceled seasons before and yeah it sucks. But it sounds like you are taking steps to make next year an awesome year. I share your knee pain too. It sucks. Hope it gets better.

Robin said...

I'm sorry to hear that your injury isn't leaving off. But it sounds as if you've got your head screwed on straight. Missing seasons sucks (I've done it twice due to summer pregnancies) but it isn't the end of the world and you can even come back stronger than ever. I hope you are able to avoid surgery and start building from your base up again with no pain!

Erin said...

Madison actually has some GREAT sports medicine specialists. Your knee pain sounds exactly like the kind of problem I'm having with my hip -- it doesn't hurt until I run, and then the pain brings me to my knees. I thought the same thing as you (i.e. what is a doctor going to tell me except to stay off of it, which is NOT an option right now?, etc.) But I went to the UW's sports medicine clinic, and the treatment I've received has been superb. You can check out my account of it here:

At the very least, it's worth getting it checked out. Best of luck!

Steve S. said...

That's always a horrible realization. Take it easy, be smart, and you'll be ready come Jan 1.

Anonymous said...

or, maybe you are just getting too old. i mean, you are practically a father... that being said, it think your body is tired of assssfault and telling you maybe you need to look into adventure racing. plus the destinations are usually way cool. or maybe you have one ball bigger than the other, thus putting your body off balance and screwing with your knee. just a guess.

TxTriSkatemom said...

another post to illustrate why you are my IronHero. So thoughtful and deliberate and considered. You hit all the angles and all the questions and even if you don't know what's next, you are truly a role model to me of figuring out what really matters and putting it all in perspective. you will persevere, of that I am sure!

Triteacher said...

Hmm. Knees suck. Too bad we sort of need them for running. I think you're on the right track now. Build that base slowly.

And piggy-backing on Steve's comment - there are some kickass destination races you could schedule for Jan. 1. ;)