Saturday, January 19, 2013

Getting Older and Discovering New Injuries

The folk song tells us you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone. That could not be truer than when you are injured and have to modify your training schedule. Such is the recent development for me as the result of a lot of time on the run lately.

Last Saturday, I was pleased to have completed a 17 mile run as part of my preparation for the Colorado Marathon on May 5. It was a bitterly cold day. Like 1* with the wind chill cold. As in the tube running out of my Camelbak froze solid cold. You get the picture.

But despite all that, I did it and hit a major point in my training schedule. After a few days off I was ready to go out for a much easier 75 minute training run aimed at staying entirely within Z1. The course I chose seemed like a good one since it included a lot of downhill which is the most distinctive characteristic of my marathon.

Some where around the five mile mark, my left hamstring started complaining. I knew I had not pulled it, but I could tell it was tight and that the risk of an injury was higher. The solution was easy enough. Just shorten my stride, slow the pace and I would be fine. And that worked.

But meanwhile, the muscle behind my right knee was conspiring to cause me other problems. With about a mile and a half remaining, it started hurting more and more to the point that I slowed to a walk for the final four minutes. I wasn’t limping, but it definitely hurt. In fact it really hurt. Unlike some nagging injuries that bother me slightly over time, this one felt more acute.

By the time I went to bed, walking up stairs was difficult and walking down them was excruciating. When I woke the next morning, things were no better. I had to down the stairs leading with just my right foot. Walking was slow and a little awkward. As I continued to get ready, it felt a little better but the pain was still fairly pronounced.

Once I got to work, the first thing I had to do after parking was make my daily ascent up two flights of stairs out of the parking garage. Not fun.

So during a break, I started Googling items like “pain behind knee” and started getting a ton of information. Ultimately, I think I have developed either gastrocnemius tendonitis or, and I think more likely, a strain on the right lateral gastroc muscle. Specifically, said strain is near the popliteal area which is the area behind the knee.

The interwebs had all kinds of treatment suggestions which sounded great but not all that practical (when am I going to find time for ultrasound treatment?).

During the day, I noticed the pain would abate somewhat after I had been moving around. Sit behind the desk for a couple of hours and it would be sore. Walk around for a few minutes and it felt better. Simply put, the muscle was getting stiff when it was not in use.

For years, I dealt with pain in my lower back which was the result of some foolish decisions to lift heavy objects or work for hours shoveling. The best relief for this was to put a heat pad on the affected area. Once it was sufficiently warmed, everything felt better.

Applying this logic to a different muscle (but still a muscle) I wore the pad around my right knee last night. By bed time, I was walking up stairs like a normal person (rather than take a step with my left, then pull my right, repeat). Walking down still hurt, but was not excruciatingly painful.

When I woke the next morning, things were better. I did take two naproxen tablets at bed time which probably did not hurt either, but I do think the heat has relaxed the strained muscle enough to allow it function more normally.

I am neither a doctor nor do I play one on TV. So if the pain does not fully abate after some time off, I will go in and see my physician or an orthopedic specialist. However, I am encouraged and hopeful that what I thought might be a season-altering injury is in fact just a nuisance along the way.

Thanks for reading.


  1. In cold weather, I wear my Camelbak under my outer jacker and run the drinking tube down one of the sleeves. It keeps everything unfrozen.

  2. That's a pretty good idea. That said, I'm hoping I've seen the last of training in such extreme cold!