If my left knee were a window, a rock just crashed through it with an adhered note that reads:
“An ‘S’ will soon be added to the acronym. Sincerely, ITB.”
On Sunday I was doing laps on one of the trails at Bur-Mil Park. I wasn’t feeling very fast, but I was feeling very healthy. I’ve been running a lot, but nothing felt stiff or sore or even tired. I was thinking to myself as I tripped around how the added mileage seemed to be doing me good. The ground was squishy from recent rain. I skidded down the hills, and leaped over ankle-deep mud puddles, crashing on the other side. Then I felt a twinge. “That’s disconcertingly familiar,” I thought. Then it went away. Whew, I said. Then it came back. Then went away. Then the twinge became a dull nail whacked with a mallet. I walked. My run was most emphatically finished.
I have 100% mobility. I can stand on my left foot, bend my knee as low as my tight legs allow, and even wiggle my knee back and forth with no pain. I can walk down stairs. I didn’t run yesterday. Today I went for a 3 2.88mi (&$!!#% Garmin) gentle sock trot around town. The first mile was fine, but I felt a “presence.” Then a little sensation of something, then nothing. Then a little more, then a little less, then nothing. I was home without any pain, but I could tell it was wanting to hurt. So it’s there, but it’s not yet there there.
I’ve run farther and faster than I am running now. I’m just building my mileage back up after a low-mileage December and first half of January. Maybe volume has contributed, but I don’t think it’s the reason for this blast from the past.
Maybe I’ve just been lucky. While I had believed the barefootery ended my ITBS concerns, I’m just a mime college dropout. What the hell do I know about running injuries? I posted somewhere on this blog about the ITB being a nerve (it’s not a nerve). That suggests the answer is nothing. I know nothing about running injuries. Maybe I should accept the fact that I’m broken, and adjust my running life accordingly. Maybe I should run away from running altogether. Cue the violins.
Or maybe I should just take some time off and reset. That’s another pattern in my life, running life that is. Lot’s of running for about four to six months then a break. Maybe I’m running when my knee is expecting to lounge. Could that just be my rhythm? Maybe.
So what have I been doing differently? For one thing, I’ve been in shoes. Not just in shoes, but in shoes on technical, unpredictable trails. I have very little single-track trail experience, and what I do have involves a lot of falling. I wear shoes on the trails because it would hurt my feet to run on them barefoot, at least the way I run on them in shoes… wait a minute, does that sound familiar?
Near the end of Grandfather Marathon 1, I felt a little ITBS twinge. I felt it again on a recovery run later that week. That’s when I committed to running barefoot. I pursued the theory that my ITBS was caused not so much by how I was built, but by how I moved. I needed to feel the ground to learn how to move. After almost three months of running most of my miles in shoes, it’s back after a 22-month hiatus.
No, I don’t have any superstitious beliefs that I’m being punished for betraying my feet for putting them in shoes. I’m not that far down the rabbit hole, thank you very much. But it’s a pretty big correlation for ITBS to come back when most of my running has been in shoes. Plus I’m on trails, where I crash and stumble and stomp frequently if not unceasingly. I feel my feet landing ahead of me. Maybe I should do what worked the last time:
Ditch the shoes.
This weekend is the Groundhog Gallop trail half marathon. It will be chilly, so I’ll wear my holed-up customized socks. I will run as gently as I can, walk when I have to, whatever to avoid that familiar stab of pain. I’ll try to keep up with Iris. I’ll bring an extra pair of socks and the aquas in case I get overwhelmed and/or too cold. I’m prepared to DNF. I don’t care. I think if I can just keep my feet under me instead of in front of me, which I think is what I’m doing in shoes on the trails, I can figure it out.
It’s not there there. I feel great. Well, physically. Emotionally I’m a mess. Aside from The Presence, I feel ready for a marathon tomorrow. I could run a sub-19 5k (I think). Still, even if it’s not there there, it’s there enough.
Can’t I have just a few boring years of steady progression?
Anyway, before I go the conventional route of rest,low mileage (or avoidance of trails), and race cancellations, I’m going to gamble. I’m doubling down on my feet. The arrival of the “S” to the “ITB” might be inevitable. The damage might have already been done. But maybe, with feet unblocked, I’ll learn how to move around it. Maybe It will make me a better runner.