Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is it the Shoes?

As an athlete who has been known to push the envelope, there's one thing that I accept. I may get injured. My goal in training for Ironman Coeur d'Alene has been to go as hard as I can and NOT get injured. When I've felt the type of pain that has (in the past) progressed to an injury (such as a stress fracture), I have backed off and rested, confident my gobs of mileage will protect me from losing fitness.

But getting injured with four weeks to go was almost too much for my tiny brain to handle. Especially since I had no warning. I missed my long run/bike on the critical last hard weekend before my taper, and now I'm left with a growing fear of what that might do to my entire training program. Seems a bit irrational and contradicts what I said in the first paragraph, doesn't it? Is it possible that the "critical hard last weekend" is overrated? that all will not be lost? Will the long/hard mileage I've already done really act as the proverbial "miles in the bank"? I guess we are about to find out. With three weeks to ironman, I have the green light to race.

The green light comes after a non-typical (for me) trip to Dr. Patterson, the miracle worker in my previous life as a marathoner. Most of my friends know that for me to even consider going to a doctor, I have to be in a LOT of pain, pain like "can't-take-another-step-for-fear-my-leg-will-snap" pain. And Dr. Patterson always determines exactly what is wrong and always realizes that I HAVE to run. He's a great orthopedic specialist who truly understands endurance athletes for two reasons: he IS one and he takes the time to get to know them. 

The short diagnosis: Dr. P checked everything even remotely associated with my knee/hamstring and found nothing. This includes sending me to an MRI machine 45 minutes from my house for two hours of scans. NOTHING. No bone thing. No muscle thing. No tendon thing. The only thing that showed up was a meniscus tear I've had at least since 1998. But it never caused problems in the past and the pain isn't in my knee -- although, Dr. P says it still could be the problem.

So, after a week of non-running, lots of icing and large doses of ibuprofen, the only thing we have is an almost-non-diagnosis. Dr. Patterson says that's great. Now we turn to the old scientific method. Try to force the pain and then try numbing up my knee to see if the meniscus tear is indeed the cause. So, out the door I went... I ran down the industrial road where his office is located. In my work clothes and my Land's End shoes. The lawn care maintenance people stared. I got completely soaked from sweat. But NO pain. How can this be? I tried loading that leg in every direction, but NO pain was to be had. Am losing my mind? Is it all in my head? I swear, it DID hurt. BAD.

Back to the scientific method. New hypothesis. Could it be my new running shoes? (Having run several long runs in them, I didn't even consider that). Thus, off to the weekend we go. We will test the shoe theory. But most importantly, Dr. Pattersons said he's confident in sending me off to Coeur d'Alene to at least START the Ironman. Everyone who knows me knows that if there is a way for me to cross that finish line, I will.

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