I’ve been kind of quiet in the social media world lately because I haven’t had a whole lot of positive in me and it’s taken most of my energy just to be positive for myself. What was thought to be just patellar tendinitis turned out to be advanced chondromalacia – a condition where the cartilage that connects the patella (knee cap) to the tibia (your shin bone) starts to soften and, in my case, wear away. This can be caused by an acute injury or from overuse of the bungee system that is your leg. In my case, it was likely an acute injury sustained at Cougar Mountain and because I have neuropathy of my lower extremities, I didn’t feel it.
My physical therapists at G2 Sports Therapy told me it’s likely I wouldn’t be able to run more than three miles again. My primary care doctor told me that I probably shouldn’t run ever again. None of these people are experts in the world of running and overall athleticism, but hearing those words wasn’t easy. For a while, I tried to hide from them. I didn’t even tell my husband that I went to the doctor because admitting what she had said would mean it was real. I needed to have some hope in my heart. Afterall, it wasn’t just running that was a loss. There was a long period of time where just using stairs proved tremendous difficulty.
Finally, these emotions started to spill over and I was no longer able to compartmentalize my fears. I spent a large portion of Friday marinating in a dark rain cloud of doom and thankfully, I was unable to hide these feelings when I showed up for my A.R.T. therapy appointment. The doctor listened to me and laughed. He told me that likely, I will be needing to tape my patella in place for a very long time but lots of athletes have to do this. People have complete knee replacements and go on to run Ironman’s. I need to stop listening to the ‘can’t's’, tape up my knee, go out and run and just see.
I signed up for the Women of Wonder 10k because Dr. Lee wanted me to run over three miles so he could see where my knee became swollen (but not too far for my adrenaline to cover up pain), because this particular course was pretty much completely flat and because emotionally, I needed the race environment to improve my morale. This was an inaugural race and it was an all women event, celebrating women and mothers. I made a deal with myself that pace and finishing time didn’t matter and that if I needed to stop running and walk, I would do so.
The kid’s dash took place before the actual race and it was adorable to watch the toddlers take off running their 200 meter dash. M.T. grabbed another little girl’s hand and pulled her through the race. They held hands the entire time. A few times, she lagged behind and M.T. stopped and turned around to get her, pulling her through to the finish. I was very proud of my little team player.
At about 9:30 am, the 10k runners lined up at the start line. I seeded myself with the ‘shufflers’ thinking that 12-16 min/mi were probably all that I was capable of. The horn blew and we shuffled our way through the grass – which instantly made me nervous since it’s hard to see any variations in the ground through grass. However, once we made it through the grassy portion and onto the pavement, the game changed. My legs felt strong and my knee felt supported. I weaved my way through the shufflers to the actual runners and managed to maintain 9:30 min/mi through the entire 6.2 miles. There were many moments where my mind wanted to run faster and I think I could have, but I didn’t want to test my luck. Running at marathon pace was enough of a triumph. No rocking this boat.
The course was a double loop around Green Lake and by the time I reached the halfway point, I started crying. My body was working. I was actually running! There wasn’t any pain, save for a little bit of nagging from my stupid posterior tibial tendon. The tape was holding and supporting and I realized…
No one else decides what I’m capable of. No one.
Toward the end of the second loop, the run started to feel hard. I reminded myself over and over about how blessed I was to be able to run this race – that so many people would kill just to have to tape their kneecap on. That thinking pulled me through to the finish line and running through the finish felt amazing. A race volunteer hung a medal around my neck and I made my way through the finish line expo to find Zac and M.T. waiting for me.
This was the experience I needed to get my mind right. I have hope now – and it’s very likely that I will even be able to start training next week. I have a good support on my side with my A.R.T. therapist. What he is doing for my knee and ankle is working. I’m feeling stronger and my confidence is starting to come back. And most importantly – I have learned never to take any ability for granted. Sometimes running or working out feels like a chore. Sometimes I even resent having to do it. But having had the fear of having lost it… I’m not taking it for granted anymore. Every stride, every rep, every breath… it’s all a gift. I’m going to appreciate it for as long as I have it.