Posted by: Kennedy | May 1, 2010

See you next year, Sporting Life

For the last two months, I’ve been preparing to run the Sporting Life 10K with a few friends. And four days ago, I got some bad news… I have to stop running. Not forever, but long enough for me to miss out on tomorrow’s race.

I should back up. If you’ve read the blog before, you’re probably aware that I’ve dealt with some knee problems since I started running regularly last year. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post begging my knees to hang in there and cooperate. Well, they ignored me.

Before you read any further: If you’re a friend or family member of mine and you’re sick to death of hearing about the saga of my knees, I recommend scrolling down to the part of this post where I talk about food.

You’ve been warned. On we go.

I trained, essentially pain-free, for 10 weeks last fall. After the race, I took it easy for a week or so. My next run ended up being a short jog because 10 minutes in, I had this weird pain on the outside of my left knee. The sensation occurred with every step, and got increasingly more painful as I ran. I kept going for another few minutes to see if it would go away, but when it didn’t, I called it quits.

After several excruciating attempts that afterwards affected my ability to walk up and down stairs, on flat ground, and even sit at my desk at work without pain, I booked an appointment with an osteopath. I’d never gone to one before but my colleagues recommended her. I loved her instantly – she sat and listened to my whole story without interruption, took extensive notes and asked lots of questions.

She told me I had to stop running while she tried to determine and address the root cause of the problem. After a full assessment, she said the pain likely had to do with a build-up of scar tissue in my left foot – the result of an old ankle injury that had gone untreated. She called my knee an “innocent bystander.” My ilotibial (IT) band was also very tight, so I began using my foam roller religiously to stretch it out.

I kept seeing the osteopath every few weeks for a couple of months. When it no longer hurt to walk, she gave me the go-ahead to try running again – slowly. Hurray!! I immediately started going for 3k jogs around my neighbourhood, and was elated to discover that my knee did not hurt in the slightest!! It was amazing. My hiatus was officially over.

I started running longer distances, and when it still felt great, I decided to sign up for the Sporting Life race.  I developed a training plan and my friend Cathy and I began running together three days a week.

Then, the unthinkable happened. One Saturday in March as I was running alone, attempting to up my distance to 8k for the first time since November, I started feeling an awfully familiar sensation – in my right knee. 7k in to my run, and one measly kilometre from my house, I had to stop and walk. I almost cried on that walk home – not from the pain (though it KILLED), but from unbelievable frustration. Why was this happening again?! My left knee was completely pain-free. And NOW the right one decides it has the same issue? It probably makes complete medical sense, but I just felt like my body was mocking me.

I booked an emergency session with my osteopath. She did more muscle strength tests and discovered a weak right hip flexor. She also said the meniscus (cartilage) in my right knee was out of place, and as soon as she moved it back, it no longer hurt to bend my knee. Could that be it? She gave me another exercise for my hip flexor and recommended ice for the pain. I walked out of her office feeling pretty good. She told me to take it easy but didn’t forbid me from running.

I cautiously went on with my training, and the pain was inconsistent. Sometimes I’d go the whole time without pain. Other times, it would set in after a few kilometres. But it was always ‘run-able’ – though it was unpleasant, it wasn’t overwhelming. So I ran through it. For weeks. We even did a few practice runs of the race route.

In the meantime, I decided to look into seeing a physiotherapist. Not that I didn’t love my osteopath… I just thought a second opinion couldn’t hurt. It was crunch time, after all. My friend and fellow runner Lynne recommended a sports medicine clinic in my area, so I booked an appointment.

The physiotherapist I saw ended up sending me to his colleague, a chiropractor. In our first session, he listened as I explained my past troubles with my left knee and my current ones with the right. Then he did a soft tissue treatment called ‘active release therapy.’ It was EXTREMELY painful, but it seemed to work well. He treated my right IT band and my glutes, told me to try running again in a few days, and sent me on my way.

Last Sunday afternoon, Cathy, my friend’s boyfriend Pat and I ran 10k. That night, I woke up several times from pain – my knee was ‘locking up,’ as they say in the world of physiotherapy. This isn’t the first time this has happened. But it was really bad. And the next morning, it locked up – more than once – just as I made my way from the bedroom to the kitchen. Yeah, I knew this was bad.

I went back to the chiropractor the next day, and as soon as I described the ‘locking up’ sensation, he looked concerned. He said we’d have to adjust our treatment plan, and that I had to stop running for a week. He then did a few tests to find out where the pain was coming from, and as soon as he mentioned the meniscus, I had a déjà vu. Hadn’t my osteopath said something about that? Yes. It turns out I probably have either a tear or a hole in the lateral meniscus in my right knee. After more active release therapy (whimper), I had an ultrasound done and some electrode therapy – which made my foot go numb and my thigh twitch so violently I could see it pulsing. But it helped.

Will go back to get the results of the ultrasound on Tuesday. In the meantime, I’m resting. And getting ready to cheer on my friends at the race tomorrow. Hey, I’m still crossing off another ‘first’ this weekend – my first time as a spectator/moral supporter! Got to look on the bright side right 🙂

So over the past week, I’ve tried to deal with my frustrations by doing some experimenting in the kitchen.

On Monday night, in recognition of Meatless Monday, I made a Garden Vegetable Frittata. I LOVE breakfast for dinner, especially omelettes. I make a mean veggie ‘n cheese omelette – it’s my go-to meal after an evening workout since it’s quick, easy and packed with protein. But in the spirit of trying something new, I went for the frittata.

Garden Vegetable Frittata

It was so good, I brought it for lunch the next day!

This was also a particularly fun week for food, since Thursday was potluck day at work!

I’m fortunate enough to work with some pretty amazing cooks and bakers. While they may not make a living with their culinary talents, they certainly know their way around a kitchen. And the rest of us are always looking for an excuse to sample their masterpieces!

So, it’s become a ritual for us to get together every once in a while for a lunchtime potluck. There’s always a wide variety of healthy and delicious dishes to choose from – salads, bean dips, chana masala, pierogies, samosas, meatballs, spring rolls, curried chicken – almost all of which are homemade. I wish I’d remembered to take my camera to visually capture the spread!

I decided to try out a new recipe that I stumbled across in a folder at work (I’m sure you can tell by now that food is a big part of the office culture). I made a dessert – which I don’t normally do since I don’t have a very baking-friendly kitchen. This recipe, however, is incredibly easy and low-maintenance. If you own a cookie sheet and a pot, you can make this!

They’re called Skor Bars – and I think they’re even better than the chocolate bar. And judging by the bowl of crumbs returned to me at the end of the day, I’d say my colleagues would agree with me!

Scrumptious Skor bars!

All you need is unsalted soda crackers, a cup of butter, a cup of brown sugar, and a bag of milk chocolate chips. And some tin foil.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Place a single layer of soda crackers on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil. Mix together butter and brown sugar in a pot over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Pour mixture evenly over the crackers. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and add chocolate chips. Let melt for 5 minutes, then use the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the crackers. Let cool in the fridge.  Break the bars up into pieces, approx. the size of a cracker. It’s best to store them in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them (the chocolate melts easily!).

Skor Bars: Ready for the fridge

Not exactly a healthy treat, but sometimes it’s healthy to indulge, no?

Time to make plans for before and after tomorrow’s race – I’m going to meet up with my friend Michelle to see the runners off and watch them cross the finish line. Then we’re all going to go out for brunch to celebrate a job well done. I’m so excited for my friends – especially the first-timers. I’ll be living vicariously through them. Good luck guys!!

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