Sunday, August 16, 2009

What the Heck is Wrong With Me?! and My Return to Running

Okay, so I ran my first race in over three years yesterday. Just a local 5k... but I won my age group!
Irish Fest 5k

The last race I ran was a 5k, April 8, '06. I had decided if I couldn't run long I would train for 5k's. My best friend and training partner Jane and I started training end of January of that year. Trained with the pain in my hip and managed to run a 4-miler and a 5k in March fairly well. But the 5k in April was too much; my leg blew up and, once again, I stopped running.

It wasn't a running injury that stopped me, though I didn't know it at the time. A disease called synovial chondromatosis had settled in my left hip joint. It's kinda rare and will usually only affect one joint. They don't know why it happens, but the thinking now (according to my surgeon) is that it is caused by a virus. The synovial lining of the joint becomes inflamed and then over time produces little nodules of cartilage that then float around in the joint. This would normally show up on an MRI and even an x-ray. Over the next five years, I had numerous x-rays, six MRI's, and a bone scan. The synovial chondromatosis was never seen, though other injuries were diagnosed because I began compensating for the pain in my hip and developed an abnormal gait.

The pain and locking in my hip started in early 2003. From then till I finally had surgery on August 10, 2007, I would stop running, see a doctor, be diagnosed with various injuries--herniated lumbar disks, bursitis in my hip, high hamstring tendinopathy, inflammation in my external rotators--go through physical therapy, start running again just to be stopped in my tracks and go through the whole thing again. I would stop running for two-three months at a time, but the pain in my hip would never go a way.

The pain became so bad the spring and summer of '07 I could hardly walk. My whole leg ached all the time. Went to an orthopedic surgeon, had an MRa, with a dye injection; still nothing showed in the hip joint. But it did show a tear in my gluteus medius tendon. Physical therapy for that and after telling the PT my symptoms, he tested me for a labral tear of the cartilage in the hip joint. He said I tested positive for that and talked to the surgeon about it. Arthroscopic surgery three weeks later, supposed to last about an hour. When I woke up, my husband John said to me, "It wasn't what they thought." I had been in surgery over two hours, my leg in traction--the hip bone pulled out of the socket so they could get inside. The surgeon (who told me my hip was a "bloody mess") cut out the inflamed synovial lining and sucked out all the nodules and blood.

I know now that I made everything worse by continuing to run and race. I ran a 50-miler and a marathon, along with the training and numerous shorter races, in 2003; and a 50-miler, a 50k, and a marathon, and the training for those, in 2004. No racing in 2005, but that little bit in early 2006. I think that that is why I am still having trouble with my whole leg. I have pain in the front of my hip and down the front of my thigh. I have the high hamstring tendinopathy and probably some sciatica. I have pain down the front lateral lower leg. My toes cramp. For the past two years, after surgery and physical therapy and the doctor and PT telling me I could start running again, I have not been able to get my mileage up or do any kind of speed training. Hurts too much.

But... a couple weeks ago, I seemed to be a little better. So, this past week, Monday, I was able to run nine easy miles with not much trouble. And so I did some 30/30's on Tuesday, and some strides on Thursday... and my first race in over three years on Saturday, August 15, 2009.

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