The scary “I” word

What is the word that no athlete wants to hear in the eve of a race they’ve been training for a long time? Yes, you guessed it right. Injury!

Many people have been asking about my training and how my body is coping with the marathons. I’ve been feeling great after the runs and recovering surprisingly well, so my answer has always been on the positive side until a few days after my second marathon.

I ran the second one on a Sunday and travelled to Sydney for a conference the day after. Being away for work meant that I would not have a pool or a bike, and that I would not be able to swim or ride as part of my active recovery after the marathon. So I rested on Monday. On Tuesday I felt this incredible urge to exercise. With no trace of soreness on my legs and the beautiful Coogee beach a couple of blocks away, I decided to go for a light run. Just over 8 km with no problems. After another rest day on Wednesday I decided to go for a training session on Thursday.
That day, when I got down from the bunk bed and landed my right foot on the ground, I felt pain on my knee. I’ve never had problems with my knees before and I didn’t know how to react. It didn’t seem too bad and certainly wasn’t enough to stop me from changing into my running clothes and getting ready for the interval session I had planned the night before. More importantly, I wanted to know if there was something really wrong, so I went to check it out.

On my way from the house to Coogee beach I felt some restriction on my movements and decided to just walk. At the grass area in the south part of the beach I began my easy jog. It didn’t last long though. Less than 1 km and a sharp pain made me walk again. Now I was taking it seriously and started to worry about the whole 12 marathons project. Have I messed up at such an early stage? Have I been too ambitious with the degree of difficulty of the first two marathons? Was it a mistake to go for so many climbs? My knees have been making weird cracking noises for about 15 years but I’ve never felt pain. Now, suddenly, after a rest day and a good night of sleep this happens?

With so many questions on my mind I decided to try jogging again. The pain had eased off to the point that running became comfortable. Great! Maybe something was out of place when I woke up and while moving it got back where it should be, I thought. I gained confidence and decided to continue testing the knee with my interval training: 400 m fast along the beach front with 200 m easy recovery, always paying attention to any sign from my right knee.

Walking back to the house after the effort I felt a discomfort. Not too bad but the yellow light turned on once again. The next 48 hours were terrible. The pain has never reached the level of the sharp pain before the run but was enough to make walking uncomfortable and to mess up with my mind again.

No running on the weekend but instead I was helping some friends to move houses. Their new two storey house didn’t help to give the knee a break but, to be honest, apart from a slight discomfort while going downstairs, everything was fine. I felt no pain during the Monday swimming squad and there was no effect in my performance during the Tuesday RPM class at the gym. But I knew it wasn’t 100% so I kept my appointment with the physio for the next day.

The physiotherapy session was awkward. You know when you book an appointment with a doctor and the pain and symptoms disappear? Well, that’s what happened.  Despite my physio’s effort to reproduce the sharp pain from a week before, there was nothing but a feeling of a slightly stiff joint. Hard to give a diagnostic…

With a second physio session booked for Monday morning, I decided to run on Sunday afternoon. If running was making it worse, then that was my best chance of getting to the physio in pain. You may think that that’s a weird strategy to get back in shape but finding out what the problem was was my priority. Two km warm up, 5 km fast, and 2 km cool down. Very mild discomfort again the day after and another disappointing attempt at reproducing the pain. The good thing? It may be healing and going away. The bad thing? I still don’t know what it is and can’t focus on a proper treatment.

So, where I am now? Just ten days from the third marathon and I haven’t put any run over 10km since marathon #2. I know that he injury has not damaged my ability to run fast (actually the 5km run that I did on Sunday was a PB!), but I have no idea on how the body will react during the long run. I am now hoping for the best in my next marathon in Rio…

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