Thursday, September 11, 2008


I was really dreading this day. But, after what a doctor had told me 4 years ago, I wasn't surprised.

Four years ago, an orthopedic specialist told me that my knees had "issues." And that, under no circumstances, should I run any more long distance races. I knew my family history (both my dad and sister had to stop running due to major knee issues), so I resigned myself to sticking to shorter distances - and maybe looking into other sports (which is what initially enticed me to the sport of triathlon).

I really meant it when I promised myself to stay away from marathons. Ask Carmen. I told her when I first joined Trigirls that I was never running any more marathons. I only signed on to do Ironman Florida when Anna reassured me that "lots of people walk the whole marathon."

But a funny thing happened during training. I could run - and my knees really didn't hurt too much (with the exception of walking up and down stairs - red flag!)
When it came time to do the marathon in Florida, I felt fantastic (apparently, dehydration agrees with me). No pain at all - I was in a dream world.

I didn't feel quite so joyful while running the Richmond marathon, but I did somehow (miraculously) qualify for Boston - a dream I never thought I'd achieve (especially with my knee prognosis).

But, the doctor four years ago was right.

My knees are not built for long-distance running.

In fact, I have the exact same issue as my dad and my sister. Or - as the doctor described it yesterday, "Your knee caps are totally screwed up."

You see, my knee caps (otherwise known as the patellas) are simply in the wrong place. They are too high and too far to the outside. This causes them to track crazily - and eventually wear down cartilage. No cartilage = lots of pain....which can lead to major arthritis if you don't watch it.

It's not anything I've done wrong - and physical therapy really won't cure it. It's just the way my knees are put together. It was in the genes.

My sister underwent "patellar realignment" surgery - which is as bad as it sounds. It involves moving your whole kneecap and all that's connected to it. One can expect about 6-8 weeks on crutches plus months of physical therapy. She said the recovery was the worst. She was supposed to have the other knee operated on, but decided against it after the ordeal with her first knee. The doctor (in his honest way) said that particular surgery "just plain sucks."

It turns out that I am a good candidate. But I'd rather not undergo that surgery.

Instead, I'm taking the conservative approach (which included draining the knee, bracing the knee and a big ol' yummy cortisone shot). I'll stick to biking, swimming, strength training - and maybe pick up some new "stuff" (yoga? pilates?). I hope to eventually be able to run short distances again, too.

Maybe I'll just do sprint distance triathlons - or maybe do a lot of aquabiking. I really don't know right now.

To quote my favorite triathlete (Rick, of course), "Time will tell." Luckily, I don't define myself by the ability to complete an Ironman race or run a marathon. I enjoy those activities (and adore my training partners) - but there really is more to my life than just those activities. Thankfully.


TriGirl Kate O said...

Oh this so totally sucks! So where does this leave you for Placid? Do you just not run from now until like May?
hugs, chicka!

Kate said...

What a great attitude you have about this.

I may be in the same situation myself but somehow I don't feel nearly so positive.

Annn said...

That is strange that you would have knee pain because when you run I am pretty sure your feet do not touch the ground.

My husband had the realignment surgery on his knees. I asked him what he thought of it. He said it was "ok." The scars are cool though.

TriGirl 40 (okay - 41) said...

I am so sorry - but as usual, you are handling a tough situation with grace and humor.


SusieQ said...

Love you guys :)

It depends on which realignment surgery your hubby had. One isn't too bad - but alas, that's not the one for me. But, I may to chat with him sometime (and there will be wine/beer)

Diane said...

Lucky for you, Zumba season is fast approaching!

tryingtotri said...

That sucks. I am in awe of your handling of this!!

Jennifer said...

I had major reconstructive knee surgery back in '05 and like your sister agree that it really sucks. I was on crutches and in a leg brace for 6 months. And I couldn't drive for about 5 of those months. It wasn't just physically tough, but mentally!

So, I totally feel your pain with the knees. I could have kept running, but for me found bike racing, so I moved into that. But you gotta do what you love and also take care of your body at the same time. It's not easy, but you'll find a way to make it work out! You have a great attitude about it!