Man Down: An Injured Runhole

(The following is Bode's account of his recent struggle with injury. This site is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. )

A common trait of Runholes is that we are so addicted to running that we will often disregard signs of injury and continue to run through pain.  
Many times we get away with it and the pain somehow goes away. Maybe it heals, maybe we were just tight and the activity loosens us up, but the effect is positive reinforcement of our illogical behavior.
It makes us feel invincible.  
To the non-runner this course of conduct is extremely unwise, but it makes perfect sense and is easily understood by runners. The thought of not running is worse than the potential risk of further injury. In some cases, the whole “running through the pain” strategy backfires and what could have been cured with just a few days’ rest balloons into a “real” injury.
What is it that fuels this phenomenon?  
Is it an endorphin addiction? Is it the release from everyday stresses? Is it habit? Is it the need to prepare for an upcoming race, or is it a fear of becoming out of shape or “fat”?
Truth is it could be any of these things, or a combination, or other factors.
Despite being taught a lesson to listen to your body, the fact is that once we are recovered the lesson will fade and we will do it again.
Though we may question our logic if we get hit by a more significant injury, some things are just what they are, and we accept them and power on. Memory becomes short.  
The phenomenon describes my course of conduct after developing knee pain during and after the Green Monster 50k, a challenging trail course in northern Pennsylvania that is highlighted by an imposing 7900 feet of climb.  
This was my second 50k and first Ultra I’ve run with a true time goal: I had to finish in less than 9 hours to qualify for the first of the Pennsylvania Triple Crown Series ultras next year.
I’m still working on summiting uphills faster, but downhills have come naturally to me for some reason (hence my nickname “Bode” in honor of the famous downhiller, Bode Miller of US Downhill Skiing fame).
Prior to the Green Monsters, I knew my strategy had to include hitting the downhills full speed.
During the race, this tool a toll and my knees started to ache. I powered on though.
The race strategy was a success and I beat the time goal, but the Green Monster did not go down without leaving a mark. (I know I’m not the only one to understand why it’s called a monster)
Over the next few days my knees didn’t feel great but were still serviceable. I was on such a high I agreed to fully commit to the PA Triple Crown Series:

The crown is comprised of:
Hyner View 50k                    
World’s End 100k               
Eastern States 100 Mile.

After the Green Monster I had qualified for the 50K and 100K races, but short the requirements for the daunting Eastern States 100.  I needed a 50miler to be accepted as a competitor.
Not many 50 Mile races were left in the season in the north eastern US, but I found a trail race in Florida, so two of us from Team Runhole signed up to The Masters of All Terrain double marathon on December 12.  
I was fired up and ready to log some miles and a nighttime 15 mile training run soon followed.  Again I had increased knee pain but it went back to baseline quickly and my mind wouldn’t accept that there was any real issue.
Then came the clincher the following weekend: after running trails for a bit over 20 miles and 4000 feet of climb, suddenly an “oh that’s not good” pain shot through my left knee.  I stopped and walked back to my car.  Although I was icing at every opportunity over the next few days I knew I was in trouble as even bending the knee to walk was impossible.  I was trying to stay positive but dread started to close in. Fears of not being able to run for a prolonged period surfaced.  
“I should be out increasing miles not sitting here icing my knee every night.” I thought.  
“What if I had to miss the Florida race? No! That can’t happen!”  
Coping mechanisms were pursued. There were a lot of internet searches hoping to be enlightened about a miracle cure but everything said what I knew it would: rest and ice.  
While on the web there were also frequent visits to the running supply site (as in daily) and purchases of a lot of running paraphernalia. I suppose it gave me the feeling of being connected to the running world in some way and allowed thoughts of the time when the feel of the trail would flow under my feet again.
I learned that running injuries can get expensive!  One night I enjoyed some vino but that I knew could not turn into a habit.  As the saying goes, the struggle was real.
Luckily I saw my friends and chiropractors who specialize in treating running injuries and after some Graston (a method of breaking up spasms and knots- which almost made me cry like a baby), things were on the mend.
It turns out the knee pain was caused from a “really jacked quad” (very scientific, I know) which was pulling the knee out of alignment.
After some follow up self-massaging and foam rolling there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Confidence is restored.  All seems to be right in the universe again or soon will be.
So what is the moral to the story?  
Is it that you should heed the warnings your body gives you? (Probably?)
Is it to disable your internet while you are injured to stay off the running supply sites? (YES!)
Is it to avoid things such as vino while you’re on the mend so the running addiction void is not replaced by something less healthy? (YES!)
All of these could be good lessons to glean from it, but for me I learned something else:
Many times during this period of convalescence I asked myself why I would continue to run so hard with sore knees. What was I thinking?
I chastised myself - “Now look what you’ve done!”
After thoughtful deliberation (while icing) I came to an understanding: I had to let myself off the hook.
I am a runner.
I am a Runhole.
It’s what I’ve become in the last year since first discovering trail running and then ultra trail running.
As such it’s just something I was compelled to do and something I know I will do again.
There is a certain liberation in acceptance.  

Oh and also maybe I’ll try to use the foam roller and visit my chiro buddies more often because a Runhole on the trails is a happy Runhole.

-Todd “Bode” Sailer




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