I’ve been running consistently since 2008. I’m not fast, I’ve never won a race, and I’ll likely never qualify to run the Boston Marathon. On the other hand, I have raced in multiple countries, logged routes in amazing locations, got fit, had fun and met some of the best people, so I judge the experience a complete success.
If running three klicks through on a random Thursday evening in January sounds less than impressive, let me introduce you to my Medial Collateral Ligament injury and the fact that I haven’t had a pain-free run outside or beyond the confines of a physiotherapy-prescribed treadmill run in over six months.
I pushed myself back in September in the park near my house and ended up limping home and elevating my leg for nearly a week.
This morning, fourteen hours later, I feel pretty normal. Good. Strong. Hopeful.
I don’t know how. I don’t know when. I don’t know why. All I know is that one day I was running and training and planning adventure runs through the city. The next day I was struggling to climb a few steps in my house.
I figured a couple weeks recovery.
After a month I went to see the physiotherapist.
He told me it may take a couple months, but maybe as long as four months.
It’s been six months and I’m finally feeling like there is something resembling hope in a recovery.
It was -15C on the trails.
My crew meets sporadically but regularly at an elementary school parking lot near an access point a ravine.
In the spring, summer and fall it’s a beautiful asphalt trail descending into the river valley under a canopy of big old trees.
In the winter, its dark and icy and hauntingly creepy.
I recorded a walking tour there just last week and the view hadn’t changed much to last night, except that I was plodding along at one minute run to one minute walk intervals, and listening to the crunch of my feet through the dark forest trail.
My four companions kept my pace for the first of my one minute intervals, but then I purposely slowed and they dashed ahead. On my second interval I almost felt like if I pushed it I could catch up with them. On the third interval they were little more than bobbing headlamps in the distance and by the fourth I had descending into a canopy of eerie trail that was as much like a haunted pathway towards some frozen hell below as it was the scene of my running recovery run.
At eleven minutes I made a u-turn and returned to my truck, logging exactly three slow kilometers of winter plodding and setting the stage for a “now we wait to see how I feel in the morning” scenario.
I already spoiled the lede, of course. I feel fine this morning. I can still walk… have walked. Gone up and down the stairs a dozen times and…
I have an appointment with my physiotherapist tomorrow. Now I need to fess up that I pushed the program. I suppose it all worked out tho, huh?
A sunny Sunday afternoon in January was the perfect day to go check out a few kilometers of trails through a local green (winter white) space in the Edmonton suburbs.
I thought Sundays were for run days, you ask?
But with my knee-hab progressing at the snails pace that injured ligaments are wont to do, I made my rounds at the gym this morning logging some klicks on the stationary bike then logging a couple klicks of running intervals on the treadmill and…
Those ski trails through the vast swath of snow in the utility corridor were calling.
By chance we live near a utility corridor. There are at least two of these in the city that run laterally, east to west, across the suburbs. About fifty meters wide and spanning the width of the whole city, ish, their purpose is to leave some big open space to run transmission powerlines or major infrastructure without going over, around or through homes. And since there only a minimal day-to-day danger associated with well constructed infrastructure, the utility corridors become huge greenspaces where the only development that can legally occur is an asphalt path or an unfixed trash bucket.
If you live right up against one of these corridors (and many people do) you are, of course, dealing with the generally unsightly view of massive power transmission towers out your back window.
If (instead, like me) you live just a few blocks away, you are less bothered by the view but still close enough to walk to a place where long straight asphalt trails make great running paths or groomed ski trails emerge mysteriously in the winter and stretch for kilometers upon kilometers of gently rolling straightaways.
We parked in the recreation centre parking lot adjacent to where the ski trails passed and hopped aboard, exploring for an hour of exhausting skiing on a Sunday afternoon.
My knee was a bit tender from my morning workout, but in the end it was a perfect day for some low-impact outdoor sport, and a bit of suburban skiing adventure, too.
For the last couple of days, following a week of bitterly cold temperatures, I took advantage of the milder winter weather and went skiing in the park.
Nordic skiing or cross country skiing, or whatever you happen to call the skiing that doesn’t involve hills is a perfect sport for our local park. In the summer it’s a suburban field with a perimeter ring of asphalt roughly one kilometer in length. In the winter it’s a snowy wasteland waiting to be trampled and played in by local kids.
I like to help cut ski trails for neighbourhood skiing enthusiasts.
Some rough math will tell you that a one kilometer oblong ring makes the diameter of the whole field about 320m. More likely it’s about 400m on the long side and 250 at the lateral cut. No matter how you slice it, this is long enough for some good straightaways, even cutting across the various paths people have already tramped through the otherwise pristine snowfall.
In the last couple days I’ve spent a good couple hours doing laps through that fresh snow, following a meandering track that I cut and smoothing it out so that other locals (and also future me) could enjoy them.
It’s been a refreshing change.
I haven’t spent as much time as I would have liked outside in 2022.
One word that sums up your theme for 2022.
Ok. So, it’s not a real word. I made it up.
But it is what I’ve been calling my now-six-month effort to restore mobility and health in my right knee after a mysterious injury left me with a micro-tear in my MCL, medial collateral ligament, an important bit of tender tissue that helps you balance and move and otherwise enjoy things like walking.
I haven’t run, not outside of physiotherapy at least, since July.
This is not a good thing.
I’ve been in knee-hab: stretching, strengthening, hurting, moving, healing, limping, and hopefully recovering. It’s been a very long six months.
For anyone who runs you know the frustration of not running. It’s physical. It’s outdoors. It’s a stress valve. It’s a social event. It’s a lifestyle. It balances your mind, body, soul, and beyond. It works your lungs, beats your heart and jiggles your bowels and generally makes you feel better after it’s over. It becomes who you are, even if you’re not fast.
I miss it.
Not running has descended a cloud over everything else and I would venture to suggest it has left me with a touch of depression that has been a one-hundred-percent effort to attempt to overcome this past six months.
Knee-hab seems like a silly theme, but it was my life for the latter half of the year. And as I sit here in the scraps of the year-that-was, flexing my leg at my desk knee still stiff after sleeping, it’s hard not to assume that it will define the first bit of 2023, too.
The last couple days I spent skiing in the park were brilliant for my therapy, physical and mental. My knee felt fabulous after nearly an hour of work cutting and riding the trails I’d cut. My brain felt lighter. My heart, even in the cold winter air, felt warmer.
I’ll be back out there again today, when the sun climbs up a bit higher.
And hopefully the theme of my crumby knee will start to wrap up with some grace and promise for the New Year, even as some new opportunities to be outside (and write about it more in 2023) emerge!