During that time, I thought of all the possible outcomes I could, from, "Hey, it's no big deal. Ice, ibuprofen and these new exercises," to, "Stop running immediately," to, "Wow, you're lucky your knee's lasted this long. Let's replace it tomorrow, 'kay?" I decided that I was basically fine with any outcome that concluded with my still being able to run and not needing surgery. But I worried that that wasn't realistic. So, needless to say that I had a restless and anxious night last night.
I saw Eric Holm at the Harvard Vanguard center near my house, and it was really great. He was personable and friendly and didn't make me feel stupid for coming in or for keeping running while waiting for an appointment. He listened while I described my symptoms, felt my knees in a couple of different positions, looked at my running shoes, looked at my stance, and prescribed an entirely satisfactory sequence of events:
* I have a handful of strengthening exercises that I should do a couple of times a day. I'm relatively "loose-ligamented", so strengthening is probably more important than stretching (which I've been doing pretty religiously after running, and will keep doing.)
* Part of what's happening is tightness in my Iliotibial Band (which I suspected and have been stretching for the past couple of weeks), so I should keep stretching that carefully.
* I'll start seeing a physical therapist in the next few days for a more complete program of strengthening and stretching.
* If I lose a bit of weight, that might help. I was surprised and pleased at how low-key he was about this. As many of you know, I have prickled at past suggestions that I should lose weight when coming from a doctor who tells me, "You're healthy, except for this thing that we all agree isn't healthy even though you have no ill health as a result of it." For the first time, ever, I was seeing a doctor (well, a PA) from whom I was entirely prepared to hear and believe that my weight was part of the problem, and he basically said, "Yeah, it'll take some strain off your knees if you lose 5-10 pounds."
* Buy new running shoes. I'm a couple of months away from my expected time of replacement, but this is no big deal. Interestingly, I'm wearing these pretty evenly, which indicates that they're absolutely the right shoes for me. Cool!
* It's fine to keep running, but I should keep to lower mileage rather than running through pain. This means not training for the 7.5 miles in June and way more walking than running for Bay to Breakers. Both of these things are fine. Assuming all is well by then, I'll be aiming for the Tufts 10K in October for my next distance marker.
* Consider picking up some cross-training. This is a good motivator for me to buy a helmet and actually get the bike jacflash gave me last summer fixed up so I can pedal around town from time to time. Also, possibly getting a gym membership for the summer, which I've been considering doing as a way to deal with the heat, anyway.
* Ice after running every time. Ibuprofen.
So, it's not a total, "It's no big deal. Ice and ibuprofen." But it's close enough to my best case scenario that I'm relieved and happy. I'm also pleased to be seeing a physical therapist and I hope I learn some good stuff from that.