Torn Meniscus: End of the Line?

“You might not be running long distances any more,” my sports medicine doctor said.

What do you say when you hear something like that?  Gee thanks?  Can I get another opinion?  Driving down to see my doctor – and hyperventilating so I wouldn’t scream, because my knee hurts so bad when I’m in a car right now – I worried that he might tell me this.  “I’m not surprised,” I said, in a voice not  my own.

From the MRI, the diagnosis was a torn meniscus.

Dazed, I left his office for my job.  Later that evening, I was thankful to be stuck in a school board meeting until nearly midnight.  It was less time to brood.

Since recounting my non adventures with kinesiotape, I’ve avoided writing about my bum knee.  You don’t need a blow by blow account, “today it felt great,” “Thursday intervals: it felt kinda sorta.”  Too dreary, even for me.

At the beginning of the year, it felt around 95%.  I was back to running.  But since mid-February, it’s been going backwards.  The Cookie Clash hurt like crazy.  The Sunday before Sugarloaf, I had fun skiing up the Mountain Trail with Topher and Nat, but my knee did not.  Driving to Maine for the Sugarloaf Marathon was excruciating (It hurts worse in the car than anywhere else.  Go figure).  Miraculously, my knee was fine for the race itself and the following day,  I thought I was over the hump.

Wrong.

After a fruitless two-week layoff in April, I copped to the inevitable.  The doctor compared MRI images from last week and the preceding fall.  That miniscule funny shadow?  Torn meniscus, the cartilage upon which your femur’s articulate cartilage glides.  Cartilage has even less blood flow than tendons or ligaments and is difficult to heal.  Multiply that if you’re, uh, a master blaster of a certain age.

Right now, it even hurts to use the YMCA’s elliptical trainer – the cardio device of last resort for injuries.  It feels like three years since I’ve been able to run a race competitively.  We discussed treatments; it should be amusing to hear what the insurance will/won’t cover.  I’ve turned it over in my mind, when did I fuck it up? The hard fall in Lewis Morris?  The Whiteface roller race?  Did it develop gradually over time?  It doesn’t matter, what matters now is getting better.

There are things out there you’re only gonna see when you’re running in the woods.  Like at this time of year, if I go to the same park every three days, it’s amazing how you can see the trees and plants change.  Like the time in Norvin Green, on a sweltering July day, when I dropped in to a gully and saw a bear cub.  As it scampered up a tree I was like, “Whoa, how cute is that?….Oh s***, where’s the mother?!”  And the first big run I did with Lars, we hooked up, we didn’t know each other too well at that point.  And it poured down rain from the get go, and neither of us wanted to crap out, running three hours and getting completely soaked in the first five minutes.  It’s like Roy says.  You don’t remember your race time, you remember the crazy stuff you did, the fun you had.  Running, I miss you real bad right now.

I’d anticipated this day coming in another 15 years, but it’s staring me in the face right now.  There’s stuff on my bucket list that needs to be done.  Tomorrow I’m gonna roller ski – if the knee tolerates it.  I’m beginning to wonder if  – not when – I’m gonna run again.