Friday, December 10, 2010

A Meniscus Story and Hope

once upon a time i was invincible. i was 29 years old, had a great career in the software world but was looking for more out of each second than compiling code can provide. i had been adventure racing for a few years and was lucky enough to be on a great team, DART-nuun.  although back then it was just D.A.R.T for Adventure Race Team. essentially i was doing enough at my job to not get fired, no more, no less.  i was a professional adventure racer in my mind. at least that is the way i approached each day, training was my primary concern, test cases a distance second. i was training for the 2004 primal quest expedition adventure race... with eco challenge gone primal quest had become the premier race.  i'd often use the bus system to get training in as i commuted to redmond from seattle, riding or running in combination with the bus. i'd sometimes run the entire 32 miles over lake washington in the morning darkness to be to work on time. not that it matter too much that i was on time, since i'd sit at my desk a total calorie deprived zombie. but all of that is besides the point.

in training for the 2004 primal quest expedition adventure race i ended up with a persistent knee pain. mri's and such showed that i had somehow torn my r meniscus. meniscus for an ultra distance athlete is a commodity. it's the padding between big body weight supporting bones.

i cried in the dr's office the day he told me i was essentially done running and likely any long distance anything for the rest of my life. he said "i wouldn't run more than 15 miles a week, and never all at once". i've thought about sending dr zorn my crimson cheetah belt buckle from the wasatch 100. i had my surgery in 2005.  they removed 20% of my meniscus.  with zero guidance from the dr (he was too famous to provide any additional time that didn't involve cutting) i rehabbed. i switched sports to 24hr endurance mtn biking to avoid the obvious impact of ultrarunning. eventually though i was peppering in trail running. before long i was back at it with only mild knee pain. pretty confident i could make a go at it, i quit my career to race full time.  after about a year the knee felt exactly the same as the other knee, great. at times ultrarunning simply hurts.  400 miles into the colorado trail both my knees hurt.  as did my hips and ankles and... etc. about a year ago, after all this running i wasn't supposed to do i had an mri.  there were zero signs of degeneration from running.  turns out drs don't know everything.

as i mentioned in this blog post i fell skiing.  i've once again done something wrong to my right knee.  i believe i tore my mcl (grade II).  this healed and stabilized after about 4-5 weeks.  i also think i have done additional meniscus damage.  after 6 weeks i still have a lingering pain between the bones that has really not improved at all.  so yesterday i got an mri on my right knee.

my first injury seemed so traumatic because it was supposed to be a career ender. the simple fact that that didn't come to fruition has me extremely hopeful that i'll pull out of this one too... no matter what the dr's say.


OilcanRacer said...

buck up champ....if you fast forward your story 40 years, you get to my story. body parts magicly heal. you lose only a little speed(not as much as they tell you in magazines). tech gets good enough to make up the difference. guys older than you are still kicking your butt.

just enjoy.

Leslie said...

HA! The word verification for this comment is "nestrain". Seriously. You're going to get your diagnosis soon enough, but I've got to say: the docs sure are good at fixing knees these days. While surgery is never good, there's a good chance you may have a better, stronger knee in the future. Either way, good thoughts your way!

Missy B. said...

thanks for this insight, Matt. three years ago when i tore my ACL and had surgery, i cried in the doctor's office. i had a more positive experience, though, as my doc was a young athlete who identified with my need to get back out running and skiing and told me not to worry. he was right, and i thank him in my mind everytime i'm out there enjoying our magical Wasatch mountains.

best to you for the Holiday season and 2011.

seattlebuckeyefan said...

Thinking about you dude...

Same exact injury two years ago...had 20% of my meniscus removed and when I asked the doc if I could still run marathons (didn't want to tell him about the ultras) he said "oh god should never run more than 5-6 miles."

I still get the occasional MCL pain...and have even strained it a few times but I can always get back as long as I keep working on strength training. Even through the 50s and 100 milers..and I'm a big, slow guy (6-5 & 205).

Good Luck