Well, here I am again... it's about a week before my next kind of big race, the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon (GTIS) on 8/14/2010. Like several shorter races earlier this year, this is kind of a big one for me in that I've specifically geared my training for it. For 5 weeks, I've been in a build-up for the event, but about a week ago I started getting some patellofemoral pain. It seems as though every race I plan for is preceded by some sort of injury or nagging pain that shakes my confidence leading into the event.
So, I've now backed off on the slow running, which seems to aggravate the knee horribly, and plan to stick with fast-moderate to fast paced shorter runs instead during the taper, because so far I've been able to do those without any pain. In addition, I'm doing some exercises and stretches that are intended to strengthen my inner quadriceps muscle and other muscles around the knee that theoretically will reduce some of the unbalanced forces on my knee cap that lower femur and give me some relief.
Of course, I'm also icing after runs, whether there is pain or not, just to be safe. So, I guess this is sort of an "enforced" taper. To overcome the patellofemoral pain, I am basically doing what I would have done for a taper for the most part. That is, I'm focusing on shorter, higher-intensity runs. Without the pain, I would have done one more run of 10-12 miles or so this weekend at a moderate-slow pace, however. I most likely will not attempt that run, of if I do, I will make it a series of loops close to home, so I have an easy out if things start to go awry. My instinct is to bad the run altogether and maybe do 60-70 minute steady state run instead.
It's kind of a pain in the arse to be injured so soon before an event, but to some extent I guess that there are probably many runners who face the same problem, because that's when we are at the peak of the buildup in training before the event. It's when we are pushing hardest and putting our bodies under the most stress. I hope that as I get a little further down the road with my running addiction, my body becomes better able to withstand the pressure, or I learn some strategies for helping my body cope more easily with the higher training loads.
Patellofemoral pain, like ITBS is irritating because it's a "syndrome." That basically means that we're not sure exactly what causes it, and "it" is actually probably a complex of various other injuries or inflammations that differ to some extent from person to person due to differences in anatomy and gait mechanics. In any case, you pretty much just have to pick a treatment strategy and place some blind faith in it, or just take time off completely and hope that's good enough. Since I have a hard time completely halting my training, I tend to try and just scale back and focus on the things that cause the least trouble, and then rely on whatever treatment approach I've decided to try or trust otherwise.
In this case, it's sticking with shorter higher intensity runs, and doing some strength and flexibility exercises for the knee, as well as some core work. I hope it works, because I was really hoping to run GTIS in under 1:40. My stats suggest that is a reasonable expectation, but if I have to back off too much on the maintenance running during the taper, I'm afraid I'll lose just enough condition to put 1:40 out of reach.
Ah, the insecurities of a determined runner...