UTA100 VS My IT Band
This story starts 2 weeks ago when my knee pulled up “tight” after an easy 20k run out at Ourimbah State Forest. Matt immediately told me to rest. So rest, stretching, rolling, swimming, 2 massages and a chiro visit later I tried running again on the Thursday morning before my Saturday race. An easy, slow 5k and my knee felt…. okish. The next morning I headed for a slightly longer 7k run from home to Crackneck and back and I could definitely “feel” my knee. Then I could “feel” that it hurt while walking. This was bad news. Very bad news, I drove up the mountains as planned on Friday, pretty much constantly stressing about my knee.
I went through check-in, checked out the race expo, wandered around Katoomba a bit and the whole time I could feel my knee pulling. Not pain, just tight pulling. That night we went to the Q&A were I had to sit on stage with the other elite females and answer a couple of questions. Then we watched the mens Q&A and the race briefing. The whole time I felt like an imposter, how could I be an “elite” runner when I’m not even sure if my knee is going to be up to it? After a terrible dinner at the Old Bank Brasserie (I do not recommend it). I went to bed later than normal and I could not for the life of me fall asleep.
I was tossing and turning, having nightmares, stressing about my knee. It reached a climax at about 1am when I’d managed to work myself into a state and wanted to both cry and puke at the same time and didn’t know whether I should run the next morning. Would it do more damage? Is it worth it? What am I proving? What can I do to increase my chances of being able to run? Does my knee still hurt? I’m expected to go well… I don’t think I can, what do I do? I did some google searches, watched a couple of videos on strapping IT Bands and read some forums on how the strapping makes no difference. I looked into IT Band strapping vs Nurofen gel or Voltaren, none of it was promising. I talked it over with mum and it was decided that I start and see how I go. The goal was to the make CP3, 46kms in. It’s the first aid station with support crew and If I made it that far I could make the decision on whether or not to continue after that.
I managed to get maybe 3 hours sleep before I had to be up, then I was sitting watching a youtube video on how to strap a knee for ITBS. I strapped it as best I could and it felt snug. Off to the start line we headed. It wasn’t too cold this morning, not like last year. But I honestly don’t think I would have noticed too much anyway. My stomach was in knots and I was on the verge of puking from nerves. My knee was not right. I didn’t want to disappoint people, or waste my entry… Maybe It’ll be right once I start running…. Maybe…… I was trying to be optimistic, but my mind couldn’t focus on the race, it was all on my knee.
Then we were off. The first section on the road was fine, no pain, I was moving great. A bit of a warmup up the hill to the turnaround and then straight back down and towards Furber Stairs. I felt the first niggles as I hit the stairs and let anyone that wanted to go in front of me, in front. The niggles were fine, no real pain. Hitting the bottom of the stairs everything continued as expected. I was moving at the pace I wanted to move and feeling comfortable as I came through CP1 (11km) right on time. Maybe it was all going to be fine, maybe I could pull this off. I started to feel more optimistic… I was racing!
Then I hit a downhill at around the 20km mark and it felt like a fist clamping around my knee, it started locking up and I felt real pain. I backed off my pace a bit and thought “It’s fine… Maybe it’ll pass”. I was still running ok on the ups and flats. Then I hit another downhill and more pain hit my knee. Not great… But that’s fine. No more speedy downhill, grit my teeth and get down, then pick up the pace again. It went further downhill at the 25km mark when my knee completely locked up on a downhill. It hurt to bend it. It was like I was dragging a useless leg. Back to gritting my teeth…. What should I do? Withdraw at CP2? I could still kind of run, but it hurt. I hit a compromise with myself and decided I’d visit First Aid and see if they could re-strap it as the strapping I’d applied had started to come unstuck at the edges. I came into CP2 behind schedule and the first thing I did was head to First Aid to get my knee re-strapped. The First Aid guy did a great job but did tell me that this did not work for most people. I knew my position was already long gone so I tried not to stress as more and more runners passed me while I sat there getting strapped up. It was 16km’s to CP3 from here. Either the strapping would work or it wouldn’t and I’d drag myself into CP3.
I left CP2 with my knee feeling snug once again and I hoped this would be the key. It worked great to the top of Ironpot Ridge, especially as my climbing was still fine and now I was further back in the field I was easily out climbing the other runners. But reaching the top I struggled on the technical ground and coming back off Ironpot was a nightmare. It’s very steep and with a non-working knee I could barely even walk down, let alone run. I hit the bottom and was struggling even more at running. The next lot of downhill was long and gradual. It hurt! Then on the flat I found It was hurting and my other leg muscles were trying to compensate and also starting to hurt. The whole time I was trying to think of what I could still do. “I could still slowly run flats and uphills if I gritted my teeth” - Maybe I could get past CP3 and hike up Nellies Glen to CP4, it’s mostly uphill anyway, aim for a 14hour finish. Then my ability to run flats dried up completely as the knee locked up and the pain became too much. I had to accept that my race was over.
I was at risk of causing some serious damage, I had to stop NOW. So I stopped running. I had about 5kms to CP3 and I limped it along. It wasn’t too bad walking, and about 70% of runners asked if I was ok and the ones that knew me offered their commissaries when I told them that no, it wasn’t cramping, my ITB was shot. My race was done. Mum knew that I was gone by the time I limped it into CP3. She’d been watching my tracker and saw that I’d dropped to a walk. Hitting CP3 I passed the bag check and immediately withdrew from the race. There was nothing more to do. I was very disappointed, but I’d had 21kms of running, then walking to think about this. I had to be 100% sure that I couldn’t go on otherwise I knew I’d regret my decision. I was sure. Today was not my day.
I followed mum back to the car, the feelings of disappointment mounting as we drove back to Scenic World to drop off the tracker. When we got there the 50k runners were coming in and there was that exciting post race atmosphere. It made me feel worse. Tracker dropped off I headed into first aid where they iced my sore knee, then I called into the physio who gave me some advice and massaged my calves. I’d still raced 46kms after all. I didn’t wait around to see the 100k runners come in, I couldn’t really face it. I wanted to see who would win, but not in person. I find it hard to accept failure. But now I have a new mission. Repair my ITB so I can get back to running and training for GNW.