18 minute read

I realized I forgot to add a post last February. Just been totally swamped with work, study, and school. I injured my knee, and I felt I should talk about it.

I was also studying to take an AWS certification exam — yesterday (Friday) was the day, and spoilers but I passed it! — so life’s been busier than usual, guess you can say.

Leap Day

Happy Leap Year 2024, by the way! The Leap Day this year was on Thursday, Feb. 29th.

Little do I remember of what I did on “Leap Day”, which was the last day of February 2024, by the way. Looks like I got takeout for lunch from Chipotle, as I was too busy or else lazy to make lunch for myself. Also, I like Chipotle every now and again, and maybe I realized I hadn’t taken out there in a long time.

Afterwards, I went to gym, and on the treadmill, I didn’t push myself too hard because I have a pre-existing knee injury that I’m still recovering from. I think I ran at a more manageable base pace at 9 MPH for most of it. Workout went well for the most part, and I was sweaty at the end of it.

After quick shower, I headed to this sports-bar place and hung out with some folks. Good way to spend a Leap Day-slash-Year, which only comes along once every 4 years. Actually that location I hadn’t visited in months, but it’s nice to revisit it and hopefully socialize every now and then. On a day like Leap Day, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

The Injury

A little over a month ago by now, on February 6th, I injured my left knee while participating in a benchmark challenge on the treadmill at my local gym.

The goal, more or less: sustain 22 minutes at your best, most insane, running pace.

A priori to that, on the weekend, I’d potentially pushed myself too much. Ran with a small group outdoors, and me and this other person — leaders of the pack, in a sense — ran around 8 miles or so, at a pretty damn respectable 7:00/mile pace. So I suppose all said and done, it took us roughly an hour from start till completion; assuming that we didn’t stop in between, which I don’t think we did, though I feel we did slow down our pace a little at times, such as when jogging uphill. Anyway, that was an 8 miles run, non-stop, in an outdoor setting; shoes hitting the pavement, grass, or else the road.

The day following that, I attended a 90-minute gym class and I ran for close to half an hour at an average 6:50/mile pace, according to the app that has my workout and performance results. I covered a little over 4 miles on the treadmill. I don’t have to tell you how exhausting it can be to run at or below a 7:00/mile pace for a sustained period of time. It’s pure endurance training, and nothing else, but it does put a strain on your leg muscles, more specifically on the knees as they have to endure the brunt of your body weight on them the whole time, and as well they have to be flexible enough to bend using the same rhythm and motion, repeated perhaps every second or two — maybe even more frequently, depending on the running pace — and they have to sustain this effort, the weight and the lengthening-contracting motion of the knees, for however long one chooses to jog or run. In my case, over an hour one day at an insane pace, and close to half an hour the next day at a slightly more brutal pace. So yeah, long story short, I suppose I overdid it.

Anyway, on February 6th, a Tuesday, I had that benchmark run on the treadmill that I mentioned previously. The goal, stated again, pick your poison and steady the needle to maintain that set speed, for an even 22 minutes. Now, me being an endurance runner, and having successfully trained my endurance up just the past weekend, as stated, I felt I was more than up to it. As I’d run a little over an hour at 7:00/mile pace — that’s over 60 minutes, by the way — surely 22 minutes would be nothing.

Of course, my target pace was not at 7:00/mile anymore. As the timed effort was roughly one-third what I had previously built my endurance to run, I figured I could up my pace substantially as a result. My target pace was roughly a 5:30/mile pace on the treadmill — accounting for incline and other factors — in case that matters. Which others might say is insane, because it’s unsustainable for a long period of time. I would agree, with a caveat that I’d trained my endurance for a lengthier run (more than three times as long) so I felt my body could sustain me pumping up the pressure and intensity of the run. Of course, I completely forgot about my legs, and whether they could sustain that effort. More specifically, my knees.

I was admittedly a bit apprehensive going into that timed run effort in an indoor setting. My left leg, in particular, felt a little weak that day, even walking to the gym to begin with. Had a sort of sinking feeling about it even going into it, I believe, but for some reason I’d ignored that instinct. Turns out, bad idea to ignore your body when it’s telling you something important like that.

Anyway, once I got on the treadmill and the challenge went underway, I set my target pace of 5:30/mile. Not even two minutes later, I felt this sort of “jab” or rather a sharp pain on my left leg, and I had to pause the timed effort completely. That might have been my signal to quit, but unfortunately quitting is not in my bones, nor in my DNA for that matter. I don’t know that I know the word itself, “quitting”. Anyway, did some impromptu, targeted leg stretches for my leg muscles, even though I’d done some leg stretches before the run already, and after about a minute or two, I went back to it. I think I walked it out initially, then I slowly bumped it up. I could not go at my target 5:30/mile pace. I tried, but getting anywhere close to it, I got a sharp pain in my left leg near my knee area, and I had to slow down or risk permanent injury, at least that’s what it felt like.

So even despite testing the waters semi-cautiously like that, the best I could manage to scrape by with was a 6:42/mile pace. For the longest time, that is what I sustained. Eventually I pumped it up to a 6:22/mile pace, once I felt that my knee could handle it. The reason I was not even out of breath once during the majority of the timed run, was that my endurance was trained to sustain much more brutal intensities in running pace. It was generally smooth sailing for the most part. A yawn fest, I suppose one could call it. During the latter half of that timed run effort, more specifically the last couple minutes or so, I increased it to about a 6:00/mile pace. The last two minutes, I pumped it up to a 5:30/mile pace, and then ultimately to a close to 5:00/mile pace. My left leg still complained a little at this last speed increase, but it was a dull pain, and I didn’t feel it much. As I said, perhaps it was the adrenaline rush which caused the pain to come across as a dull throb rather than a sharp pain. In either case, I am grateful that it did not manifest itself as a sharp pain, like a pinch, that would have caused me to halt my efforts prematurely mid-run. Small victories, I suppose.

I did end up with around a 3.6 miles complete for the 22-minute run-effort. Which isn’t bad, I suppose. It’s still a PR (Personal Record) for me. My previous time was a 3.4-something, I believe. But anyway. Right after running it on the treadmill, I got down, and boy-oh-boy but my left knee was like completely devastated. Nuked. I couldn’t even walk with my leg, it was so shaky and there was a dull pain when I moved it, so I basically had no option but to limp out of the gym by myself.

That was probably the scariest part of my entire life so far. Like my whole left leg actually pained even if I put the slightest pressure on it. So it was literally like I didn’t have a left leg anymore. Like I was missing it. The scariest part was figuring out how to make do without a leg. It was like navigating uncharted waters. The stuff of “Here be dragons”. I figured out that I could straighten my left leg like a stick, and as long as I didn’t bend it even the slightest bit, there was minimal pain on my leg. So that’s what I did in order to limp back to the parking garage where my sedan was. I managed like that. Moved my left leg, but was careful to send signals to my brain to not bend my knee in the slightest while the leg itself moved forward. My right leg was perfectly OK, or at least mostly unchanged, undamaged. I dunno, the whole thing was a novel experience to me.

Like I said, one of scariest days of my life. Just the realization that I couldn’t walk normally anymore. That I had a gimp leg essentially. The knee, there was something wrong with it, it felt heavier, it was filled with pain every time I bent it in the slightest. My left leg was basically decommissioned for now. Retired. I literally limped to my transportation vehicle.

So, the one nice thing about fast cars is they can go even faster than the fastest human can run, and with a fraction of the effort required. Maybe they cannot best the fastest animal on the planet. But they can easily go faster than the fastest human, which is around 20-something MPH. Sports cars? Sedans? Motorbikes? They can all go over 100 MPH by barely lifting a finger, by barely letting out a yawn.

I always find it a fascinating fact how humans evolved as the most powerful species on the planet. It’s not by being the best at everything. A cheetah is the fastest land animal and can easily run 5 times faster than the average human athlete who can attain 15 MPH for short sprints. Obviously, we cannot fly, so birds have us beat there. In terms of raw strength, if you put a naked, bodybuilder, red-blooded human male in alongside a gorilla in a room behind four walls with no door, the gorilla will win, hands-down. In every scenario imaginable, with no weapon other than fists, the gorilla will beat the most muscular, most alpha human male like a blindfolded youth beating a piñata on their birthday. It is no contest. None at all. In a fair fight, humans will lose against not just a gorilla, but against most of the predators out there in the wide world. Lions. Tigers. Bobcats. Black bears. Hippos. Crocodiles. The list goes on and on, embarrassingly enough for our species.

Humans are not the strongest on the planet. Nor are they the fastest. But guess what? We are the smartest. The brainiest. I find that bit of information fascinating. Because it means we are capable not just of rational thought, but abstract thought. We can formulate what if’s. It is precisely this advantage of ours, that has enabled us to be the most powerful species on the planet. We might not be able to run faster than a cheetah, but a soccer mom driving a sports car can likely overtake one easily, while she’s racing to drop off her kid at baseball practice. Kinda hilarious thought, but it certainly paints a picture. Also, we might not be able to fly, but we can fly airplanes and jet planes now, so we can go faster than most birds anyway. Isn’t that fascinating? Oh, and lastly we humans might not be — actually most definitely are not — the strongest species on the planet. But guess what? A trigger-happy teenaged kid with a bazooka can probably nuke a whole pride of lions accidentally. And in that human-and-gorilla-in-a-room scenario I posed, if you give that human a plasma grenade launcher (I know, I play too many video games), it’s most certainly game over for that five-hundred pound gorilla, that could otherwise smash our skull in like it was putty. Pretty sweet right? We humans are top of the food chain not because we’re particularly good at anything physically, but primarily due to our mental capacity. Our ability to formulate clear, coherent thought, in particular abstract thought. Our insatiable hunger for knowledge, and innovation. These are our greatest strengths. We use technology and machines as enablers.

In that sense, I’d say it’s pretty damn great, especially for me in that all-too-real scenario of mine. Leg busted, unable to run, have to limp and probably only realistically manage 2 MPH or less, if I were to head back home? No problemo! Guess what, you might be a fool, but you’re a human being at least! Here’s a vehicle of transportation for you, as a gift for being human! No problemo at all, buddy — have at it! Sit in that sleek car of yours, with that gimp leg of yours, and straighten out that leg so the pain doesn’t flare out, because guess what, you can cruise by on the local roads faster than the fastest human, no problemo! Ah, the joyous benefits of being born a human, at the top of the food chain on the planet (and neighboring celestial bodies). The luxury is unparalleled! Being able to cruise by on the highways at over 70 MPH, without exerting any physical or cardiovascular effort whatsoever, is just simply astounding. A godsend when you’ve successfully injured your leg and hindered your mobility, as ’twas in my case.

Anyway, where I live, I have to navigate stairs everyday. Walk up like three flights of stairs. Walk down stairs to get to the kitchen. So this poses a problem, when you’ve succeeded in obliterating one of your legs, which you need in order to navigate not just stairs but the world by large. Anyway, I figured out how to navigate stairs with a leg-and-a-half, but that’s a story for another day.

As soon as I got back, I just lay in bed the whole day. I was basically bedridden for a couple days it feels like.


The next day, I booked a doctor’s appointment for the same day, and went to see the doctor about my knee.

I still had to limp basically when walking to the hospital, even to the waiting area. An old man beat me as he passed me by casually with no leg trouble. That was harsh, but a call back to reality.

Anyway, I also got an x-ray done of my left knee, which I had to go to a separate radiology center for, and I also got a recommendation to see a Physical Therapist (PT), because I was clearly intent on damaging my body irrevocably, and a PT should be able to help me and give me advice to stop that.

Once the x-ray results came in, the diagnosis that I received more or less was, that:

  • No, I do not have arthritis. This is a great thing!
  • No evidence of fracture or dislocation of the left knee. Again, a great thing to know!
  • There’s a chronic ossific fragment in the distal patellar tendon. Only vaguely familiar with what that means, but it sounds pretty bad.
  • I have a knee effusion — AKA a swollen knee.
  • As treatment, I need to focus on core strengthening, quadriceps/hamstrings stretching and strengthening, and hip strengthening.

So, basically, I’ve a swollen left knee, and I need to rest it, and not do anything stupid for a while. Also, I should probably go to Physical Therapy when I can.

The Long Road to Recovery

Wish I could say it’s been an easy road, but it hasn’t. It’s been quite horrible actually, like living out a nightmare that won’t end. Looking at my gym attendance history, I mostly just stayed at home and rested in bed, for a whole week.

A whole week where I did not go to gym or work out. The first time I went back to gym and on the treadmill, I walked the whole time at 3 MPH. It was terribly embarrassing to do that, personally as a runner. I knew no one was judging me. But not being able to run or even jog, when others were jogging, it was humiliating. I hated the feeling.

Slowly I’ve been able to increase my pace and go back on the treadmill, but my knee has been slow to heal for whatever reason. The first time I tried to even do a decent jogging-running pace on the treadmill, my heart rate spiked above 90% way too easily, and my left knee felt heavy and like it was throbbing, so I had to back off a bit. My maximum heart rate that gym class was 195. That’s pretty high for me usually. That indicates I was way out of shape, but what can you do or expect, when you don’t go to gym or work out for one whole week. I guess that is what.

Anyway, all I remember is that even three weeks after the knee injury, my knee still hadn’t fully healed. More than likely this was due to me attending gym and running (albeit at a slower intensity) for 3-4 times a week. Even now, more than four weeks after, my left knee is still a bit swollen and feels heavy.

Only after 2 weeks, did I get the idea to look up how to treat a swollen knee, and found that I had to ice and elevate it. So I got a rudimentary ice pack and some pillows and I tried that. Elevating my left knee in order to help relieve some pressure. Just rest it. But it’s been real slow progress to heal. Like at a snail’s pace, quite literally. It’s been mighty disheartening, to say the least.

Final Thoughts

So, I don’t want to spend too long on this blog entry here. The main points I want to get across, is what happened to my knee sucks, and I am still suffering from it, and in an ideal world I’d be able to wave a magic wand and just have it all vanish. Like bye-bye, swollen knee. No more “chronic ossific fragment” in my knee, or whatever that is. Probably a bone particle, right? All of it would just be gone. I would be perfectly healed, just like that, with the snap of a finger.

I have been to a Physical Therapist recently. They suggested I get a Heat/Ice pack and apply it, and also try some leg stretch exercises, which I’ve been trying (and sometimes failing) to do daily or whenever I have time, and also gave me some tips on running or rather jogging. For example, they suggested me to walk for some period of time, and then jog immediately after that, and then alternate it. I suppose that helps, but not as much as I’d like it to.

In an ideal world, none of this bullshit would be happening. My left knee would be healed up by tomorrow. Then I could go run at whatever pace I want to run at, for however long I want to run at. If I want to run at max setting on the treadmill, who is to stop me? If I want to run at double digits MPH for half an hour, I should be able to do that. My lungs, my endurance, should be the limiting factor. Not my left knee. And if it’s swollen, what the heck can I do about it anyway, without easy access to an Ice or Heat pack? I ordered one off Amazon, but now I have to heat up water for the Heat pack? What the actual heck? Why do I have to do all this crap? Like elevate my leg above my heart, does that even work, and if so how?

As I said, in an ideal world none of this bullshit would be happening.

I would have both my legs at 100% efficiency, with no problem at all.

I’d be able to run however fast or hard I want to, with the limiting factor being my lungs, my endurance.

This would be in an ideal world. But this is not an ideal world.

Instead, I’m forced to waste precious weeks of my life, by basically coddling my left knee, and resisting the urge to run as fast as I used to.

It’s humiliating, and it’s damn hard to do.

This is all I want to say. I want to run, and I don’t want to waste time coddling my left knee. I know it needs to heal, and I need to give it time, but it’s been over 4 weeks and the heaviness in the knee is still there.

If it doesn’t get better soon, I don’t know what I’ll do. All I want to be able to do is run as I used to. So until then, I suppose I’ll hang in there, and wait for this bullshit to blow over. That’s all that anyone can hope for, I suppose.

Anyway, good day and evening. This has been my post on recovery after a knee injury which was a direct result of overuse from running too much.

And no, I still haven’t learned my lesson, in case anyone’s wondering.