I did see an orthopedic surgeon when I was about 12 or 13 because my right knee bothered me. No big deal; it's not uncommon for kids to have knee issues at that age and the doctor was a colleague of my dad's. One quirky thing. I'm right handed, but when I did the long jump or triple jump, I favored my left leg.
Surely then, I must have felt discomfort along the way, right? This kind of thing doesn't happen overnight.
Maybe. People who exercise or engage in athletic pursuits are accustomed to discomfort. I've been fairly active my whole life and I've learned to live with the idea of pushing through the pain. Improving often means stepping out of the comfort zone.
So was I uncomfortable?
Of course! Who works out and trains and doesn't feel uncomfortable?
Was it unreasonable discomfort?
I don't think so--I was pretty sure I knew the difference between bad for me pain and earned discomfort. Despite the nickname my tae kwon do instructor pinned on me when I was 16 (he called me "Painful" because I didn't like to do things that might cause me great pain), I think I have a pretty decent pain tolerance.
Fast forward to October 2011
By 2011, I was 45 years old and I was really enjoying running again. I had taken a 20 year break from running because I couldn't shake my idea of just running for fun. I'm not one of those people who has a stressful day and thinks, "I really would feel better if I ran." I'd sign up for a race every weekend, during race season, but I wouldn't actively train for it. I now enjoyed running because I knew I didn't have anything to prove. I would place occasionally, but I wasn't super good and I learned to accept that it was okay not to place every time. I was going to go out and run anyway, so signing up for a race would just mean that I would actually go out and do it. I learned that no matter how much I ran, for that first mile or so I would be thinking, "why the hell am I out here? I hate this!" I'd finish my run and sign up for another race. Yup, I was THAT kind of runner.
In late October 2011, I was doing my weekend race thing. I ran the Muddy Monster in Cedar Rapids and actually came in third in my age group with a less than admirable time. I didn't recall anything unusual--no falls, bumps, sprains, ankle twists, etc. I went home that night and was tired, as I always am in late October (October is a busy month in the academic year). As the week wore on, I continued feeling a little worn. I was lucky that my next race was 2 weeks away, giving me ample time to rest. Unfortunately, by the time the Sullivan Brothers 10K rolled around, I didn't feel like I could run and I switched to walking a 5K instead of running a 10K.
I was glad that we were near the end of the season, and I had only 2 races left on my calendar--races where time wasn't even important to me. I ended up run/walking them and thought the break from running would give me a breather. I mentioned it to my doctor, and he sent me to a physical therapist, who had me running on this awesome underwater treadmill (see pic). I'd of course, continuing my strength training, walking to school, hopping on an exercise bike, and snowshoeing.
During that break, my leg moved from just being sore to clicking and popping. These sounds came from standing up, sitting down, bending to reach something--not from running. There were plenty of days I felt fine, but there were also days that I couldn't even get out of a chair.