Yesterday, my kneecap jumped out of place. I was out for run on the Appalachian Trail north of Bear's Den. I had just completed a big stretch of uphills when I finally got a good descent. My right foot planted firmly on a rock, my leg collapsed, and I did a somersault onto the ground. I laid on my left side clutching my right knee with my hands. It was a familiar pain--I felt it thirteen years ago in gym class when my kneecap jumped out and back into its track...then again the following spring in a varsity soccer match when my knee fully dislocated. Which one was it this time? When I removed my hands for a look, the kneecap was in the right place. Phew. Then a cold sweat and a bit of dizziness swept over my body. Not good, I thought. Then my composure came back. All this happened in less than a minute.
I sat up and thought through my options. I could wait for someone--maybe those guys I passed five or ten minutes ago. I could call for help on my cell phone. Or I could try standing up and walking back. I looked at my GPS and saw I had covered a little over two miles. That seemed like a long way to limp, much of it over rocky footing. When I stood up, I didn't feel any excruciating pain, but I couldn't do much with my right leg without feeling my knee telling me to stop. My biggest concern at this point was doing something stupid and fully dislocating my knee. I started the long limp back. I found a perfect hiking stick and not long after found a pretty efficient technique of striding mostly with my left leg and then lifting my right leg until it caught up. I was careful to not push off my right leg. Over an hour later, I was standing back at my car smiling--it was, after all, a beautiful spring morning with sunny blue skies.
I simply forgot that I had a bum knee. So much time has passed since I had a problem. I was always careful to wear a knee brace when playing soccer, skiing, or any other activity that involved aggressive lateral movements. Most of my trail running was on even footing and didn't require a ton of weaving around the trail or scrambling over rock fields. So I just didn't think this one through enough. Looking back, this was exactly the kind of activity I should have protected my knee against. I didn't and I paid the price. What's a real shame is I've been getting into really good shape lately. My body has responded well to the upswing in training--I wasn't feeling any real aches or pains. That's why I thought I'd up the ante a little and hit the trail. I'm not sure about the 10k at this point. I don't want to run it just to run it. At any rate, I'm not making any running plans until I see the orthopedist this week.