Enduring An Extended Injury Time Out

For a couple months leading up to summiting Mt. Whitney with my wife and a couple of our good friends, my knees started hurting. It was a different kind of pain than I’ve experienced in the past. My knees felt normal when hiking or playing tennis but hurt to the touch when I wasn’t active. Early on, the pain would go away after a day or two of inactivity. However, by the time I left for Mt. Whitney the pain wasn’t going away, but I still only felt pain when I touched my knees. So, I decided not to cancel my trip, which I had trained for since January, and had a fantastic time without feeling pain while hiking until passing Mirror Lake on the way down. At the time I didn’t think much of it. I was actually less sore than I was on last year’s trip.

View east from Mt. Whitney on August 1, 2011. The haze in the Owens Valley is from smoke from fires further north.

View east from Mt. Whitney on August 1, 2011. The haze in the Owens Valley is from smoke from fires further north.

After cooling down from the hike, the pain I experienced to the touch was more intense than I had felt before and I was even feeling pain when not touching my knees. By the time I woke up the next morning the pain was pretty intense no matter what I did and I knew I would need to find out what was going on and commit to whatever downtime was required to heal properly. It turns out I have Iliotibial Band Syndrome which is a common injury related to overuse. This surprised me a little because I hiked significantly less mileage and gain leading up to this year’s trip than I did for last years. After thinking about it a long time, I realized the key difference was I did significantly more hiking with a fully loaded backpack pack on consecutive days this year than last year which resulted in less rest days between weekly trips. Fortunately, surgery isn’t required, but the amount of downtime needed to heal is significantly more than I hoped it would be.

View from Little Lakes Valley. This was the last trip Sarah and I were able to do for our father-daughter bonding while teaching her to drive. My injury and a couple things earlier made us change our plans.

View from Little Lakes Valley. This was the last trip Sarah and I were able to do for our father-daughter bonding/teaching her to drive undertaking. My injury and a couple other things earlier (including our car breaking down) made us change our plans. One thing we learned was not to wear black leggings in area with Mosquitoes. Sarah was bit mercilessly through her black leggings but hardly at all on her exposed skin. I later searched on the internet and verified that black attracts mosquitoes. (click to enlarge).

When I realized I was probably a couple months away from hiking again, my enthusiasm for blogging disappeared. In fact, so did any desire to read about what others were doing because it only made me miss the trails more. I’m feeling a lot better now and expect to be on the trails again by the end of this month at the latest. By then I will be blogging regularly again. Until then, if I post anything, it will be about hikes I’ve done earlier in the year or updates to galleries etc.

View on the way to Alta Peak our last overnight training hike prior to going to Mt. Whitney.

View on the way to Alta Peak  from our last overnight training hike prior to going to Mt. Whitney.

27 thoughts on “Enduring An Extended Injury Time Out

  1. I’ve been there! I think “overuse” is a misleading term. It’s more like insufficient rest that does it. You’ll heal don’t worry about it. But this is a signal that your body isn’t as young as it used to be! Get well!

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  2. I’m sorry that you are suffering an injury:-( I hope you’re back to feeling better and hiking very soon. In the meantime, I do hope that you blog about your summer trips, especially your Mt. Whitney adventure. I know I’d love to read about them!

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  3. Sorry to read about your injury. I know how disappointing that is. I’ve hiked much less this year due to a painful foot that I’ve been dealing with since April. Now before hiking I must load up on Iburprofen. I’m hoping to have an answer in October when I (finally!) visit the podiatrist. Looking forward to reading your upcoming blogs.

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  4. I have been wondering about your absence. I am glad you bagged Whitney before you discovered this! I still remember my first ascent of Whitney. I hiked in on August 2, 1990, a day like any other. Before cell phones. When I hiked out a few days later, on the way down to the Valley, I heard on the car radio that Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. I can always remember the exact date that way.

    I hope you recover quickly and well. Those pesky heavy packs…

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  5. My sympathy for your plight. I know just how you feel about the blogging when not participating in what you love doing. I’ve missed your critter of the week quizzes, as well as your gorgeous photos. Hope you are recovering well and will be back at it soon!

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    • It looks like I just need to pay more attention to how my knees are feeling and rest accordingly. Now that I understand what the pain is, when I feel it in the future I can skip a hike here and there instead of needing to take two months off.

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  6. Hey Bro. This is the first I heard of your injury. At least it’s just wear and tear. I’m wondering if there are therapeutic things you can do to get your knees back a little quicker and help insure this doesn’t happen again. It’s interesting you figured out that the problem was hiking with the extra weight. I’m just thinking there might be some exercises you can do to build up for that. I also wonder if you can start doing light hikes without a heavy pack now just to keep all the joints oiled, so to speak.

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    • I’m done backpacking for the year. So, when I get back on the trails in a couple weeks I’ll be carrying at most 1/4 the weight. I’ll just start out slow and build up over the next several months before I go backpacking again.

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