I went to Runner's World to try and diagnose the problem. Look what I found:
Q: Is the pain in the front of the knee below the kneecap? Does it get worse as you run? Have you recently added more mileage?
If the answer is yes you could have Patellar tendinitis, see [C] below.
[C] Patellar tendinitis is inflammation of one of the knee-joint tendons. Tendinitis occurs when tissue breakdown outpaces regrowth, and is caused by increased mileage, hills (especially downhills), and pace. Running through tendinitis will make it worse and prolong your recovery, says Davis. But treated early, it can heal in a few weeks. Here's how: cross-train, ice, wear a patella strap, take anti-inflammatories, stretch, and do exercises to strengthen the joint and quadriceps, such as leg extensions.
This is a perfect description of my pain. And yes, I have increased my mileage (like going from zero to 8 miles a day, and trying to do 15 today). So I have no one to blame for this but myself.
So I'm in pain, I'm frustrated, and I'm at a crossroads. I'm trying to decide what makes sense for me in terms of exercise and obsessions. Ultras have become a really important part of my life, and when I took some time off, I immediately started missing the training and the racing. But I now realize that if I really want to become an ultrarunner, I have to start from scratch. Some of my walking fitness will make a transition to running easier, but I have to face the fact that I will have to start small and build, like it's a new sport to me (which it is). Ultimately, at this point in my life, this is the question:
Is ultrarunning important enough to me that I'm willing to put in a year or more of effort, or is ultrawalking satisfying enough to make it the more appealing immediate option?
The other question is, can my body withstand the rigors of ultrarunning long term (I don't have great knee history) or am I better off sticking with the low impact ultrawalking?
So this is where I am. I've really been at sixes and sevens the past few months due to my job (too much unsatisfying work) and my lack of a training plan. I seem to change my training goals from week to week. But I know, without a doubt, the following:
I love ultras. I love going really long and spending all day, or longer, on the trails. I love the people the atmosphere, the outdoors, the challenge.
As far as racewalking and ultrawalking, I sometimes feel a little out of place or odd. But then I saw a couple of things today that made me feel that maybe being a little out of place is OK; who really gives a *&*# anyway.
Today I took my daughter roller skating again (yesterday she had a roller skating birthday party, and today she and a friend wanted to go back). There was a middle aged woman at the rink in roller blades doing some very nice moves--graceful like an ice skater, waving her hands around, turning around in circles, etc. There were also some younger kids (late high school age) who were dancing on their skates, I mean really dancing--they were learning moves from each other, practicing and studying and trying, not just goofing off.
Then on the drive home I saw a guy riding a unicycle down the street.
It reminded me that our passions come in all shapes and styles. What I think is absolutely the stupidest thing I've ever heard of, a complete waste of time, might be someone else's obsession. Who am I to judge? Diversity is what makes us interesting.
So basically I'm going to take some time to consider my options, but you can probably tell which way I'm leaning. The trails are calling.....