Saturday’s scheduled long run (Click here to see my run on Garmin connect) was supposed to be a 13 mile run and it started off really good, however somewhere around mile 8 my calve started cramping up and by mile 11 it had knotted up into what felt like an extreme charlie horse. I stopped and tried to massage and stretch it out a little bit but by this point it was too sore to even touch lightly and stretching it actually seemed to make it worst. I was only a couple miles from where I had parked the truck so I just walked the last couple miles, limping along pretty slowly. Once home, I immediately went for the couch to rest for an hour or so before trying to walk on it again but it quickly became pretty obvious that for whatever reason, my calve was injured to the point that I would not be running any in the short term future. All of this really seemed to come out of nowhere. At first I thought of Tony and our Thursday weight session where I did 60 calve raises with weight. …But after thinking about it further, I had to admit to myself it also could have been from not warming up properly. I had driven the truck to the section of highway I was going to run on and once I arrived I pretty much just jumped out of the truck and started running. One thing I have learned, or at least should have learned, through all the running I’ve done this far is that you must warm up the muscles before asking them to run with any amount of speed.
When I first started this journey my heart was always the limiting factor and I had to be very careful when doing any exercise. So when I started running, I wore a heart rate monitor and in doing so I learned was how much higher my heart rate would run if I skipped the warm up. Since I never knowingly exceeded 150 bpm back then because it would cost me at least a mile an hour off my speed plus make my heart work much harder. The colder the weather, the more this was an issue until eventually I trained inside on a treadmill the rest of the winter. Nowadays my heart is much stronger so I don’t wear a heart rate monitor anymore and can pretty much tell what zone my heart is working simply based on the way I am breathing. It also means I don’t do as a good of a job warming up as I should before putting some effort into it; not to mention the better conditioned my body becomes, the easier it becomes to forget the importance of warming up. Taking into consideration the temperature is part of this equation and it is most likely where I went wrong this time around. Had the weather have been a nice balmy 40-50 degrees or more, the pace I started off with probably would have been just fine and been a sufficient warm up but it wasnt and instead, I strained my calve. It is frustraring to think I possibly could have avoided the sore calve I was feeling now if I simply remembered the temperature part of the equation.
I couldn’t help think back to the 60 calve raises I did at the gym while using a couple hundred pounds of weight as another possible cause for this calve muscle giving out. Sundays are scheduled rest days so I was able to hang close to the couch most of the morning and let that calve muscle rest for the better part of the morning before I took a snowmobile ride later in the afternoon with Heidi but Monday morning came and my calf still wasn’t any better. My training schedule called for a speed workout for today but I knew that wouldn’t be happening; my leg hurt just walking and I was limping. As the day wore on, my calve seemed to loosen up a little so I did stop at the gym on the way home to see if it could take riding one of the upright bikes but thst only seemed to aggravate it, so I just gave up and went home to let it rest another night. On Tuesday morning it seemed much better and although I wasn’t going to try running on it, walking didn’t seem to be an issue and no limping. I was scheduled for a session with Tony at the gym Tuesday morning to do a light leg workout and there are any obvious issues with the workout although we did skip working the calves altogether. Instead, we concentrated on my upper legs and did lots of different type of squats using only body weight. I actually felt better after that session. It seemed to really stretch my muscles out without over working them. Although I left feeling really good over all, I was still worried about the follow day since I was supposed to run at least a 10k and even thought my calve seemed to feel pretty good, I knew that running on it might change that really quick if it wasn’t ready. Even with that thought fresh in my mind, Wednesday morning came and my leg felt even better so I felt optomistic.
I left the house early in the morning with the intention of running the same section of highway I was on when my calve cramped. I was hoping that if I just went nice and slow this time, my calve wouldn’t have a problem with this. I was wrong. Within not even half a mile or so it became obvious that running was still out of the question. My calve immediately started cramping up as soon as my speed went above 6 mph. As soon as I stopped and began to walk it out, the pain subsided. I walked back to the truck and decided to stop at the gym on my way to work and try the bike again since I obviously wasn’t going to run.
I didn’t seem to have any issues warming up on the bike at first but once I started to put some intensity into it, my calve started to complain again. I had no choice but to just plod along at a moderate level for an hour or so. Thursdays training schedule called for a Full Body/Heavy workout. After a little discussion at the gym with Tony, we decided to just work my upper body and leave the legs alone so my calve could continue to rest and heal. Friday was a scheduled rest day but at this point I really didn’t feel I needed any rest. It had been 6 days since I had run any decent miles and my calve seemed to be pretty strong now, although I didn’t know how long it would hold up to running. I resisted the urge to try it out with short easy run and instead just let it rest, hoping it would be ok on Saturdays scheduled 14 mile run. Saturday morning arrived with sunny skies, zero wind and temps that were 20-30 degrees higher than normal for this time of year. My calve felt as strong as it had for over a week except for a little tighter so but I didn’t know what to expect
It wasn’t painful at all, just a little tight is the only way I can think of to explain it.
The weather was so awesome for this run that I couldn’t help but be really positive and excited to be out running in the sunshine for the first time of the year in a pair of shorts while feeling the suns rays. Getting a day nice enough to comfortably run outdoors in summer type attire/shorts is always a special treat around here in this cold winter climate.
The beginning of the run started out really good. The sun was shining bright, I was out in the sun wearing a light t-shirt and a pair of shorts, a perfect day. I forced myself to walk the first ten minutes into my run just to insure my calve had a chance to warm up so I finished out that first mile at a pretty slow pace. By the end of the second mile, I not only felt great, my body just felt like it wanted to go faster than the 9 minute pace I was trying to maintain, however I was starting to feel that calve muscle again. It wasn’t really painful at this point, but once again I had that tight feeling and it created a pretty big struggle in my mind. It was such an awesome day. A solid runners high had taken over. Only people who have experienced a runners high could properly understand what I was feeling. I continued running while hoping my calve would just settle in and works itself out. Around mile four it actually felt like it was loosening up and I couldn’t resist the urge to pick up the pace any longer. Running on pavement that wasn’t covered with snow and ice while enjoying the warm sunshine made me want to go faster. Not a single ache or pain in my body at that point other than the tight calve.
I ran that mile in about seven and half minutes revving my heart rate up a little but unfortunately this was the calve muscle had started to complain. I slowed down with the hope my calve would settle down and let me finish the run but it just kept complained more with each step. At a slower pace I can usually run without using my calve muscle much at all but just the shock from my foot hitting the pavement was making it to hurt. Somewhere around mile 8, I finally topped running and began to walk which didn’t seem to bother it much so I walked a couple miles while waiting for Heidi to come and get me. (Click here see my run on Garmin Connect).
For the rest of the day my calve continued to feel pretty tight, but nothing like what I had experienced the previous Saturday so I tried to believe I was still making some progress although the worry I had not completed even 2 long runs in a row on the training schedule was creeping in. I kept thinking of what an impact this could have if I didn’t quickly put it behind me. Thankfully there is still plenty of time between now and Grandmas Marathon to get these issues worked out.
Sunday my calve felt pretty good so I took advantage of the still warm weather and took Heidi out for a nice lunch at the coffee shop in Ely. We rode our Harley to take advantage of the unseasonably warm, spring-like weather. Mondays training schedule was supposed to be speed work again however wanting to insure that calve was completely healed, I decided to go for a short but fast bicycle ride instead. The weather was still amazingly awesome for this time of the year and change in daylight savings time afforded me extra hour of daylight after work. I checked the air in my tires since I hadn’t rode my bike all winter, loaded it up in the truck and headed down to Four Corners where I could park the truck and ride the same highway I had been running on to take advantage of the wide paved shoulders now free of ice and snow. At this time of the year, anything dirt is now mud so most trails are nothing but mud slop.
My plan was to ride around ten miles or so,
to keep my heart rate around 90% at the max on all the upgrades. The first hill isnt really steep but lasts for almost a mile. By the time I got to the top my calve felt tight again, but going over the other side it seemed to loosen up, and I didn’t feel it again the remainder of the day. I figured that since the training schedule called for a 5k run I could do a speed workout on the bike since pedaling 10 miles as fast as I could would equate to the same.
Tuesdays training schedule consisted of Total Body/Heavy. I didn’t have any soreness after Tuesdays workout and did not experience any the day after either. I was a little surprised by this. Wednesday was supposed to be an intermediate run but after a long discussion on the matter of my calve with Tony during Tuesdays session, I decided to give it a couple extra days before trying to run on it. I was just going to ride my bike again but the weather changed and winter had temporarily set in once more so I used it as a rest day instead. Thursday morning found me back in the gym for another Total Body/Heavy workout with Tony. I was doing squats under the smith rack with two plates on and Tony said I needed to touch my ass to the floor. After telling him I was going as far as I felt possible, he helped me out by pushing me down further. I immediately felt that in my hamstrings and thought about Saturdays run. I mentioned to Tony that I would be needing my Hamstrings to run come Saturday but he seemed to think it wouldn’t matter by then. Easy for him to say. Everything I did seemed pretty heavy that day and my entire body seemed to feel pretty tight afterwards so I wasn’t at all surprised when Friday rolled around and I felt it all over again as the delayed muscle soreness set in.
I rested on Friday doing nothing more than shoveling snow for about an hour. Although I hadn’t run on it, I could feel my calve muscle had pretty much recovered at this point. My hamstrings on the other hand hurt like hell. Saturday rolled around and despite the forecast temps would be a mild 30 degrees, there was a slight east wind and it was cloudy. I kept trying to remind myself how I would have been excited to run in weather like this only a couple weeks ago but after the gorgeous weather the previous week, I couldn’t believe my own argument and couldn’t get excited about heading out to run on a colder and cloudy day and the fact my hamstrings were still really tight/sore feeling had me concerned with how they would handle a run. I didn’t want to dress too heavy but at the same time I didn’t want to dress too light either and get chilled in the headwind on the way back. I decided on a heavy undershirt that I bought at Duluth Running that feels warmer the more you sweat layered wiyh a dry tech long sleeve shirt and my midweight running jacket. Instead of insulated running pants, I opted for compression pants with the hope it might help with any muscle issues. I ran on the same stretch of highway I had tried on the last couple Saturdays. Most likely it will be the only place I will run until things dry out and I can run on the dirt roads again. I would much rather run on a desolate stretch of gravel I have all to myself than share the pavement with people driving in a hurry with their phones stuck to their heads. It’s not everyone. Most seem considerate and stay on their side of the white line and many people even go further by riding the center line to give me lots of room but twice this year already, I have experienced cars crossing the white line as the talk on their phone and never even notice me as they fly by so I can’t help but feel more stressed.
A week ago or so I found a pair of Hoka Hauka running shoes in size 13 for only $54 dollars. These shoes normally cost at least a $100 dollars or more but apparently no one liked this color so they were reduced below cost. Since I don’t really care about being a fashion guru, score! They had arrived earlier in the week and even though they would look more at home on a circus clown, I was really excited to try them out but due to my calve issue I hadn’t. I was a little reluctant to try them out on a long run for the first time but after putting them on my feet they felt so good that I couldn’t resist trying them out. All the reviews I spent the week reading about these shoes had sounded really positive. They are designed to help you run with proper form and are highly cushioned to give your feet a really cushy ride while still being very light and provide a nimble in control type feeling. The only downside I could see was that they are a very bright color and I normally would opt for something in black. However, for $54, I don’t care what color they are if they work as advertised.
Once I got to Four Corners I hesitated getting out of the truck and couldn’t resist an extra minute to enjoy the warmth of the heated seat before I got out to run. Heidi came along with her bicycle to keep me company and in case my calve gave out, she could quickly ride back to get the truck. It’s really awesome that she is willing to do this because having company during these longer runs is nice. As I started to run, I couldn’t help but realize how awesome my new shoes worked! They felt every bit as light and fast as my last pair of shoes (Brooks, Glycerin) but with twice the cush. I read something written on the shoe company’s web site describing what I was now experiencing and it was spot on. I could feel how I was naturally running with better form and smoother. My feet felt like they were landing behind me more naturally due to the low 2mm rise and rocker heel/toe design. Until now I have never experienced a shoe that actually seemed to fully deliver 100% of what the company’s web site was claiming. I am really impressed with these shoes and after being blinded by them for a couple hours, I am even getting used to the brightness. Maybe the lady with the cell phone who drives on the wrong side of the line will see them.
Once I was a couple miles into the run I warmed up and started to really enjoy being out in spite of cold temps and cloudy skies. Up to that point, all my joints and muscles felt great. I was averaging a pace just a little under 9 minute miles and I felt like I could go much faster if I wanted, right up to the where I turned around at the half way point and took that east wind head on. Thankfully it wasn’t very strong but it was pretty steady. I’m guessing around a 5-10 mph wind. When it was on my back I didn’t notice it and in fact I was plenty warm, sweating just enough to have damp cloths but once I turned into it head on, I was immediately chilled. It also seemed to slow my pace. For the next 3 miles I plowed head first into that wind, cooling off enough that I started feeling muscles and joints complaining and began to wish I would had left the house with one more layer of clothes on. By mile 12 I couldn’t even keep much of a pace up. I was now running a 10 minute pace and fading fast. Right at the 13 mile mark that calve muscle started screaming along with my hamstrings and within a half mile I had no choice but to slow to a walk, trying to stretch my muscles out a little for the next ½ mile.
The truck ride home is only 10 minutes and its amazing how much the body can change in 10 minutes. When I got out of the truck to walk in the house, I realized that every muscle I had trained in the past week hurt all over again, and even though my shoes were awesome, my feet hurt, my knees hurt, and I was now really super cold. I’m sure my core temp was really low after an hour in that headwind wearing sweaty cloths. In hindsight, insulated running pants might have eliminated some of this because my muscles only seem to give out with a bonk like this when they work hard in the cold. I took a long bath using lots of Epsom salts right away and then got on the couch and didn’t move for hours. It helped some but nothing helps as much as a good night’s sleep so I was glad when that time came and I fell asleep as my head hit the pillow. (Click here to see this run on Garmin Connect)