Shutting It Down

Once again, my chronic calf injury has done me in.  I’ve been nursing a recurrence of a problem that occurred when I prepared for last year’s Army 10 Miler – a right calf strain that makes it almost impossible to run when aggravated.  I thought I had the problem licked this year, with better training well in advance of the event, improved times, and 18 pounds less weight to put pressure on my lower legs.  I learned I was wrong two weeks ago when I once again developed the symptoms that plagued me last year.

To get back on track, I immediately stopped running.  I continued to cycle since I didn’t feel any calf pain but lowered my cadence and reduced my gears to reduce any stress that I may experience.  I did this for thirteen days.

But that’s not all that I did.  It occurred to me that I may be facing a similar issue to one I had on the bike in 2010 – specifically I was asking too much of my entry-level equipment and I needed to get some better gear to reach my cycling goals.  So I tried to get smarter on running equipment.  I did some research on calf injury prevention and determined that compression leg sleeves may be of assistance.  I found Zensah, an industry leader in compression sleeves, and purchased a pair of their product.  The special fabric has silver (silver!) ions designed to regulate temperature.  The weave is specially designed to support calves with tighter webbing in the back and shins with wider webbing in the front.  The compression system provides greater oxygen to the muscles which supports recovery.  Very nice.

But that is STILL not all that I did.  I went to a running store and got fitted for a shoe.  That’s right, you can get fitted for a shoe just like you can get fitted for a bike.  I described my symptoms to the salesperson, who then measured my feet and videotaped my stride while I ran on a treadmill.  When I told him I had no problems cycling and indeed had just completed a 30 mile ride that morning, he was surprised.  When I told him I rode 134 miles a few weeks ago, he was flabbergasted.  “I can’t ride that far.  My hips hurt me,” he replied.  When I asked him if he had been fitted for his bike, he said he had not.  When I pointed out the irony of a guy who understands the need to be fitted for his shoes, but not fitted for an entire machine, he laughed and said I was absolutely right.  Now that’s a good salesman!

I ended up with a pair of Brooks Trance 11 shoes – the Cadillac of running shoes.  They are specially designed for maximum cushioning and to limit overpronation (which video analysis has determined to be a problem of mine).  With properly supported arches, great cushioning, and a foot that hits the ground evenly, I could do no better to prevent a recurrence of my calf problem.

So it was with great excitement that I hit the streets on Monday (Happy belated Columbus Day, everybody) with my new shoes and my new leg sleeves.  The Diesel was by my side and we made great progress for the first 2.5 miles, moving at the brisk pace of 8:25/mile on a planned six mile route.

At Mile 2.5, my calf jumped up and bit me.  Unable to continue running, I walked the rest of the way home.  To say this was disappointing is an understatement.  Diesel (God bless her) stayed with me the whole way.

So now I am becoming a self-educated expert on calf rehabilitation, a process which generally takes four to six weeks (the rehabilitation, that is, not the self-education).  You will recall that the Army 10 Miler is two weeks away.  So for the next two weeks, I will not run and I will not ride.  I will only place ice, heat, compression, elevation, and massages on my calf in a desperate hope to get it ready to compete.  Whatever the case, I will be interested to see if my new equipment works once my calf is properly healed.  If it doesn’t, then I’m afraid there is no hope.


21 thoughts on “Shutting It Down

  1. I love all the great info you shared. I hate that you have injuries. I will be missing my race again this year due to injuries again. This time it was my shoulders. Boo HISS! Still hurting like crazy. Probably gonna have to have surgery … NOT excited about that at all! May you get well quickly and attend your event. 😀

      • I am still having a great time, Steve. I swam in the ocean yesterday … just for the sake of playing. I rode … i have no idea how far … just for the sake of riding. It was WONDERFUL! 😀

    • Your logic is unassailable, Fizz. Of course, Man has also invented the couch, the television set, and fried foods. I went that route for a few years with disasterous effect!

  2. I respect your determined effort to participate in an activity that you have said in the past that you are not incredibly keen on. I trust you won’t run the race if your leg is less than it should be. I hope things work out for you.

    • It doesn’t make much sense, does it? Chalk it up to pigheadedness, old Army habits dying hard, and a wife whose presence I greatly enjoy. And I’m pretty sure your trust in me is misplaced!

  3. If this was a cycling injury, I’d say fight it till your last dying breath, of course, but thankfully we are only talking about running 😉

    After a few shoe changes, etc., I gave up running nearly 10 years ago and started focusing on doing what didn’t hurt (as much). Good luck with the rehabilitation. Hope you can at least get back on the Madone soon.

    • This was precisely my rationale for getting back into cycling after a 15 year hiatus. I will fight this injury till my dying breath, but my strategy will be more subtle – namely rehab for two weeks then run until I finish or be carried off the course. I doubt it will come to that, but that’s my plan!

  4. Hi Steve,

    What a drag, I’m sorry to learn this, though I totally admire your tenacity at keeping at running. I’ve never had the lungs for it. Funny thing, different sports.

    • Thanks, Suze. My lungs work just fine, due to the great cardio I get while cycling. It’s actually an odd feeling for me: to be physically unable to continue while not being terribly tired.

    • Thanks, Jan. I’m not ready to give in just yet. After I heal up in a few months, if the new shoes/sleeves don’t work, then I think I’ll throw in the towel.

  5. sorry to hear you went through all that trouble, only to have an uncooperative body. I too have an injury-prone body towards running. Cycling, no problem … but every time I have a ‘run’ event coming up that I pay good money for …. my tendon or muscles or joints, whatever will malfunction.

    • One theory I have heard is that runners typically up their mileage in the weeks preceeding a big event and this causes the injuries. I tried to avoid that this fall, but perhaps I didn’t ease into it enough.

  6. Hi mate, being ex military like yourself and an ex rugby player I have had my share of injuries and as I approach my half century, I can still feel most of them!

    My advice if improvement isn’t forthcoming is to see a physiotherapist, one who deals in sports injuries if you can. They usually sort me out in pretty short order. You never know, it may be something stupidly simple and easily fixable!

    Hope everything gets sorted as soon as possible.

  7. I feel your pain. Well, in a variety of places except my calves. I’ve had a string of minor but still annoying and disruptive illnesses and injuries this spring/summer that have kept me from getting into any kind rhythm on my bike. With my wisdom teeth now removed and healing going well, I’m hoping to at least enjoy the rest of fall.

    I hope the rest does the trick. If not, I agree with Clive — some physio may be just the ticket.

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