It’s starting to fall apart

Well folks, after weeks of intense training, and foolishly thinking I could get away the my (prescribed)  training volume and intensity; I’m calling it. I’m injured. And to say I’m pissed off about it is an understatement. I was feeling strong in my training, and pleasantly surprised at how well my body was responding, aside from the inevitable fatigue. I’d been taking care of myself just like I was supposed to- endless rounds of foam rolling, yoga, and compression, along with alternating ice baths and Epsom salt baths, depending on the gripe. But alas. Shit happens. 

The annoying thing is, I think I can pin it to an exact moment- the end of my tempo run last week. I wrote about it already– it was one of those runs where everything aligned and it all came together perfectly- and that’s what makes it all the more frustrating.

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Phase One:

It was a great run; I’d settled into my target pace and stayed there until the penultimate mile. But then I got cocky. I was running along the Embankment when two guys passed me; both tall and lean with long legs, I was clearly never going to match their pace. But I watching one of them, and how he ran; kicking his feet back, almost up to his butt, powering up the rest of his legs. My physio had actually recommended I try making a similar adjustment to my gait, and so I mimicked him. The power in my legs was immediately evident, and I hit a 7:30 mile. My tempo pace was supposed to be 8:30- my bad. As I finished, I felt my right calf seize up badly. Despite stretching it out, it was still very painful as I ran very slowly to the station as a cool down. 

I knew something was wrong straight away; my calf never completely seized up in that agonizing cramp you get, but it was definitely threatening to. Every time I stood up or sat down, it felt as though it was popping. Having sent panicked messages to my Sports Massage Therapist Prim, he managed to fit me in late on the Friday evening. Sports massage done, I felt immeasurably better, and even managed to fit in my 15 mile run on the Sunday. Panic  over, right?!

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Phase Two:

The following Tuesday as I ran recovery miles, I knew something wasn’t quite right. And so I made it my mission to get to the bottom of this knotty, stiff calf. Having done yoga and taken a hot bath, I massaged ibuprofen gel into my legs and, fatally, used a spikey massage roller- the kind that wouldn’t look out of place in a medieval torture chamber. Fast forward to the following morning and I had bright red bruising on my calf, directly above the spasmed muscle. Oops. I actually found it hilarious and showed everyone in the office, with the precursor “wanna see something really gross?!” – it was weirdly satisfying to have a visible, undeniable evidence of the work I’d been putting in and the pain I’d been experiencing.

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Phase Three:

Stupidly, I ran that same night. It was supposed to be 7.5 tempo miles, but I decided to be “sensible”, and by “sensible”, I mean still run 6 miles at a slow pace. It was horrific. My calves hurt and more importantly my plantar fasciitis was back, making me wince with every step. I reeled in the pace and flattened my gait and was able to complete 6 miles before giving up. I then went home and consulted doctor Google, as well as my poor Sports Massage Therapist, who both confirmed that this was in fact no laughing matter. Prim has put me on good old RICE for the next three days at least; he won’t even go near my calves.

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The Upshot:

I’ll be missing my 18 miler this Sunday, which I’m pretty pissed about. I knew that with any training schedule adjustments would have to be made, and especially for me with my history of injury. But I thought as long as I can get up to 18 miles. I thought, and I still think, that I need to reach at least that distance before the marathon, just for a mental boost, and to keep me calm and confident on race day. But you know what they say: the best made plans of mice and men!

I’m going to skip my 18 miler and substitute for swimming and cross training. I might be able to do it next week, either choosing to peak at 18 miles, or managing a 20-miler the following week, and cutting my taper short by a few days. 

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So this is a general grumble from me; a tale of sadly knowing my limits and just pushing them a little too far, naively believing I could get a way with it. I guess this is all part of the process, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.

Any tips for me? And how do you gauge your own personal limits?

Lots of love,

Pippa

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17 thoughts on “It’s starting to fall apart

  1. So sorry you’re going through this, what a bummer 😦 I had almost the exact same thing happen a couple years ago after my first marathon, because I stupidly decided to go for a run 3 days later at 10K pace. Dumb. Anyway, my right calf seized up so bad that it was uncomfortable to even walk. What I did was take a full week completely off from running. And during that time, I just left the calf alone. No obsessive stretching or massaging, just mostly let it heal on its own. One thing that did really help was I would put a heating pad on it to relax the muscles. When I came back to running after that week, it was completely gone and I was fine, never a tight calf again. I would suggest taking some time off and then, once you’re ready to run again, easing back in. Marathon training, more than any other time, is when we really have to be careful about pushing our bodies too hard. When we do, they will start to talk back to us. Taking time off mid-cycle is scary, but I just took 10 days off from running and I feel better than ever in my training. Maybe ease up on the hard workouts for a while and just try to focus on getting through the miles.

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    1. Thanks hun, so relieved to hear something similar has happened to a fellow runner and you were able to recover from it quickly! I think it’s just gonna have to be yoga and cross training for now, which isn’t the worst case imaginable. I’m also really glad I get to leave the calf alone- firstly it hurts, and secondly I’m lazy and really hate all that stretching and foam rolling. Sounds like a nice long bath is just what the doctor ordered! I’m really reassured that you managed to heal it after such a short rest period, things are looking up!

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  2. Feck, as they say. But I suspect it’s not as bad as it sounds (confident in the knowledge that I’m several hundred miles away in Ireland, and unlikely to bump into you on the track). Rest and swimming sound good. But I have made similar mistakes in the past; one was trying to out-sprint two mates of mine at the end of a pacey run. In my defence, they were driving a van at the time, but I could feel my hamstrings twanging in protest. I think it’s important not get fixated on workouts and schedules. God knows we all need ’em, otherwise we’d do bugger-all, but when we start to over-stress the body by training injured… that just leads to more stress and more injury. Take some time out and try and enjoy it. Sounds like you have good miles banked in the legs.

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  3. Oh man. I’m so sorry! I try to just breathe and remember that NO run or training day is worth my health. If I’m feeling even a tiny bit of sharp pain I back off or reschedule a run. On the other hand I’ve been so safe that I’m not sure how fast or hard I could go if I pushed harder. So in a way you’ve discovered something about yourself. So take this as a great learning opportunity. And hear me: your training was NOT wasted. Each training cycle puts fitness in the bank and teaches us new things about ourselves and the sport. Follow my 5 R’s for future success: Review past training (like you already have), re-evaluate, rest/recover, revamp the plan, then be READY to come back STRONGER than ever. Because you can. And you will. Life ain’t over yet. 😉

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  4. Sorry to hear about your injury! I would be pissed as well! The best advice I have is to take.it.easy- a few more rest days (or even weeks) is better than a few months off if you continue to push (not saying you are, but many runners do!). I’ve had to deal with ITB pain in the past and it’s not fun! I followed the RICE rule (rest, ice, compression, elevation), and that seemed to do the trick along with some ibuprofen. Good luck and hope you feel better soon!

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  5. Tips? Take up cycling. 4 seasons, 22,000 miles, only one injury but it didn’t keep me off the bike… My saddle was too wide. Picked up a new one, the proper size, and no more pain. 😉

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  6. Man, that’s a bummer and I feel for you. I have twinges in my calves a lot and I’m not foam rolling. You’ve got me dreading my long run tomorrow. Good luck in the recovery, proper rest and don’t get back at it too early, heal properly and come back stronger. Good luck!

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  7. Oh man, I am SO SORRY to read this. I have a lot of experience with calf pain, unfortunately 😦 My advice – don’t run, cross train, and trust in the training you did so far. I would plan to cross train until the marathon as much as possible. In the fall, I ran the Hartford Marathon. I felt great in the days after. But I took the race out too fast and missed my goal that day. I had another marathon scheduled for a month later and I think if I would have just stuck with my plan, I would have been fine. But in the days after the race, I did a tempo run. I signed up for a half marathon that was only one week after the marathon. Three miles into the half I strained my calf and like an idiot, I kept running anyway thinking it was a cramp. It was a hilly race and I ran one minute slower than my PR (so dumb) only to be limping for days after.

    I would let it heal for days and think it felt better, and then go and test it. Back to square one. I paced a half marathon and one mile in, I felt it bugging me. It was an issue all the way up to the marathon because I wouldn’t just let the stupid thing heal. I really think you will run a strong marathon regardless of this set back – if you let it heal! It is so hard because you will want to run when it starts to feel better. Foam roll, ice, ibuprofen, swim, and rest! Dynamic stretching like calf raises really help. Gentle stretching…and enjoy the change of pace with the cross training. I am so sorry you are going through this 😦 I’ll be thinking of you!

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    1. Thank you so much hun! It’s great to know that I’m not alone and that this has happened to other people! I’ve been told 3 days off running, but I might take a whole week off and see how it feels. To be honest it’s painful but i’m amazed at how quickly it’s healing. I guess for now, I just have to try to make myself like swimming again! It’s so weird not being able to run at the weekend cos I have no idea what to do with myself- especially this weekend where i’d blocked out the whole day for an 18 miler. So it’s a chilled Sunday 🙂

      xx

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