In which I tear my right calf

One of the goals of the summer is to put on some miles. Over the past few weeks, I have been bumping up my mileage on the long run with 13, 15, 17, and finally 20 miles this week. I was thinking 15 was my base, since I had built to that point for Hospital Hill. So, 20 would be the peak, and then a cut back. Things had been going very well. My Achilles were holding, and I was knocking down some good miles on the long run and enjoying it. But I pushed it too far on the 20 miler, and my body told me to cut it out.

I had run in the morning, noted that my right calf was a little more sore than usual, and then worked a full day, by sitting in my chair and writing email. I thought it had been a good run until I got home, took off my socks and saw a huge red blob on my calf. Wow!

This is a spot that has given me trouble in the past. But I have been self-massaging and rolling, and my calves have felt really good. My Achilles (even after this run) seem fine. And I wasn’t expecting an injury on my right side.

After a little Google research, I diagnosed myself with a torn calf muscle. Based on the descriptions, I figured it was pretty mild, since there was no snapping sound, and I had full range of motion and pretty good power. Prescription: Rest for 72 hours.

What was the problem? I haven’t pinned it down yet. I raced (ran too fast) instead of training on my 20 miler. I promised myself not to let my heart rate get much over 148 on the run, but I let it float up to the low 150s. After the run, I hit the treadmill at 8.2mph – just to see how my HR was doing. I did a “yo-yo” at the end of the run to get the final distance. (This means running to my end point, checking my watch and splitting the distance for a final out and back. I don’t make sudden turns, but they may have been sudden enough on calves that had already gone 19.65 miles.) I twisted my ankle on something during the run, thanked my lucky stars at the time and kept on trucking. I ran in a pair of Pegasus that are getting old, but haven’t given me trouble on shorter runs. (Ironically, I just read Born to Run, again, in which there’s a guy who puts his shoes on the wrong feet when he wears out the soles on one side. Good as new!) Or was it dehydration? I drank 64 oz (4 pounds!) of Gatorade on the run and still had a NET loss of 5 pounds. (It was 80°.)

Shoes. Speed. Or Distance. Who’s to blame?

Shoes are my first suspect. Those dang Pegasus! I’ve been rotating through 5 pair with a great deal of success and I wonder if I rolled the dice and lost. It’s so hard to tell being an experiment of one. I am going to go back to the Ravenas (my newest shoes) and pay careful attention to how they make my calf feel. It’s also time to replace the Pegasus, whether or not they were the culprit.

Speed is the other major variable I’m going to fix on the next long run. SLOW DOWN! And this time… I mean it!

As I’ve looked at (and healed from) this injury, I’ve thought it looks like a big bruise. That leads me to believe that the central problem was neither the shoes nor the speed, but the distance. Maybe it was a bunch of micro-tears that got out of control and became a general breakdown of the muscle.

Since the injury, I have done 20 minutes rowing and 45 minutes on the elliptical. On the day after, I was rolling out my calf, and I could see the cleavage of the muscle under the skin: one side red, the other side peach. Three days later and the muscle is coming along nicely; the swelling and soreness are subsiding.

My inner “doctor” is going nuts. This feels like a deja vu injury. I think I’ve had it before. But it has never erupted like this. Now I need to rest until I am healed. And then I need to train! Not race. No treadmill after the long run. Gentle stretching and rolling. Maybe I need a little scar tissue in my calf. Just to stretch things out a little. Joke! That’s a joke! Nobody needs scar tissue. But whether I needed it or not, now, I have it.

Then there are the voices from outside my head. “Ya know I don’t understand why you don’t treat yourself better. Do the crazy things that you do.” The Long Run, Eagles.

“Why don’t you let yourself heal?” K, a friend from work said, when I was complaining about my Achilles and headed up the stairs. So, I’ve been taking the elevator (what a blow to my ego!), and I’m wondering if that is the main reason my Achilles are so much better. The marathon does not demand stair climbing. So I’m going to cut out the early morning “run” up the stairs with a fully loaded back pack… for a while… as long as my ego can stand it.

“When we break, some are healed and made stronger at the broken places,” is my paraphrase of “The world breaks everyone and afterward many [or some?] are strong at the broken places,” from Ernest Hemingway.

All of these worries are swirling around as I think about how I’m going to recover this week and how far I’m going to push during the end of this base building phase. One day and one workout at a time.

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1 Response to In which I tear my right calf

  1. Tad says:

    Are you going to go on a Victorian Chapter Title streak? If so, I am really looking forward to that. Seriously, get well soon!

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