My WTF Injury

Last week was a pretty great week as far as running goes.  Or should I say, it started out great.  I had two stellar days of 7 mile runs and was feeling like this might be a really solid 40+ mile week for me.  On Wednesday I took off for an easy 7 miles in Central Park and to avoid hills I went up to the North Meadow, my favorite area to do loops when I was doing speed work last year.

Five miles into my run, I left the park to do an easy two home and my calf suddenly cramped up.  It was so random and so painful that I let out a WTF (without the abbreviations) and started stretching at every stop light.  At first, this was helpful. However, by the end I was basically limping home.

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I walked up stairs in tears and told Rock what happened.  I was honestly at a loss for what was going on with my body.  I had been feeling great.  I wasn’t doing anything difficult on my run, and suddenly my calf turned into what felt like a stinging rock.

I had some signs of dehydration and made a note to up my intake of both water and electrolytes.  Besides that, there was no indication of any other issue.

After a nap, I woke up and could barely move.  I started freaking out.  WTF was going on?  How the heck was I going to get Mary down five flights of stairs?  Rock was at work and we couldn’t just spend all afternoon in this tiny little apartment!

We hobbled our way downstairs and I shuffled to the park.  My leg slowly loosened up and there were signs that it might be just a temporary issue.  But when I woke up the next morning, and every time I would get up from sitting down, my calves screamed at me.  Every step felt like my muscles were trying to pull me backward.  It was incredibly frustrating.

Saturday was a washout.  It rained all day and I stayed inside on the couch.  I massaged my leg, continued to compress it, and tried my hand at self ART massage.  The results were fantastic.  By Sunday morning it felt almost normal and I went for a really slow four mile run.  I was overly cautious and stopped every half mile to stretch and check in with my body.

Everything felt great!  After the run I had some tightness, but I figured that was to be expected after any injury.  I also spent the rest of the day on my feet as we went to the zoo and wandered the park.

However, by Sunday night I went to massage my leg and was shocked to see how swollen it was.  I couldn’t even see my shin.  The muscles had also tightened back up and I was back to WTF.  I was really starting to get down on this situation and myself.

I’ve done some pretty stupid things over the years.  I’ve over trained.  I’ve run when I knew I was injured and was in self-doubt, and I’ve pushed my body when I knew I really should have given it a break. In the past several years as I have been busy coaching other runners, I have been much smarter.  I listen to my body.  I stop when it needs a break.  Over the past few weeks I have even been taking an extra day off because my pregnant body was feeling a bit more tired.

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This injury left me dumbfounded.  Where did it come from?  What the heck was it?  The frustration of not knowing what it was or how it happened was driving me nuts.  Rock recommended I call my trusted massage therapist.  I was hesitant because most therapists won’t work with pregnant women after the first trimester and I am now 19 weeks into this.  Fortunately, he is certified in perinatal massage.

I’ve said this before and I will say it again, Howard is a magician when it comes to running injuries.  He is a runner and a very speedy and accomplished marathoner.  He took one look at my calf, poked around, and listened to my story and told me I had a minor tear in my calf.

One hour later, I was a sweaty mess.  He put my leg through the wringer and I am pretty sure I ground a few teeth down as he dug into my leg.  I left feeling almost like new and relieved to know what the heck is wrong.

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He recommended I give it a few days and explained a new rule of thumb to me that I will be following:  When you have an injury such as this, work on slow stretching.  Only stretch to the point where it starts to hurt and do not go past that point.  Each day you will start to notice that you can stretch the muscle a bit further.  Once you get to a point where it no longer hurts to stretch, it is okay to give running a try.

I asked Howard how this could have happened out of nowhere and he also had some sound advice on this one too:  Sometimes muscle tears just happen.  However, dehydration can play a very large role in muscle strains.  Pregnancy requires a lot of hydration and pregnant women are at a greater risk of dehydration.  All runners should focus on upping their hydration as the weather gets warmer and do not neglect the electrolytes.  With warm weather we sweat more, and if we don’t replace electrolytes, we won’t absorb water efficiently.

I plan on touching upon my pregnancy and running a bit more in coming weeks, and I will also follow up some more on hydration.  In the meantime, I am happy to report that I feel 90% better already.  I’m icing my leg as I type this post.  I will continue to stretch and take it easy until my body tells me it is time to get going again.  I sure hope that is sooner than later!

Have you ever had a WTF injury?

Make It Suck So Good

I got the song “Hurt So Good” stuck in my head yesterday but with different lyrics.  It was funny how it happened.  I was planning on doing a run all day long and I kept putting it off.  It wasn’t because I wasn’t excited to run, I actually had been looking forward to it all day.  But it was so hot and humid here in Chicago.  So I was tempted to wait and do a shady evening run after dinner.  It was only after I started walking to the grocery store that I noticed some pretty nasty storm clouds heading our way that I figured it was now or never.

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So I turned around, dropped my grocery bags, and traded them in for my Spi-belt and some headphones.  Knowing that it was 86ºF and super humid, I had already had a talk with myself and knew that it was going to be a slow sweaty run.  I was okay with that.

As I started running I had just a tiny bit of pain and just the slightest tension in my Achilles, but compared to the past few weeks, it wasn’t a big deal.  I realized then that nothing feels quite as awesome as coming back to running after an injury.  It just feels so good and so exciting.  The only other thing I could think of at the time that made running feel quite so great is when you first take up running and those first five pounds melt off of you.  On a side note, I think that is a sick trick your body plays on you making you think it will always be like that.

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It was a funny feeling because it wasn’t an easy run but in some ways it really was.  I had been yearning for a nice longish run for awhile and feeling healthy again made me so excited to be out there.  At the same time, it was so hot and humid and it was much more difficult than my normal run.  My miles were much slower than what I would consider my normal pace.

Honestly, that humidity made the run “suck” a bit.  And it reminded me of a post I did months ago when someone asked me when running stops “sucking.”  The verdict was that it doesn’t always suck.  At times it doesn’t at all, and at other times it sucks a whole lot less or in a much different way.  But there is always an element of suck just hiding in the corner of any given run.  To be perfectly honest, I think any runner who sticks with it learns to embrace that and make it work for them.  Heat and humidity, as we know, are reasons to at times not really love running.

But that feeling of glee was still there as I ran and as I dealt with the weather conditions, I realized that it just sucked so good.  That was it.  It was hard, but in a way that runners learn to deal with and at times enjoy.  I knew it was going to be hard but I also knew that I had missed that feeling.

These guys were soaked!

These guys were soaked!

A few weeks ago I read a Runner’s World  article where the writer discussed being injured and how awful it feels to be away from running.  He discussed how you never truly feel hungry like you do when you run and you never get a “true” shower where you step in so dirty and come out completely refreshed.  As I ran in those weather conditions yesterday I was soaked in my own sweat.  I’m sure most people would look at me and consider me to be absolutely disgusting.  But I looked down and grinned from ear to ear.  I couldn’t remember the last time I had sweated that hard.  It felt awesome.  I felt like my body was purging itself of a month and a half’s worth of injury and frustration and anger.

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That is what I think it means to “suck so good.”