Monday, June 11, 2012

Gibson 5K and my calf injuries

Gibson Guitar 5K race
I signed up to run the Gibson 5K which is held down on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. It was held last Saturday night at 7 pm.

Wednesday last week I drove to Fleet Feet on Poplar Avenue and picked up my race packet, which included my shirt, my race number, and the computer strip which records my official time as I start and finish the race.

I was pretty excited about this race. I don't know why. I've never run it before. I don't know anyone who has run it before. I never planned to sign up for it. I only recently even found out about it. I signed up on the spur of the moment. And I'm still rehabbing an injury from the Cotton Row race about 2 weeks ago.

Making matters worse, on Thursday I felt sick. Something was wrong with my stomach. I wanted to go home from work and sleep, but I couldn't afford to leave just then. Whenever I ate it didn't sit well. I never really felt hungry and when I ate I felt like I was overfull somehow, as if I just didn't have any room in my stomach for any food at all.

Friday I was still not feeling right. I had hoped to do a run on Thursday, just something short and easy, but I had to cancel that. Friday wasn't much better. I didn't even go for a walk.

Meanwhile, my calf problems have continued. All week long I could feel something bothering my left calf. It feels like something pressing into it just below the calf muscle and just above what I'd consider the ankle. It's just enough pressure that I wasn't terribly confident the muscle would make it through an entire 5K run.

Seriously, are you up for this?
I went onto the internet and began reading about my calf injury problem. Apparently I'm not alone in experiencing this. That didn't surprise me. What did surprise me was the number of people who began having this problem who never seemed to find a solution. So many runners experienced this issue only to have it come back again and again and again. Most said they found that they could run shorter distances without trouble, or that they could run on treadmills without any pain. But if they tried to run a race or run outside up and down hills then the injury would continuously return.

I read all kinds of suggestions. Try different shoes. Try stretching more. Try warming up more. Try eating more bananas. Try this and try that and no one seemed to really have a solid answer.

What I gathered from what I read is that there is a muscle sheath inside the lower leg that wraps around the calf muscle. Ironically, it acts sort of like a calf sleeve, which is what I wear due to the injury. This muscle sheath isn't terribly flexible. When a new runner, or an older runner, begins to rapidly increase the intensity of their training so that the calf muscles are pumped with more blood than they have been for a long time, or ever, and that 'pump' remains in the calf for a long period of time, long enough to almost complete a 5K race, the muscle sheath seems to constrict the muscles because it cannot stretch or expand enough to allow for this. It's apparently choking the calf muscles, but it can feel exactly like a calf cramp or muscle pull.

I read a number of suggested treatments, but no solid cure. I even read about some people having surgeries. I used to lift weights a lot. I remember getting shin splints in high school cross country after I'd spent a summer doing a lot of very heavy calf raises to build up my calves while running long, slow workouts to maintain my endurance. I had no calf problems during that summer no matter how far I ran, but I wasn't running fast. I wasn't running up on my toes to any extent in an attempt to get a fast time. I was just trotting along for 5-10 miles each workout. I had thought that working my calves very hard all summer would improve my running when cross country season began at the start of the next school year. Instead, I started the season with an immediate shin splint problem that appeared as soon as I began running competitively with the team again. At the time I had no idea where the injury had come from or why.

I haven't read anyone suggesting this strategy, but I'm going to try working the hell out of my calves at the gym. I'm going to try jumping rope and leaping on those metal platforms, I can't think of what this excercise is called, and doing a lot of toe raises, all in an attempt to pump up my calves and make them grow long-term, so that the sheath around the muscle is stretched more and more often. The fact is, it does stretch over time. Bodybuilders who pump up their calves to ridiculous proportions couldn't do that without crippling themselves if the sheath simply never expanded. I'm going to assume that steady work on my calves will make it stretch eventually.

The bottom line is, with my calf injury problem, plus feeling somewhat sick, I decided to let the Gibson 5K go and not run it. I didn't even drive down to watch the other runners compete. I know how I am. If I went to watch, I would run. I can't stand on the sidelines. In every sport I ever participated in, when I was on the bench I was going crazy. Either put me in or let me go home. Running is no different. If there is a race and I am registered to run it, if I'm there at the moment they say "runners take your mark" I'm going to tense up and start running as soon as I hear them shoot the starting gun. So I stayed home.

I don't have another race until September. And that race isn't a competitive event where anyone cares about what time you run it in. It's the Warrior Dash and I run that for the fun of it. There's nothing to compare it to time-wise, what with all the obstacles to climb or crawl through. Other than that, I can't think of any events I'm planning to enter. That should give me time to work on my calves and try to get them back into the groove of a regular running habit.

I'm also planning to order a tool called The Stick for sprinters, which is a deep muscle massager you roll along the muscle that you are trying to rehab. I have heard that this tool helps a lot with muscle injuries and tightness. Once I get it and begin trying it out I'll let you know how it works for me. There are several different versions. There is one for marathoners, but from the description of it, I don't think it is what I need.

So anyway, I signed up for and skipped the Gibson 5K. But maybe next year I'll have this injury problem beat and take another shot at it.


  1. Bloody Calves! Sounds like you have a plan. I know I had to strengthen mine to get my (repeated) calf injury sorted out last year.

    Hope your "guts" are feeling better....

  2. AlleyCat, I keep forgetting that you went through a similar problem. I really don't expect this to be an ongoing thing. I just think I need to be more regular with my training and give them some time. At least, I hope that's all I need.

  3. Hopefully no relation to the Mel Gibson, that's why your caves were screaming. That must be hotter than heck. Now you can run anywhere.

  4. AboutLastWeekend, no relation that I know of. This is the Gibson Guitar factory-sponsored race. I don't know much about who owns Gibson, but I don't think they even have any factories in Australia. Funny thing - about a month ago I went to a concert where a great guitar player named Brian Gibson played all night on a Gibson guitar. As far as I know, he's no relation to the Gibson company either, but you know he hears cracks constantly about how he should get his guitars at a discount and all that.

  5. So you are inspiration.
    1- I'm so behind on my blog. This week I'm catching up. No excuses. If you can race with a jacked calf I can keep blogging.

    2- I haven't run in 3 months. I will now sign up for Warrior Dash. Thank you. If you can run with a jacked calf I can sign up for a race and try to kick ass.

    3- This has nothing to do with your calf .. but thanks for always commenting on my blog. It's a support thing. And it doesn't go unnoticed. Actually keeps me motivated to keep at it .. kinda lost my mojo.

    Hope the stomach and calf feel better...

  6. Alana, I love your blog. I think it's really exceptional. I think once more people find it they'll keep coming back because it's really good. I had no idea that you hadn't run in awhile, but I know you've been working out because you are a bodypumping machine! I've been somewhat slack on the calf exercises, but the problems are still with me. I don't know what set this off, but I have got to find a solution. It's making me crazy.