(a sort-of continuation from my previous post)
June has not been a good running month for me. It is obvious now that my 6 month streak of 100+ mile months will come to an end on Saturday. But I think that if there are any positives to come out of this bad month, it's that I'm now more aware of what's causing my injuries, how I can rehab at home, and what I can do to prevent them in the future.
It started on May 30th, when I shut down my training due to a Plantar Fasciitis issue. I got back to running 2 weeks later, only to develop a left calf problem a week after my PF issue cleared up. It turns out that my calf issue was most likely just a severe cramp, and I've learned to hydrate myself better in these warm & muggy mornings.
This past Saturday was the first "official" run with my Potomac River Running Distance Training Group (last week's was more of a meet & greet run), and I decided to ease into the run and monitor my heart rate rather than focusing on speed. The goal was to keep my average heart rate for the run under 75% (or 145 bpm). At the end of the run, my watch gave me an average of 138 (or 68%) for the 7 miles I ran. Win!!
My time was much slower, 9:53, as opposed to my usual weekend runs that clock in at around 9:30. But my rationale is that come August, when I'm going to be logging 20+ mile runs, I'm going to want to run even slower than that, and this will get me used to a slower pace.
So Saturday was a good running day, and I figured I'd follow it up on Sunday with an easy 4-miler through the neighborhood. Hydrated well beforehand (although I did have 2 cups of coffee) and went out. But about a minute or 2 into the run, I felt a sharp pinch again in my left calf. This one was lower and more in the center of my calf than the cramp was, so I was immediately concerned. I walked back home (hobbled, actually) and proceeded to ice, roll, and massage my calf. The distressing part of this was that I couldn't pinpoint the pain center through massage - it was only when I walked that I felt it.
I was wearing my Asics GT-2170 shoes (my backup pair), and immediately thought that this might be the issue. The shoes never fit well in the toe box, only the width, and these were also the shoes I was wearing when I first noticed my PF problem after a Sunday long run. So I changed into my Brooks Adrenaline 12's to see if I still had the calf issue. Yes, but with much less pain when I walked.
Next was my 2XU calf guards (I wear them on every run). The ones I was wearing were over a year old. I took them off and put on another pair I had purchased for recovery only. The fit was much more snug on my calf, and the pain was almost gone. Now I had to test it on the treadmill.
So with the new calf guards and my favorite shoes on, I started the treadmill at 2.5 mph with 0% incline and started walking. I increased the speed very slowly (maybe every 1/10 mile), and actually got to the point to where I was running at 6.5 mph at 1% incline by the 2.5 mile mark. I was cutting my stride down, my turnover was about 175 footfalls per minute, and I was pain-free for the entire 4 miles. I slept in a new pair of 2XU calf compression sleeves last night, and woke up to no pain in the calf.
What have I learned? First, Asics are not a good shoe for me. I was wearing Asics when I got my first calf injury in 2009 (that's when I switched to Brooks), and 2 injuries in 2 months in 2012 while wearing Asics meant I dumped the shoe. Yeah, it's $100 wasted on a shoe that I only put 60 miles on, but dumping them was probably cheaper than Physical Therapy.
Second, once I get good use out of my calf sleeves, get another pair. $55 each, but it's well worth the cost. Third, hydrate - I can't say this enough. And lastly, a quick turnover. Long strides for me, in search of gaining speed, only hurts me in the long run.
So for the time being, I'm going to go back to basics and focus on my stride while I'm running. My ego will take a hit when my pace shows up on my Garmin, but with my first marathon just 18 weeks away, I can't afford to keep getting injured.