Sunday, June 17, 2012

No Running

I was bummed not being able to run Mt Washington on Saturday. Conditions were ideal. DaveP ran 1:27 on less running than I've done. Impressive effort.  After the Cannon Mt hillclimb a week ago, I thought the massive blister on the back of my right heel would have foiled my Mt Washington event, not a calf injury. Fortunately, my calf injury does not seem to be bothered by riding at all. Strange. Saturday I still had to be careful going down stairs, but riding up mountains? No problem.

Being such a fine day, I wanted to take advantage of the situation and hit some big, steep climbs I haven't done in a while. I drove over to Mt Ascutney in Vermont. My legs were pretty tired, as I was still able to do some pretty high intensity work on the bike on Thursday despite a messed up calf. I took my heavy training bike with the Power Tap, weighing in at 19.0 lbs.

After a brief warmup, I hit Mt Ascutney first. I forgot I didn't have a compact crank on that bike. Ugh. I did have a MTB cassette on back though, so my cadence wasn't going to drop too ridiculously low. I could use the high-force/low-cadence work anyway. I figured I'd just go easy, maybe average 350W.

Yeah, right. I held 369W first mile. Average dropped to 350W at mile two, then plummetted after that as the grade slackened. I reached the top with a 335W average and was surprised I went over 30 minutes. I knew my legs were tired, but I didn't think they were that tired.

A little math when I got back home suggests my lighter hillclimb bike will take 30-40 seconds off. Then I need to come up with 7% more power to break 28 minutes, my goal next month. That seems like a stretch right now.

I grabbed some food and water bottles and headed over to Okemo via Tyson Rd. Seems no road in Vermont escaped the wrath of Irene. Parts of Tyson Rd were washed out and temporarily repaired with gravel fill. The descent towards Ludlow was still in pretty good shape though, and is one of the best around. Reminds me of some of the Alps descents.

The Ascutney effort had fully caught up to me by the time I reached the base of Okemo, another 4mi, 12% climb. It was getting warm too. I was going to die on this one with my gearing and trashed legs. There is a long 15-17% grade section in the middle of the climb that is trouble even with fresh legs during the race. Post ride analysis shows my cadence dropped to low 50's for extended periods of time on this climb. There's no way to keep power numbers up with that low of a cadence. It took me about 34 minutes to reach the end of the pavement, a fairly typical time when climbing Okemo after a hard effort on Ascutney.

After bombing down the totally crap pavement of Okemo, the highlight of the ride was next, stopping at Java Baba's. Vitamin Water and a monster homemade "energy" bar consisting of coconut, chocolate chips, nuts, graham cracker crust, oats, probably marshmallow holding all together, and more. No way could I eat all of it in one sitting.

I had to hit one more climb before heading back to Ascutney. I've never climbed Terrible Mtn/Rt 100 from town, only descended it. It is all in the sun, and Rt 100 is kind of busy, but the climb threw a couple more 12% punches to make sure my legs were cooked before I got back. Didn't win any Strava awards on this one, that's for sure. Bombing back down to town the same way was fun.

Scenic Rt 131 is taken back to Ascutney. By now I had a headwind. I was counting on tailwind to push me along at 30mph on this slight downhill grade, but instead, I had to burn more kilojoules at 20mph to get back. Legs were starting to cramp on the final 500ft climb flanking Mt Ascutney.  I finished with about 77 miles, 8300ft of climbing, in 4.8 hours. I was in such an endorphin haze driving home I'm surprised I even remembered where I lived.

Thanks for the many great comments on my calf injury. They give me much to research and think about. I've been aggressively stretching my calves since the injury. Interestingly, I'm noticing now that I no longer have a limited dorsifexion in my left calf. Both of my calves are balanced. I wonder, is it possible I had some tight muscle strands left from my fracture in 2010 that let loose? I know as recently as a couple months ago, I had a few degrees less range of motion in my left calf. It is possible the amount of hillclimb running I did loosened it up too.

It is also interesting to note that I did not experience the disabling injuries while running uphill. Both the March and June episodes were on dead flat ground. No doubt running and hiking up 10-30% grades puts huge stress on calves, but I think it is the eccentric muscle contraction running on flat ground that does the final damage. So the question is, if I run only flat terrain, would my calf issues go away?

As of Sunday night, the pain is pretty much gone doing normal activities, including going down stairs. I may go out for an exploratory run on the office campus early in the week to see how it feels.


Rami said...

Good luck with recovery.

Reportedly, there is no relation between stretching, muscle soreness, and risk of injury!

It is warming up ahead of exercise that helps.

This is in result of a large study by USATF:

NYTimes reported on the same that "Static stretching had proved to be a wash in terms of protecting against injury":

Al Lyman said...

Hey Doug, Coach Al here. I'd like to suggest you check out our blog at Calf injuries are rarely ever "one" thing. A full on gait analysis would provide some answers, and we'd suggest the "appropriate" treatment. As for the studies on stretching's benefits or lack there of, or any opinions any journalist may have, the truth is that any need for stretching more or less would be based on body and muscle length balance. In other words, where balance has been lost, some type of flexibility work would be necessary (along with stability or strength work) to RESTORE balance. Strength and length go together for many reasons. In other words, the "need" to stretch is highly personal. I hope this helps. Best of luck! -Al

plum said...

Years ago I bought a book on stretching. It was interesting to learn how most people do it absolutely wrong. Second to that, you learn that stretching allows a muscle to release stored energy. I suppose for some disciplines, it really could be an injury-sparing measure (I'm thinking ballet; JCVD-style kickboxing stuff), but more than anything, it's a warmup mechanism.

Rob Hult said...

Running and riding up hills is extremely difficulct on the legs. Uphill running in particular is hard on the calves. Try running on the flats. In my expert opinion, stretching doesn't do squat.

Hill Junkie said...

I do not engage in pre-exercise stretching. I have for a long time been stretching my hamstrings after every ride. If I neglect this, they get very tight and I experience a lot of discomfort on the bike. Studies show pre-exercise stretching does not ward off injury and may be of no value at all. Runners here at work vehememtly disagree, citing personal experience. Seems like one of those "religeous" type of debates.

I've always had flexibility issues, going back to my earliest memories. There was never a time in my life I could touch my toes. Even in kindergarten, I could not sit on floor with my legs crossed in front of me. My hips/glutes wouldn't allow it. I was born that way.

I had no residual pain in my calf today, so I went out for a cautious, flat run, 8-9min pace. About 2 miles in, I started to feel some tightness/tenderness high in the calf muscle. I called it good after 3mi. Not sure if I should stay off my feet longer or start going out more frequently for very short, easy runs.

Rob Hult said...

I'd do short, easy runs, every other day, slowly ramping up to where I want to be, pain-free. If stretching helps your flexibility, then do it because it is fairly safe. I tend to do more stretching when I have injuries, pain, problems, or in-between sets at the gym in the winter. Just don't over-do the stretching either!

Listen to your body. If something hurts, then stop doing it. Everyone is a bit different. I tell the kids I coach that what works for me doesn't necessarily work exactly the same for them. We are all built and wired a bit different.

I know many runners who try to run through the pain of over-use injuries. They keep up their weekly mileage and then can't understand why nagging injuries don't go away. I have been guilty of this behavior myself. The bike is so much more forgiving in this regard and is your go-to weapon when you start having problems.

It is much easier to go for a light spin than it is to do an easy run. These days I use the bike to help me recover from my running. If I am disciplined, I notice a big difference.

Peter Minde said...

Doug, I haven't done pre-workout stretching in the past but I've begun doing some in relation to strength workouts. Like Rob above, I've done more than my share of trying to run through injuries. It could definitely be worthwhile to go to a good sorts medicine dr. and then a physical therapist to address any potential muscle imbalances. I'm a bit older than you and I've been down this road more than I want to know about.