Bunchgrasser’s World

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Posts Tagged ‘calf muscle’

Yes, I (kind of) ran the 2009 Portland Marathon

Posted by bunchgrasser on October 14, 2009

I’ve been avoiding this post for more than a week now. Not sure why – but most likely because there is little positive to say about it. The net-net is that after training for the Portland Marathon for many months I suffered a weird injury in my left calf muscle around the first week of July.

I’m still not certain if it was a calf muscle tear or an Achilles tendon problem. The actual spot was not right above my heel, but further up where the tendon spreads out and attaches to calf muscle. I’m equally perplexed as to how I got the injury in the first place. Although I did increase my mileage enough to warrant this type of response. I was also doing some trail running at the time which could have been the culprit.

Regardless of the cause, I was smart enough to stop all training in order to fully recover. It would be about 2.5 months later that I started easing back into a few miles here and there, which brings me back to the marathon. I had completely decided against running the marathon for obvious reasons (little/no training) during the 3 months prior to race day. Actually, I did run the Timberline Trail Half Marathon on September 14th as kind of a “test run”. That went ok, but it was clear that my body was not at all ready for 26 miles.

As fate would have it, my daughter’s soccer team volunteered at the Portland Marathon expo the day before the race, so I offered to drive her there for her “shift”. I figured that I would pick up my packet and browse through the expo for any cool running goodies or gadgets.

However, once I had my race bib in-hand, cruel forces began to conspire against me and my decision to sit this one out. I began to think how bummed I would be if I missed even one year of the Portland Marathon. I envisioned how much fun it would be running past the thousands of spectators, cheering and yelling my name…Go Danny! Looking good! And, finally I started rationalizing just how far 26.2 miles could possibly be. Heck, I could just run most of the race and then finish the remainder by walking! There’s no reason to skip this race at all! I mean, how bad could it possibly be???

Well, as you can probably surmise…I now know exactly how bad it could possibly be. And, yes it was that bad. For the record, I did finish the race in under 5 hours…but not by much. In fact, my splits were pretty good up until about mile 16-17. But crossing the St Johns bridge seemed to be a turning point for me, as both calf muscles started to cramp simultaneously. I pushed on a little further, but by the time I hit mile 19 the wheels fell completely off and my lower legs were in full-on mutiny. The calf cramps were severe which made running impossible and even walking seemed like too much to ask.

Needless to say, I found myself in a difficult situation with 7 miles left and no real ability to get there under my own power. I attempted to stretch out my calf muscles several times and continued to walk, hoping that eventually my condition would improve. Over the next 3-4 miles I tried running (slowly) a few times but couldn’t keep the cramping at bay. It felt so strange to be walking the course rather than running. I noticed things that I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed if I had been running. For example, I saw several groups of people along Willamette Blvd that were seriously partying. I’m not sure if they realized there was a marathon going on right next to them. I noted that people don’t cheer for the walkers much, other than an occasional, quietly-spoken “good job”. I also now realize that walkers aren’t a very exciting target for race photographers.

Well, not to belabor this any further…once I hit the long downhill section starting at the Adidas HQ I was able to manage a slow jog (mostly gravity I think). I eventually made it across the bridge and with an alternating run/walk strategy pushed myself up Naito Pkwy to the turn at Salmon and across the finish line.

I accepted my foil blanket and finishers medal, then stumbled through the food section – carefully avoiding the chocolate milk that didn’t sit well in my stomach last year. Bananas and fritos chips tasted good this year. I picked up my shirt, skipped the photo and did the zombie-walk through the cordoned-off section to the reunion area. Life would have been good had there been someone waiting to whisk me away to a hot shower and soft bed, however I spent the next 20 minutes walking the 6-8 blocks to where my car was parked in a garage. To make matters worse, I wasn’t quite certain where my car was and actually had to circle a few blocks before finally locating it.

I’m tempted to say…”let this be a lesson of what not to do”. But in reality even though it was ugly (well, actually very ugly), there was something that I truly enjoyed about the experience and I think it was pushing myself well past my “perceived” physical limit. It was ignoring the warning signals my brain was voicing loudly. It was venturing ever-so-slightly into that uncharted territory of the unknown, wondering just exactly what would happen if I just kept going. I think we could all benefit from pushing ourselves beyond our fears and our own limitations. It reminds me of a quote I jotted down some time ago:

“Few of us know what we are capable of doing… we have never pushed ourselves hard enough to find out.” -Alfred A Montepert

Cheers

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2009 Pints to Pasta 10k

Posted by bunchgrasser on September 14, 2009

I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to register and run the 2009 Pints to Pasta 10k on Sunday. My wife and daughter were already signed up, and when we picked up their packets I got caught up in the excitement and had to register myself.

I had planned to skip this race because my calf muscle/achilles tendon injury is still not quite healed. However, I’ve done a couple of short test runs this past week and with an easy pace my leg didn’t seem to hurt. I needed a test race to see how my leg would hold up in a competitive situation.

We parked near the Old Spaghetti Factory and took the shuttle (school) bus to the start line at the Adidas HQ on North Greeley. We got there pretty early so we had plenty of time to stretch, use the bathroom and contemplate the race. The first mile was all downhill, and against better judgment I took advantage of the free speed. Over the next 3-4 miles I settled into an easy pace and tried to monitor my left leg for any sign of trouble. Happily, it felt great the entire race. My cardio fitness level however had fallen off dramatically due to not running for almost 2 full months. Needless to say, my pace was not very impressive. I finished in 53:02 (8:32 pace) which put me 49/98 for my age group (366/790 for all men).

My wife and daughter both finished their first 10k race in just over an hour. I think they both enjoyed it and hopefully this is the first of many races that we will run as a family. I’m still working on getting my son to join us.

Big thanks to Dave & Paula Harkin at Portland Running for putting on another great race!

2009 Pints to Pasta 10k Results are posted here.

Cheers

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Still on the bench…

Posted by bunchgrasser on August 18, 2009

I’m in my 4th week of R&R and I’m getting really, really anxious to run again. The first couple of weeks were the most difficult but I’m slightly more at ease with my current reality. Deep down I know it would be wrong to put the shoes back on before I’m completely healed up. That is the strategy I used to use and it never worked out very well for me. I’m somewhat impatient and its just that I don’t know how much longer the healing process will take. Come on already…!

I’m not entirely sure what my problem is because I haven’t seen a doctor about it. I’m pretty sure it is either achilles tendonitis, or possibly a bad muscle tear in my left calf muscle. I have some pain and stiffness (especially in the morning right when I get out of bed) about 2-4 inches above my heel. I also have extremely sore muscles going in a vertical line all the way up my calf almost to the back of my knee. The deeper I push with my thumb the more tender it is. I first thought I had multiple muscle tears, but it seems more logical that the upper muscle soreness is caused by those muscles attempting to cover for the injured muscle/tendon lower down.

At this point the soreness in in my upper calf has decreased and (I hope) is almost healed. However I still have a ways to go with the lower area pain. If it is an achilles tendon problem – I’m guessing it will be awhile longer before I can run on it. I’ve read that achilles tendon problems are notoriously slow to heal.

Meanwhile, I daydream about running my favorite trail in Forest park and look forward to restarting my training for the Portland Marathon, and hopefully my first 50K or 50 miler someday soon. I’ve been adding equipment to my garage gym and my latest acquisition was a nice bike trainer. I’ve been able to put in some nice 30-40 minute rides that don’t seem to bother my sore calf. I’ve also been hitting the weights and various other strengthening exercises (pullups, pushups, situps, air squats, etc).

With the Portland Marathon coming up on October 5th – I’m not certain of my status for that race. It is clear that I won’t be prepared to go for a PR, but the question of whether I’ll be suitably trained enough to run it at all is unclear. Bummer days…

Wish me luck…

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