I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV

Alternative title: don’t diagnose yourself via Dr. Google.

I went to my sports doctor today (he’s an Ironman athlete, chiropractor, and sports therapist) for my calf/lower leg/Achilles problem. He fixed my hip flexor issue last fall, and I still see him every two weeks or so to keep things working smoothly, so I knew I’d get the straight dope from him today.

He did not share my concern about an Achilles problem, focusing instead on the calf muscles–which, if you’ll recall, I learned are the gastrocnemius and the soleus. He used medieval torture something called the Graston technique involving stainless steel tools (or so I’m told–I didn’t look) and a hell of a lot of pressure. Let’s just say it this way: before he started, he reviewed a pain scale (from 1 – 3). Two = “you hate me” and 3 = “you can no longer speak,” with the goal to stay at a two. It was handy, but sort of made me feel like I was in labor, or getting stitches in the ER.

He pushed and scraped and then taped it up. I go back on Thursday (and probably a few more times before the half) and should be able to take on the Chuy’s 5K on Saturday. Way better than the prognosis Dr. Google had for me.

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Dr. Google

I went out for a short three-mile loop around the neighborhood this morning. It was mostly like yesterday’s 11-miler, except with more loose dogs that chased after me, and a car that almost sideswiped me. And yeah, that nagging leg pain.

So when I got home, I consulted Dr. Google. I checked out about a zillion diagrams of lower leg anatomy (and can’t every English major make an accurate medical diagnosis from Google Images??) I’m beginning to think that my problem is not with my calf–the gastrocnemius muscle–but with either the upper part of the Achilles tendon or the lower soleus muscle where it meets the Achilles.

Most people, it appears, who have Achilles pain feel it more in the heel (here’s where the English major makes a Greek mythology reference about Achilles’ vulnerable heel), and that doesn’t bother me at all. But even if it’s not the Achilles itself, it’s definitely painful at the point where the muscles and the tendon meet.

And of course there’s not much I can do for it. Ice, tape, ibuprofen, rest.  Oh, and see my sports doctor for a real assessment. That’s on the schedule for tomorrow.

What happens on the long run…

… gets mentioned here. Because after this morning’s cruddy run, I need to remind myself of the interesting variety of things I encountered while I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. Such as:

  • a woman on old-school roller skates
  • a guy wearing a kilt
  • a woman pushing a dog in a stroller
  • three sets of photographers taking some kind of outdoor portraits, one of whom had a small child plunked down in the middle of the running/walking/cycling path
  • people fishing in the creek
  • a calico cat
  • a doe, a deer, a female deer
  • a woman who insisted on walking on the wrong side of the path, not moving more than six inches when I encountered her from the opposite direction
  • three birthday parties
  • a guy with a kayak
  • a woman who, while running across the dam, tripped, then caught herself and laughed it off beautifully
  • a guy listening to music without headphones
  • a woman walking along a gravel side path while wearing high-heeled sandals and dress clothes
  • a guy riding a bike, pulling kids in a bike trailer, while talking on his cell phone
  • the parking lot at the YMCA, where huge SUVs had driven over the curb to park on the grass near the doors (you know, of the GYM) rather than parking in the dozens of open spaces toward the back of the lot.

What kinds of odd or unusual things do you see while you’re out running?

Today I ran the slowest eleven miles in the history of ever

So yeah. I set out to do double-digits today, as my last long-long run before the half. I wanted at least 12, 14 if things were going well. But my calf has been bothering me for a couple of weeks, on and off, and it was about a million percent humidity this morning (actually, the roads were still wet as I drove to the start of the trail–kind of a harbinger of doom, there) so the odds were stacked against me from the beginning.

Let’s look at today’s run in reverse, shall we?

IMG_5292

Spoiler alert: this is how I feel about today.

Unfortunately, while I can delete it from my Garmin, I can’t walk away from the actual run that easily. Probably because my legs hurt. Which I tried to address with this:

IMG_5291

I can only keep my leg in there for like 30 seconds. It made me feel awful for those people on the Titanic, since that day was clearly much worse than mine.

After about mile three, my water bottle was no longer cutting it. I’d chosen this trail because it has water fountains strategically placed every two miles or so, but even then, I was not staying well-hydrated. I’m sure that’s why I felt sluggish for most of this run–the humidity sucked all the energy right out of me.

A couple of times I passed groups having football or lacrosse practice, plus about four birthday parties, and I could see coolers and brightly-colored liquids in water bottles. If I hadn’t been a bit on the dehydrated side, I would have drooled over the sight of their sports drinks, and a couple of times I was tempted to beg them to share. I hate drinking warm water fountain water, and the thought of something ice-cold, possibly neon blue, was ridiculously appealing to me at mile six.

So when I got back to my car, I ducked into the YMCA and came out with this:

I don't usually like sports drinks, but this was liquid awesome after 11 humid miles.

I don’t usually like sports drinks, but this was liquid awesome after 11 humid miles.

About halfway through my run, I stopped at a park pavilion thing, filled up my water bottle with more lukewarm water, and stretched my calf muscle. I checked my phone and came up with this gem:

Several of these applied to me. But not quitting, because my car was five miles away.

Several of these applied to me. But not quitting, because my car was 5.5 miles away.

I didn’t have one of those runs where disaster lurks around every corner. No one crashed into me on a bike. I didn’t step in dog poop, or that big pile that appeared to have come from a large bovine. My shoelaces stayed tied. My phone battery, bluetooth headphone battery, and podcast supply remained healthy. I saw a deer, placidly nibbling grass under the highway overpass. I didn’t crawl, fall, or puke, and there was no blood or tears. But for probably seven of my eleven miles, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck, then perhaps hit again. I was sluggish and my muscles hurt. I walked a lot.

You mean it's just a stereotype that people ride horses everywhere in Texas??

You mean it’s just a stereotype that people ride horses everywhere in Texas??

But if I’d been allowed to ride a horse, the whole thing would have been different, dammit.

Speedwork

Okay, I lied. It wasn’t the kind of workout most people think of as speedwork or interval training or whatever. Instead, I ran my three-mile neighborhood loop at the fastest pace I could maintain without walking.

Now, let’s be honest. My 5K pace is slow by many runners’ standards. But it represents a huge improvement for me over the last two years. I can run faster than that for short distances, intervals, on the track, that kind of thing. Over three miles, though, the degree of difficulty increases. But tonight my friend K ran a kick-ass three miles, so I was inspired to follow her footsteps.

I thought my sore calf might present a problem, and two steps out of the driveway I knew I’d been right. But it was more of a dull ache than a sharp pain, so I figured I’d just deal with it.

This route has three (relatively minor) hilly sections, the longest being about a quarter-mile right at the start of mile two. Sometimes when I run this way, I allow myself to walk a bit. Not today. I powered through the whole thing. Not only did I not walk the inclines, I stuck to my race pace the whole way. I even had to run some of the third mile in the grass (my neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks) dodging traffic on the street, and I still managed to run the first and third miles at almost the same pace. Not quite a negative split, but the pace graph on my Garmin data rises steadily over the last seven minutes of my run. It’s an effort I’m pretty pleased with.

Today it was speed over distance, but this weekend I’m going long. It’s my best chance to get in 12-14 miles before the half, and I really need that to feel confident going into May. That, and an ice pack on my calf. 😉

And when I put “need,” “speed,” and “ice” in the same paragraph, it reminds me of Top Gun.

An update of sorts

On both Thursday and Saturday of last week, I cut my runs short, mostly because of lingering pain in my left calf muscle. I chalked the whole thing up to a recovery week post 10-miler and moved on. So what’s the story, morning glory?

Well, Sunday I taped up my calf with hot pink KT Tape and went out to the Brushy Creek trail. I ran a slow five miles, from the YMCA to the sports park and back. I went out about 9:30 in the morning, an overcast and humid start to the day. Lots of runners, walkers, and cyclists populated the trail, some acknowledging each other, some zoned out. I never know whether someone is going to wave or not, but I suppose waving vs not waving is a debate for a different day.

I felt okay, glad I’d made the effort but still feeling some soreness. So I decided I’d take a break from the Newtons and go back to my trusty Mizunos for a while, to see if maybe I could ease some of the tension radiating from my ankle to my knee. I have a half-marathon in less than a month, so I want to solve this quickly and focus on these last few weeks of preparation.

Tonight I ran the trails at the lacrosse complex. Because my attempt at intervals crashed and burned last week, I thought I’d take another crack at it today. Of course, between the time I got home from work and the time we got to the fields, the temperature had dropped ten degrees and it was actually chilly. Which is weird for April in central Texas. But I fired up my iPod and headed down the eastbound path, figuring I should enjoy it because it will be hotter than hell before we know it.

Not quite a mile into my run, my electric blue KT Tape came unstuck and flapped in the wind. Argh. At the end of the trail, I ripped it off, then started my watch for 25 one-minute intervals. Looking at my Garmin data now, I did a decent job–my running segments were reasonably fast (by my standards) and stayed pretty consistent throughout all 25 repeats. After my Garmin’s last beep, I took it easy for another 3/4 mile or so. Then at the very end, when I was tired, I made myself sprint from the bridge to the parking lot. So I ended up with more than five miles, at least half of those at a faster-than-usual pace. And I finished strong with a sprint. I’m good with that.

Thursday I will do my neighborhood three-mile loop. And then Saturday, the big guns: I’m shooting for at least 12. Lets hope the Mizunos and the tape do the trick.

Let’s call this a recovery week

Well, this week didn’t go quite the way I intended. Tuesday’s run was cut short by calf pain, and thunderstorms canceled Thursday’s run. I tentatively planned ten-ish for this morning, but then Friday I developed some kind of respiratory thing, complete with the kind of cough that makes me think I might dislodge a lung. Friday night I was so tired from another exhausting week that I crashed early and slept late this morning.

My son had a makeup lacrosse practice this morning (due to Thursday’s storm) so I figured I’d run a few miles as my own makeup day. My calf felt okay (maybe the KT tape is helping?) so I figured maybe I could get five or six miles in. Except that I couldn’t catch my breath.

I managed a whopping 2.6 miles–one lap out and back on each of the eastern and western paths, just like Tuesday’s abbreviated attempt. That’s it. I gave up and sat on the grass, coughing and stretching. Ugh.

I decided to call it a recovery week and move on. Next workweek I don’t have to juggle as much, and B doesn’t have a lacrosse game so my weekend should be less rushed too. I’ll go out to Brushy Creek Park and shoot for 10-12 miles. No excuses.