Sometimes you eat the bear…

..and sometimes the bear eats you. As they say, it can’t always go your way and the last week has been a bit slow on the workout front. It started on Thanksgiving morning with the annual 5k Turkey Trot. Well, I ran the course. Alone. In the rain. I was determined though to use some of my new speed and set a solo record and keep tradition alive. It started off well enough, clocking my fastest opening mile on the course, and trying to settle in to a good rhythm. This was good news, and it gave me hope that the mile training was actually going to be good for something besides well, a mile time trial.

On the local course, mile 1 is the gift, and miles 2 and 3 are the payment. At about 1.5 you begin to ascend and are pretty steadily climbing until the last few hundred meters. In fact the last climb is up a road aptly named ‘Gallows Hill’. I have since renamed this Nemesis, but more on that later.

Knowing full well what was in store, I focused on staying relaxed and keeping my tangents as clean as possible. For those who are not familiar, I wrote an earlier post on running the tangents which essentially means to keep to the shortest points of a turn. Otherwise you run further than you need to, and on a windy and hilly course like this, every step counts.

As I turned on to the final climb, I was starting to pay the price for my opening mile. I have not been running too many hills lately, and that was also starting to show. Fast and flat is not always good for slow and uphill. The pain wasn’t unexpected though as this seems to be every 5k ever, so you slog on. Which I did, but with the apex of the hill in sight, my calf decided I was an idiot. Who does this? Alone, in the cold rain, on Thanksgiving? So it quit. It wasn’t so much a dull pain, but more of an immediate sharp knot. Obviously with the end so close I wasn’t going to stop, although I almost walked (almost). Instead, I limped through it and finished with my second fastest time on the course, and fastest in 3 years.

The rest of the morning and afternoon was spent cooking and laying down in the Normatec boots for recovery. I also wore compression socks for the day and used the roller on my leg. The damage was already done, but I think this helped the recovery a lot. With that said though, I elected to take Friday and Saturday off from intensity. Instead we went on a family hike and I did some lingering yardwork.

Sunday was another track workout and the leg felt to be at 90% so I dug in. After a number of intervals based on time and feel, I had a 5 minute tempo to finish things off. This was going pretty well, and I was comfortably running about 5:40 pace when all of a sudden the calf quit again. WTF. This was a quick return and I shut it down immediately. It was definitely disappointing, but I still managed all but 3 minutes of the workout, so the quality was there.

Since then I have spent the last 5 days skipping the runs and bikes and focusing on the recovery like rolling, Normatecs, and stretching. I did do some strength work making sure to avoid aggravating the calf during that. Things are almost back to normal, and I am going to test the waters today with an easier run with the dog. If that goes well, we will see what the weekend brings.

In an attempt to determine what caused the initial strain, I think it is from two things. First of course, the hilly course by default puts a lot of strain on the calves. When you are running up a hill aggressively, you are often on your toes. On your toes and short steps. This strains the calf. The other contributing factor I believe to be the Nike Vaporfly shoes. These have a very springy forefoot and I think tend to work the stabilizers and calf muscles a bit more than other shoes do. There is more movement from impact to push-off it seems. So between those two things and the idea that I was pushing hard, things broke down.

Is there any way to prevent it going forward? Yes, more road work. Soon I will be back to a normal Ironman schedule, and that will mean lots of long loops in the woods and on the road. Less high impact speed work, and a lower chance of injury from that. This has set me back a week, but sometimes the break and the rest is good, even if we don’t think we need it. First it rebuilds the desire to train hard. We always want what we can’t have. Second it let’s the body heal from being pushed to its limits. This sounds funny since it is born of injury, but in my experience, one injury means another is just around the corner. So taking care of yourself before complete breakdown occurs is important.

So that’s it. Hopefully everything is back operational for this weekend, and the sub 5 project can continue. If it takes longer so be it. Good. More time to work on stretching and strength, and be even more ready for the next round!

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