Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Were on a Break

Maybe it was that hurried, lunchtime run at Falls Lake, the one that lasted over an hour-fifteen and probably required more effort than was wise to expend on the day following a track workout. Or, did I over do it in a certain pair of shoes two days ago when I ran three miles more than planned? Or, was it just a combination of things?

I'd run less than a mile of my typical, weekday-morning short route, and I was already in the bargaining stage of coping with the realization that I had an injury. Stages one and two (depression and anger) came three minutes earlier and all at once when I summited the hill just east of my street.

A nagging stiffness quickly became a persistent, burning "discomfort" in my upper, left calf within that first tenth of a mile. And, the emphatic "Shit!" that I uttered with a crispness to match the March morning air pretty much summed up what I thought about that.

I reasoned that I should continue with the four-mile run, anyway, just to be sure that what I felt was as much of an injury worth respecting as I thought it was. It was.

It was the gastrocnemius. No, it was the soleus. It was a strain. Or, was it torn? Maybe it was that tendon behind those muscles that didn't have a name in the diagrams. It was whatever I read most about the affected area on Google that day.

But, it didn't matter what it was. It hurt when I ran (even after five days of rest). And, I'd known it was coming for at least a week. And, I just ignored it. And, now, running and I; we had to take a break.

I wallowed in the uncertainty each morning when, under normal circumstances, I'd have been running. The blue morning light was crushing. And, the running shoes strewn about the floor on my side of the bed looked out of place and sad.

My poor wife. If I am ever at my least pleasant, it is when I am sick or unable to run. She tolerated my grumpiness and short responses to her well-meaning questions with the saintly patience for which I know her.

"You didn't run this morning?" She'd ask. "Something's wrong with my calf." I'd mutter. "What can you do about that?" She pressed sympathetically. "Rest, I guess."

I wouldn't have continued the conversation either.

Don't think I didn't try to run, though. I'd spend an awkward morning testing the waters with running every three or four days. But, that sore calf muscle/tendon thing was always there, too. Eventually, running and I just had to face the fact that there was nothing for us at the moment.

Nearly two weeks of moping, stretching, and bitching about not running on Facebook finally drove me to desperation. "I'm going to ride my bike today," I said to my wife. "Good!" She exclaimed. The relief in her voice was palpable.

Personally, I've considered biking something that runners only do when they can't run. So, you wouldn't be surprised to know that I had little in the way of sensible biking apparel. I simply put on my longest running shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of Skoras (I'd once seen a picture of a dude wearing a pair of Skoras on a bike. So, I figured it made sense).

My blue hybrid Haro was behind some stuff in the garage. And, my helmet's padding was crumbling away a bit. But, a little oil on the chain and some air in the tires had me feeling confident. So, I rode down the street.

It was April now, and somewhat muggy. And, it felt good to sweat again. I enjoyed pushing hard on the hills, feeling my upper leg muscles do what they'd been wanting to do for so long.

The Crabtree Creek greenway was busy that Saturday. I nodded enviously at passing runners. I wanted to shout that I was one of them. This bike, this helmet, this isn't me! Of course, the other cyclists whizzed by me, perhaps wondering why I was riding in an inefficient gear. Whatever.

Twelve miles passed, and I found myself at home again. I felt good, exercised, temporarily high on endorphins. But, the appeal of cycling's mechanical aspects remained elusive to me. It just didn't mean anything. So, I didn't ride again.

I resolved to rest a few more days. Maybe the calf would be better in a couple more days.

Two-and-a-half-test miles on the trail: nope!

I was frustrated enough to seek a professional someone about this calf affliction. But, given my fear of being told explicitly that I had to rest for some ridiculous amount of time by a conservative-minded doctor, I wanted to explore other options besides the obvious.

I'd read several enthusiastic recommendations for the graston technique. You've heard about it, right? It's a relatively new treatment designed for any soft tissue injury. There is tons of stuff about it on the internet (of course), and based on other people's experiences, it seemed like a viable option for me.

So, after much hemming and hawing, I finally made an appointment with a nearby certified graston provider. And, long story short, the graston worked! The technique is not what I thought it was before going into my first appointment. But, suffice it to say that I am an advocate!

After so many weeks of not really running, just being told that it was okay to run three miles made me as hopeful as you get when finding a new trail. I had to start low and slow, of course; because I was basically returning from an injury. But, running and I; we were together again!

It all seems so long ago, that mid-spring running break. I don't like to think about the things I did or the thoughts I had while running wasn't actively involved in my life at that time. We were on a break. The bike, as I said already; it meant nothing. But, I'm a more mature now. And, of course, a runner doesn't really appreciate running until he can't do it for an extended period of time.

Really, I just wish I'd tried a graston appointment sooner than I did.

Oh, "What's graston feel like?" you ask. Well, I'll have to find the words for that and put them in another post. Stay tuned...

And, thanks for reading!


  1. I came across your blog while looking for info about the MST and hunters. I did my first trail run at Falls Lake recently. Think it was Cedar Creek Trail from Bayleaf Road to Possum Track, I believe. Heard a lot of gunshots while running and driving home, passed two guys hunting along Possum Track Road right where the trail ended. Seems like you run at Falls Lake frequently - have you had any encounters with hunters?

    1. Hi Joe. I run that section of the Falls Lake MST fairly often. I never knew it was called the Cedar Creek Trail, though.
      I've definitely heard shots out there during this time of year. They make me nervous, for sure. I've never seen any hunters. I'm wary of them, though. I make sure that I wear a bright shirt. And, I try to stick to the trails that seem like bad ones for hunting (houses in close proximity, near a playground, etc). But, I guess the guys you saw the other day on Possum Track thought it was okay to hunt on that trail in spite of the houses near it. I might look for a map showing exactly where hunting is permitted at Falls Lake. It would probably be good for us to know that.

      So, other than the hunter encounter, did you like your first run at the Falls Lake?

    2. Thanks! Good to hear I'm not alone. I loved the trail and want to run there and other places at Falls Lake more often rather than heading out to Umstead all the time. I'm doing the Little River Trail Run this month and need to get a little single track work in. Also planning to do my first 50k - The North Face Challenge in Virginia this summer - I used to hike a lot of the course and have friends up that way so I'm sure it will be a fun race.



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