It’s taken me a week and two appointments with health care providers, to better understand what’s going on with my legs. It’s not that the appointments have accurately pinpointed my problem, but rather that they’ve helped me understand my body a little better, so that I believe I know what to do next. To be fair, I approached both of these appointments with the purpose of solely curing my cramping calves.
On Monday I saw a massage therapist. He was sure that my leg problems were being caused by simple dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, so he told me about a miracle powder that I should be adding to my water. He claimed that “Emergen-C” would always make cramps disappear within 12 seconds of being ingested! He recommended that I consume “Emergen-C” routinely throughout the day, and that I add it to all of the fluids I drink while exercising to ensure I never cramp up again! He then showed me some stretches that would revitalize cramped muscles and make them ready for more running should fatigue and cramps threaten my running in the future.
I didn’t agree with all that the message therapist told me about water and “Emergen-C,” but I saw the potential benefits of the stretches, and will spend more time utilizing them in the future. He told me to get right back out there and continue with my training, which I did the next morning. Even though I hadn’t really ran in a week, my legs didn’t feel very lively, and I cramped up early in the 5th mile, forcing me to stop.
On Thursday I visited a chiropractor who performs active release therapy (ART), a technique that loosens up repeatedly overused muscles, like those in my calves. I had heard good things about ART from other Red River Runners and thought it might be just what I needed. The chiropractor agreed that ART would be of benefit, but also wanted to examine me to see how else he could help me along.
He asked me to do some squats and lunges, and then determined that my right leg was out of alignment. He explained that my glutes (butt muscles) were severely out of shape, forcing me to compensate by overusing my calves. A minor readjustment of where my spine meets my pelvis would help, but more importantly, I needed some shoe inserts to make my butt work more when running, taking stress off my calves. He also told me that stretching after a workout was more important than before, and showed me how to use a foam roller to really stretch my muscles out.
When I agreed to all of his recommendations, he praised my wisdom in coming to him instead of my primary care physician. He explained that an MD would have told me not to run for a few weeks, and he assumed that I wanted to be ready for the Fargo Marathon. He then told me that the “Aline” shoe inserts, costing $100, were a wise investment because custom orthotics would easily run 3 times that price.
I had taken a great deal of the doctor’s time, so he hurried me out the door telling me to schedule another spinal readjustment in a week. I was to continue with my training right away, although he suggested that I do all my training outdoors because treadmills were essentially worthless, and tracks didn’t have hills. The $100 “Aline” inserts felt a little strange, but I put them into my Brooks Beast shoes anyway, and tried them out that night. My calves felt pretty good for four miles! I began to hope that the inserts would be the magic formula that would cure all my problems.
I went out for my scheduled speed work Friday evening (8.5 miles total mileage) with the plan that the “Aline” inserts would have me back on track! I started out fairly well, but got worse with each mile interval. I managed to complete the speed portion, albeit slower than anticipated, but couldn’t continue for the cool down 1.5 miles. I ended up walking and limping the final mile home and then was barely able to climb the three steps into my house. I couldn’t recall ever feeling worse after a run than I did that night. I iced my legs down, then showered and attempted some stretching with the foam roller.
Saturday morning, I couldn’t even walk when I got out of bed, but after stretching for 5 minutes, I was able to inch my way to the bathroom. I had planned on at least greeting the beginners at the start of their group run to encourage them on their way, but knew it wasn’t practical to leave the house when it took me 10 minutes just to make it down the stairs and into my kitchen. I knew something was still wrong with my body, and that neither health care provider had been able to accurately determine what it was.
I have recently completed 100 consecutive days of running. My legs felt healthy and strong throughout the entire span. My stride felt fluid and I usually felt like I was simply gliding along the path. I was smooth and graceful; a body and mind in harmony with each other. I absolutely loved running! What had happened?
On February 26th, I did my 5K time trial, and I ran faster than I had ever before. After I completed my 1.5 mile cool down, I decided to walk a bit and loosen up a little more. During that walk, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee, and a knot appeared behind the knee. It hurt to walk, but I assumed it was because my calves were so tight, the muscles were pulling hard on my tendons. I have experienced discomfort walking ever since that day, but running felt better, so I continued on with my training.
On March 18th, I believe I aggravated my knee injury by sprinting down several hills with reckless abandon during the final leg of my 16 mile progression run. I have not been able to run or walk without pain and stiffness since that day. My knee hurts when it is fully extended and when it is fully bent, which along with the bump behind the knee, makes me believe I have a Baker’s Cyst, something I believe my primary care physician will be able to treat. I attempted to see him last week, but his schedule was full, so I will make one on Monday for whenever I can get in.
I am not going to run again until I see my primary care physician. I am not going to change my running motion by using the “Aline” inserts. I am not going to go in for another spinal alignment. I am not going to drink “Emergen-C” at every opportunity, and probably won’t ever drink the stuff again. I explained my knee to both of these health care providers, and while I realize they may not be trained to make such diagnoses, they were certainly anxious to provide me with what they were selling in an attempt to treat the symptoms. I get especially angry thinking about the chiropractor watching me do a lunge while he had a laser sight lining up my leg. When I lunged forward with my left leg, I told him the pain in the knee was severe, but he just smiled and pointed to my right leg and told me to look at how out of line it was. That, he said, was what was causing all of the pain. He then pointed at my right butt cheek and said it was very weak, and that by strengthening it, my left calf wouldn’t be so tight.
I may not be ready in time for the Fargo Marathon, but I swear, I will be back, and I will run a marathon again! I will heal up and I will continue running as I’ve done in the past, weak butt and all! I will run consecutive days. I will run short distances. I will run long distances. I will run like the wind; fluid and unstoppable!
Well, what about the “Aline” inserts and the “Emergen-C” packet that I received this past week? I plan on pinning them to the back of my running shorts the next time I run a marathon so that my weak butt can pound them each and every step along the way to the finish line!