|Cramp at around mile 12.5 during 2012 |
Dallas Rock N Roll Marathon (It's OK to laugh)
|Charlie Horse knot caught in the act on my thigh|
Other times in my childhood remember the onset of these being caused by excessive swimming. I cramped up pretty easily in the pool. Once I became an adult I slowly became inactive over time, so there weren’t really any physical activities I would involve myself in which would cause any cramping until I started running years later. However, whenever I would write or type for a long period of time, my hand would cramp up, and I do remember once when I was moving and had to transport a refrigerator, washer, dryer, deep freezer, two couches and a bunch of items unassisted within a four hour period produced back spasms and hand cramps by the end of the day.
So here is my hypothesis. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, lack of stretching, etc does not cause cramping. But they can cause excessive fatigue, which does cause cramping. One of my running sisters, Jacqui introduced me to Endurolytes which replenish your salts quite nicely, as I sweat excessively and they have helped me some. But they will only work for so long for me. After my muscles become so fatigued, they cramp. High humidity causes you to work harder, which causes fatigue. After my muscles become overly fatigued, they cramp. Lack of hydration or lack of salts cause you to fatigue. Excessive hills cause fatigue. When I fatigue, I cramp. Most of you know about my “Claying out” incidents. In those situations, my electrolytes were so imbalanced that every muscle in my body was beyond fatigued, so they cramped in dramatic fashion from my neck down to my toes and sent me to the E.R.
How do you fix it? Just don’t get tired. Sounds a lot easier said than done right? Well this is the solution. I have already proven it to myself, most recently when I raced El Scorcho 50K and Cowtown 50K in 2014. Both races, I trained running a ridiculous amount of miles per week. I built up my endurance and it worked. Simply get stronger. I had muscle twitching toward the end of both races, a lot of twitching. Both races I was good for just about 31 miles, no more. Any more and I would have folded into one big Charlie Horse and looked like a pretzel. Also, do more runs which simulate what your race will be. This year I’m running the Route 66 Tulsa Marathon again, which has quite a bit of rolling hills. I caught a Charlie Horse 100 feet from the finish line when I ran it in 2013 and missed my marathon P.R. by exactly one minute. That it was between 20-25 degrees out the whole race may have played a factor as well. Speaking of this P.R. which is 4:13 something and is my first marathon and hasn’t fallen after running 10 of these, I remember doing a lot of fast tempo runs during training. At the time my vehicle was not running and I commuted from work to home 5 days per week 7.5 miles via fast training run for probably 3 weeks or so. I hit the infamous ‘wall’ around mile 23 during that marathon and ran/walked the rest of the way. I’m thinking I lacked some strength training. I may have had at least a 4:05 with a little more push. Last years Ragnar Relay 50K, I half trained for it not knowing how difficult the course would be. There were a lot of rocky ups and downs and for the last leg I ran it was about 85 degrees and during mid afternoon and about 12 miles. About 8 miles in I started catching cramps everywhere from the waist down. I was well hydrated and well 'electrolit'. Didn't matter. The fatigue from running all night long the night before got me. I fought through the cramps for about 2 miles but they ended up winning.
But here's what running more miles and gaining extra endurance does for me. When I first started running, in my first three half marathons I always caught a Charlie Horse in my calf at around mile 12 or 12.5. When I started training for a full marathon and running more miles, and I participated in a half marathon, these leg cramps did not occur, however I would get them during full marathons between miles 17-22. When I trained for my first 50k at Cowtown, I ran the first 28 miles without even a hint of a cramp. I finished the last 3 with lots of twitching, but my muscles never fully Charlie Horsed up. This shows that the more weekly miles I have during training, the more endurance and for me, the later the cramps will occur.
So this training season, there have been more tempo runs, more strides, more runs at marathon pace. More miles, more strength training, more hills, more time on feet. More, more, more. Just get the body used to being battered, get stronger, and gain endurance. I know now that my issue is unique and hereditary. Where most folks can follow the training plan to a “T” and get results, my body requires just a bit extra. But that’s O.K. I’m no stranger to hard work.