Somewhere during those final miles at Javelina I made a sacrafice without realizing it. Apparently, my left calf was the offering that the running gods demanded in exchange for meeting my time goal. It has now been a full three weeks and I still cannot run on it. That isn't to say that I've not made the attempt. Then again, perhaps I'd be closer to fully healed had I done otherwise.
After a little research, I am pretty sure it isn't a stress fracture since the pain is on the side and back of the calf. If it were a fracture, it would have to be the more rare fibular type rather than the much more common fracture of the tibia. I'm pretty sure it is just a calf strain. However, that "just" is a bit of misnomer as these strains can come in varying degrees of severity, as I learned. A "grade 2" strain can take 5-8 weeks. I don't think it could be a "grade 3" as that seems like it would entail a much more intense level of pain than anything I have been experiencing.
There wasn't any traumatic event during the race which caused this. However, I do believe that there may have been such a few days after. My calves were extremely tight after Javelina, especially the left. I had promised myself to take a full week of recovery before attempting to run. Stupid is as stupid does and about mid-week after the race my legs were starting to feel a bit better so I tried a little test. It seemed harmless at the time. I was just going to run a little bit down the hallway at work. A few steps into it and that characteristic "pop" was exactly what I felt in the back of my leg. This was followed immediately by two other sensations. First, a much more intense pain in the calf similar to a severe muscle cramp. Second, the immediate, sinking feeling of what an idiot I was. From that point on any "toeing off" action allowed me to revisit these two direct results of my inability to follow even my own rest plan.
It responded fairly well to ice and even better to message. By week three after the race, I started on the stationary bike which felt pretty good. I did a little walking on the treadmill and even some very easy jogging. It was definitely feeling better and I could even hustle up stairs without felling like I was going to send it into spasms of pain. I had planned to wait until the following weekend to test it on a real run. That runner's amnesia I've mentioned before may be useful for getting through the pain of an ultramarathon, not so much for recovering from an injury.
Thursday night I was feeling so good I went out for an easy 3-miler. Everything felt tight during the first mile or so, but it loosened up after that. The calf still felt "tentative" at best. After two and a half miles, I had concluded that it was only "OK" and that I would give it a couple of more days of full rest before trying another run. Then, about 1/4 mile from home, it completely seized up again. I believe my evaluation of "Steve, you fucking idiot" was actually audible this time. The only upside was that, afterwords, I did discover a few spots to massage on the side of my calf that, while very painful, definitely loosen things up.
More ice, more rest, more massage. This past weekend was spent back on the stationary bike. I did an hour and 45 minutes on Sunday night. I never thought that the treadmill ever look so inviting. As a reminder to myself, I am copying the rules for "when you can return to normal activity" from the sports medicine section of about.com below.
- You are pain-free.
- You have no swelling.
- You have full range of motion (compared to the uninjured side).
- You have full or close to full (90 percent) strength (again, compare with the uninjured side)
- You can jog straight ahead without pain or limping.
- You can sprint straight ahead without pain or limping.
- You can jump on both legs without pain and you can jump on the injured leg without pain.