Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cramping my style

So I got an attack of cramp yesterday on the Tuesday evening training run with the guys.  Nothing too untoward since I'd had a pretty heavy day for me.  Being my day off I'd headed out on the bike in the morning and ended up with just over 100 kms.  There was no compelling reason to turn around so I just kept on trucking out. The ride was enlivened by some old dear pulling out in front of me at 60 kph down Fall River Road (always a nice way to kick-start your adrenal glands) and seeing Coca Cola labelled as a healthy choice at the Big Stop in Enfield.  

Well I suppose this is Nova Scotia where chicken and bacon are commonly regarded as vegetables. 

Got back, ate and drank pretty much anything I could get my hands on and then headed to meet the guys.  I ended up doing about 10 miles. easy 4:30 pace given the heat and the 100 kms already in my legs, and got cramp about 500m from the end.

Not just a twinge, one of those show-stoppers. The cry in agony, drop-and-roll kind. I haven't had one of those for a while. 

In fact, not since what was perhaps my most spectacular cramp at World Duathlon last year, a story I never shared with my three faithful readers. So here goes.

IT was an Olympic distance duathlon, 10 km run, 40 km bike and a 5 km run.  I was guessing at 2:10 for my time, say a 45 minute R1, perhaps 85 minute bike, a sub-20 5 km to finish, chuck in a good 5 minutes of TZ.  Yeah, I know, 85' for a 40km TT is pretty poor but I'm nowhere near the cyclist I used to be, and I wasn't that good to start with.  Back in the day we used to time-trial at "evens" or 20 mph.  This, I could do, or even better (but barely), from 10 to 100 miles. My PB for a 25 mile TT was a long 64' I think, and this was over 20 years ago.  So there was no way I was going to go 65' at Worlds.  I figured evens and any better than that would be a bonus.  Under-promise and over-deliver I always say!

So the game-plan was to treat it like a marathon.  After all, how many Bostons have been ruined in the first 20 minutes, streaking through the first 5K and blowing your three hour race within sight of the start-line?  So, I thought I'd bide my time in R1, take it easy, run a 4 minute-per-k max to conserve my legs for the rest of it.  After all, the bike course had two ascents of the Alto d'Infanzon; a 5 km drag which although nothing in real terms is quite a lot to Nova Scotians without daily access to the Cabot Trail to train over.

Plan A got tossed out of the window while we were still in the stadium.  The heartbeat music played, we got all keyed up and blam, Eugene released us and double blam, I was at the back.  I was trying to play it easy and they dropped me like third period French.  I mean, I was at the damn back.  Not a sight I"m used to. So I sucked it up and held Canada's end up and ran 3:47s for a 37 minute 10K instead.  Admittedly a 37:59 but still a 37.  I think my PB is 35 or 36.  So it was pretty damn fast.  I'm pretty sure when I ran that 36 I didn't have to bike and run again either.

The bike was fun. Up. Down. Flat. Repeat.  Something for everyone.  The second time up the Infanzon I got those twinges of cramp but what the hey?  What could possibly go wrong?

Yeah, I should probably pay for those photos.  I like the bike one.

Coming into T2 my legs were not happy.  I considered a flying dismount but I wasn't sure I could go through all the motions without an ill-timed cramp disturbing my equilibrium and putting me in the barriers.  

So I stopped and got off age-grouper style. That's when the cramp started to hit.  I didn't so much run to my rack-spot as hobble slowly.  Remember that advert for, I think cycling shoes from the 80s "ride like the wind, don't walk like a duck"?  I was that guy.  I wasn't pretty.

So I had the slowest T2 ever and headed out on R2. Wobbly T2 legs and cramps, I figured they'd work themselves out.

Except they didn't.

Five hundred metres in both quads and both hamstrings locked. Left and right. Completely.

I went down like a pole-axed bull.

Excruciating pain. Really.

One part of me looked down at my legs and thought "wow, cool, I'm really ripped". Science-geek. What can I say? The other part of me thought "fuck, I'm not going to finish this".

Now here's the thing. You know how over here in Canada it seems like every old-boy used to coach Timbits hockey or something?  I guess in cycling-mad countries like Spain, every old boy used to run a juniors cycling team. So here I am.  If grabbing the throat with both hands is the universal sign of chocking, lying on the ground clutching your leg with both hands is the universal sign of cramping.  Most people were looking at me like I was the bull at the Tercio de muerte. One old boy walked over, grabbed my legs and started to manipulate them; up and down, a rough massage. After a couple of minutes he pulled me upright and sent me on my way.

My goodness, it worked.  The next 4500m went by without even a twinge.  The official time has me at a 23:16 5K. My Garmin was about 4 minutes off my clock-time.  Most of that time was spent prone on the ground while Manuel, the erstwhile soigneur from Atletico Cyclismo de Gijon , got me back running.  So I guess that was an 18 or 19 minute 5K.  Not bad when you consider where I'd started from!

So that is my awesome cramp story.  Much better than the time I cramped up in the 1990 Crest CC 100 Mile Reliability Ride and fell off in a ditch!


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