The Calf that wouldn’t Heal

More than 10 months have passed since my right calf tear, and 5 months since my left calf tear. Yet they are still a problem.

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Cameron Brown had a similar injury around the same time I did my first tear. He too was racing Port of Tauranga Half Ironman and, like me, had to pull out because of it. I remember doubting that he would be able to defend his Ironman NZ title 3 months later. Well, he didn’t defend – he dominated! He’s since gone on to have a strong season and appears untroubled by his calf.

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I, on the other hand, am still being tormented by the calf demons. I’ve done physio, I’ve had ultrasound, I’ve been through the calf-raise regiment (single, double, bent leg, straight leg, toes in, toes out), I’ve changed my pre and post run stretch routines, aqua-jogging, acupuncture, self-massage (rolling pins, hockey balls, golf balls), ice, compression, complete breaks from running, frequent short runs only….and probably a few others I can’t recall. Yet still the problem persists.

The legs will get the stage of feeling good but then, after a few runs (or any kind of tempo run), the pain will start to return. In the last few weeks there’s been a new development – it’s now also hurting down into my achilles and the sole of my foot. I’m losing patience.

When I signed up for Ironman NZ, one of the reasons was to give the calves a chance to recover. I had wanted to improve my half marathon and 10km PBs, but decided to delay that for a year. I thought the low intensity/high volume run training of an Ironman would give my calves a chance to heal up and strengthen, and provide a great base for those run PBs. Right now I’m worried that I might not even be able to complete the Ironman run!

What to do?

Short term. Right now my (right) calf is bloody sore. I’m giving it multiple daily stretches and self-massage. Tomorrow I’ll get it needled which usually clears it right up. The acupuncturist is great at treating the symptoms but has done nothing to resolve the cause of the problems (it’s easy to be cynical – he does profit from my frequent patch-ups!). He’s uninterested in issuing stretches or exercises. But I don’t want to traipse down weekly to get these legs cleared up – I want the problem solved! I’ve gone from never having an injury, to being sidelined for almost a year with my first! Surely there is solution. Cam Brown gives me hope!

Long term. Given the range of solutions I’ve tried, I’m sure there’s no silver bullet. I’m tempted to trade my rolling pin in for a TPTherapy kit but it’s a few hundred more dollars and I’m wary. A quick search on the internet reveals a cacophony of proposed solutions to the problem. No consensus. No agreement. I’ve tried the “time heals all wounds” approach and lost faith in that. What I need is an expert to review my situation and to set in place a consistent strategy that will:

  1. allow me to train for the Ironman run (my program requires runs up to 2.5 hour long with a peak run week of 6 hours), and
  2. get me through the actual Ironman race itself (a 3.5+ hour run).

But where will I find this expert?

Word of mouth seems the best bet. I’ll talk to the local tri club coach again, and also the acupuncturist (who is an Ironman athlete himself). I’ve gotta get this thing on the road to recovery!

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