Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Some Thoughts About My Running…

I just realized that it was 2 years ago today that The Captain and I ran what I thought would be my first half marathon.  As it seems now, it is likely to be my only-ever official half marathon.  After the race was done, I suffered terrible cramping in my calves, thighs, and quads for about 9 hours.  I was dehydrated, and terribly salt-depleted. 

May 13th Oak Bay Half Marathon 004
Don’t let the smile fool you.  The misery was just beginning.

We had run an 11-mile training run 3 weeks before the race, and I remember that we felt we had peaked at that point.  It was hard but I was elated afterward and felt tired but good.  Then the next weekend we ran an 8-miler before our 2-week taper.  Running what seemed to be only those additional 2.1 miles on race day did me in.  Was it too soon after the 11-miler?  I think it was.

It took me 2 hours 56 minutes and some seconds to finish the 13.1 mile race. I walked most of the last 2 uphill kilometers as I recall.  The cramps started shortly after I removed my running shoes and socks and put on dry ones at the car.  Someone handed me a bottle of water before I got to the snack area and I started to seize up.  A doctor told me I was dehydrated and salt depleted.  I had to keep moving.  It was about an hour or so after the race ended before I could even  sit down in the car to drive home without completely cramping up.

After we arrived home, I couldn’t bear to lay down or even really sit down for more than about 15 minutes before I would start to cramp up again. I was so tired.  I drank water. I ate chips. I drank electrolytes mixed into my water. Nothing seemed to help but the passage of time.  I tried all of my usual recovery aids… compression calf sleeves, compression shorts, eating mustard, drinking pickle juice, drinking gallons of water… hot bath with epsom salts, ice packs, ibuprofen. Eventually, after about 7 hours of wandering, standing, with occasionally sitting,  I started to feel like I could lay down and sleep… which I did, fitfully, until the next morning.

May 14 half marathon celebration on Monday 005
Celebrating on Monday afternoon.

On Monday I felt great… the agony all but forgotten and I announced that I was ready to think about the next one… The Captain was about ready to have me committed!  I think it was almost worse for him watching me go through all that discomfort because he was not able to relieve any of it, than it was for me to to experience it... almost.

Since that time I have been seeking medical advice and although I don’t have all the answers yet, I have learned that my body is losing protein and likely other nutrients through my small intestine. I am waiting for an appointment to have a CT scan.  It’s complicated biology, but what it all comes down to is this… My muscles are not getting the nutrients they need for all of the hard work that running long distances requires of them.  No more half marathons for me at least until I find out what is going on and can fix it.
I am still running… shorter distances by far.  Most of the runs I do now are about 5 km and occasionally I run 6.65 km.  And even at 6.65 km I have been experiencing some cramping in my calves and feet afterward.  I make sure to stretch, and drink lots of water. I have been experimenting with electrolyte drinks.  And lately I have been taking  a supplement called Fermented L-Glutamine.  I sometimes take it after a run or after a particularly hard strength workout and it helps with the cramping and soreness.  But I have learned through trial and error if I take it BEFORE I run, it seems to prevent the cramping from even getting started. My legs feel fresher after a run.

Please understand that I am not recommending this for anyone else.  But here is a bit of information about it so you will see why I am taking it:

What does Glutamine do?
  • Maintains the health of your intestinal tract
  • Helps your body produce glutathione, a key antioxidant nutrient
  • Ensures proper acid-base balance in your body
  • Helps maintain your muscle mass
  • Vastly improves recovery times from injury, surgery and exercise
  • Increases resistance to colds - Glutamine is a primary immune system "booster".
  • Slows the aging process by increasing "youth hormone" - Youth and Immunity Booster Studies have shown 2 grams of L-Glutamine daily increased growth hormone levels by over 400%.
  • Athletes note increased power and endurance.
  • Participates in glycogen synthesis
  • Provides nitrogen compounds for the manufacture of nucleotides which are used to make DNA and RNA.
  • Helps maintain cell volume and hydration
  • Taking L-Glutamine after workouts or before bedtime, times when muscle tissue typically undergoes repair and recuperation can be particularly effective.
- See more at: http://www.vitamart.ca/north-coast-naturals-fermented-glutamine.html#sthash.VXiDDLfh.dpuf

There was a blog post recently on Run to the Finish wherein Amanda talks about boosting your marathon training with walking.  She says that not all of the time and distance during training needs to be running – that some of it can be walking – that the point is to put time in on your feet and legs.  

She quotes Jeff Galloway, a well-known marathon runner, trainer, and author…  "While walking takes longer, it will bestow the same endurance as running, while reducing injury risk."

I have been thinking about this since Sunday.

On Sunday after lunch we went for a walk/hike that I thought might take a couple of hours altogether.  There is an observatory a couple of miles from where we live, perched high on a rocky hill.  We have driven by it many many times and I decided on Sunday morning that we should walk up there to see what the view is like from the top. 

May 11 2014 Walk to Gonzales and Warbran Park 001
The observatory is the white building on the top of the hill.  We are still about 45 minutes away at this point.

I put some water and a couple of apples in a small pack and off we went. And I made sure to wear some good walking shoes and compression socks. And I also had a city map in the pack too, which I referred to several times. There are no straightforward routes to anywhere in this part of the city.  It took about an hour and 15 minutes to get to the top.  The last several hundred metres were pretty steep and the view from the top is spectacular.  The observatory itself is no longer open and the building houses some charity offices.  There is a bit of room to walk around at the top of the hill and then a short distance away, also along the top, there is a monument. It is a cairn, erected by the Canadian and Spanish governments in honor of the man who is thought to be the first European sailor to enter the Strait from the Pacific Ocean. 

The views from this point are even more stunning.  You can see 360 degrees and it is so beautiful because there is so much water and so many islands.  My pictures really don’t do it any justice.

May 11 2014 Walk to Gonzales and Warbran Park 010
East and a bit North to Oak Bay and San Juan Island, WA beyond.

May 11 2014 Walk to Gonzales and Warbran Park 008
Gonzales Bay just below us…

May 11 2014 Walk to Gonzales and Warbran Park 006
and further West to Clover Point and home and the Inner Harbour beyond.

We found a different way down the hill, on the opposite side and although it was a beautiful day and we thoroughly enjoyed the outing, the last couple of blocks home were fairly tiring.  All in all it took just over 3-1/4 hours with only a brief stop to eat our apples and have a drink of water.  My feet were darned glad to get my shoes off!  And then I peeled off the compression socks too 'cause they are so warm.  I drank a few more glasses of water, mixed some Fermented L-Glutamine into one of them, did some stretching and then finally sat down on the balcony patio with a big bowl of blueberries and Greek yogurt mixed with protein powder, and a cup of coffee.  Ahhhhh.

No heavy legs.  No leg cramping. No problems.  A good, restful sleep on Sunday evening. 

I had WALKED very briskly for 20 minutes more than it took me to RUN the half marathon.  More time on my feet and legs although without the pounding, I admit.  And certainly not breathing nearly as hard either.  But still…   I am thinking about longer runs again.

I am wondering if I could start running longer again if I don’t do them too close together and allow lots of recovery time,  and if I take the supplements – the Fermented L-Glutamine and the electrolytes, and if I  drink lots of water, and if I wear the compression socks… Maybe, just maybe there is another official half marathon in these legs after all.

I am going to slowly start increasing my long run distance – interspersing it with shorter ones, just as if I were training to see how it goes… But shhhh, don’t tell The Captain just yet.

Any thoughts? 


  1. I'll be sure not to tell the Captain ;)
    Wow, I had no idea that you went through that after your 1/2 Marathon. It's amazing what can happen to your body after being active for so long. It's great to hear you have something that is helping with your running - whatever works, do it!

  2. Thanks, Anna. I agree... whatever works!

  3. I think you need to do what works for yourself and your body! If your plan works - do it!!!! If you help someone else who is having the same difficulties, even better. I'm excited for you thinking about taking on another 1/2.

  4. Ah, our bodies are amazing, but they can be complicated too! If you are getting test results soon, maybe you should wait before you start trying more running again. But when you do, run/walk sounds like a good way to start. Good luck!

  5. I remember your horrible "recovery" - scary stuff. At least now you know your body reacts oddly, so you can prepare for it and work at a gentle pace. Walking and walk/running sounds like a sensible plan :)

  6. Interesting! I'm glad you are on a path to discovering what could be going on. I have often felt during marathons that my body isn't absorbing what I'm giving it. This is interesting food for thought! Good luck getting it sorted out

  7. Gosh 2 years already! I remember what you went through as if it were yesterday. I've been taking L-Glutamine after runs and again at bedtime for as long as I've been running long distances. I think it makes a huge difference with recovery. Huge. I hope you get the protein thing figured out and find a way to run exactly the distances you desire.

  8. Interesting info about walking:) I have to say that walking usually tires me more than running. Especially if I am shopping at the mall;) Ugh, I get so exhausted! My feet also hurt more when I walk vs. run. I hope you can figure things out:)

  9. Good luck with whatever you choose. I think you could maybe try to WALK another half marathon! Some have different categories with prizes and timing specifically for people walking. Then you'd get the race without risking injury. That is until you're ready to run that long again!

  10. Such an interesting post!! I am sure this is helping others!!!! OMG, see what the walk did - BEAUTIFUL VIEWS!!!!


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