Sunday, November 01, 2015

Also ran - SPBM 2015

Quoted below from a series of posts on sportscients on the great puzzle of muscle cramps.

According to a paper published in 1997 in the Journal of Sports Sciences, in which Professor Martin Schwellnus and some colleagues looked at the electrolyte-dehydration issue and that a cramp was the result of dysfunctional reflex control of the motor nerve as a result of fatigue and that there is insufficient evidence to attribute it to the often quoted electrolyte-dehydration theory.
  • Muscle contraction is initiated by a nerve, called the alpha motor neurone. The alpha motor neurone receives inputs from the higher brain areas (when you make conscious movements) as well as from the spinal reflexes
  • These reflexes are responsible for protecting the muscle against either excessive stretching or loading – they are the muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs, respectively
  • There is evidence that fatigue causes increased firing from the muscle spindles, and decreased activity from the Golgi tendon organs
  • The net result of this change in the activity of these reflexes is that the alpha motor neuron activity is increased, and the muscle thus contracts involuntarily
If you didn't understand much of the above, welcome to my world of deciphering C-R-A-M-P-S

Let's cut the chase - I finished my 21st marathon on a glorious Sunday morning on 18th Oct, clocking my worst time in 3 years. I limped to a finish time of 3:42:05

I started well, with perhaps the best pacer for company, my running guru, D. Younger legs Shuvi was also showing promise to keep to the 4:30 pace.

D and I kept to our target pace as we snaked through cubbon park, onto cubbon road, ulsoor lake. I stepped the pace up on the slightly downhill sloping Indranagar 100ft road section. This was probably part of what brought the fatigue on early.
Then again and I scouted for gatorade at the Forum signal U turn, the gap between D & me widened and stepped up pace once more to catch up.

A little over a km later, I could feel a knot develop in my left calf. The Golgis were at it. And yes, my Golgi tendon organs had a sub-par day, sending my alpha motor neuron into an overdrive leading to involuntary contractions of my calves at around the 30km.

I stopped for a leak before the 30km mark. Did it expedite it - was that hypertonic? Do we need to resurrect the electrolyte-dehydration theory now?

Whatever it was, I refused to give into a feeling of depression. So, while I stopped to tend to my cramping muscles, I tried to poke some fun here and there. 

After having done 30k in 2:15 mins, I managed a lowly 9.5k in the next 1hr. The last 2.2k took me a staggering 22mins. (Read a similar story from my archive of SCMM 2011)
Even my fingers joined the party and started to cramp while I was trying to squeeze some gel out of the pack at around 38km!

Even as I entered the Kanteerava stadium gates, a small ramp down into the track would have seen me through. But, guess what, I cramped. Both legs this time. I had to be helped on the ground by a reluctant security guard and a spectator (who was a doctor thankfully). With the doctor tending me, I took about 3-4mins to get me all set to hobble the last 200mts to the finish line.
D finished in a 3:15. Shuvi had a bad day too and came in a few mins after I did...

Some lessons / a more assessment of "what could have gone wrong"

  • Tapering - I did follow the runs schedule as per JDRF (Jack Daniels Running Formula) to the 'T'. But I did add a 10min weights session (leg extensions & curls) on Friday. But otherwise, I had a home-alone week and didn't do much else all of the week...
  • Electrolyte intake - the lack of it, actually. There was no electrolyte drink on the course. Although Gatorade was one of the sponsors, the water stops did a good job of hiding it from the non-elites. I normally also had bananas during my training runs, I didn't have that too on the course.
  • Fatigue - I guess the 2 surges of pace (sub 4min/km) must have contributed to something
  • Managing cramps - There is no silver bullet on it, but it looks like not sitting to massage, but just running through may have worked. I don't stretch to shake off cramps, may be worth trying, given the vast majority of athletes who recommend this
Rest assured, next season, I will be after my gogli tendons and alpha motors real bad - voluntary or involuntary...

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