Sunday, June 01, 2008

Cramping...how do I fix it?

I registered for the Queen City Half Marathon! Since I have barely started running again, I am not ready to commit to a time goal yet. I do know one thing though: If I want to continue to improve my race times, I need to figure out how to avoid cramping.

Leg cramps did not become an issue for me until last year. When I ran the 2007 Forest City Half, I started to get calf cramps at about 19km. They annoyed me, but I don't think that they were bad enough to affect my overall time. During the 2007 Toronto Waterfront Half, I was pushing hard for a 2-hr finish and started to cramp badly at 18k...again, in the calves. This time it was bad enough to stop me from running. I walk-jogged the last 3km and hobbled across the finish line 10 minutes later than my goal. This year, I also had cramping issues when I ran the Vancouver Marathon. The cramping started at around 25k, and destroyed any hopes of meeting my goal time.

My Running Mania friends have suggested that my cramping issues may be caused by low electrolytes. I think that they are right. But how can I fix that problem? I have trouble taking in fuel when I run. In warm weather, I might go through about 500 mL of water during a 90-min training run. I can race with water and gel or water and Sport Beans/Clif Bloks, but I run into stomach issues when I try to take in Gatorade. Even the Sport Beans and Clif Bloks start to bother my stomach when I am 3+ hours into the race. Some people have suggested E-load, and I have tried using it on training runs. However, my training runs are not intense enough for me to tell if it is really beneficial. My tempo runs are only 6-7km at most, and I don't seem to hit cramping issues until 18 km or later into a race. I'm not about to try an 18km tempo run just to see if I cramp! I also dislike carrying water bottles during races, so that takes away the option of mixing my own drinks. I could use the capsules, but how do I know how much to take if I don't reach race intensity in my training?

I guess that my next race will be an experiment of sorts. It's too bad that I can't control the temperature and humidity on race day! Don't we all wish that we had that power? ;)

6 comments:

Marci said...

The e-load should help. Do you eat bannas as well. Sometimes potassium can help with leg cramps. Its good you are experimenting now!

laura said...

Ah, the science of running! This is why you do it right? :)

Lily on the Road said...

Lots of bananas, Sharkies instead of Cliffs might help. I use Carb-booms and Powerade. Gatoraid makes me sick as well.

Marci is right, experiment while training not during the race! Good Luck and let us know how it is going.

Cliff said...

Anners,

http://www.nuun.com/ <- this is another product that I am considering.

A lot of ppl suggest the lack of electrolytes result in cramping. I also suggest racing too hard will have the same effact.

My own experience:

i) Dualthon in niagara two years ago. My calves cramp when i was riding on my bike. Why? I was running 3:30 min/km in the first 4 km of the race. I never ran that far. My body not ready for it.

ii) Around the Bay, by the end of the race, as I was stretching, the quads want to cramp. I haven't train enough for the hills as the last few km, my HR was low but I couldn't get my legs to move foward.

just more things to make u think about :)

Marlene said...

I'm a fan of eload but I know I won't be able to carry enough bottles for a marathon (or even 30+K training runs) so I'm going to try the capsules.

always experimenting...

Giovanni said...

I'm also in need of help with cramping...ran the AFC 1/2 yesterday in San Diego and began cramping at the 9th mile..both my calfs began going off and cramping horribly. I finished but hobbling and in terrible pain. I think I hydrated myself well enough. Not sure what else to do.