The Hangover Half and More Calf Cramps


I started the New Year out with a bang.  During the latter stages of our all-day drive from Kentucky, where I had spent Christmas vacation, I decided around 7:30 PM that I was going to run in the January 1 edition of the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club’s Winter Series Race.  I hadn’t really given the possibility of racing on New Year’s Day much thought earlier in the week, because I didn’t know how the driving would proceed and whether I would even be home to do it.  I had a choice of the “Hangover” Half Marathon or a 3.5 miler. I decided to do the half, start out slowly, and treat it as a tempo run. This would also be a good opportunity to test out whether mustard might be a good way to avoid leg cramps.  I hadn’t done any tapering for the race, and I had run 11 miles in the cold on Sunday. I also stayed up to watch the ball fall – luckily the race started at noon. I was able to get up late and have a leisurely morning.  I drank some water when I first got up, several cups of coffee, ate half of a chocolate chip muffin, a banana, and a piece of cinnamon raisin bread with some Nuttela.  I also, of course, had a spoon of yellow mustard.  It was 28 degrees Fahrenheit when I left the house. The hallway in the SUNY-Athletic building where we registered was packed – this is a popular way to start the New Year.  By the time I had signed up and gone to the bathroom, I didn’t have a lot of time for a warm-up. I wasn’t too worried, since I planned to start out around eight minute pace and warm-up for the first six miles. I almost, however, didn’t even get to the starting line, because my left calf cramped almost with the first step of my warm-up. Not a good sign. I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have enough time to take one of my mustard packets, but I put two in my pocket and managed to have a handful of gummy bears as I was heading off to the starting line.

It will eventually get warmer.

It will eventually get warmer. Spring 2010 in Upstate New York.

I was about six deep on the line and started out slowly. My legs were feeling good. It felt colder than 28 and I was glad that I was wearing my spiffy new CW-X compression tights that my wife had given me for Christmas.  I looked at my Garmin and realized that I was running too quickly. I got caught up in a pack of runners from the Kinderhook Running Club, looked down at my watch and realized that we were doing some racing at 6:20 minute-per-mile pace.  It was cold and windy – typical winter series weather on the SUNY-Albany campus. The course, itself, has some very gradual up and downhills and is fairly easy, aside from the wind, which, as the race proceeded, started to get a bit ridiculous. I took water at every opportunity. I went through 10K in 45:40 and was feeling good.  At 9 miles, however, my left calf started cramping. I consumed one of my mustard packets and watched some of the people I was running with leave me behind.  For the rest of the race, I tried to run in a very measured fashion and consumed an additional mustard packet at around 11 miles. During the last mile, I managed to catch up and pass some people who had gone by me earlier, but I had pretty much shifted to survival mode and was extremely glad to finish in 1:40:36. I was happy to crack the top 100 with an 83rd place finish. It was good to get in out of the cold.  Once I stopped, my legs didn’t feel all that bad and I wasn’t totally exhausted.  I had several pieces of pizza (I love the HMRRC) walked around for a bit and then headed home. It was a very motivational way to start the New Year.

Did the mustard work?  It sure didn’t offer the immediate relief for cramping that I was after.  It may, however, have delayed my cramping.  The last time I experienced leg cramping in a race was 4 miles into a 10K.  It is, of course, also possible that my compression tights helped. This is one of my problems, I often change several things, and so I am unsure what actually worked.  I haven’t yet given up on the mustard cure (If anything, it is fun to see people freak out when you suck down a packet on the run, or when you have a spoonful for breakfast.), but I suspect that my calf problems might necessitate some strengthening exercises – oh, snap!

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3 comments on “The Hangover Half and More Calf Cramps

  1. My son had a Charlie horse yesterday and we were talking about your mustard cure at lunch today. Then in came this blog. I don’t cramp up when I run, but I do, I’ll keep mustard on standby. Ever drink water with chia seeds?

  2. I have heard of chia seeds, but haven’t used them. I’ll look into it — thanks.

  3. Drew says:

    With all the wind, you probably got dehydrated which will cause the cramps. Will be interested in the results from your next event!

    Now about all that pizza and your running weight… : )

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