Status on cramp issuesJuly 18, 2011
I'm back at Playitas and in full training again after my unfortunate DNF at KMD Challenge Aarhus on July 3rd.
I had really looked forward to the race and to show that I'm still the best triathlete in Denmark, but the cramps I also experienced in Abu Dhabi on March 12 got me again in Aarhus.
Both times the cramps came out of the blue in T1 running from the changing tent and to the bike. In only a matter of 2-3 steps from I felt the first hint of cramping until the leg was completely stiff. They were different from a 'normal' cramps which you can usually shrug off pretty fast. These are very massive and they won’t let go. In Abu Dhabi it took almost 3 hours until the cramps were released. In Aarhus it only took an hour and a half with the help of my wife Anita and I think it only went quicker because I stopped and didn’t jump on the bike - that was one experience I learned from Abu Dhabi where I tried to go out on the bike.
The cramps had their offspring in the Vastus Lateralis muscle. They covered the entire front of the thigh and down over the knee and made the leg completely stiff. When a cramp like that comes across there is nothing to do - the race is over! This was the second time in a short period of time it happened and I had to have it checked thoroughly.
Check up in Copenhagen
I was supposed to go back to Playitas with Anita and the kids Monday morning after the race but I decided to drive to Copenhagen instead, where I spent Monday and Tuesday looking through possibilities and get several tests done. Among them our Danish sports doctor and physiologists and physiotherapists. First a blood test - all minerals and salts were normal. Later an ultrasound scan and then an MRI scan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_resonance_imaging
The only thing we could see from the scan was that an area of the Vastus Lateralis had a lot of small lesions but that most probably came from the cramps and did not cause them. I also got treatment from Linda Thorborg (a physio that has treated me in the past). She has an extremely developed sensation of unbalances in the human body and she found some minor unbalances, but nothing that would have caused cramps like those.
In addition to the above the Danish sports doctor talked to other experts (doctors and sports physiologists) and no one had heard of cases like this or knew what could have caused them.
What's been done differently this year?
We also looked into what other factors are new to this year compared to previous years. What was similar between Abu Dhabi and Aarhus and not the other three races I participated in back in April. We concluded that it probably just coincidental that it happened in these two particular races and not the others.
Something that has been new to this year and perhaps the most probable reason is that I started using an electro muscle stimulator in January. The stimulator sends signals directly to the muscle and causes contraction. Several people we talked to believed that this could shift the salt balance in the muscle cells and make it less resistant to cramping. Although there is a chance it has nothing to do with the cramps I will not be using it anymore. Also my runner's knee injury has affected the muscles in my right thigh so some muscles has been weaker and others have had to compensate, which in turn could affect cramping. There is some probability that cold water contributes to the situation but I have been in cold water at other races as well (particularly 70.3 California) where it didn't play a role.
I have decided not to use the muscle stimulator and I will work on getting the knee back to normal. I have been doing heavy leg press exercises the last few months which I will continue to do to stabilize my knee.
A lot of people offered their advice over Facebook and email - from just regular people to different therapists. I haven't yet come across anyone that knew what caused the cramping - and that is what I need to know. So again - anyone out there with a solution as to what CAUSES the cramps I'd be happy to hear from you.
I returned to Playitas on Wednesday July 6 and I'm now back on the long term training for Ironman Hawaii. I was able to train normally 4-5 days after KMD Challenge Aarhus and I haven't felt anything at all.
The past two weekends have seen a couple of really impressive performances by first Marino Vanhoenacker at Ironman Austria and then last Sunday from Andreas Raelert at Challenge Roth
The times of 7:45:59 for Marino and a week later 7:41:33 for Andreas have really raised the bar. They must be the big favorites for Hawaii and they will be hard to beat if they reach the same level in Kona.
All I have to try is to reach my highest level and then see where that will take me.