Avoiding Shinpocalpyse

The last two posts here were reviews of Peachtree Ridge Park and Rock Springs Park.  Both of which were quite an experience, both of which had some hills.  Peachtree Ridge had fewer hills but those hills were very steep.  I ran Peachtree Ridge on a Saturday and two days later (Monday) I ran Rock Springs which is very hilly throughout the trail.  Later in the afternoon following the Rock Springs fun I noticed some pain in the front of my lower legs.  Though it had been at least 15 years maybe more, I felt the pain of shin splints coming on.
What are shin splints?
According to Webmd.com
Shin splints aren’t really a single medical condition. Instead, they’re just a symptom of an underlying problem. They might be caused by:
  • Irritated and swollen muscles, often caused by overuse
  • Stress fractures, which are tiny, hairline breaks in the lower leg bones
  • Overpronation or ”flat feet” — when the impact of a step causes the arch of your foot to collapse, stretching the muscles and tendons
For my case the condition was a result of overuse and flat feet.  Though this bout was really just the onset, considering my age I didn’t want to take any chances by continuing to run and felt it best to also see my doctor.  The doctor did concur with my self diagnosis and suggested ice, rest and anti-inflammatory medication.  One of the trainers at the gym suggested an exercise to stretch the muscles surrounding the shin bone.  I opted for a combination, continuing my exercise regimen substituting a stationary bike for cardio and including more stretching every day.  I took the anti-inflammatories for a couple of days and skipped the ice (I loathe using ice and only do it when pain and swelling is significant).  There was no running whatsoever for eight days (it sucked but it as necessary). The running return took place at Camp Creek Greenway, which is a flat fast trail and that run as good.  However following the run I examined my shoes and knew that they they were toast and were no good for this flat-footed runner.

I haven’t been inside of an actual running store in forever, but this time wanted to get the fit right and get my running mechanics checked.  The associate at Fleet Feet Sports in Decatur measured my feet in a neutral shoe and had me run on a treadmill and outside.  His diagnosis, mild over-pronation that could be addressed with a stability shoe (which I had been wearing already, again though, they were toast) .  I was thanking God almighty for this recommendation because motion control shoes, which are usually recommended for flat-footed runners are the most uncomfortable shoes (in my opinion of course) on earth.

Having run in Nike, Saucony, Asics, Brooks, Adidas and for the last several years New Balance, I ended up with these:

I broke them in with 5 miles at Bethesda Park on Saturday and they were fantastic.  Also keeping in mind my form, I allowed the hill to carry me down instead of “putting on brakes”  I recall specifically at Peachtree Ridge “braking hard” and letting my feet pound on the pavement, which was especially jarring to my legs and my lower back.  I found a great post on active.com that addresses form for downhill running.  A web search will provide video demos for downhill running form as well.

What I Learned
Ego is a dangerous thing at times and it can lead to all sorts of problems, in this case injury.  The most important thing when it comes to any sort of physical exercise or even going about your daily existence is to listen to the body and give it what it needs. If you’re experiencing chronic pain or a brand new pain, go see your doctor and get a referral if you need to so that you can get on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

Until next time, see you on the road.

Takes Your Breath Away, Rock Springs Park

After the running FAIL at Peachtree Ridge Park, I didn’t rest until I had an opportunity to try another park.  The destination this time, Rock Springs Park in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

The Park
Per the Gwinnett Parks and Recreation website, Rock Springs Park features the following: 113 acres, football field with lighted walking track, six lighted tennis courts, playground, pavilion, restrooms, 2-mile paved, multi-purpose trail and grill.
One thing of note that I’ve not seen at other parks is that there is a recycling bin in the lot near the pavilion and playground for bottles and cans, which is fantastic and I hope will get implemented in other county parks.

The Trail
Before heading down into the the trail I stopped a couple of ladies and asked them how hard the trail was. Here’s the conversation:

Lady 1: “oh you’ll love it it’s beautiful.” 
Lady 2: “no you didn’t hear her, she said how hard is it?”
Lady 1: “are you walking or running?”
Me: “running”
Lady 1: “oh it’s pretty hard then there are some hills”
Lady 2: “it may be okay for you just hard for somebody who hasn’t worked out in a while”

Lady 2 proceeded to ask me if I wanted to leave a number just in case I had problems. I told her, no thank since my shoe is tagged with emergency information.  I should have known after this conversation that this run would challenging, but the hard-headed runner had a score to settle.  I wasn’t about to let another trail beat me.

So I did my warm up (always a quarter mile walk) and headed straight uphill. Upon reaching the top I ran out of trail but ended up by the football field. Heading back was only a brief respite as the steepness going up meant I would be “putting on brakes” on the way down.  Continuing on the downhill to my original starting point and beyond, was more of a downhill, back towards some water.  There was plenty to view on the trail but not enough to make me forget about how hard it was.  After few rough downhills it was time to make the ascent out. I don’t remember any normal breathing at all during the entire run which ended up at 3.25 miles.  The website indicates the trail is 2 miles, it’s actually 2.25 starting from the football field entrance.

Rock Springs Park is a great place for four things, children’s play (they have a really nice playground), tennis, football and of course the trail.  Though this trail is really challenging, it’s a good test of fitness, that I’d recommend in anyone’s running or walking program.  However to prevent entry I wouldn’t recommend it more than once a week.

Fore more information on Rock Springs Park or other parks in Gwinnett County Georgia, please be sure to visit the Parks and Recreation website.
Until next time see you on the trail.