The hills, the heat… the cramps. So many elements of race day are equally predictable and completely out of our hands. When temperatures escalated to record-breaking highs for the LA Marathon on February 14, runners – elite and novice alike – had to mentally prepare for a race day that would bring on additional challenges: the muscle cramp. Cramps can be debilitating to the point where runners have no choice but to succumb to the pain, walking, if not stopping altogether, mid-race. We heard from four runners who experienced muscle cramps in L.A., but also experienced the impact of #ITSTHENERVE. Read their stories and share yours in the comments below:
#ITSTHENERVE: Helped me PR
After hearing comments and reading more about #ITSTHENERVE online, I took a leap of faith and decided to use it during the LA Marathon. I drank the first bottle about 30 minutes prior to the start of the race and had a second shortly after passing the midway point, about 1 hour 40 minutes into my race.
I am pleased to report that I passed Mile 18 – the dreaded mile from my past six marathon races – without a hint of cramping. I pushed on, maintaining negative splits and made it almost to Mile 24 before experiencing a couple of leg cramps. However, it is noteworthy that I was able to ‘shake them’ off without having to stop. In my prior marathons, I was forced to completely stop and stretch before being able to run again.
Although I was not completely cramp-free, I believe that #ITSTHENERVE made me run with more confidence during the second half of the race … and, yes, I got a new PR with a final time of 3:15!
#ITSTHENERVE: Made me a believer
I am an independent writer/filmmaker and live in Playa del Rey, California. I did not start running until I was in my 40s but have since run 25 marathons (LAM was my 25th!), including 5 Boston Marathons. I ran Boston in 2013 during the bombings, and had I not cramped near the end, I would have been at the finish line when the bombs went off (I was about 1/2 mile from the finish). I ran it the following year and the cramps were so horrible that I had to hobble the last few miles. I cried when I finished — and I’m not sure if it was because I was in such horrible pain or because I was so touched by the crowd support. Runners even turned around to encourage me to limp in.
My cramps are truly devastating when they come on. I am doubled over in pain. Stopping makes them worse, but I am totally unable to walk or run. Picking up the pace when they start makes them even worse.
Since I’m 66, I figured my marathon days were almost over, but after running LAM I realize that I’m still able to run fine – were it not for the cramps. However, even with the cramps, I was able to place 4th in my age group!
I cramped badly at mile 18 of the LAM. Since I left two bottles with my support crew at mile 19, I was in severe pain for a mile. After taking #ITSTHENERVE, it took a few minutes to kick in, and it worked until just before mile 22, where I took another. In between bottles, my leg cramps were so excruciating I couldn’t even walk. However, after it started working, I persevered and had my best finish ever! I usually end up in the medical tent with horrible cramps. This time was different. In the middle of the cramps, I thought the LA Marathon would be my last.
I can’t wait to try six bottles (doubling up to prevent cramps) on my next marathon! I’m thinking either the Eugene Marathon or Avenue of the Giants, both on May 1. I am on the waiting list for Mountains2Beach on May 29. Who wants to join me?
#ITSTHENERVE: Getting back in the game
I live in Los Angeles and have for over thirty years. I grew up in Alameda, which is an island in the San Francisco Bay. The LA Marathon was actually my first marathon. When I started training I had no desire to run one at all! I only wanted to increase my distance, speed and to improve my form. I had already completed the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, and since running has always been my Achilles’ heel, I decided to train for the 26.2 with The TwentySixers, a group that prepares runners for the Los Angeles Marathon. Again, I had no desire to run a marathon, but after about the fourth week of training, I had succumbed to the “mob mentality,” and decided to actively commit to the marathon. After I crossed the finish line I swore I’d never do another. By the next night, I was checking the race calendar to see where I could race next. I’m not sure if I’m hooked or if I’m crazy.
A bit on my backstory: I am susceptible to cramping immediately after an event, although most of my cramping comes at night while I’m resting in bed. I think it’s genetic since my mother would get cramps like this, as well. Fortunately, my cramping during training was minimal.
I didn’t take #ITSTHENERVE prior or during the race — under the guise of not trying anything new on race day. And I unfortunately didn’t pack it for after the race — even though I could have really used it then! By the time I got home several hours later, I felt another leg cramp coming on, so I grabbed the bottle and downed a shot. It was really weird — I immediately felt my calf loosening, as if something was draining from my leg. That’s the best way I can describe it. And just as quickly the feeling that I get when a cramp is coming on was gone, as well. It’s truly amazing. Despite my legs being very sore from the race, I haven’t felt any cramps coming on since I crossed the finish line. Thanks again!
My bucket list marathon is actually an Ironman. Growing up my family had a summer cabin on the Russian River in Sonoma County, the Vineman Ironman takes place there every year and I’d love to do that one day!
#ITSTHENERVE: Prevented me from cramping out of the race
Team GUTS is the acronym for “Get Up There Son,” created by Cody Ayala ironically near the end of one of his first marathon finishes. A fellow runner happened to be running at a similar pace next to Cody near the end of the race when he heard an inspiring phrase, “get up there son!” This resonated with Cody and became the name of his team. Team GUTS is a group of men and women training together with different backgrounds and fitness levels, but with similar goals and desires. To become a member of Team GUTS, each athlete must complete the Spartan Trifecta races, a marathon, participate in team race events, and most importantly, raise each other’s aspirations while also inspiring others to achieve goals beyond limits they didn’t know they had.
I had three goals for the LA Marathon. First, was to finish at 4:15. Unfortunately, I finished 16 minutes longer, at 4:31. However, I am proud to say I gave it my all and left it all on the course. Second, and probably more importantly, I wanted to complete the course injury-free —which I thankfully accomplished. Lastly, I wanted to inspire others in my age group (I’m 45,) that they can do a marathon. It’s also worth sharing that I had absolutely no desire to run before 2015. 2015 was the start of my running high. To date, I have now completed three marathons, multiple half marathons, and a number of obstacle course races.
Of the three marathons I have completed, my calves have cramped during two of those races with no relief. The LA Marathon was the first race where I was able to push through the cramps – and I owe it all to #ITSTHENERVE.
As a team, we all took #ITSTHENERVE 30 minutes before the starting line. I took another bottle at mile 16 when I started feeling one of my calves tightening up. Unfortunately, both of my calves cramped up during mile 18 and the rest of the course, but not enough to stop me from running. It did however slow my pace down. I want to credit #ITSTHENEREVE for preventing me from cramping out of the race.
On February 27th, I am participating in a spring reverse triathlon in Los Alamitos, and then I’ll be prepping for my season of Spartan races. I will also be running the San Diego and San Francisco Half Marathon. As a team, we are always training for races that push us to hit the asphalt and kick up dirt — hopefully #ITSTHENERVE will keep us there, cramp free.
MORE ON THE HOTSHOT BLOG
HOTSHOT Science: What causes a muscle cramp? Read here.
The Nerve is the Boss of the Muscle: Take control with HOTSHOT. Here’s how.