Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Serious Setback

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I would start playing soccer with a group of friends that holds weekly games on Sundays. I hadn't played soccer with any seriousness since high school, some 9 years ago. I used to be decent at it, and at least always had fun, so I was looking forward to using the games as cross-training. I have no races until next February or March, so why not?

Well, maybe the complete and total difference between the sports should have been warning. While aerobically I'm in fine shape, my legs haven't been subjected to any serious impact (like hard running and quick changes of direction) in years. Riding road bikes, as everyone knows, is a no-impact activity.

The first Sunday I played, I did well---but was horribly sore for several days afterward, of course. I took the first part of the week easy and then got back on the bike. The ride was strong and the soreness seemed gone. Last Friday I ran two miles in an effort to prepare for the next soccer game, and again felt very good.

Come Sunday (two days ago), I felt ready to really play hard at the soccer game. I was a little late getting to the field, though, and had to rush through my stretching routine as the team-picking had already begun when I got there.

Long story short, the second I ran onto the field, my left leg cramped up, sending lightning through the lower half of my body. I chalked it up to a lack of stretching and brought a sub in for myself as soon as I had a chance. I paced the sideline for a while, stretching and flexing in an effort to get the "cramp" out of my left leg, to no avail.

Being the genius that I am, I decided to shake off the growing pain and keep playing. Unfortunately, I felt submerged in water every time I tried to sprint or change direction, and missed several big plays that could have won the game for us much sooner (my team eventually won anyway...). The cramping just wouldn't go away.

After 80 minutes on the field, I realized I couldn't keep playing. I hobbled to the car and went home. As the day progressed, my left leg felt worse and worse, eventually reaching a point where I couldn't walk correctly or fully extend my knee. Something was wrong.

Yesterday I woke up feeling even worse, and spent the day lounging around the house in an effort to avoid walking, which caused serious pain in my left leg. My thigh was sore to the touch. When I got to work last night, I did a little Internet research on quadriceps injuries and realized that instead of cramping, I was suffering a grade 2 quadriceps strain---a pretty serious problem.

The recommendation is at least two weeks off the leg and out of athletic training, but as much as six weeks of recovery is sometimes needed. That's bad. That means that not only should I not try to play soccer again for a long time, but that I should stay off the bike as well. Luckily I have no immediate competitive goals. It's technically the start of the "off-season", so I can take the needed time off to recover knowing that I should be fine to begin my training regimen again in November for a peak in March. Hopefully I won't lose a lot of strength in my leg.

I'm a complete idiot.