Hi, we haven't met - I'm Sheralee, W45L from DFOK, and I've suffered from chronic (& infuriating) calf issues for the last 20 years. During one of my many calf injury respites a few years ago, Carys Morgan of SLOW told me that you also suffered calf issues, so I've been reading your AP since. Up till now, I've felt every one of your repeated calf issues, bc I have had similar calf tear/pull after calf tear/pull over and over again each year, but I had no "solution" to give you (& no specialist or physio has had a solution for me either). After my last proper tear at the November Classic last year (which felt like someone inserted a chef's knife into the meat of my calf), I wasn't able to jog at all for 3 weeks bc of the pain. However, as soon as I could walk pain-free, I was out walking for an hour every few days (and doing loads of spin bike sessions). I then followed the calf heart attack article from Runners World to rehab the calf (www.runnersworld.com/injury-treatment/calf-heart-a...
), and by mid Jan I was orienteering again (& winning - yay!). It's now mid April, & I haven't re-injured either calf since that shocker back in Nov. Meaning, I may have finally found a prevention program to deal with my calf issues. The key for me is: 1) While in "training" (ie, not serious comps like JK or international multi-day races), I now either run/orienteer only 2x per week - never more - and I always start very very slowly after a 10min dynamic warmup; 2) I also focus on taking really short strides in those 2 sessions - I've upped my stride rate to about 175 steps/min & I'd like to get it higher. As well, the bulk of my training now is cycling. 90min spin bike sessions when it's wet, 2-5hr road bike outside when it's dry. 3-4 times a week. I also foam roller most nights, and self-massage as often as possible. I still suffer "performance anxiety" before any training run, wary that the calf will go again so I never really go for it, but it hasn't yet, & it's been over 5mths which is the longest I've gone in years without hurting either calf.
So I don't think your calf pain is in your head - its very real!! I think you are probably getting calf cramps & micro tears in the fascia bc your calves can't cope with the load. At least that's what my issues are & your AP descriptions sound similar. I'm going to stick with short strides (feels weird, but you won't believe how fast it can be once you "find your stride"), never more than 2 running activities a week, always starting slow, and LOADS of cycling for leg strength & fitness. I am going to add bodyweight strength sessions & swimming too if I can fit it in. I finally feel like I can string together some proper training & get fit again.
I hope you can get on top of your calf issues. Unfortunately treatment & prevention is a very individual thing, but the above seems to be working for me so I thought I'd share it with you in the hope you might get something out of it.
I also hope I haven't jinxed myself by writing this!!!