It seems I'm not the only one suffering from muscle cramps, though. Joe Friel went into the latest research on why we cramp (mainly: we're not yet in shape. theoretically: dehydration, elecrolyte imbalance, poor biomechanics) and offered suggestions about how to deal with them yesterday over on his Trainingbible blog:
When you feel a cramp coming on there are two ways to deal with it. One is to reduce the intensity and slow down—not a popular option in an important race. Another is to alternately stretch and relax the effected muscle group while continuing to move. This is difficult if not impossible to do in some sports such as running and with certain muscles. Actually there is a third option which some athletes swear by—pinching the upper lip. Strange, but true.Last Saturday, I managed to complete about 1500m of swimming before my left calf started to cramp up during the kicking part of our workout (about 400m behind the kick board). I tried stretching it out at the end of each length, but then the cramp moved to my foot and even to my big toe.
Heeding the advice I'd read just last week, I relaxed as much as I could and swam through (with) it. Ultimately, I wound up going 2100m, so it's not as if the cramping ended my session as it had before. I think I'm getting close to the source though: it's the kicking, stupid. Until joining Masters, I'd always cheated and barely kicked at all ("saving my legs for the bike/run"), but now the Masters program doesn't let me cheat, and I'm paying for it in the cramping.
Next time, I'll try pinching my upper lip to see if it helps.