A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Plain dumb and somewhat lucky

Plain is one of my favorite races. It’s very tough, remote, beautiful and overall a really fun event. This year there were also a number of friends at the race – all the more fun. But alas, I hit a little snag.

Sunday, September 6: I am going for a nice short training run on my regular house route. About a mile from home, it happens – I roll my ankle outwards (like so many times) and hear a bit of a crunch. For a few steps I think I will just run it off like always, but those steps are all it takes for a flood of pain to enter my foot … within a minute, there’s an ugly swollen bump on it, and it becomes harder and harder to put weight on my foot. The mile home is excruciating, I am limping it slowly, every step more painful. At home, I immediately apply ice, but at this point I am only able to hop on one leg. Plain is out, Javelina probably too.

Later this day, at a barbeque, I chat with Rick Gaston, who looks at my ankle with little sympathy. “Scott Jurek won hardrock on a turned ankle, he put an aircast on. As long as it’s not purple and bruised, you might be ok. You’ll know in 2 days”. My foot is pretty swollen, but I am able to limp instead of hop by this point, after icing a lot. And so the seed is planted …

Foot on Wednesday

Foot on Wednesday

The next day I feel much better. I limp, but can put much more weight on my foot, and the swelling is down. However, I now see a nice bruise developing. What hurts almost more than the ankle itself is the side of my foot, as I seem to have bruised that as well. I get busy and order two different kinds of aircasts, get a massage and keep icing like I’ve never iced before. I was regaining hope … by Wednesday I know I’m going, and even buy hiking poles to support my ankle.

What made me nervous though was that the initial fast healing progress had not continued – my foot still was tender, and while I could walk fairly normally, I would usually have opted to wait at least another week before even thinking of running – with a doctor’s visit inbetween to boot. Instead I was going to attempt one of the hardest hundred around.

Blood pooling making pretty colors.

Blood pooling making pretty colors.

The pre-race meeting on Friday was fun as usual – lots of joking, old war stories, scared faces and grim determination. It’s definitely the lowest-key event I’ve done so far … I show people pictures of my foot maybe in order to excuse myself from dropping already ahead of time. I have not run more than 50 yards since Sunday, and honestly don’t expect I will make it more than two or three miles.

My pack turns out to be massively heavy, in stark opposition to my roommate John’s pack, which seems so slim I wonder if he’ll starve during the race. But I can’t get myself to remove anything from my pack, since I might have to stay out there for a very long time in the worst case.

After a good night’s sleep, we are all ready to go. The aircast is fairly comfortable but I still wonder what it’ll do to my foot, and putting on my shoe actually hurts since the foot is still tender to the touch. I start to realize how unwise this is.

Finally, we start. I run, slowly, focussing on how my foot feels. Harry and Steve stick with me, although we’re in the back of the pack (unlike last year where I was running much faster). Soon we’ve lost most runners with only a few behind us. I fall into a walk soon enough on a slight uphill … the foot doesn’t feel great, but it’s not disintegrating either.

We make it up to Maverick Saddle – 2000 ft climb and 6 miles down! Since we’ll hit some downhill and singletrack soon, I break out the poles. However, it turns out that

  1. I have absolutely no upper body strength. It’s truly pathetic.
  2. I have no clue how to place the poles on the downhill. It’s just confusing to me to have to place 4 things instead of two.

About three quarters up the way to Klone Peak I am fairly exhausted from using the poles and not running normally, and wasting tons of time on the downhill – so I decide to put them away and use them only if needed. We still managed to catch Jeff Huff’s group, which gives me some boost. After a bit over 5 hours we make it up to Klone Peak, with the most spectacular view of the course. The first significant climb is done, but I feel much more tired than usual. Now I would see how this downhill would go for me – the real test was ahead!

The downhill was tough. I placed my feet very deliberately, and went very tentatively on the more technical sections – all of which turns out to put a lot of tension in the legs – exhausting and painful. At the bottom of the first downhill I manage to wipe out, but fortunately I land in the softest dust possible and don’t hurt myself at all. When I finally get to Entiat River, I am much more tired than last year.

The climb up to Signal Peak was – as usual – brutally hard. I had 150 oz of water with me, expecting it to be very hot (which it didn’t turn out to be due to plenty of shade), and I also developed some nice heel blisters due to failing shoes … still, I make it up there with Steve and Harry in tow. The following downhill they both pull away, and I get more and more tired – I am extremely cautious by now, having hit my foot a few times against rocks (nothing unusual) and feeling my ankle injury in various ways that didn’t inspire much confidence (although overall it was ok). The last downhill is very technical, and I grind to a slow walk, trying to find level places to put my foot. Once I’m at Mad River, it already starts to get dark, and I can just not run much. The following downhill from Maverick Saddle I try to run some, but soon resign myself to a walk, which is marked by extremely tight legs and rather nasty pain on the bottom of my feet. It is during this downhill that I basically decide to drop at Deep Creek.

I make it to Deep Creek in 17:30 – two hours slower than last year, and MUCH more exhausted. Harry and Steve had left the only aid station only minutes before I got there. At this point, I was thinking:

  • There’s no reason to expect I would get any faster, since the issue was my running very carefully and unnaturally
  • The night would be very risky, and 20 miles are an awfully long way to walk with a truly hurt ankle
  • I would probably make poor decisions and take undue risks on the downhills when feeling pressed for time, which I most definitely would be.
  • This was absolutely no fun

And so, after pondering 30 minutes, I called it quits, even although I would have had enough time to make it. I was in good company – Tim Stroh was there, and Michael Popov (who generously lent me his jacket and a blanket), both had to drop (Tim because of some tendon issues, and Michael due to some very nasty blisters under his feet).

In hindsight I think it was foolish to start (even if I would have finished), since this course is REALLY remote. I also think it’s very neat to test yourself against a hard course and overcome bad spots, or battle with a problem that arises on the course – but to basically run against an injury is pointless. Even although I get some kind words from John Fors and Tim Stroh, I think it wasn’t my brightest moment. But hey, I got it out of my system. This has been a pattern for a lot of my runs lately – poor preparation, poor recovery, shitty mood and poor performance – I’ll have to change this. Time to learn some new stuff!

Very positively, John had an amazingly strong race, Steve did very well as always and Harry achieved 100% redemption from his DNF at Western States by pushing through some extreme lows to finish!

Comments are closed.