Saturday, July 28, 2012

I did not finish

I'm not sure where this post will take me, but as a week has now passed since the unfortunate premature end to my Vermont 100, I feel like I should write something more than the little snippet I sent to my friends with the Bull City Track Club.

I entered the race knowing the will was there, and I was pretty sure the muscles were trained, but as anyone who has run 100 miles will tell you, 100 miles is a long way, and there's no way of knowing what's going to happen on any particular day.  So I tried to keep my expectations realistic (read: tempered).  That being said, I was, let's say, about 75% sure I would finish going in to the race, even with the waves of apprehension that washed over me as race day drew nearer.  I knew going in that my body has historically not responded well to high mileage training, but reasoned it had always held together for the high mileage races, and had been impressed with how well I endured the increased mileage in training.  Spoiler alert (in case the title didn't grab you): I did not finish.

Heading back onto the trail at mile 40-ish.
Even as far as 40 miles into the race, things were feeling pretty good - the 'quad busting' downhills hadn't busted my quads, and I was receiving compliments on my awesome climbing abilities (I apparently walk uphill like a champ).  I was still flirting with the preposterous idea that I could perhaps slide in under 24 hrs even with the somewhat ridiculous number of rather steep hills (though rationally, that was stupid because factoring in Joe/Blake's 1.3x differential between the first half and the second half, I would have to set a PR for the first 50 miles).  Deep down, I figured 25 hrs was a more reasonable goal, but I was out there for a long time - I figured I should be allowed to dream a little, right?  Regardless, I still felt good at 40.  Except my feet hurt.  And I had this nagging shin-splint-y feeling on the front of my ankle/foot area that popped up around the time we trucked through a long pavement stretch that involved descending about 800 feet in roughly 1.5 miles... around mile 12.  I had kind of been ignoring it, though, because there had been other little silly problems that had come and gone with the downhill pounding, so I figured this would go away, too.

Unfortunately, this was not the case, and between 40 and 57.5 miles, the shin splinty feeling intensified until it felt like someone was kicking me with every step my right leg took.  I was still feeling pretty great on the uphills, but I was no longer able to run much by the time I pulled into the aid station at 57.5.  I had been thinking I would just pop some advil or tylenol and motor on out, but when we took off my shoe to look at it, we noticed a nice knot had formed, which was a little scary and changed things dramatically in my head.  Now we were looking at a potential actual injury that might extend my planned month off after the race to something more closely resembling the achilles tendon PT/rehab debacle of my late teens.  I still took some tylenol on the recommendation of someone who thought the kidney-failing potential of advil might be too much of a risk, and decided to walk the next section to see how things felt.  Unfortunately, after the lovely ascent, in which I actually passed a couple people, the long descent confirmed that we (the royal we) would not be running any more that day, so faced with the best case scenario of walking for 37.5 miles and sneaking in just under the cutoff (still disappointed) and worst case scenario of walking 33.5 miles, missing the cut at the last aid station, and making whatever was going on worse, I bailed in favor of a full night's sleep in a bed and salvaging the rest of a nice mini vacation.

A fuzzy picture of the ankle the day after.
I named my cankle Sam.

It was the logical decision.  I don't regret the decision.  I know I made the smart choice.  If we had been at mile 85, it probably would have been a different story, but with that far to go and visible focused swelling in the region of a tendon, there was no reasonable way to go on.

Largely unrelated, but I like this picture.

...but that doesn't mean I'm not disappointed.

...and perplexed.

It's odd, but I actually felt better at the time I dropped than I did after reading all the nice supportive things people said about 62.5 miles still being really impressive.  I don't want to sound ungrateful because I really do appreciate everyone's kind thoughts, but telling me 62.5 is really great and impressive just kind of makes me feel like a heel.  It's not that great or impressive.  I just ran 53.5 a month ago.  62.5 is not that much farther.  It is decidedly anticlimactic.  I didn't even make it 2/3 of the way through the race.  I can accept that my body fell apart and couldn't make it the full distance, but I can't accept that being counted as a successful outing.  I'm glad I made it that far, but it still was not successful.

So now I am left in a pit of confusion.  Do I try again, knowing that my body may decide (again) that 100 miles is just too much to bear structurally?  My heart leans that direction, as I'm not a big fan of failing to complete something, but my head remembers how much I hated training for this attempt.

When I stopped, I was resolute about not trying again.  My appendages sent me a message and I was going to listen.  Perhaps train for something a little more reasonable - something that I could do in ...say... a morning.  But the reverse psychology of my facebook page has me thinking maybe I should learn what I can from this one (long, steep downhills are not my thing) and try again with something a little more suited to my strengths (whatever those are - do they have 100-mile hikes uphill with no descent?) and be a little more low key about my approach.  We do have an awfully nice local 100, you know...

It's like a crazy beacon... calling to me...

Fortunately, I don't have to decide until September, but I'm just not sure how I'm going to decide.

Until then, I'm back to the trails.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing many friends that I haven't seen in a while because I had to do some outlandish, ridiculously slow run that day (all the days).  The swelling is gone and I was able to run/hike 6+ miles this morning with little more than a twinge in the traitorous tendon.  So the answer, I guess, is we'll get back to some sort of routine, and see where the coming weeks take us.

/catharsis.  Thanks for listening <3


Anthony Corriveau said...

Umstead! you can train on the course, so there will be no surprises.
Yes, the loops are mentally painful. But it will be balanced out by just about everyone you know being out there cheering you on.

(Mary) Shannon Johnstone said...

I say one more try before you pack the 100 mile idea away. Umstead does beckon! Being able to train on the course, and having everyone you know and love come out to cheer you on as you attempt your goal will outweigh the repetition of the loops. And you can sleep in your own bed the night before and after!