This first part is not about the race itself but, it’s been a while since I have reflected upon running more than 140 characters on twitter. So...
Its been a year of injury. Mainly dealing with plantar fasciitis. While it has mostly subsided, it’s still here. It actually started the first week of January 2011 after running 20 miler on trails in the snow. While I ignored it and thought it would just go away, I was wrong, the day of the 20 miler I wanted to run a 50k for fun, but the pain was horrible...about a month or so later, during a late night session at a local college track, I did a speed workout, after the workout I had the most painful session of plantar fasciitis.
At that point I realized that if I were to run a marathon, or do anything else, I would need to get to a physical therapist. I did that. Did it help, yes, did I really stop running like they asked me to - no. So I don't believe I really have given this time to really subside like I should have.
So let’s fast forward to the YUT-C 50k. I had run the race last year and really enjoyed myself and the course and the race organizers. It’s the best run race I have run to date, and it’s a main stay on my race schedule. Given last years experience, and the enjoyment I got from the run, I decided last year to run the race no matter what.
I was confident enough since I knew the course, and, I had run it last year with ease, that this year I could improve on last year’s performance. I actually ran the course several weeks before, both 14-15 milers, and felt adequately ready to run. Three weeks before I got a 50k in a day on my feet too, so, well, I felt trained enough to give it a go.
Weather for the run - darn near perfect. Overcast and about 50. The high forecasted for the day was 65, not terribly warm. So great race conditions in my opinion.
How was I feeling, well, I got up a little late for the hour drive to the race, but that was not a problem, but, I was limping. Yes, the plantar fasciitis. I stretched, and it somewhat helped, but when I got out of the car from the drive, yes, the pain was there. I was there and I was going to run...there was no other choice at that point.
As I made my way down to the start line to get my number and race packet I saw a lot of familiar faces. We exchanged some hello’s and I got myself pinned up and ready to go. I wanted to make sure my feet could handle (without blisters or hot spots) the 50k distance, so I applied some bodyglide to my feet and made sure I had a bag at the start/finish line with some additional bodyglide and some extra socks.
At 8am sharp, we were all off and running….
The course consists of clockwise and counter-clockwise loops. The covered bridge is the aid station for both, and the start finish line is the aid station for the clockwise loops.
The course itself is not terribly demanding, yes, it hills, but it has a nice section of road and some very runnable trail sections. Rocks and roots, but not so much as you stop you from a normal stride to made decisions on where to place your foot.
The first part of the course in the clockwise loop includes a steep stair case, and that certainly is a bottleneck for all except the front runners. But despite that, I was right on my race plan, which was to run the course the first 25k and then turn it up a notch on the next 25k. I comfortably got into my pace, with minimal effort and felt good where I was at…the miles where going by and I did not feel horrible, although my foot was still bothering me, but it was not something that was going to stop me.
Things were going smoothly until around mile 11-12. I started to get cramps in my upper quads and, my foot began to really hurt. Ignoring the pain, I continued forward, but my pace began to slow. From that point onward it became a struggle against my body – could I continue on?
As I made it back to the start/finish line, one of my friends that was at the race asked if I needed anything and I said “no” and they thought I was done at that point, Thoughts of quitting did in fact enter my head, but, I have not ever quit a run or quit on anything in life, so why should I start now? I quickly got some food at the 25k point and began the clockwise laps. The clockwise laps have the most elevation gain, so I knew there would be some pain and determination involved in completing the run.
I was pretty much out on the course at this point in my own spot, with a runner or two head and behind me.
The first lap went slow, and I mean really slow, but I continued to make progress but in pain. There would be surges of energy, but I could not come over the cramps or the pain. What was I thinking about during moving forward, I was thinking about quitting and I was also thinking about making the course shorter but skipping the hills. Yes, no one was around, and I could have easily done it…but I continued on course.
Eventually I made it to the covered bridge, and that that point plenty of finishers were making the final 5k of the 50k a reality. At one section of the course, I nearly fell down a 100’+ hill getting out of the way of other runners, and several stopped to assist me back up to the trail…really, it was a dangerous area and I am lucky I did not break my leg.
As I continued on one runner who I knew said “3k to go and you are done” – and I looked at him and said not me – I have another lap to go!
So, back to the start/finish line I went. As I made my next to final stop there, they race directors asked me if I wanted to continue on and I said yes. They told me that they might not be there when I get back around – and that I was going at my own risk. I accepted that as sort of a challenge to keep moving and to finish, despite the pain and the cramps. I got some food and drink and went on my way. There was only one runner behind me, and I was determined to keep him from passing me.
As I started up the steep stair case the final time, I was happy. I would not have to do that again! Soon thereafter on the trails, I took a pretty good fall, a fall that was loud enough to get some kids attention in a parking lot close to the trails say “ did you hear that….” I actually thudded the ground pretty hard, and at that point I had thoughts of turning around to the finish line and calling it a day. I fell because I tripped over a root. I was sweating and not feeling well at all…but I continued on.
As I got closer to the hills, I thought about skipping them again, really, one turn, and I could have stayed right along the lake that we were circling and skipped them all!!! But I didn’t. Good thing too, a runner working out on the course, asked me as I approached the hills if I was still on course and he told me to keep going and he would also tell the guy at the covered bridge that I was on my way.
I made it to the covered bridge and knew my pain would be ending soon. I grabbed some sugar –in the form of some candy and got moving. The last 5k seemed to last forever, and each footstep was a struggle, but I kept moving. As I made the final decent down off the trail and onto the park road, I noticed that people were still at the start/finish line. As they saw me approach the finish line, they started to cheer for me….I tell you that felt so good, and reinforced ALL the reasons why I love the ultra running community.
Crossing the finish line was a huge relief. The race director told me that he told me that they might not be there, and to go at your own risk to give me some motivation to get moving…I laughed and told him it definitely worked.
I had some food and stuck at the finish line to cheer on the last runner of the race to finish. I knew what he was feeling for sure…but he also stuck it out and got a finish!
What did I learn during this run – that I can continue to move through pain and cramps, and not to quit, as there is an eventual end to the pain! Oh, and not to cut the course, no matter how crappy you feel!
What’s next as far as an ultra…most likely a fun run 50k the first week of January 2012! I’m taking a month off and will resume running once I am feeling a little better and I get some rest!