Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Some things go according to plan.....others become a disaster

In this latest installment of my running life, you could say that we've entered the Twilight Zone. Last time, my 50K was spot on awesome. This past weekend it was awesome in the sense of it being a hot mess.

For a brief spell, I traveled down to Florida to participate in the Iron Horse Endurance Runs. In looking for a good 100K, I opted to make the pre-Valentine's trip down to Florahome, FL. Historically, it has had a lot of participants, was relatively cheap and easy to get to and the course has had some good times put up on it over the years. All key factors if I want to run a quick time at something other than a local race. (As you might have guessed, I'm still trying to get out of the immediate Philadelphia area some for ultra racing.) Furthermore, considering I had a good time down in Florida last year at the Swamp 50K in Palm Coast, I figured why not repeat things.

Aside from my nerves going through airport security and pre-race week jitters, I was feeling dialed in for a good performance. Sure, the 80 degree temps worried me. Saying otherwise would be foolish knowing I have a history of not performing well when it gets what my body deems too hot. (Also, one of the factors of why I do not have intentions on doing Western States.) Opting to fly down on Southwest, I was able to arrive in Orlando at 8pm. Now I had a two hour drive ahead of me so I had rented a car with Enterprise. To save a few bucks, I opted for the click and they pick. Sleeping plans were to crash in the rental unless it was too small. Sure I could have rented a mini-van straight away but that would have been 150 bucks more. Yet, to my surprise, I was able to get a mini-van for 88 bucks when I arrived. Everything upon arrival in the airport goes well until I leave the Enterprise area. The Kia Sedona I was driving, well I did not drive it so well (despite it being the same model I used last year) and scraped it on the bollard leaving. My heart sank. Of course this is happening to me at this moment. I was instructed to switch out the vehicle, yet in order to do that I needed to know my deductible. That meant calling home. Thankfully, Peg was able to be reached quickly and she found that out for me and confirm our policy covered rental cars. This was a relief. I knew it but when in a moment of crisis, it helps to be reaffirmed. Of course, I tell the lady at the counter who replaced the gent before and she tells me I need a claim number. So now I have to get on the phone and I'm barely holding it together. Actually I don't think I was holding it together much.  Still after a hugely stressful hour delay, I was in another mini-van and back on the road. I made a brief stop at Walmart for supplies since I knew they would be open.  Eventually I got into Florahome at around midnight. Later than I wanted but in a vehicle I could sleep in and at the start area so that allowed me to stay in as much as possible.

Well....except this was not a time of great sleep. For some reason I was not all that comfy. I was in and out of sleep but happy to be getting some rest. Thursday night had been a good night of sleep and I knew that was more important for the task at hand.

Around 5:45, I woke up and went to the bathroom nearby. Got changed into my gear and then headed over to the start/finish area to set up my chair with my bottles and everything else I might need. For the 100K, I was going to rely on the same gatorade/water mix as last race along with gummy bears. I also had ShotBlocs and Coke at the ready for consumption. I had extra socks, singlet, sunglasses. I was ready. Around 6:35 the race brief started and I sat down to do my best to rest a little more. It was at the brief that I saw fellow Trail Whippass'er Mary Harvey. She's the one who helped put Iron Horse in my ear as an option for my 100K. Around this time, I also saw Frank Alessandrini who I ran against and with at Swamp last year. He also was pulling sleep in a vehicle duty.

Around 7am, we're lined up and sent on our way down the paved multi-purpose trail for 1.75 miles to a turnaround. This was all feeling fine. We pass through the start/finish area and I grab some gummies and one of my Nathan Handhelds. for the remained of my first 25 mile loop. At a shade under 6 miles we get off the pavement and onto a sandy power-line easement trail. Things instantly become tougher on the sections with more loose sand. Eventually, we pass the primary during the loop aid station (which we hit 3 times per loop) and I feel good. And for the most part, I feel good for the first 15 miles. Then I start to get a feeling like I need to stop to urinate. This is always not a good feeling. I do to relieve the pressure and then continue running just fine. Except now I'm thinking of my body functions more. Usually, I have a series of actions before a race start that one did not occur this particular morning. Anyways, I can put it in the back of my mind and continue. I see Mary at the aid station for her second time as I'm hitting it for my third. At this point, we are back on the power line. Around here is when the wheels begin to come off. The power line is the sandiest portion of the whole course and it hates me. Behind my right knee, I start to get some discomfort. Not horrible but bad enough to give me pause. Well, for the remaining 4 miles of my 25 mile loop, I'm walking/running trying to work this discomfort out. Now while, I gave up the overall lead (to the 50M runner who had been behind me buy a few minutes), I still managed to hit 3:07 for 25 miles. A shade faster than I wanted but considering it was cool for most of this loop, I expected it to be quick. Yet, now I really was having problems. I was not shaking the discomfort in my knee. For the 1.75 segment, I was doing 98% walking. For the 3.5 miles back to the start/finish line, it took me 40 minutes. Ouch. Still I thought the walking would shake out the discomfort, so I began to run again. Well, that did not last more than 400 meters. My knee was not happy.

Instead of going out farther, I went back to my gear, put some Tiger Balm on the back of my right knee and set Peg a message making her aware of the situation. I then went to lay down in the mini-van for a spell thinking maybe that would help.....(right before this, I saw Frank and told him of my ills, he was now leading the 100K)


Not my day.

So after 28.5 official miles, I called it a day. The race personnel tried to get me to head back out but it had been almost 90 minutes since I had finished 25 miles. If things hadn't got better in that span, I knew it was not worth continuing. What I needed to think about was the rest of my year. Merely finishing now had the potential to put me on the shelf. Now if it was going to be a world leading PR, I might have thought that a reasonable price to pay. However this was not about to be the same case here.

Peg suggested to me that I come home that night instead of the next morning. I checked flights on my fancy Google Fi phone I use during travel and was able to get Southwest for 115. I took it. I would now be home at 10pm. It was hardly noon yet so I still could hang around to see Mary. When I saw her a bit after the 5 hour mark, she too was having a rough day. When she came back after her 3.5 out and back, I joined her for some walk and talk. (Since that was her pace at the moment.) It enriched my day some. After walking out to the power line, I turned back for the lonely portion of the walk in the hot sun. During the out with Mary, we saw the 50 mile winner come in but at no other other point, did I see any other finisher. The heat was taking its told.

Once, I got back to the area, I had everything packed up and hit the road to the airport for a too early end of my trip. But it was wise to leave early. After the emotional night before, sleeping in my home felt wonderful. Everything on the way home was smooth. I passed out much of the flight on the plane. Quite possibly could have been a food coma from the Chipotle Sofritas Burrito I had at the airport. (Which by the way was the most affordable airport food I've ever encountered!)

Since the weekend, I've spent part of Monday feeling emotionally up and down because of the incident with the car coupled with a not so great performance. I've not run since Saturday but have biked into the office and back. With it being colder, I've been wearing compression pants but also adding a slip-on knee brace on my right knee. Sunday and Monday, the knee still felt off, it has gotten better the past two days but with a 50K Two weeks from this Saturday, I'm going to be smart and err on the side of caution. I'll resume running maybe over the holiday weekend. I'll focus on keeping fitness mainly.

What does this mean moving forward? Well, I had been considering a 100 miler in April but might decide to run a road 100K again (hated it the first time I attempted it) in a time goal. Either way, both of those will be close enough to drive 4-5 hours and not need to spend a huge amount of money on travel. I'd like to do one more travel race in the fall so to space it out I need to not spend all the money now.

Also, right now, I'm in a bit of limbo. Due to a transition at Montrail to Columbia Montrail, I am aware of my status with them. I've been honored to have represented them in 2015 and 2016. They believed in me and stuck by me in the rough 2015 year. I feel like I delivered well for them in 2016 and was excited to represent them in 2017. I was informed of a new contact who I reached out to on a number of occasions in the past couple of months with no reply. Maybe it is the email address I've been sending from. Maybe they have not been getting them. I'm not sure. Everything about the shoes, I still love. My primary reason for sharing this is because it feels bad to not know and not hear from anyone. And I really do not feel like it is right to be silent about it anymore. If part of my role as an athlete with a blog and presence (however minor that is) is to be honest with myself and you the reader, it deserves to be known.

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