This past weekend was my first big race of the season, the American River 50. When I say “was,” I don’t just mean that the race itself is over. I mean that the idea of it being my first race of the season is also a thing of the past. I was a big, fat DNS at AR50.
My intention for this race was purely to use it as training, to get big miles in the month of April. I’d planned to follow it up with the Diablo Marathon the following weekend to ensure that I indeed wouldn’t take it too seriously. Unfortunately, Diablo got cancelled, and in searching for a replacement race, I came up with the Leona Divide 50. (What’s an additional 24 miles at this point, right?) Although plenty of people have questioned my plan for back-to-back 50’s, I have every confidence in my ability to take “races” as training runs, and I think it would have worked out beautifully. If I had been healthy. (And here’s where “unfortunately” starts to become my repetitive word of the day.)
As it turns out, I seem to be having a posterior tibial tendon issue. (I’d put in the actual, technical term where I have substituted the word “issue,” but I don’t think I could spell it.) To be honest, this is an issue that has plagued me for over two years, and no amount of time off seems to find any improvement. Unfortunately, the past few weeks have seen a marked increase on the pain scale, mostly likely due to increasing my weekly mileage fairly quickly.
It’s been enough to motivate me (at last!) to find an excellent physical therapist, and I’ve learned a whole lot about what is going on with my body. I’ll do my best to spare you the mind-numbing details, because the truth is, I don’t even enjoy trying to wrap my brain around it all. I’ll keep it to the basics so that we don’t all fall asleep here.
First, I love my physical therapist. He came recommended from a wise friend, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me, but I have a really hard time trusting people in general, and especially when it comes to my running. Because, you see, I know everything. No one knows more than I, and woe to anyone who tries to tell me what to do. But this PT and I, we are on the exact same page. He has a very balanced approach, doesn’t think I’m crazy, and doesn’t necessarily think time off is always the answer. He makes sense out of a complicated picture, and he seems to approach things in much the same way that I do. Obviously he’s brilliant.
Second, I have learned that one of my legs is fully half an inch longer than the other, and this seems to be causing no small number of problems for me. The end result of all of this is that I am currently involved in the process of re-learning how to run. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s what it boils down to for me, and I hate it. I have to spend so much time thinking.
Running long distance, and trail running especially, has never been about thinking for me. It’s been the place where I have been the most free, the most at peace. In the past I have always felt in tune with my body while running, and it’s a part of the experience that I really enjoy. Lately though, we’re speaking through translators. It’s time now for me to learn the foreign language of my dysfunctional mechanics.
I know in the end, when I am healthy again, it will be worth it, but right now it’s tedious to think about every little detail of what I am doing when I run. It’s not a fun place to be when the thing that is normally a remedy for stress, becomes its main source. My love affair with running is definitely “on a break.”
So, while I’m grateful to be still running, I’ve taken many days off in an attempt to rest this inflamed tendon. The week before AR, I was out on a 30 mile trail run. At about mile 27, the complaints emanating from my tendon increased sharply in volume. It wasn’t a bad run, but it certainly caused me to question the wisdom of two 50-mile runs in a row, and the subsequent stress of this questioning made for some sleepless nights.
One lesson I learned (and will probably have to relearn many more times) is that it’s generally the indecision itself that causes the most stress. Once I decided running AR would constitute complete idiocy (although I’m fully capable of idiocy, I assure you), it was only a day before I got over the depression of my DNS and started to feel pretty good about the decision.
At this point, I’m looking at this weekend’s upcoming Leona Divide and feeling pretty excited about it. It’s a brand new race for me, and I haven’t run a new ultra in a few years. Unlike AR, it’s all on trail (much more my style), and it’s on the PCT. If you don’t know, I have a long-standing romance with the Pacific Crest Trail. Perhaps one day I’ll spend some time to wax poetic on that topic, but for now just know that I am thoroughly excited about the prospect of my first race on this trail. I’m still not taking a real taper (although the last few weeks of lower mileage have me more rested than I really should be), but without the AR50 teaser, this won’t be the “survival on dead legs” that I’d originally imagined. I’m going in with a conservative mindset, knowing I may have to back off if the tendon flares up, but also knowing that I’m pretty excited to get out there for an early season test of fitness.
Here are a few pictures from my last two weekends of running, and from yesterday’s powder day with Andrew. You can see how I have the best of both worlds in terms of getting both alpine adventures, and still finding dirt within a reasonable drive.