This past weekend I went down to run the Promise Land 50K. Normally, I would have been very excited to compete in a race like this – a long, semi-technical trail run, a healthy amount of gain and decent; with a field of some of the fastest East coast runners. However, due to injury I have not raced all year and knew I was in no shape to compete, but since I have been back running for several weeks I wanted to gauge where my fitness and health were. It was also my 30th B-day and I thought running 30+ miles would be a fun way to celebrate. I emailed Dr. Horton on Tuesday and he was kind enough to let me in, as well as seeding me with bib #8.
I got to the Promise Land Camp Friday night and had a good time chatting with many running friends. Exchanging stories, talking of future plans and of course the race the next day – would the mountains break the superfast marathoner, will experience triumph over pure speed? The next day would reveal the answer as Eric Grossman surpassed 2:19 marathoner Kalib Wilkinson on the final ascent and broke the course record by 5 minutes! I was just happy to be there and figured even if my injury didn’t rear its ugly head, my lack of training would come back to bite me at some point. So with that, I was looking forward to the pleasure found in running in the mountains and yes even the pain from sore calves and trashed quads. After a night of very little sleep in my tent, I got up the next morning ready to run – for the first time sporting my PR Racing Team singletJ
At 5:30 AM we were off. The pace was very fast starting out for the first 4 miles of climbing. Eric, Kalib and one other runner took off to the front. I felt pretty good on the climb, and tucked in behind Shaun Pope to take advantage of his headlamp during the first 30 or so minutes of darkness. After the climb, the sun had come up and I was really enjoying running as quickly the 10+ minute/mile pace on the climb turned into sub-7s. Neal Gorman and a few other runners caught up to me coming into the second aid station before mile 10. At this point my legs where holding up OK and I thought the rest of the day would unfold quite well. Then I hit the down hills….
My left leg, specifically the hip flexor and adductor began to flare up, ugh! The last time this happened (at Stone Mill) I ran another 20+ miles through the pain and caused extreme inflammation that kept me from racing for months. I had promised my doctor and more importantly my wife that I would bail if the pain came back. All this was starting to weigh on my mind as I came into the third aid around mile 13, and before the long descent back down the mountain. Heading down the trail I quickly accepted the reality that the pain was not just soreness from lack of running and the more I tried to run, the worse it was getting. I slowed considerably, and eventually decided to just walk it out rather than risk any additional damage. Many runners began to pass me with offers of help and asking if I was OK – it is hard to answer this accurately and politely “no I am not OK, but you can’t help unless you have magical healing power.” At least the trail was beautiful and I even stopped at a bridge for awhile to watch as the water flowed down the mountain and over the rocks. Realizing the simplicity of nature that triggers complexity and relating it to life. Aspects of life that at the core are very simple become quite complex and so often we lose focus on what is important. We live, we love and we die. It is the middle that determines nearly every aspect of who we are. What you love (your wife, children, running, a career)? How you love (giving your time, devotion, attention)? A person can lose everything, and still be content as long as they have love. I see this even more as my boys get older and I remember what it was like when I was a child and realize that I am the man I am today because of the love I have been shown and have shown as well. I guess turning thirty has made me even more introspective. To relate this to running – I love to run and in order to continue to do what I love I need to make the appropriate decisions to ensure that I don’t jeopardize running in the long term in order to meet short term aspirations. My musings were quickly snapped back to reality as a runner passed with a confused look of “why is this person staring at a river in the middle of a race?” I soon returned to my walk and made it to the aid station. Dr. Horton quickly handed me some ibuprofen and encourage me to get going until I explained my injury and quipped that the last mile took longer than my average 10KL
I caught a ride back to the camp with one of the radio crew members and got there in time to see the top guys finish. Then I headed back home making it just in time for my own birthday party. As I write this a couple days later I am again pain free, but I will be giving it even more time. Even a few months ago, I likely would have headed out the door the minute I started to feel better, but I have learned a lot from the injury that will hopefully make me a better and smarter runner in the future. Although I was not able to finish, I am glad I was able to go and run for the time that I did. I was also able to gauge where I am and how far I still have to go to get over this.
Up next – I am not quite sure. I am very disappointed that MMT looks to be out of the picture. I really like MMT and was hoping that I would at least be healthy enough to finish it even if I couldn’t compete. I’ll still be out there, but as a volunteer or maybe a pacer helping others achieve their goals. Hopefully, I can resume training soon and start racing again in June. Maybe the North Face 50 or Laurel Highlands. For now I am just going to continue to take it one day at a time.