I ran for the first time in two weeks today. I ran 2 miles and then walked a mile home. So far, no foot problems. I might try to do 3-4 miles tomorrow. Everything felt tight; foot, calves, hips, back and shoulders. And it felt painfully slow, but I am recovering and probably should not be putting in any hard miles just yet. I'm going to do yoga before bed.
I'm looking at the New Orleans 70.3 in April, which means I need to start training soon. I'm waiting to sign up until November. We'll be in NOLA for the weekend and I want to take a look at Lake Pontchartrain before I pay the fee. Next season, I want to do 2 half Ironmans, one in April and possibly the new Branson race in September. By the end of the season, I'm hoping to try for a 5:30. I know a sub-6:00 is just around the corner and I'd like to set my sights a little higher. It should be good motivation to workout this winter. The trainer is my friend.
On Friday, it only was mildly sore when I put weight on it in the morning and was fine later in the day. Then on Saturday I walked a few miles while watching several friends run in the KC marathon and 1/2 marathon (including KT, who ran a PR and qualified for Boston with a 3:32!! She is back to being referred to as my Wicked Fast Friend! Go KT!). By the end of the day on Saturday, my foot hurt sitting or standing or completely elevated with no weight on it at all. Crap. Two steps forward and one step back. John tried to massage my calves and feet and my calves were so knotted, it hurt his hands. I've been stretching and doing yoga at home, slowly gaining back some flexibility.
It's feeling better today, and I think this weekend I may try to run 2-3 miles or until my foot hurts, whichever comes first. Tonight I'm biking around the airport, just to be outside and get my HR up. I don't like doing nothing. I need to run. I've swam a few times since Heartland and I'm trying to find a new pool for winter. Biking tonight should help, but I love to run. I miss throwing on my shoes and cruising through the neighborhood or hitting the trails and running through the trees. Absence makes the heart grow fonder...
We started in the dark, the 50 milers lined up behind a line of white flour in the road, the 100 milers about 50 yards back. It was cold. Temps at the start were 36. The weather had said low of 36, high of 45. Sunny most of the day with winds less than 10 mph, so I wore light-weight capri length tights, my favorite thermal shirt and a hat.
It started out cold and it stayed that way. Right after the sun came up, the afternoon front moved in and the temps never got above 40. I was hoping my PF was hold off most of the day, but like the weather man, I was sorely mistaken. It started in about mile 3 and never improved. I started popping Vitamin I at mile 5. By mile ten, my legs were numb and I was wearing my water bottle around my wrist so I could pull my frozen fingers inside my shirt. I was now focused on covering as much ground as fast as possible, since I knew my foot would be hurting.
We ran with the course, walking some uphills, coasting on the downhills, and flying through the flats. I had a random mix of songs float through my head over the course of the day. First song: The Who "I can see for miles". I wonder where that one came from...
For some unknown reason, our friends Shelly offered to come and crew for us over the last half of the race. All I can say is that having a crew is like having an angel. They give you what you need, before you can ask. They lift your spirits. They believe in you, even when you're hurting and you want to quit. Thank you Shelly.
There were 5 brutal miles heading into the turn around, mostly uphill and completely into the now 20 mph winds. When we finally got there, it was such a huge pick-up. Shelly met us with food, salt, and more ibuprofen. She refilled our bottles and gave me my extra sock to wear on my hands as gloves. I never like to stay long at aid stations, so we were quickly off again. We left and my watch said about 4:20, which was well on track for a sub-9:30 finish, which was my top goal. I would have been happy with sub-10.
Up ahead, I noticed a woman running. Hmm, I know we have about 5 miles mostly downhill and with the wind at our backs, maybe I can reel her in. I slowly accelerated to 9:30 min/mi but she was still pulling away. Holy crap! At least I know when not to give chase. I settled in and kept on. She was clearly a better runner than me.
The cold was taking it's toll. Now it was the Killers "cuz heaven ain't close in a place like this..."
My hip flexors were tight and it hurt to stand up straight. My hamstrings were to tight and it hurt to bend over. My quads were screaming, my calves in knots, and each step on my left foot was agony. A blister had started to form under my right pinkie toe, which compared to the rest of my legs, barely warrants being mentioned. I was walking more, and trying to start running again after each walking break had me in tears. John had pulled away, so it was just me and the beef cows. I asked one if she'd give me a ride, but she just started at me blankly. I decided beef cows were ill-mannered compared to dairy cattle. A Holstein surely would have given me a ride, and if not she would have at least had the manners to give me an answer.
I had mixed feelings coming into the last manned aid station. There were "only" 8 miles left. There were 8 miles left. 8 friggin' miles. I tried doing the math in my head if I was walking at a 15 min pace and "running" at a 10:30 pace, and there were three big hills until the last downhill section, how many penguins did I have left?
I trudged on. Now, the song "Just put one foot in front of the other" from 'Santa Clause is Coming to Town' was scrolling through my head. If the Winter Warlock could do it, I could too. I started bargaining with myself. Just get to that light pole, then you can walk. Just get to that fence, then take a break. Just get to that piece of horse crap in the middle of the road and then try to stretch.
Where were the turtles? I like talking to the turtles on my runs. There were no turtles. They were probably smart enough not to be out in this weather. I pretended I was running with KT. I pretended I was running with MO. I pretended I was running with Meeka. I was having long conversations in my head that made no sense. Barefoot Josh would hate all this gravel. I hate all this gravel. Will that pick-up truck give me a ride? I kept hearing footsteps and it freaked me out when no one was there. Then I heard footsteps and it freaked me out that some guys WAS there. Where in the heck did you come from? Last time I turned around, there was no one within sight, which typically meant 3 miles or more.
Finally, I saw it. The Cassoday water tower, which was where the finish line was located. I estimated I was less than 3 miles out. I thought about cutting through the fields, but that required climbing a fence, which required me to pick my leg up more than 2 inches off the ground. Nuts. Gravel road it is.
The last 3 miles were into the wind and some of the coldest miles of my life. Cold as a witch's tit. The Wicked Witch of the West. The Wicked Witch had flying monkeys. I wish I had flying monkeys. Then they could carry me to the finish and do my bidding! Or at least get me a beer! Oh, what I would give to have flying monkeys as minions.
Somehow, somewhere, I found the energy to run the last stretch of pavement in, to the tune of honking horns, cowbell, shouts from volunteers, and more cowbell. The cowbell is a wonderful thing. By the time I crossed the finish line, I was shuddering and my lips were blue. I was crying. Not from joy or relief, but of cold and pain.
The put us in a tent with blankets and a heater. Even with socks on my hands, the last windy section had robbed me of all dexterity and Shelly had to help get the socks off my hands. 9:20 or so, second place female and 8th overall. I didn't really care, I was focusing my attention on the chili in front of me. Every fiber of my body was exhausted and cold. Then I scarfed down a cheeseburger. A wonderful, warm, greasy cheeseburger.
As any ultra runner can tell you, 'Why' is something I hear often. I never have a good response, but 'Why not?' is how I usually respond. Until this race. Until 50 miles on hard-packed gravel in sub-40 degree weather with plus-20 mph winds.
When I woke up this morning, I was crying from the pain in my legs just trying to stand up.
Part of this race was to see how far I could go and how fast I could do it. Everything is subjective. Any good engineer will tell you the correct answer to every questions is "It depends." If I didn't get plantar fasciitis in the last two weeks... If the sun had come out like the weather had predicted... If I had worn thermal tights and gloves... If the race was on single track instead of hard-packed gravel... The if's don't matter. I can go 50 miles. And I can do it in 9:20. But that doesn't begin to tell the story.
When I woke up this morning, I swore I will never do this to my body again.
And I mean it. I'm not swearing off ultras, but I will stick with only single track trails, no gravel or pavement. I will not race if injured, I will drop out when my body tells me to. I will listen to my body, no matter what hurts and how small. I will not push through, because "it's only my foot." These legs don't feel like mine. These knees and hips don't belong to me. I am not disappointed in my body, rather, I feel the opposite. I failed my legs by not listening. What is a DNF? The reality is that I am done racing for the year. The reality is I won't be running for a month. The reality is I need to see a doctor and have x-rays to make sure I haven't done serious damage. The reality is I didn't listen.
Heartland wasn't all bad. In fact, I surprised myself. I'm waiting to write a full race report until I can get some pictures. But I felt it was important to put in writing how much this hurt. I'd like to think that I deal well with pain and I know the difference between discomfort, soreness and pain. And other than two major jaw surgeries, this is by far the most painful thing I have ever done. In the future, when I'm thinking about running through something else, I have a written reminder that I need to honor my body or I will pay the price.
Status update: I ran 2 miles on Tuesday night, no foot pain. I woke up Wednesday morning pain free as well. This is good. I'm still wearing flats to work and I've been stretching every night. Hopefully I'll be OK through the race.
Race weather: High of 45, low of 36, partly sunny, 30% chance of rain, 10 mph winds and gusts up to 20 mph. It's a little colder and windier than I would have hoped, but still better than in the 80s. I think I'm going to wear tights, long sleeves, and possibly a hat to start with.
My motto for this race is PPP: Patience, positive, perseverance. I've never run through the prairie before and from what I've heard, the openness can be daunting. So I need to be patient with the course, stay positive about my goals, and push through those last miles.
There's nothing left to do except pack and relax. The weekend is almost here.
I have a plan. I've looked at the course. I'm borrowing a Garmin and we just might have someone to crew! That would be fantastic! I think having a familiar face at the turnaround will be a huge psychological boost. Fingers crossed she can make it... If not, I'm prepared to run it solo. The weather looks a little on the cool side, but I'll take 40s over 80s for a race this length.
This has been a good training cycle for me, the best of any race this year. The biggest thing I've learned is that I'm capable of much more than I originally thought. An 8:05 pace at the end of a 20 mile run? Yeah right. A 7:16 pace for a 5k at the end of a triathlon? That's a pipe dream! I never would have thought I could do either. Which is why I'm excited for this race - I get to see what I'm capable of. Why is it always easier to be negative and to be hard on ourselves instead of having a little faith in our training and determination? My most important race strategy is to stay positive and focused.
I'm going to go out for a 1-2 mile slow run tonight to see how my foot feels. Hopefully, I've taken enough time off that 2 miles won't do any damage. I've also learned that while I like to train and to race, I depend on running to stay sane. I will gladly be cutting back on my mileage after Heartland so I can get back to consistently running. Life makes more sense when my body is in motion.
Oh, Plantar Fasciitis, how I loathe thee. You are the thorn in my shoe, the sting in my step. Because of you, I watch the leaves change from the couch instead of splashing through their bright color, breathless, like a child. I have befriended the ice pack and abandoned my stilettos. Have you no mercy?
With a little over a week until Heartland, I have been forced into tapering early. This is my first bout with PF and hopefully my last. It is a cruel joke, after successfully training for 10+ weeks and running some of the fastest miles of my life, that my left foot is hobbled. I pushed my body too far and now I’m paying the price. At least I am close enough to the race that I can’t gain much physically by running, I can only do harm. The psychological damage from being forced to sit still has yet to be determined.