Synopsis: the author tries to come to terms with a recent string of injuries.
I have decided to make myself a checklist in order to determine my readiness for my next race, it’s going to look something like this:
- Are you hurt? If yes, you should not start this race. If no, proceed to #3
- You answered “yes” to #1, so on a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain are you in? Do you have a decent range of motion of all your limbs?
- Are you planning to race this race all out or use it as a long supported training run?
- What would be the worst thing about not starting this race?
Here’s my answers upon awakening Saturday morning:
- Yes, I am injured. I hate writing those words. I caught a toe running down a somewhat gnarly trail on Sleeping Giant and fell harder than I’ve ever fallen, right on my right shoulder eight days ago and can’t lift my arm over my head without help. Is that bad? I can still run although it’s not ideal. I mean, I can dress myself, drive a car and wipe my own ass. I’m cool. I also experienced some minor back spasms two days before this race as well as jamming a toe on our cat’s scratching post while cleaning up my kid’s toys.
- I’d say pain scale, hmmm- I go anywhere from 1 to 10 depending on where my arm is resting. If it doesn’t move, it’s a 1, if I try to run, it’s like a 4 or 5. if I try to run fast, it’s like a 7. Running uphill, hard: hurts a lot, like a 10. Range of motion, hmmmm: I have like 60% use of my right arm. Is that good enough?
- Yes, it’s just a long training run, so I can do it. I mean, miles on the legs is miles on the legs. Time on the feet is time on the feet, yadda yadda. I have some really long races coming up soon, so…
- I mean the absolute worst thing about not starting today would be I lose out on the $65 and for someone that’s as broke as me, that’s like really a lot of money.
Here’s basically every mistake I made from the moment I woke up on race day:
So I woke up and felt that I was about 80% okay, and decided to run the Traprock 50k (this was a mistake, I should’ve stayed in bed).
I mean, it’s just a 50k (mistake: not respecting the distance).
Looks like it’s going to be about 60 degrees today (mistake: it’s always warmer than what Weather Underground forecasts).
I’ll run with my Camelbak reservoir since I can’t really grip a hand-held in my right hand today (mistake: you really hate running with all that water sloshing around on your back).
I’ll get a drop bag to access after every lap, that will be awesome! (mistake: you put your drop bag too far from the start/finish turnaround, thus adding a good 10 minutes to your finishing time by farting around with it)
I’ll make sure to get a really good stretch before running so I’m nice and loose (mistake: you saw people you knew and chatted with them before running, you never even stretched).
If I feel like dropping during the race, it’s okay, I can just drop out (mistake: you’re ridiculously stubborn and still hate that you DNF’d a race for no good reason two years ago).
Ugh, as far as race reports go I’m not going to do that thing where I get overly pedantic and go over every gel I took and what I felt like at this mile, jokes I told at aid stations, none of that. Just going to be short and sweet about it, (not really) but here goes…
I’ll give a quick description of the course: three 11-ish mile loops with about 1600+ feet of gain on each loop; some sections very steep and rooty, some sections were like stone stairs cut into a frigging cliff, mostly jagged rocks everywhere, some sweet singletrack, some wider jeep-type fire roads, a lot up and down, totally exposed from no leaf cover and great views of a picturesque New England town (Simsbury) from the cliff top. I’ll say this is most likely Connecticut’s “spring classic” ultra race.
Okay, first loop went great- split that in 1:59:xx but spent six minutes farting around getting my water reservoir filled, then putzing with my drop bag: changing into a singlet, applying sunscreen, Body Glide, grabbing gels and then I couldn’t get the cap off my bottle of ice cold flat Coke (the EMT on staff used his rubber glove and got it for me). Was back on course by 2:05, next loop was…
Horrendous. Starting feeling like I could really run hard now, my shoulder totally hurt like hell but, what the *expletive deleted*, let’s go for it! I put the headphones on, cranked the tunes and… caught my *expletive deleted* toe on a *expletive deleted* rock and went *expletive deleted* flying.
Right onto my left shoulder. Now I have owwies on both shoulders, great. My immediate reaction was “I’m done.. race over… forget this, I’m dropping.” If it wasn’t for the runner coming up the trail behind me to check on me, I would’ve dropped. To say I was angry would be an understatement.
I cooled off, repeated to myself over and over, “just let it go, can’t do anything about it now, people fall all the time in these things…” She ran on ahead and told the aid station to expect a bloody and dirty guy to clean up, but my shoulder scrape wasn’t that bad and the dirt was basically sweated away by the time I got there.
So, loop #2 in 2:31, oof. Gonna be a long day. About a mile before the start/finish aid station, I got that slight twinge in the calf of a cramp, then a minute or two later the twinge starts in my groin, oh no. Within three minutes I’m full-on cramping all up and down the legs. Awesome. Gonna be a very long day.
In and out of the start/finish pretty quickly, start back up the climb, fighting off the cramps as best I can. I envision a shuffle-walk for the last loop. My lower back doesn’t feel great- those back spasms I had two days before the race are coming back in slight twinges as well, I think it’s because I can’t quite fully use my right arm so I’m probably over-compensating and it’s affecting my left hip/glute/lower back area. Wonderful.
Up the climb again, totally cramping, stopping every five steps so they can subside. My body just does not want to cooperate today. Luckily I do not go to a dark place because everyone else around me is feeling just about the same. I tuck in behind a taller guy that’s feeling kind of rough, says he was out a bit too late last night- I can smell his sweat, it has the faint odor of vodka and cigarettes. To each his own.
He goes on and I’m joined by a local runner named Andy and we basically shuffle the last ten miles together, alternating between mild jogging, serious power hiking and teeth-gritting periods of running that unfortunately last no longer than 3 or 4 minutes.
Then just to add the slightest bit of insult to the day, I roll an ankle at about mile 27. This has just been so great.
So I did that last loop in 3:07. To put that in context, I am a 3:07 marathoner. I ran the last loop of this race in the same time it took me to run an entire 26.2 miles in Santa Rosa, California, about 20 months ago (I just ran a 3:10 four months ago).
7:47 for the whole 33.2 miles. More context: I just ran a 50-miler in November that was only 31 minutes longer. I’d say I did not have “it” today.
Takeaways from this race were:
- I ran a bunch of early miles with a few folks I recognized from Bimbler’s Bluff 50k (Sarah and Art).
- I really let the folks at the aid stations take care of me, and thanked them for giving up their Saturday so I could do some silly loops in a state park.
- I pulled a tick off of me at one point, he started to burrow into my leg. I think I’m pretty safe from getting Lyme Disease, it’s more likely you get it from a tick nymph bite and they have to be attached for like 24 hours. Phew.
- I ran a lot of the later miles with a guy named Andy and we’re already planning on getting some runs in together, he’s in Westville (about 5 minutes from me).
- I showed a lot of (foolish) grit and determination to get finished.
- Caught up with Art again at the finish to chat real quick- seems though everyone had a rough day except for the winner, local East Coast beast Brian Rusiecki- a 21-minute victory on the #2 finisher. Only nine runners went under six hours.
- I cramped late into the night on Saturday; I cramped on the couch watching TV with my wife (she was a little freaked out) and I cramped some laying in bed. That’s weird.
- I’m full of resolve now to NOT start a race when I’m not 100%. I’ll eat the entry fee instead. Trail running is freaking dangerous, it’s probably best I have full use of all limbs while racing from now on.
So it’s now Thursday, five days later, and the right shoulder is probably 90%- I can lift it over my head, can’t fully rotate it around (all signs and symptoms point to an impingement- looks like 2 more weeks of discomfort and limited range of motion), the left shoulder is totally fine, just scraped (so is my knee and elbow). My back feels pretty great, it’s been nice and loose since the race- I should probably still go see a chiropractor though. My toe really hurts and I’m losing the toenail on the toe next to that one.
Trail running is so glamorous!
Rough Jimmy! I admire your persistence even though in this case sounds like probably too much of a good thing. I’m running a scary-vert 50k tomorrow on 4 weeks of training back from ITBS, so your warnings hit a little close to home. Not exactly “injured” at the moment but it hasn’t been too long. We shall see how it goes (crossing every crossable body part while typing). Enjoy CT springtime, it was my favorite season in New Haven!
Good luck today (if you decide to race)- I like the idea that we can use these things as tests, maybe this race is a test for you to see how you’re progressing back from injury?
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