Odyssey Trail Running Rampage (September 7, 2019)

It was an early wake-up Saturday morning to get to Douthat State park (apparently pronounced “doubt that” not “do that” as I had thought) for Brian to pick up his number before the 6:30 a.m. 40 miler race briefing and 7 a.m. start.

I still had no idea what I was going to do. I was registered for the 1/2 marathon which started at 10:00. I was thinking that maybe I’d just run around the park and do some exploring after Brian started his race and before mine started.

When Brian picked up his number, I went with him and asked (hypothetically) whether it would be possible to switch from the 1/2 to the full marathon. The volunteer didn’t know, so she called the race director over. When he heard that I had originally registered for the 40 miler, he told the volunteer to just switch me, no charge. He was so nice about it and said he just wants everyone to run and have fun. Wow! I was surprised and grateful. I hadn’t been expecting that.

The course is a 13.4 mile loop run once for the 1/2, twice for the full and three times for the ultra.

Elevation profile for each loop:Screenshot 2019-09-17 at 1.30.24 PM (1)

I saw Brian off on his first lap and walked up to see the lake.

It was a beautiful.

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I love watching the fog lifting from the water in the morning. It always makes me think of Maine.

After that, I mostly just tried not to freeze. The temperature was in the sixties, but for some reason I was shivering. I was also worrying about rolling my ankle again and questioning my decision to switch to the full marathon.

Although, the race director was unusually easygoing. At the race briefing for the 40 miler, he had said that if anyone wanted to stop early for whatever reason that was fine. Usually, stopping early results in a DNF even if you complete the distance of a shorter race, but he said if you ran one lap, you’d get credit for finishing the 1/2 and if you ran two laps you’d get credit for running the marathon. Very generous! I also noticed (too late to take advantage myself) that he allowed people who were running shorter distances to start with the runners running longer distances. I could have started with the 40 milers instead of standing around freezing for an hour and a half.

He had also said at the race briefing that the dry weather had made the course more technical than usual. He warned us of loose rocks and told us to be especially careful on the downhill after the big climb. This was definitely not what I wanted to hear.

Oh well.

Eventually it was time for the marathoners to start.

I don’t know if it was the dry weather or just that I was nervous to begin with, but the technicality of the course surprised me. It was way more technical than I remembered.

I started out close to the back. There were probably less than a handful of people behind me. My plan was to treat this as a long training run. I wanted to take it very easy. Especially the first lap. I stayed behind a group of people who were walking slower than my normal walking pace for more than a mile, before finally deciding to pass them. Easy is one thing, but there was no reason to be going slower than I would on a training run. I knew they’d all come flying by me as soon as we started going downhill anyway.

As we neared the top, the trail cut along the side of the mountain. The path was narrow and crumbling off on one side. It didn’t make for easy running, but the views from this section were spectacular. I was happy it was such a nice day. Last year it was foggy and I hadn’t seen a thing.

The first aid station was also in a beautiful spot!

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There was only water at this aid station and I had started with plenty of Nuun in my hydration pack, so I just snapped a picture, thanked the volunteers and was on my way.

Within a mile of the downhill, everyone who I had passed on the way up passed me back. After about two miles of downhill an older gentleman came by and asked if I was okay. Ha! I told him I was fine I just suck at downhills. He slowed his pace to chat. We commiserated about injuries for a while, but he eventually pulled ahead.

My energy was great at this point. I was just mentally exhausted from worrying about my ankle and concentrating on each and every foot placement.

I was relieved to see the second aid station. I added some water to my hydration pack and used my collapsible cup to get some Heed, grabbed a couple of cookies and headed out.

There was a short section of road and I was a little sad to waste the first “easy” section of running (9 miles in…) by walking. But nonetheless, I walked while I drank my Heed and ate my cookies. Even though we were back on trails, they were less steep and rocky. I was able to mostly run and I caught back up to the man I’d talked to earlier at the next aid station. I grabbed two more cookies and some more Heed in my cup and headed out. Walking again, while I ate and drank.

I was right with that same guy, so we ran together and talked some more. He asked if I was going to go for the second lap. He had had a couple of injuries this year and was only doing one lap. When we’d talked earlier I had told him I may only do one lap, too. And I still wasn’t sure. I had been feeling my hip for the entire loop and at one point, I had to stop and walk on a climb because I had a sharp pain in my hip flexor. Those last two miles were spent thinking about whether I would keep going or not. The closer I got to the finish, the more I wanted to keep going. I decided that I would at least start out on the second loop. I could turn around if I needed to.

I finished my first lap in 3:04. My time for the 1/2 marathon the year before was 2:40. So quite a bit slower this year, but I still had another lap to go this time.

I grabbed a Hammer gel from my drop bag (the first aid station with food was nine miles away on the other side of the mountain), filled my hydration pack about halfway with water and ate a piece of banana before I headed out.

It was getting hot. The climb wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t terrible either. I passed a handful of people, which was a bit of a relief because I hadn’t seen any other marathon runners since the long downhill on the first loop. It was good to know I wasn’t miles behind everyone. A couple of the 40 milers lapped me on the climb.

I had nearly finished my water again, so I filled up at the first aid station. I was a little less stressed about the downhill and thought I was moving quicker on this section than I had on the first lap (I later noticed that my Garmin said otherwise, though.) My hip was definitely feeling better than it had at the end of the first lap. I was actually wondering if I might be able to run negative splits.

At the second aid station I got a cup of Heed and two more cookies. I drank the Heed and ate one cookie. Heed is pretty sugary though. And I had eaten my gel on the climb. I had no desire for that second cookie. Angry with myself for being wasteful, I put the cookie into a pocket on my hydration pack.

It was starting to require concentrated effort to make myself run. The last 4.5 miles are completely runnable, but I didn’t feel like running anymore. I made myself keep going though. I was within sight of a man and woman in front of me and for a while the thought of catching them pulled me along. They got ahead of me at the last aid station though and I never saw them again.

I must have looked pretty unhappy the first time I came through because the race director said I looked much happier this time. That’s because I wasn’t worried about finishing anymore! After the first lap I wasn’t at all confident that I could make it another lap, but now I had done it!

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I was elated that I was able to run the marathon and that I managed to not roll my ankle again.

Brian was there to greet me. After a stressful week of travelling for work he was exhausted and had decided to do the marathon too, instead of the 40 miler.

I didn’t come anywhere close to running negative splits. My second lap was 20 minutes slower than my first which surprised me. But I slowed down much less than most people. I ranked 30th on my first lap and 15th on my second. Not too shabby.

I was still pretty close to the back of the pack, though. I placed 23rd out of 36 finishers.

I don’t care at all. I’m just thrilled I was able to do it.

Five weeks

Brian and I had been training for West Virginia Trilogy again. We were also registered for the Odyssey Trail Running Rampage 40 miler on September 7 as a training run for the Trilogy.

My last long run was on Sunday, August 4.

On Wednesday, August 7 I sprained my ankle. I joined the gym, rode the stationary bike twice and managed to do something to my knee. So then I couldn’t climb stairs, do squats or lunges (so no PT exercises) or ride the bike because of my knee. And I still couldn’t run because of my ankle.

We withdrew from the Trilogy. Neither of us were feeling very confident about our training anyway. Brian had already decided he wasn’t going to do all three races. I still wanted to try, but even before I sprained my ankle, I knew it would be a stretch. After spraining my ankle, there was no way. Luckily, my sprain came just in time for us to cancel and get a refund.

I was disappointed to not be running the Trilogy (again!) I’ve been wanting to run that race forever. But even if I only lost a couple of weeks of training (which I couldn’t afford to do) it was going to take me a long time to feel confident on the trails again. And the trails at Trilogy are some of the most technical trails I’ve run on.

On Tuesday, August 13 I went for a short run. It went fine. I still couldn’t do my PT exercises because it hurt to bend my knee deeply. But the knee felt fine running. So did my ankle. I took the next day off and then ran again on Thursday, August 15. Everything was fine during the run, but I had some weird bruising afterward that freaked me out. So I didn’t run again until Wednesday, August 21. I still wasn’t able to ride the bike, so I did nothing at all, which had driven me crazy. So I did some hill repeats that day (it just felt so good to be running again!) and may have pushed a little too hard because I did something to my hip (it may have been my glute, but to keep things simple, we’ll just call it my hip). My ankle felt absolutely fine, though. As did my knee. And there was no bruising, so I cancelled the doctor’s appointment I had scheduled for my ankle.

The pain in my hip was tolerable. I could still run. I just couldn’t run far or fast. So I did nothing but short, slow runs for two weeks. I went out that weekend, (August 25) hoping to do a long run with Brian, just around town. My hip still hurt though, so I turned around after just two miles. Feeling depressed and beyond frustrated, I went online and paid a nominal (less than $4) transaction fee to switch from the Odyssey 40 miler to the 1/2 marathon.

By the middle of the next week the pain in my hip mellowed into tightness/slight discomfort. So I planned a 14 mile run on the technical trails at Sugar Hollow for that (Labor Day) weekend. I was feeling a bit like a caged animal by this point. It had been four whole weeks (a month!) since my last long run in the mountains. Once we were out there though, I quickly began questioning my decision. I was so scared of twisting my ankle again and all of the climbing was making my hip pretty cranky. We turned around early and ended up with just under 12 miles.

Even so, I was feeling so much better. I knew I could at least manage the 1/2 marathon the next weekend. Plus I’d spent some time in the mountains and even got to enjoy some time at Snake Hole.

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Things were looking up.

That last week before Odyssey, I kept thinking that maybe I could switch to the full marathon. I even went online and tried to switch, but apparently they only allow you to change your mind once. My ankle felt 100% better (well, maybe 95%). Much better, anyway, than it had when I ran a 50k two weeks after spraining it in 2017. And while that (admittedly) hadn’t gone well, this felt much different. This sprain wasn’t as bad to begin with and I’d had two more weeks to let it heal. I was a little worried that I’d lost fitness taking so much time off and not having done any long runs for the last five weeks. But people typically taper for a week or two before an ultra. Three weeks of tapering isn’t unheard of for a marathon.

So I’d taken a 5 week taper. A stretch maybe, but reasonable to think I could still run a marathon, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seen on the run (September 1, 2019)

My first trail run since my last ankle sprain.

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I picked a pretty technical trail because I’ve been waiting for months to do this.

I was nervous and slow on the trail, but I was ecstatic that I was able to do it and the swimming hole plunge was so worth it.

I’m hoping summer holds on for a bit longer.

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11.6 very slow miles at Sugar Hollow.

This is what I live for.

Well damn it!

IMG_20190815_065016300_HDRAfter an easy, pain-free four mile run on Tuesday, I took a day off on Wednesday just to be extra cautious, even though I felt zero pain on Tuesday. This morning I ran five miles. Again with zero pain. I was feeling good and thinking I was on the mend.

But then I came home and took my shoes off.

IMG_20190815_141259840_HDRThe dark purple bruising on the side of my shin and foot is new. My foot hurts now, too.

I’m trying to convince myself that it’s just from my ankle brace digging in, but I’m afraid it may be a stress fracture (or two).

Let’s just hope it’s not a Jones fracture. Avulsion fractures are more common with ankle rolls and much less serious. But of course I think it’s a Jones fracture.

Google is not my friend.

I have an appointment with Dr. Wilder Wednesday morning.

The fourth decade

Not my favorite so far

I’m falling apart. Both of my knees are scraped up from my two recent falls, there is still a gaping hole in my thigh where my mole was removed (I happened to really like that mole too) and now I haven’t been able to run for a week.

And what a week it’s been. I started my period which has become super extra fun in the last three years. My patience drops to about zero and I get 24 hours of bleeding so heavily that I can’t be away from a bathroom for more than an hour and I have to sleep on a towel. Fun stuff. That coupled with not being able to run (which generally helps with the zero patience part) plus still being ridiculously sad about Molly has made for a rough week.

But this morning I went for a run. It was short and I wore an ankle brace. But I worked up a soul cleansing, mood enhancing sweat and I feel like a human gain.

Life isn’t always long runs in the mountains, swimming holes and immortal rainbow unicorn kittens.

But running sure helps me get through the rest of it.

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Seen on the run (August 4, 2019)

Riprap parking to Loft mountain (without taking the shortcut through the campground that we took last time)

21.42 miles

I was on my own for this one.

Brian ran the JIM yesterday. I cheered him on. It looked miserable. And kind of fun. Maybe I’ll join him next year.

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The first half of my run was really quiet. I only saw one other person in the first 9 miles.

It was humid. In less than an hour I was drenched with sweat.

IMG_20190804_092619170IMG_20190804_095616093_HDR The very nice lady who works at the Loft mountain camp store remembered me. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that both times I’ve been in there I’ve been dripping wet.

I scared a bunny.

Okay, maybe it was the other way around.

I also heard a bear crashing through the woods. I saw the brush move, but didn’t actually see the bear. It was moving away from me.

The last 6 miles were tough. It was getting late (I didn’t finish until almost 1:30) and hot. I spent some time wondering if I was suffering from heat exhaustion or just plain old exhaustion. The difference is a little more worrisome when you’re out there by yourself. I decided it was run-of-the-mill tiredness and I was probably right because I finished without any medical emergencies.

There was definitely some walking, though.

IMG_20190804_100915055_HDRI’m trying to avoid routes with swimming holes because I had a mole removed from my leg for biopsy. It was benign but it left a gaping hole in my leg. My dermatologist wasn’t too keen on me swimming in mountain streams. It’s been three weeks now though and I don’t think I can take it much longer. A plunge at the end of this run would have felt amazing. If it’s hot next weekend I’m hitting up a swimming hole.

IMG_20190804_130317370_HDRI had a few gnats on my legs when I finished.

That wouldn’t have been the case if there had been a swimming hole to clean off in.