I would like to say that I made a really good choice today and that I am not disappointed as I dropped at Afton today after 25k, you know what I can answer both questions. I did make a good choice and yes I am disappointed but more than anything I am probably most unhappy with running the second consecutive race with injuries. So if you want you can stop reading at this point as I had my first failure in a 50k with a DNF. I do hate that as this is my third one ever although I don't think I will regret this one.
Today, it was a really nice day to run at Afton. I drove over with Londell, in his nice new Smart car. We discussed his upcoming surgery and a few other things, thanks for the ride Londell. When I got there I saw Steve L. and talked with him for a while. Saw Wayne and chatted with him, Saw Dane who I had met a week or so back running in Lebanon Hills. I think I met Brian E. who also runs in Lebanon but I didn't take the opportunity to say hello. Maybe next time. I was apprehensive before the race as I was a bit worried about how my ankle and achilles would hold up on the hills of Afton. Since Chippewa I have pretty much avoided any real hills as the achilles hasn't been fond of them. The weather seemed ok, humid but not too hot and we had a cloud cover so I didn't think it would be an issue as long as I stay hydrated.
The race started right on time and we were off. I told myself to start out slow and try to let the race come to me. I knew the hills that were ahead and I had to show respect for them or I would be in trouble. When we got to the bottom of the first hill, I glanced back and there were only a few runners behind me. Saw Les and said a quick hi but he quickly left me as I was doing a good job of holding back. I also didn't seem to be getting much of a push-off but I convinced myself that I was holding back. Up the first hill, the achilles seemed pretty good and I walked up strong. Onto the "Africa loop", a few more runners passed me and so I glanced once more behind me and I saw only one more runner. Again on the flats I didn't seem too efficient, each step didn't seem to propel me forward with any authority. Down the hill towards the first aid station, I charged hard, no pain, sweet, I passed 3 or 4 runners going down. I breezed through the first aid station, there is at least one advantage to carry the Nathan, and I passed a few more runners. I kind of just zoned out during the "Back 40 loop" section, I do enjoy it a lot. Back to the "Africa loop", I stayed within myself and I still felt pretty good.
I made it the aid station by the river and I saw Londell taking pictures and I had caught back up to Les. I told Les to take off as he was too fast for me. We ended up staying together through "Nigel's hill" and through the "Campground" and back to the same aid station. Les filled me on Surf the Murph (new web page still getting developed but go ahead and take an early look), for this year he is offering not only a 25k and a 50k but he confirmed that he has added the 50 miler and he also has thrown in a marathon. He said the shirts will be like last years (long sleeve Race Ready) except they will be black with orange lettering. After all we will be running on Halloween. It was fun talking with Les, we talked to another runner named Jeff, a 50k newbie who had done the trail mix in under 6. I said why are you with us? I felt pretty good during this section as walking the uphills seemed ok and running the downhills was working well. I thought at this time I was on-track to finish the first loop in 3 hours and 20 minutes so I wasn't having a bad day, even if I fell apart and ran a 4 hour second loop it would still be a PR. Sweet.
Then we hit the mile and a half straight section. Fairly quickly I had to tell Les to take off, I could not keep up with him, again the flats were irritating the achilles and I wasn't getting a good push-off and to add to my woes, the left foot was aching probably from compensating from the achilles. Onto "Meatgrinder", the uphills weren't so easy now, the downhills weren't going too well either, it seemed like every fourth or fifth step I would torque one of them which added more pain. I hobbled my way to the final aid station for this loop and mentally told myself to buck up and work my way through these issues.
Onto the "Snowshoe loop", I tried hard to find a style of running that would not aggravate my trouble spots. I thought I had it until I hit the grassy downhill section that was fairly rough at least in the fact that it wasn't an even running surface. I looked at my Garmin, did I say yet how nice it is to look down and know that I had a clue for my mileage. I had about a mile and half to the turnaround. Find the style that works, I kept telling myself. As we headed back onto the dirt singletrack I thought I had it, then I went through one of the sharp down and ups, ouch. I made it to the asphalt where we pass under the road, less than a mile. I was going to do it today. No doubt. It was warm from the humidity but I was hydrating ok, onto loop 2, then I went up what I thought was the final fairly steep hill and it hurt more than I wanted even though I was walking. An endless (ok it just seemed like it) number of 25k'ers went by, I struggled on up with no push-off on the hill. I tried to get going again and then I went up yet another short hill out in the open and I had to think about what I was going to do. I was not sure if it would be wise to attempt the second loop. I was in some pain but I had not done any more damage. If I start the second loop, I will finish it I thought but at what cost? I thought about what I yet wanted to do this year and I made the decision I should quit. I came around a bend and saw Paul from work. I asked him why he wasn't out here he said his knee which I had forgotten about. He asked how I was doing, I told him I was done. I didn't like saying that at all.
I said earlier, the hills at Afton require some respect and with a bum ankle and a sore achilles I was risking too much and I will admit I was afraid that I would take a hard fall or worse yet I would have to walk the downhills. So I headed to the aid station for the 50k'ers and told them I was done. They said are you sure? I hesitated and said, yes. I forgot to stop my Garmin but I am pretty sure it was around 3 hours and 33 minutes when I came in.
I chatted with the folks at the aid station a bit and watched the few folks behind me come through and I thought again, nope, stick with your decision. They gave me some ice and I sat down and I iced the achilles and the left ankle. Did that ever feel good.
I called my wife and said I would need an early pick-up and then I looked to see if Wayne had made it in. He hadn't so I sat back down and relaxed and then I saw him coming in. We talked a bit and we discussed getting food, he said he wasn't ready and I said it sounded good. I got a hotdog, it tasted good. So it looks like my stomach works through the 25k distance. Kel came in and was talking with Wayne so I went over and introduced myself (nice to meet you Kel). I can't remember the two other guys Wayne introduced me too, sorry about that. I watched the 50k winner come in, so that is what they look like when they come in. I have always wondered that. He looked strong finishing. Saw a whole bunch more 50k'ers come in. Saw Dane, he did a great job in his first 50k, I think he came in either just under 5 or just over, so much for my short term memory. Saw Steve Q. come in and I talked with him briefly. He said he was just a minute off of a PR, congrats on a good day even if it wasn't a negative split. I talked with Londell and he said I made a "Smart" decision because I came over in his "Smart" car so it must've rubbed off on me. He might be right as I seldom have made smart decisions.
You know, although I failed on one goal, that being another 50k finish. I did achieve the rest of my goals, I enjoyed myself, I think I ran fairly smart all things considered, I didn't injure myself any further and I can now enjoy the rest of the 4th of July weekend with my family. I am pretty sure if I had continued, I would have paid a heavy price. Even now, with my ankle wrapped, I have some issues walking without a hobble. Lesson learned again, if you start out injured you probably will finish still injured.
Final note, it was great to see some of my fellow runners and to meet a few more, Afton is a great course, a great race, has great volunteers and I can't wait for my revenge next year when I hit it injury free :-).