I went into this years Surf the Murph feeling like it would be a good test of the progress I have made on getting my legs healthy. The biggest concern was had I gotten enough mileage in over the last few weeks to be able to get through a 50k. My weekly mileage never got to where I expected it to go, my long runs were only 13 to 17 miles heading into the race.
After Grandmas, I stepped back and made a decision to really work to get the legs healthy. I used stretching, ice, and tape to get the foot pain eliminated as I had figured out that the calf was the root cause. I worked on the calf but up until I went in to see Dr. Kevin I had not made much progress. The one trip to Lyn Lake seemed to help get the tightness reduced but I was still struggling with long runs as the calf would tighten up causing pain, it seemed like running longer than 10 miles especially on trails causing the tightness but the pain was gone. Then, about a month ago I made a strategy change. I had been doing my runs in shoes that ranged from 0 drop to 4 mil drop and it occurred to me if I am dealing with a calf issue, then maybe a greater heel drop would take the pressure off so I pulled out all of my older shoes. I have kept a couple pair of Inov-8's that didn't have a lot of miles and started to wear them. They worked and I was able to get my long runs over 13 miles, then 15, then 17, except for whatever reason Inov-8's irritate my right achilles. I wore my 330's for my last run in Murphy before the race and the achilles was hurting so much that I knew I shouldn't wear them. I had a decision to make gamble that I could endure the Achilles pain, go back to lower drop shoes and risk the calf causing pain or figure out another option.
I went into race morning with no idea of what I was going to do for shoes but I had added another option, I had pulled out of the donate pile a couple of old pairs of Montrails, Sabino Controls and RockRidges. I had retired them both a year earlier with just under 400 miles and decided to try them for one more run. As I waited for the race to start I went back and forth, run in my Inov-8's, no make that my Pure Grits, no my Lone Peaks but I finally opted for the Sabino's
I started out the 25k loop with Rick and we stayed together throughout the loop. It was great chatting with Rick and he showed me how to do longer races. He is able to walk a very quick pace,with all the leg issues I had gotten real slow at both my runs and walks. I was thinking that with his coaching I was in good shape for the day. I felt no lower leg pain during the first loop which had me almost giddy. As we ended the first loop we joked that maybe we should quit while we were ahead. The truth was, I felt good and had no intention of stopping. I wanted to get over my recent issue with dropping out of 50k's and I told myself that I had plenty of time to do it.
As we left the aid station at the turn around I had a gagging-coughing response which didn't feel good and caused a twinge in the back from the coughing. I thought, from feeling good to almost throwing up, what a quick turn of events but the coughing and gagging subsided. As we continued on I was struggling on the hills and to keep up with Rick. I was just out of gas and struggling to catch my breath, I was thinking what the heck is going on. I decided that maybe fueling was the issue and ate some clif shot bloks. I was thinking get to the aid station, grab some additional food and keep going, then as I was slugging my way down a hill, I slipped a bit and felt something else in my back. I also had been dealing with a left hamstring which had tightened up and an increasingly sore right knee. So between torquing the back, the hamstring and the knee, my pace was slowing and Rick was starting to disappear in front of me. My pace had fallen to something like a 20 to 22 min pace so I was thinking I might be in trouble.
I got to the aid station knowing I still had 13+ miles but told myself that I had all day and to stick with the plan. The aid station volunteers told me that Rick had told them to not let me stop. That caused a smile and got me thinking, refuel, regroup and get going. So I got some chicken soup and coffee and sat down and tried to stretch things out. After 5 minutes or so, I was feeling better and got up to begin trying to catch Rick knowing he was going to be hard to catch but I was going to give it a try. I quickly discovered that although I mentally felt better the back and other things were still hurting and my walking pace was even slower. I made it up the hills past the 3 mile point and had to face the reality that I couldn't run or walk the downhills or flats without pain. It was one of those, oh crap it hurts more going down the hill than up and isn't getting better. Since my goal was to not injure myself no matter what, I decided to turn right versus left and walk my way out. I kept thinking I had made the wrong choice and pulled the plug prematurely except I was moving at a 25 min/mile pace and hurting.
As I was walking in, I was feeling bad for not gutting it out and finding a way to finish and pretty much decided that I was done as an ultra runner, heck I was thinking I am done as a runner. I was thinking happy thoughts like I just can't do it anymore, I am a wimp, I am too old, too fat, too weak minded and many more negative thoughts. Then it occurred to me that I had no lower leg pain and my dark cloud lifted as this was the first time in 3 years that I had run a race without foot, ankle or calf pain. Yes my back was killing me but I had no lower leg pain, what a wonderful feeling. So maybe I am not done after all. I got to the finish area, told them I was dropping, talked to Jim W. and John T. for awhile and then headed home.
A couple of days later, the back is sore but starting to feel better and the other aches and pains are starting to dwindle, I am curious if the back and knee issue might be related to running in worn out shoes or maybe it was just the misstep combined with the training. One thing that did work is I didn't have Achilles pain.
The good news is we are entering the off season for running and I can work on getting everything working this winter and hit 2014 healthy, what a wonderful thought.