Heading into 2012 I decided I needed to really commit to running in the hills. My plan was to run 3 days a week in the hills and bump it up to 4 days as the race got closer. January started out great. I felt I had a solid base of miles built up from the end of 2011 and I was now going to be running with sub 21 hour guys (at the race they intend to run under 21 hours) on a weekly basis. I knew I would be pushed to the farthest my limits would allow.
I had some heel pain at the end of 2011 but nothing that curtailed my running just some annoyances. It turned out that it was a case of plantar fasciitis building up. I went to a training run for the Way2Cool race to get some course experience. I made it about 8 miles into the training run and my left heel was really starting to hurt. I adapted like we all do and started running more near my forefoot. The Cool race is run on many of the same trails as the last 20 miles of the Western States course. Somewhere around mile 15 I noticed my left foot was going numb and my toe was starting to hurt. I made it another 3 miles or so before I started to limp quite heavily. By the time I got to the end of the run, I had sneaky suspicion that my running off my forefoot, for only 10 miles or so, might have hurt my foot again.
I stuck around for everyone to finish but my foot was starting to hurt pretty bad and I was having trouble keeping up a good attitude. Deep down, it felt a lot like the last 2 times I broke it. I drove home, iced it and hoped for the best.
I woke up the next morning to what I already knew I would see; a massively swollen foot and a need for crutches. However this time my entire foot hurt from heel to toe. I immediately contacted the guy I had been using as my mentor for a specialist. I went and saw her and we deduced that I was very lucky. I did not break the toe but I jammed it really bad. Basically like a football players turf toe, I had cuboid syndrome (ankle issues) and plantar fasciitis. In other words, 2 months no running. I did not run another step until the Way2Cool race. I started that race and ran the first 8 miles and called it a day. My toe felt fine, my ankle (cuboid portion) felt alright, but my heel was still a mess. I spent the rest of the day walking around and jogging some people in. Nothing taxing just feeling out the foot, I wanted to see how bad it would get. It was now March and I had to start running if I was going to make it to the start line at States in 2012.
The next day my PT devised a plan for me to run but intensely work on my heel. The problem stemmed from tightness in my calf. I went out and bought this calf stretcher which I think has been absolutely key in my recovery. I carried this thing around with me everywhere I went and stretched each calf 1 minute at a time up to maybe 10-15 times a day for months. I wear a boot to bed every night to keep my foot in a right angle to my shin so my calf stays stretched. I have an intimate relationship with many golf balls on the arch of my foot and at work I pick marbles up with my toes while I sit at my desk.
April 1st I started to up the miles and got into the 30mpw range. Last year at that time I had done double that on a fairly easy week. My foot was getting better but it was still hurting a little. I did not have any ability to run up a hill without allowing the left heel to hit the ground. I kept working at it and kept the miles down. Mid April, I had a huge breakthrough. I ran a hill near my house and my left heel never once hit the ground, and, I had no pain. This was fantastic! At that point the only pain I felt was after the run and as long as I spent a lot of time stretching the thing out I could nurse it back to the point it was at just before the run.
I decided at that point I was ready to join the pack back in the hills. I made a pact that I would walk as often as needed and not worry about over all speed. I would press the downhills to work the quads but running uphill would need to come naturally, otherwise I’d walk….all of them.
My first run with the group was a tough one. We would run backwards the toughest two canyons of the Western States course then turn right back around and run them the correct way back to the car, roughly 28-30ish miles. I walked every step of the up’s and ran every downhill like a bear was after me.
I blew up on the last climb in the only way I know how, epically! My mentor had to pretty much scrap his run to get me back to the top of Michigan Bluff. Body fluids were leaving my body at record pace, my muscles were revolting and I was acting like a complete spaz! Though I blew up, I did not have much pain in my foot and that was the first run over 26 miles since December.
By this point every race I intended on running had passed except for the
50. By that point my training was going well, I entered the race positive that
it would be a good day and for 10 miles it was. Then I got lost multiple times,
ran out of water on a very hot exposed day, and missed a cutoff at the 35 mile
mark after having run 42 from getting lost. It was a rough day.
That was the last race I competed in. Not the confidence builder you want, before a 100 mile race. However, my training has been a ton of quality this year. I actually can run some tough hills now. I’m much faster hiking hills and my quads are as bulletproof as they ever were in when I was young. The fast guys only have to wait for me for a little bit these days, and I keep up with them on all the downhill’s, and usually I pass them just to let em know I’m still nipping at their heels. The first time I pass them on the uphill’s….you can bet they are going to hear about it!
I’ve now run almost 160 miles on the Western States course and seen every nook and cranny. I am confident up to 40 miles in any given run and on technical terrain I am far and away in the best running shape I’ve ever been. I also know after 40 miles, I do not know anything. In the 8 weeks leading up to my taper, I had runs of 32, 34, 34, 40, 38, 42, 41 miles each weekend. I backed them all up with at least 8 miles the next day depending on how my feet felt. I had a solid 10.5 hour (first 30 of WS course) run 2 weeks ago
In the 4 months I’ve been back running, I took 1 cutback week. I ran 139 (March), 179(April), 272 (May) miles and I’m at about 110 this month so far. My foot feels strong, my body feels pretty good. I ran nearly 1200 miles at this point last year and I’m at 800 now.
I have no idea how Saturday is going to turn out. What I do know is I’ve put in the time to give myself a good shot at running well. My focus has turned from an arbitrary time to wanting to enjoy this experience. I’m not going to win, heck I’m not going to even come close to the pace I am capable running so I’m going to have my self a great time. I intend to have a smile on no matter how bad the suffering gets or when it starts. I would not give up this journey for anything. It’s taught me lessons that I’ll carry with me the rest of my life. I’ve helped inspire people to run and do things they never thought they could. I deserve to be here this weekend, and I’m going to make damn sure I come away from this race better than when I started it. I’ve got some fun things planned while I’m out there and if nothing else, people are going to see a side of me that does not usually come out except maybe at
I’m confident in my abilities. To steal a line from my mentor:
“I took no shortcuts, I have no excuses” nor do I have any regrets. My body will carry me as far as I am smart to let it. That means, toss the competitive part of me out the window and pick it up at Green Gate 20 miles from the finish. Run your heart out from Hwy49 those last 7 miles into the track, and run past all those things I’ve been holding onto all these years. Saturday is going to be a momentous occasion for nearly 400 runners and their crew. The 1500 volunteers will see a passion for running that is rarely found at a road race and I intend to thank as many of them as I can for being there allowing me to complete this dream I had so long ago.
I have so many people to than it would take forever to mention them by name so I’ll just group them together. To my family and friends thank you so much for all your support. The guy who hates to get help from anyone sure does appreciate all the help he’s gotten from you all. However, I have to single out my gal, without her none of this would have happened. She truly is my rock. I’m now off to Squaw for a little jaunt in the woods. Auburn Bound BABY!