"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Afton - Past and Present

Just a few thoughts about this weekend's 50K...

I see I ran the 25K there in 2003 and finished in 2:14 and thought I'd done well. In 2007, I ran the first half of the 50K in 2:18 and in 2008, I did it in 2:16, so I guess my endurance has improved - that, is until I try to finish the 50K.

In 2007, it was 90 degrees by the end and it was humid. I remember camping at the last aid station, talking to Alicia and devouring at least a pound of strawberries before heading into the snowshoe loop. Those who love the Afton course gush about the snowshoe loop; I just gush blood on the course. I slowed by 3 minutes per mile those last few miles and I'd been slowing for some time before then. I finished in 5:29 and was surprised with a third place 40-49 age class trophy.

2008 was "the race we don't talk about." If I find it, I'll post Jen Pierce's (maybe it was Wayne's) photo of me covered in dirt at the finish line, but it doesn't begin to tell the story. I went out hard (with Eve Rembleski) and started to fade the first time up the Meatgrinder hill (maybe 10 miles). I remember Helen Lavin passing me on the snowshoe loop, but little else until the second time through the course, when things got - what's the word? Tragic? Horrifying? Hellish? I fell, on level ground no less, and felt a severe pain in my left hip. I looked, and the head of the femur was out of the hip socket, a sight so grotesque I nearly vomited. I knew my running career had just ended and I waited for the next runner to come to alert those at the next aid station. It seemed like forever (maybe 30 seconds, in retrospect) and I made one of those irrational decisions that can't be explained. I dragged myself off course to a sapling and used it for leverage to snap the bone back in place. No words can describe how excruciating that was.

[This is taking forever to type. I'm starting to relive it.]

I stood - so, apparently, I'd done it right. I started walking, wobbling, and got to the next aid station (maybe 400 meters, downhill) and tore off my number and handed it in. Ten minutes later, after discussions of rides back to the start on an ATV, I decided that, if this was going to be the last race I was ever going to do, by God, I was going to finish it. I took back my number and started back on the trail. I was followed by a volunteer for about a mile, as he was (justifiably) worried about me. Other runners went by me, asking what happened and I found myself trying to downplay what just took place. I even remember speeding up going up the Meatgrinder the second time to stay with Julie Berg, as conversations were keeping my mind off the injury.

I finished in 5:51. The paramedics wanted me in the ambulance, but I refused. They wouldn't let me leave until I promised I was going straight to the hospital and then they followed me to my car and watched me drive away (they didn't think I could walk or drive - getting in the car took a few minutes). I had enough wrong with me that the hospital admitted me for 2 days; it wasn't the injury so much as what might have caused it.

So, 2009 will be different. I have a plan, I'll be sticking to it, I'll be running a little slower at the start and a lot faster at the end. I'm planning on being under 5 hours, maybe 4:45 if all goes perfectly. And I'm not tasting the course again! For one thing, in 2007, I did a very hard hill workout the week before the race and my legs still hurt the day of the race. In 2008, I ran the Langford Park 4 Mile in an easy 26 minutes the day before the race. This year, I'm coming in rested - except for the 350 miles of races since April. I can't do anything about that.




Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

First off -


I'm running a 10k (my first) this weekend and I was planning on buying myself some special Belgian beer afterwards to celebrate running a whole 6.2 miles in a race (I've only ever raced 5ks and, recently, a 4-miler), but now I feel I wouldn't deserve anything better than a Coors Light, warm, for running 6.2 miles (assuming I finish, but now, thanks to your post, DO I REALLY HAVE ANY OTHER CHOICE if I expect to keep my man card?) so THANKS A LOT for ruining BEER for me, Steve!1!

O, yeah, and for making me feel like a p*ssy! I don't need YOUR help in that area!

Try not to accidentally assassinate yourself this weekend.

But if you do ... that's just more beer for me.

Sorry. Running is, after all, a bloodsport.

Matthew Patten said...

I was going to be a voice of reason on this, but I know how well you respond to reason.

Those race miles will haunt you on that second loop, but you already know that.

Good luck with the plan... I will alert the local hospitals.

Anonymous said...

I'm manning the start/finish aid station and will keep an eye out for you and/or the ambulance. I'll have my camera for those photo opps, but won't have the hose at the end of this race... :-)

I second Mr. Patten's thoughts of his last post.

Bill P.

Mark H. said...

Good luck Steve.

After I learned of your injury last year, your 2nd loop haunted ME.... I was wondering how the heck I could pass you sometime after you performed the sapling-snapback and later, at the end of the race, you almost caught me. Well, I know how you did it - I was slowing down and you were speeding up. Amazing work doing what you did last year.

Take care.