Sunday, October 29, 2017

Horror Trail Race Report: The End of Norm

It's too bad we don't get to choose what happens, when things go wrong in a race.  I would choose a condition that compromises my running style, requires that I dig deep, and if I remain strong and honest, ends up with an epic result.  Like dislocating your shoulder and winning Hard Rock.  I would briefly consider getting hit by lightening and coming in third at Hard Rock, but would probably discard that option as it would most likely use up all of my lucky charms...

I'm not bragging, but I have a long list of injuries and running conditions that could be reasonable choices.  I know what to do, to mitigate their impact to my race.  Cramping is common amongst runners in general, and specifically ultra runners.  Recovery is formulaic and I can address that problem in my sleep.  Ironically, I have woken up to a calf cramping, so at times the cure was literally while I was asleep!  I also have methods to address problematic knee and back issues.

Horror Trail is a 2.5K loop through a small forest, replete with a sugar shack and blue tubing connecting the large maple trees.  I have run HT in cool, but dry weather and the course is a true gem.  Short enough to avoid nutritional errors, but long enough that it does not seem overly repetitive.  My goal for the 6 hour race was what I thought would be easy and simple.  Run 12 loops (30K) at a slow but steady run, then introduce walking breaks.  For the Norm Patenaude award purposes, I had to make it to 17 loops, or 42.5K - basically an ultra.  Even if one of my plethora of problems surfaced, I was confident I could stick it out to 42.5K.  I planned to walk an extra loop, to make the distance a respectable 45K.  But no longer.  I have a 50K hill race (Fat Ass Trail Race) in 2 weeks.

During the race, it rained for the entire time I was on the course.  This created some very interesting and challenging conditions.  Every loop, the greasy mud sections were larger and the sections with sure footing grew smaller.  This might have affected my ankle, but I'm not convinced.  I ran 50K at Sulphur earlier this year in the mud and without ankle issues.  Yes, the effort of running in slippery conditions was greater and took a toll on my legs, but I did not roll or twist my ankle at any time.  Starting at 15K, I felt a minor pain in my right ankle, similar to what is experienced long after you sprain an ankle, but before it is totally mended.  Just a minor annoyance.  As the mileage increased, so did the pain.  by 25K, it was a noticeable presence.  Since I had done nothing to hurt the ankle, I was a bit miffed that it was starting to cause me some serious pain.  I figured that the ankle was deliberately trying to sabotage my race, so I took some Advil and ignored the pain.

One problem with trying to ignore an injury, even one where you did nothing wrong and the injured appendage is doing it on purpose, is that over a few hours, it starts to yell.  At lap 13 (32.5K) I could no longer ignore the pain.  I sat down and tried slowly rolling the ankle in circles.  During my rugby years, I sprained both ankles on several occasions and found that this helped.  Mind you, I never tried running for more than 4 hours on a sprained ankle...  I introduced long walking breaks, in the hopes that the pain would miraculously disappear.   It was quite frustrating lurching around the course like a drunken Frankenstein, in considerable pain.  Running was becoming a problem.

At the start of lap 14, I was still convinced that since I had done nothing to injure the ankle, it should be able to support me for 4 more loops.  I had enough time to walk in an ultra, as long as I could continue at a fast walking pace.  My ankle would have none of it.  Halfway through loop 14, it was too painful to put any weight on my right foot, even while walking.  My race had come to an end.

Unfortunately, due to poorly timed travel plans and a formerly favourite nephew's marriage, I had to run an ultra at the Horror Trail 6 hour race, or I would not be able to complete the 8 ultras needed to obtain the Norm Patenaude award.  It's funny, but I thought that running an ultra at Horror Trail would be the easiest ultra.  Thanks ankle.

Earlier this year, I realized that I am not Norm Patenaude material.  I am more impressed now, with the few people who attain the award, than before I made my attempt.  Yes, I could have done a few things differently.  Run a more intelligent set of ultras.  Example:  Not 3 on consecutive weekends.  Determine the ultras to run before the year begins and make no changes to the list, for any reason.  I also realized that I would not be attempting the NP award again, even if I don't make it this year.  It is simply too much on this old, injured body.  The award is something to seek and a worthy endeavor, but better suited for those who are healthy or under 50 years of age.

So, I now look forward to the Fat Ass Trail Race (FATR) On Sunday November 12.  Hopefully I can drop from the 50K to the 25K.  It will feel great to finish a race tired, but not trashed.

Also, sale of the OUTRace film festival tickets is starting to gather momentum.  If you plan to attend this great event, consider signing up soon.  The films, Trails in Motion 5, are quite epic this year, but there will also be free coffee and cookies and a draw prize.  OUTRace new sponsor Arc'teryx will have a pair of shoes as part of the draw prizes, along with my wife Lee Anne's pottery.  Hope to see you there!