Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trail and Error


     “The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail.  Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.”  - Louis L’Amour

It’s not easy to write about a lackluster year of running.  When something ends bad, that is what you tend to remember - the bad times.  I’m not quite sure how things started unraveling in 2016.  I guess it was too much of a good thing, or maybe not enough.  Either way here is how the year went.  

2016 was going to be a great year for me.  I had decided to run a lot of races, mostly marathons to build up to the big 150 mile race in the fall.  I managed to rack up two half marathons, nine marathons and three ultra marathons.  

I did have some running highs in 2016.  I was able to do a few races with friends including my first indoor marathon, where we were fortunate enough to not get shot by the crazed Uber driver in the area on our way home.  This spring I convinced a friend to run her first marathon and I was able to be there and cross the finish line with her while she cried tears of joy, she’s already signed up for her second marathon.  I traveled the country and checked three new states off the map on my 50 states marathon quest, 35 states done now.  My best training buddy finished his first official 50 miler and a few months later he got to 85 or so miles on a 100 mile course, I saw both of those key moments in his life.   I finished my first 35 mile road bike race and got up to 35 mph doing downhill.  Another running buddy asked me to be his crew chief and pacer at the granddaddy of all ultra marathons, the Western States 100.  What an amazing time that was to help him get to the finish line. Oh-I got to meet a bunch of running celebrities there too.  I ran part of a marathon with my brother, then later helped a total stranger that was suffering and got him to the finish line when he didn’t think he would make it.  A week later, I completed my second fastest 50 mile race to date.  A week after that I did a 35 mile mountain bike race and took second place in my age division, this was my first mountain bike race ever.  

Pacing at Western States.

Some of the running lows were expected.  I ran in the heat and cold, driving rain, high winds and lightening storms-not all at the same time.  I got bronchitis and was sick for almost two months.   I got a flat tire on my rental car at a race.  I ran on a beautiful boardwalk in Georgia where I executed the perfect Superman fall and threw out my shoulder, requiring a month off running and wearing a sling. To my dismay, I gained 25 pounds.  I signed up for a 100K and dropped at just shy of 50 miles.  I signed up for a 50 miler and dropped at the marathon mark.  I never ran the 150 miler in November and I had to cancel my December marathon in Arizona.  
The boardwalk where I fell.

After running steady for 6 years and 66 races of marathon distance or longer, the bottom fell out and I was injured.  (Oh man, I just saw the three 6’s in the last sentence as I typed it.  Dang, that is spooky.)  I couldn’t walk without pain.  I don’t know what went wrong, all I can figure out is that I undertrained (some of it due to injury and illness) but I didn’t get my mileage to where it needed to be this year.  I likely went into events unprepared physically, even though mentally I could get through a lot.  I stopped running and went to the doctor. The MRI showed a stress fracture on the compression side of my femoral neck.  


My doctors felt that surgery was the best option.  They said that if the fracture were to get worse, I would be looking at a hip replacement.  Wow, now that sure puts the brakes on things.  A few days later I was in surgery, they made an incision through my IT band and put three screws into my femur to support my leg.  For four weeks after that I was on crutches or a walker, not able to put any weight on my leg.  I was unable to work or do much of anything without help.  (Thanks Erick for everything you did for me.)
All my future plans for running (and life) were cancelled, deferred or in limbo.  I’m finally able to walk unassisted.  I can’t walk for exercise yet, and running still won’t happen until February.  In the meantime, I’ve read almost 30 books, caught up on Netflix shows and sat in my recliner and threw the ball across the house for two stir crazy border collies. 
      I can't remember who wrote this but it pretty much sums up running from my view point.  "To someone who understands, no explanation is necessary. To someone who does not understand, no amount of explanation will suffice."
      I miss running.  I miss the journey that is on the way to the destination, the finish line.  Everyone tells me I’ll come back stronger after this.  I hope they are right. See you on the trails in 2017, it's going to be a great year- at least that is what I've been told.