I got back from Cascade fairly motivated to train hard for Steamboat and Bucks County, the final two races I’d planned for the 2014 season. After a week-long bout of the sickness, I started doing some moderate rides. Like a virgin in a whore house, my motivation didn’t last long.
I did an easier five hours one day then went out the day after to do another five, only to find that my brain was having none of it. I turned back after 15 minutes, pissed off and depressed, knowing that I’d reached my limit this year. I didn’t have the motivation to ride, which scared me because it was only August. It was too early to hang everything up, yet I didn’t have the drive needed to perform well.
Not knowing quite what to do, I went on a run. The next day I rode for a bit, still wondering what to do with the next three months of off season besides drink white Russians and eat gelato. I needed something to occupy my body and mend my stressed-out mind. The run had been fun, albeit slow and a bit painful on the old joints and ligaments and things that normally just sit there doing nothing at all during bike rides. So I decided to go on another run two days later with Galen and Maybellene.
Right when we got back, I signed up for a trail race when since there wasn’t anyone around with the wherewithal to stop me (Galen was sitting right there). Here’s the race I found on the gOOgle: Indian Creek Fifties. Quite stupidly, I opted for the 50-mile version instead of the 50km. The longest I’d ever run was 11 or 12 miles, and that was on pavement back in high school. The total number of miles I’d ran in the past five years was probably like 20. Maybe less. To make things worse (or better), the race has a total elevation gain of just under 12,000 feet. Most 50-milers seem to have somewhere around 6,000.
As usual, everyone and their brother (mine included) told me to take things slow and easy as I got started or else I’d get hurt. But fuck that shit. I was up to 2.5 hour runs by the end of my second week. Over the weeks, the pain in my left knee had receded from stabbing, to sharp, to dull, to grinding, then to just a faint ache (I’m talking about the middle of my runs. By the end, everything always hurt at a constant pounding throb).
If you didn’t know, the trail system we have here in Boulder, just like the mountain roads, is awesome. Just mile after mile of steep switch back boulder-hopping fun. It feels great to be out in the real wilderness without cars. It’s incredibly peacful to just slog away for hours in the mountains with no equipment other than shoes and a Cambelback.
With running, I could feel my brain getting healed from all the shit that’s happened this year. I would daydream about all the normal things like what a frog’s field of vision must look like, plus I’d think about the running race and even quite a bit about next year’s bike racing season. Already, running seemed to help my motivation to ride again.
The convenience factor of trail running is pretty appealing too. There’s a trail a half mile from our house that climbs almost a thousand feet round trip, though that’s nothing compared to the stuff down south near Chautauqua. I stuck mainly to those trails, riding 20 minutes there and stashing my bike and backpack in the bushes. The trails that go up Flagstaff, Green Mountain, and the ones meandering up and down the Flatirons are my favorite. My joints couldn’t take the downhills before the jolting pain consumed me, so I pretty much just stuck to going hard uphill and super easy downhill. I ran with my shirt off, letting the hot August sun bake away the cycling tan lines. It was a lot of fun. Notice how all this is in the past tense.
That’s because I’m stupid.
At the beginning of my third week, I did a 2.5 hour run at a good pace (for me): 11:37 minutes per miles sounds slow, and for a good trail runner I think it is, but when you add in 3,300 feet of climbing on technical terrain, it’s a little better. I was happy with the run as it was my longest yet, and I’d taken 2 minutes per mile off my time from a few days before. I decided to celebrate with another 2-3 hour run the next day.
I woke up feeling very stiff. Good. Nothing unusual. I began running and everything below my knees felt like absolute shit. Good, still nothing unusual. Except for a tight Achilles. Extra tight. It had hurt a bit the day before, but keeping track of everything that hurt would have been a full time job.
I should have called it quits on that run immediately, because I knew that if I went for another couple minutes the pain would quickly dull and I’d assume everything was fine. I kept running. The more I ran the better I felt of course. But I did keep it real easy and even walked parts of the downhill. After 2 hours and 15 minutes I was back to my bike in the bushes, happy to have done the workout without having anything catastrophic happen in my knees or ankles (the second week of running was hampered by that sort of thing about 45-60 minutes into my runs and I’d have to limp for a few minutes before the pain subsided). I vowed to take the next two days off to let things heal properly and give my joints some catchup time, hold the mustard.
That evening I went on a fast, 20-minute flat pavement run with Adelaide.
It’s been five days now with zero running. I limped for two days and decided that I needed more time off. Even going for a two-hour ride a few days later caused more inflammation in my heel/Achilles tendon region. I did some research and decided that I had Achilles tendenosis. Yesterday I went into Boulder Center for Sports Medicine to hear about the damage and how I’d need to take lots of time off and probably get my foot amputated.
The prognosis was Retrocalcaneal bursitis. I’m not exactly sure what that is but I was given some ultra sound treatment, an anit-inflammatory, a few strengthening exercises, and I’m scheduled for another appointment tomorrow. The point being, now it’s someone else’s problem and I can go run again!