Friday, August 20, 2010

Keep Your Nose to the Grindstone

Recovery from Burning River has been a mixed bag. I felt better post race than I’ve ever felt before; my legs felt fine, my feet felt fine and I even had an appetite. I even texted my friend David within hours of finishing telling him that a fall 100 we were eyeing was a go. I was ready for the next challenge. Then I woke up the next morning feeling like death...

I will keep the details to a minimum to spare you but let’s just say my body revolted the day after. If I had to guess I would say that while my body was in recovery mode, busy repairing muscles, that my immune system let a flu bug in the back door. I was a sick boy and my body didn’t seem to be fighting off the illness very well. I couldn’t keep anything down all day and over the course of the next couple of days I lost over 12 lbs, which meant that I was now about 25 lbs under weight. I wasn’t completely recovered until Saturday and it was a tough tough week. I emailed my friend back and said that the 100 I was so enthusiastic about post Burning River was now 50/50.

I took over a week off running and focused on getting my weight back up to my normal range and to allow some lingering plantar fasciitis heal. I resumed running on Tuesday of last week with a hot a humid 7 miles with my friends David and Stephen. I felt a little weak but was pleased that once I warmed up the plantar fasciitis felt ok. I decided that I would see how recovered I was and give my MIT speed workout a go the next day.

Our Wednesday MIT workout consisted of 5 x 1 mile repeats which were supposed to be run a little bit faster than ½ marathon pace. This would normally not be a workout that is too difficult but it was hot and humid and I was 10 days out from Burning River. I actually used good judgment and decided to stick to the prescribed pace and run them at 6:20. I typically run my mile repeats at sub-6 pace but decided that it might be a bad idea on this day. The run went remarkably well, I might even say it was easy and I was encouraged that the recovery was coming along nicely. Since I was feeling well I decide to join a few friends on a training weekend in Virginia to scout out that 100 course I was contemplating running – the Grindstone 100.

On Friday afternoon David, Stephen, Jay, Peterman, and myself piled into our rented SUV and set route towards Virginia. Our weekends itinerary included 50 miles of trail running, spread over two days, two nights camping out at a Boy Scout camp, and about 12 hours in a car. The Grindstone website reads, “Grit, endurance, temporary loss of sanity. You might need all of these if you want to attempt Grindstone. If you want to finish, well, just keep in mind this is, without a doubt, the hardest 100 miler east of the 100th meridian.” This statement is debatable but it was sure to be an adventure.

In order to avoid this blog entry from getting too lengthy here were a few highlights from the weekend:

• We camped out at the Boy Scouts Camp Shenandoah, which had a lot going on that weekend. We may have interrupted a nighttime séance which involved flaming torches but we pretty much did our best to stay out of their way.

• Sleeping in the front seat of an SUV before runs of 30 and 22 miles was probably not my smartest choice but I slept surprisingly well both nights.

• The Grindstone course is tough and beautiful. We weren’t able to appreciate either of the mountain top summits due to foggy weather but the course really has it all. I think the variety of trails that the course offers was my favorite thing about the course.

• I felt really good both days and ran with Peterman pretty much all 50 miles. I had a lot more trouble with the pounding on the downhills than I did with the uphill climbs.

• I really enjoyed the chance to meet some local Virginia runners who were nice enough to host us that weekend – especially David Horton, Clark Zealand, and Jeremy Ramsey. It took a lot of work for them to plan the weekend and to make sure we were well looked after. It was much appreciated from us Ohio boys.

• I especially enjoyed hearing David Horton tell stories about his adventures over the years. If there’s someone who’s seen and done it all it’s Horton. I have no desire to do a ¼ of the things he’s done over the years but I have a huge amount of respect for his achievements. It was especially entertaining hearing him give Jay (of all people!!!) a hard time about not maximizing his potential. It was all in good fun and we all had a good laugh.

We had a really good time in Virginia and I’m looking forward to going back the weekend of the race. I’m still on the fence whether I want to run it myself or not but I will be there to pace, crew, or volunteer if I don’t decide to run. My heart is leaning towards running the race. I love the trails and I would love the opportunity to compete in another 100, one that might offer an even greater challenge from my previous two this year. The two things holding me back at this point are cost ($250 is a lot to shell out for a race) and the thought of a tough recovery. This course is no joke. I’m not fearful of the uphills, they are difficult but don’t take a toll on your body and there is not inherent danger in climbing uphill. I am concerned about the downhills. They are quite technical and very steep in some sections. There are technical descents on the first half of the course that will have to be done at night with a headlamp. This will present a real challenge. In the second half of the race I’m concerned that after 50 miles of descending I’m not sure I’ll be able to safely navigate down the narrow steep trails – the brakes might be too shot at that point. This course will really beat me up physically unlike the other runs I’ve done. I know that the recovery will be tough after Grindstone and that has me on the fence whether I want this to potentially be my one and only fall race.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

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