I went into this race with the intention of it just being a quality training run in order to further prep for The North Face 50-miler in December. However, the day before on Friday, I felt a little tightness in my left hip socket. Uh-oh. A little background: This tightness first arose early September during a week in which I ran pretty hard 5 out of 6 days that week. I had just finished a run with the WJU Cross-Country team and we hit the weights. I started doing some squats with a relatively low weight and afterward, my left hip socket became uncomfortably tight. It eventually went away after a few weeks, but like I said, resurfaced the day before Rio. I knew it would likely flare up during the race, but you never know, I'm one of those guys who has to touch the iron to see if it's hot or not. And boy did it burn.
The Rio Del Lago 50k started/finished at Beale's Point and contoured the American River upstream, turning around a few miles past Rattlesnake Bar (and coming back the same way). A simple course, one that I know all too well.
A small group of us took off into the dark morning at 6am as we made our way across the levee toward the wide, gravely dirt that rolls along Folsom Lake. I naturally went to the front and set a mid-6min/mi tempo as it felt comfortable and sustainable. Due to the lack of illumination (and purposefully not wearing a headlamp), I couldn't see anything beneath my feet as the sun was still tucked under the distant hills, but relied on my knowledge of the course and natural feel of the terrain to guide me.
I stumbled a few times in the dark, but nothing too sketchy. In fact, once we hit the woodsy single-track, it was a kamikaze-like ride as I literally couldn't see anything except a skinny dark line that I was following through the trees. It was fun and to spice up this lonely moment, I belted out some Nikki and Carly Rae. "Pound the Alarm" followed by the ever-catchy "Call Me Maybe" (I know, I'm really weird).
But as soon as the brain i-pod went back into sleep mode and I hit the 5mi Aid at Twin Rocks (33:15), my left hip started getting tight again. I tried toying with my mechanics to see if anything would alleviate it, but nothing was working. As I entered the 6mi techy section between TR and Horseshoe Bar, I started passing a stream of 100mi runners who had started an hour before me. This provided some good distraction as we exchanged some friendly "Hello's!" and the occasional "Great day, huh?!" (*"It's a great day out here JB!").
The hip tightness appeared keen on not going away so I simply accepted that as long as I could keep moving, I would. (*"As long as I can just keep MOVING, I'm gonna win the race!"). The flow remained constant as I tip-toed up to the aid at Horseshoe Bar (mi 11, 1:19) and saw a traffic jam from a mix of 100mi (and 100k?) runners. I kept going, still sucking on the same liquids I started with. And as I passed through, got a "Go get 'em buddy!" from Chris Ross as Horseshoe was the New Balance Roseville Aid for Rio.
Next up was the Rattlesnake Bar Aid (mi 13-ish) where I figured I'd finally stop and snag some water. Up to this point, I was barely drinking - in fact, I intentionally started the race a little thirsty so that I wouldn't have to make any pee stops at all during the race. This actually worked out really well as I never felt under or over-hydrated at any point. On top of that, I stuck to my customary 300cal's/hr and tried something new as well: Starting the race a little hungry so that the first gel in the morning would taste absolutely awesome (which it did!) as opposed to just forcing them down the hatch (which is fine too). And the last thing I tried for the first time - no salt. I figured racing a "shorter distance" and with the temps pretty mild, I wouldn't need any S-Caps (which I didn't).
I popped in and out of Rattlesnake pretty quickly as Ultrarunner Podcast team member Jesse Barragan was there to inform me that the turnaround would be a 1/4mi past the Power Plant. Sure enough, after cruising around Avery's Pond and scooting by the Plant, I found the 15.5mi turnaround (1:52:30) and was super focused on taking down Leigh Schmidt's CR of 3:52 (which I was confident I was going to do with how comfortable I felt running 7's along this rolling and sometimes technical course).
However, it was a few miles back down the trail where the tightness stepped it up a notch. It seemed almost instantaneous, but all of a sudden my left glut began to tingle sharply with pain. It was most notable on the climbs and I had to stop and stretch a 1/2mi past Rattlesnake. Sadly, again, nothing was seeming to lessen the pain. The thought of dropping then crossed my mind. Is finishing worth risking something more severe? And immediately my brain fired back You bet it is. This sport is all about taking risks and pushing your limits, so as long as you can keep moving, you better keep moving. So I made the decision that as long as it didn't worsen to the point where I was laying on the ground crying, I'd keep going. It seems post-'11 AR50, I have this built-in mechanism that never wants to experience the deeper, soul-piercing pain of not finishing. My mind simply won't go back there, because to me, that kind of pain is more excruciating than anything physical.
I'd hardly call most of the last 13-14mi's "running". It was more of a jog/shuffle, or a "juffle". So if all I could do was juffle, then juffling it is. A few more miles and I was back at Horseshoe talking to Chris.
"I think I tweaked something."
"Do you need to drop? Totally fine if you do."
There was that ugly word again. Utterly offensive.
"Nah man, I think I'm good. I'm just gonna run really slow."
A few more minutes of stretching and hanging out and it was time to get it done. I actually left the aid at a respectable clip, but then the ill-begotten glut cracked the whip and like the bondservant I was in that moment, I submitted to its will - each "lashing" reminding me of who was in charge.
So here I was, hardly able to run and completely focused on myself. Quite the spectacle of a pity-party.
Then, it hit me: Don't focus on you, focus on others. Don't let this moment, this "thing" own you. You're giving it too much power. DON'T!. Of course! In reality, I had completely let go of my joy and allowed this uncontrollable circumstance to steal it and had become a slave to it. Therefore, in order to fill my heart and joy, I just started praying and praying and praying. Not for myself, but for my family and friends. I just started pouring out my heart to God on behalf of those I love and thankfully, my circumstances didn't change, but my heart and my perspective did. The pain suddenly became an afterthought and the new, more important focus became those I care about. So I just prayed and slowly came out of the "juffle" and started running again - about 8:40's was the most the glut would allow. (*"I'm STABILIZING!.....Gotta turn it around.....")
Surprisingly, I made it from Horseshoe back to Twin Rocks in <1hr, got in a quick refill, and focused on enjoying the last 5mi's of super runnable terrain. Once back on the levee, I picked it up some and came into the finish - Sara, Mom, and Grandma there - in 1st place with a time of 4:08:08. Not the prettiest of W's, but I'll take it. I finished even when it was tough to do so, that's what matters to me. Another race, another lesson learned.
*Unbreakable quotes italicized in BOLD
Some more pics my Mom took:
I have such a studly wife. She really is awesome.
|Oh those trusty New Balance 890v2's come through again! Gotta give love to Injinji also for keeping my toes blister-free for the 3rd race in a row!|
|Time to hang out, eat some cookies and pound a Sprite.|