2013 is just a memory now, my dad is in heaven, and my divorce almost final. I am back in the San Francisco Peaks I love so much here in Flagstaff happy about what 2014 has to offer. While I could go on about the disappointment I am feeling as an invited runner writing this as my flight for the Hong Kong Vibram 100K leaves without me I will instead focus on the positives that lie ahead in my journey. I was so excited and honored to be asked to race at the inaugural Ultra Trail World Tour event in Asia that I didn’t read my Polar t shirt and “listen to my body“. I pushed too hard, too much, too fast and I broke.
Ice, hydrotherapy, massage, stretching, cross training, yoga, core work, medical care, anti inflammatory herbs, a healthier plant based diet sans alcohol, and lots of rest are in my immediate future as I nurse my body back in line with my soul’s desire to race trail ultras competitively again. My left leg will heal and I will take joy in following races on my original schedule like this past Saturday’s USATF 100K Trail National Championships presented by Montrail and Tejas Trails in Texas’ Cowboy Hill Country. A weekend around runners and friends at Bandera taught me I don’t have to always race to win and try to set records to stay connected to our sport. Helping Joe give out medals, cheering others on, filing up Liza’s water bottle, serving as a safety runner for Meghan, and a solo sunrise hobble hike to clear the final miles of the course markings have left me grateful to be alive and moving. Both my feet are equally sore and I love it! Problem is my left ankle is the size of a grapefruit so I don’t have my speed or stability to move in the biomechanicaly efficient manner I enjoy most.
At the first day of Aravaipa Running’s Across The Years after an all night journey from LA’s Operation Jack Marathon and a ride from Connecticut on Christmas Eve on Santa’s Sleigh my left leg gave out. I am not sure when the exact moment I over did it was but when we got home to Flagstaff I could not walk. That next morning I hobbled to town to watch football and breath in the fresh mountain air thinking of my friends looping the course at Camelback Ranch. Their determination was contagious and I was excited to run real mountains again.
I was sad because after nearly a year on the road I was home but unable to run. I slept a lot, like double digit hours of solid REM sleep. When I woke that Monday morning I still had no ability to put any pressure on the medial portion of my left foot. I hobbled back to ATY to do a lap with Anthony Culpepper of Western Circle Hike fame on day three of his six day journey before I met some old classmates from medical school to diagnosis my foot issue and catch up on our adventures over some medicinal beverages.
New Year’s Eve took me back across the country to Florida for fresh mango guacamole and fireworks over the Gulf of Mexico. We hiked a little in the Everglades but I still had zero ability to stand straight. After a magical night sleeping on the beach under the stars we ran the Lovers Key trails. I was able to run a little but not fast and decided to bird watch instead of chase Danielle and risk further injury. After a Florida State Park Ranger led Eco Hike and a visit to see some baby gators we soaked in the warm gulf salt water. I was moving as fast as the Tortoises we saw but I was happy to be in motion! Danielle especially enjoy when I splashed her with the warm salt water but I am not sure why she ran away with a mean look on her face. Maybe it was a seagull or sand piper attack?
January second was another day of rest and ice as I prepared to crew Danielle for her second ultra. She took me to Yoga but my entire left leg had zero ability to adduct or lift from a supine position. The look of concern on the instructors face was priceless as I had to use my ram to move my leg into place at times. Somehow by compensating for my ankle and foot pain I had managed to pull my left gracialis muscle in my hamstring compartment. Fitting that I was in Florida as I felt older than the population around me. I even started asking the silver foxes for advice about geriatric care. I felt like I was in the body of a hundred year old.
I took another easy day in the pool and hot tub on Friday before we drove up to the Tampa Races’ Croom Zoom. I wanted to race fast and show off my skill as a trail runner in front of Danielle but instead I took photos and videos and could barely even walk. I lost her keys but after rummaging through her car I found them in the grass. Danielle set a ninety minute personal best for the 50K which I attribute entirely to her new coach. Well, ok maybe just a little kudos to her amazing guts and determination, but certainly not to her fueling strategy of Dr. Pepper and Twizzlers. Danielle runs with such pure joy and enjoyment for being on the trails that even I am learning about the correct way to run from her. She is like a child out there! Never shy or quiet you could always hear her before you saw her run into the aid stations. It was great to meet some Team RWB members from Orlando and Tampa too running the 25K.
The next day I was able to hike a bit and take some more photos as Zemola ran the River, Roots and Ruts Trail Half Marathon in the same park where we first met. Danielle ran great giving it her all and dropping her blood sugar from the point where I got a kiss on the lips at mile five to a punch in the chest at mile thirteen. She forgave me though for provoking her with the video camera in her face by letting me massage her beautiful feet, vomit, later that evening as we watched football after mass.
I tried to jog on the beach Monday but could barely walk so I limped back across the bridge for more ice and hot tube therapy. Tuesday the weather cooled into the 40s with sun and a breeze so I bundled up in tights and took to the trails at Prairie Pines. I never thought I would run in tights in Florida but ninety slow minutes later I had jogged my way back into the land of the trail runners Wednesday’s run with Caloosahatchee Trail Ultra RD Justin Radley on pavement over the bridges was pure agony.
I took a zero on Thursday as I flew to Austin and jogged a little Friday morning but didn’t feel good. Steve Moore and I took to the trails of Bandera for an afternoon run which extended a few miles in a successful search party mission for some lost children’s mile participants. Saturday morning I decided to see how fast the left leg could go and was disappointed to find it had no fast gear as Erik pulled away from me minutes into his 25K win. I iced up and took some vitamin I so by noon I was able to serve as Meghan’s safety runner for about a marathon into the Last Chance Aid Station where I sent her on her way with five hilly miles to go for the win. John Sharp graciously shared a beer with me.
The running community is part of my family now. Most of my near and dear friends are runners or connected to athletics somehow. I am blessed and grateful for the support they give me and love to give it back at races I don’t run. As I post this I will hobble over to the track this evening to cheer on Team Run Flagstaff. I will pray tonight that the invitation for Hong Kong might someday be extended again if I can get healthy and strong enough again to perform at the levels that first peaked other’s interest in my ability as a runner.
Watching Meghan run for the overall win Saturday from thirty feet behind at all times in accordance with USATF safety runner guidelines proves to me that age is just a number and I am confident that God willing after a little tender loving care and laughter with Gary at home in the mountains I will be back stronger and hungrier than ever to race fast again. Yesterday as Gary patiently jogged along next to me for two hours on a beautiful sunny warm day we saw Elk and ran through piles of snow and mud I realized that having good friends is my greatest gift in life. Happy and Healthy 2014! Keep Running Strong! #CoachDJ