November 23, 2009

The Thorn

If you don't have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain't getting them. -Born to Run

The Tecumseh Trail Marathon is coming up on December 5. Rather than the typical 16-week training program I would follow for a big road marathon, I adopted the less conventional 5-week crash course training program for this race.

I ran this race last year and it was incredibly difficult. The course is very hilly, with thousands of feet of ascents and even more of descents (it's a point to point course with a net loss in elevation).

I'm not terribly worried, for a few reasons.

I feel no pressure. This isn't like the 2001 Chicago Marathon or 2009 Illinois Marathon, where I worried about the race for months and choked on race day. This is more like the 2008 Tecumseh Marathon or 2009 Rockford Marathon where I didn't concern myself with place or time and just went for a run. Those were two of the best races of my life.

I feel better on the long runs than I ever have before. This is fairly surprising given that I took the summer off from running and ran only short distances in the early fall. By mid-October I decided to push myself and run 11 miles (the farthest I had run in 5 months) on the Allerton trails and I was sore for a week. Somehow things just magically came together.

Since the Allerton Trail Race I've alternated long runs at Lake Mingo and Forest Glen, running 14.2 at Mingo, then 16 at F.G., then 21.3 at Mingo, then 16 at F.G. These are 2-3.5 hour long runs on fairly challenging trails, yet the miles have passed so easily for me... easier than they ever have before.

Forest Glen Trail
Forest Glen 11 mile loop and 5 mile loop

Lake Mingo Trail
Lake Mingo 7.1 mile loop

The past month or so I've been paying a lot more attention to my diet, eating a lot more higher quality, natural, unprocessed food--lots and lots of vegetables and fruits. My blood pressure has dropped noticeably, I've shed a couple of excess pounds, and I don't feel like crap after meals.

I've drawn a tremendous amount of inspiration from reading the book Born to Run. It's incredibly well written and covers everything from history and science to tips on form/training/nutrition/life, all while building up to the story of the "greatest race the world has never seen." I couldn't put the book down and when I finished I read it again. I haven't felt this hungry to be out on the trails since I was in high school.

The only thorn in my plans so far has been, literally, a thorn in my foot. 9 miles into my 21 mile run last weekend I stepped on a thorn, which isn't all that rare. This thorn, however, went all the way through my shoe and into my left foot. I felt the pain and immediately hopped on my right foot until I could slow down and stop. At first I thought it was just poking me so I gave it a tug and the thorn broke off flush with the bottom of my shoe. Then I tried to take my shoe off, but that required sliding my foot out, which I couldn't do because the thorn was still stick in both my foot and my shoe.

After about five minutes of trying to get a grip on the fraction of a millimeter of the thorn still sticking out I eventually just shoved a stick in my shoe (like a shoe horn) and pried my foot away from the shoe enough to get the thorn out and slide my shoe off. It was fairly unpleasant. With the shoe off though I was able to pull the thorn out of it and continue on down the trail. I didn't know whether I'd be able to walk, let alone run. It was tender for a couple hundred meters then I forgot all about it. I ended up running 12 more miles before calling it a day.

I thought my problems were all over, but after the 45 minute drive home I couldn't even walk on it my foot hurt so bad. I limped all day Monday and even stayed home from work on Tuesday. By Wednesday I could walk short distances, and by Thursday it felt just barely not-horrible-enough to walk to work. By Friday the pain was virtually gone.

Now that this scare is over I'm headed full steam ahead. It's still early to tell what's going to happen at Tecumseh, but I feel pretty good about it.

"Don't fight the trail," Caballo called back over his shoulder. "Take what it gives you." -Born to Run

1 comment:

Chris said...

I love the book "Born to Run." Excellent quotes in there, but also solid advice on running (anecdotal and research based). And a great story too! Good luck at Tecumseh.