Yesterday was different. Despite the conditions and some user-error in electrolyte management, I ran my second fastest time and fastest time on the modern course. I get points for that, yeah?
Erin Bibeau braved the wet to take this photo of me squinting in the rain, feeling a bit peeved by the weather.
While my Achilles is not 100% better - the stiffness may never really go away completely - it’s well enough that it doesn’t hold me back during races anymore. I can’t count the number of times I’ve done eccentric heel drops, applied a heat pad, and done self-massage with a scraper over the past three years. So many mornings I would wake up with a sore heel that made it hard to walk out of the bedroom. So many days I would sit with a throbbing heel, trying to focus on work, finding myself distracted by the despair of it all. Sometimes it felt like nothing was working, or that things would never change. I've tanked half of my races because of this injury.
It’s so easy to let your dreams and passions wither and die when it feels like your own body is conspiring to prevent you from running at your full potential. But we all have unique burdens our bodies and our lives bestow upon us. The kind of difficulties I face can be overcome with focus and dedication, and there are people for whom the same cannot be said.
The injustice of life is that you can’t choose your burdens. You can wallow in them and succumb to bitterness, or you can choose to lift them upon your shoulders and struggle with them to the top of the mountain. It will hurt, and it will lay bare your weaknesses, but it will make you stronger and will temper the sorrow of your life with meaning. People don’t run these races to show off, to fill a void in their lives, or because they’re crazy. Every day, the world tells you all of the reasons you are disadvantaged and should demand better. But if you can be courageous and accept your vulnerabilities, you can move mountains. These races aren’t some saccharine byline, they’re an embodiment of this virtue and its power to make the world a better place.
So anyway. It was cold, breezy, and misty, and on occasion the atmosphere gave us a college try at some rain. The valley trails were pure slop when we started. By the afternoon they were slip-n-slides with giant chunks of churned mud. Some of the rocky bits were a little sketchy in the dampness, but the soft trails took the edge off the distance.
I think I played the first half of the race well. I know I did because I was able to attack the climb back up Timber. As it was cold, I wasn’t drinking much up until the turn-around, and when my fluid intake is low I don’t find the need for electrolytes. But as the day wore on, I inevitably got thirstier. Rather than reassess my strategy, I continued to plug along without much in the way of salt. By the top of Mill Creek I was nauseated, but it took me until Horsetooth to piece together my blunders. Cue vomiting up the final climb. Puking really takes the wind out of your sails. Yeah, you keep moving and suck it up, but you’re going to run slower because you haven’t been absorbing anything for over an hour. I let my stomach settle on the way down Towers and resumed hydrating near the bottom. Not enough to truly turn things around, but enough to give me some pep in the final few miles.
I’m proud of my time, but I also see the vast potential for improvement. I didn’t have any gear issues, my body held up fine, my feet are undamaged despite being soggy all day, and my fitness is finally back to where it used to be. I think with some tweaks to my salt game I can set myself up for a solid run at Bighorn. The eat-food-and-sip-pure-water strategy works for a 200, but it doesn’t really work for a shorter race. My knowledge of physiology is limited, but I imagine that the body does need more help absorbing fluids when the intensity is higher. Here I am, reinventing the wheels I used to ride on years ago. I swore off salt pills, but I think I’ve just got to bite the bullet and accept them back into my life.
Terry Grenwelge took this photo. Here, I'm showcasing my multi-tasking and my ability to ignore sodium cues.
Looking ahead, Dry Fork is drying off and Jaws is looking as wet as normal. I'm ready to work hard for that rusty spur.