08.29.21

More Of An Eye Opener

Sometimes a 17 mile proofing run can be a primer for an upcoming marathon or it can be an eye opener that you just may not have put in the work. As I sit here writing, a few hours after finishing, I have to say that I don’t feel all that bad. So why the negative thoughts, and the realization that this will not be my year? The plan was to run from Iron Creek Lake outside of Spearfish SD back to my house close to city park. The run would take me down beautiful gravel roads at the start, to the Iron Creek Drainage Trail and ultimately onto the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. I camped with family and friends at the lake last night and set out as the day warmed.

As typical, I was sluggish right from the outset and questioned the wisdom of this undertaking for the first 3-4 miles. But once I entered the top of the drainage trail the happiness of the day was set, due mostly by the familiarity of that trail and it’s amazing beauty. I entered the canyon in my fifth mile and felt the same way I would on any given run. I had decent pace for my eventual modest goal of a sub-4hr race.

Starting somewhere around the 10 mile mark I started to get a bit of discomfort in my left knee and ankle. My glutes were getting a little tight from the downhill so I adjusted my stride slightly. Shortening the length and picking up the tempo seemed to help as it adjusted my strike zone and I kept moving on.

I was buoyed by the horn taps and shouts from a few vehicles of friends on their way up the canyon for their own adventure on this late summer Sunday. I had eaten well before leaving, had my favorite fig bars and a bottle of Endurelite’s Sustain Elite to keep me fueled. As this was mostly downhill, my heart remained in it’s tempo sweet spot under 130 BPM. I wasn’t comfortable but all was manageable and I was feeling good about attempting The Sundance To Spearfish Marathon in a couple weeks. A 26 mile race, of course, with 3,000 feet of decent.

But I also knew that I was still inside my distance comfort-zone. That the real test would come after the 13 mile mark. So let’s jump right to it. Starting around mile 14 that pain in my glutes included both hip joints. It was getting bad. Adjusting stride length, varying speed, posture, nothing was working. Coming into mile 15 the pain was getting bad. My stride was becoming tight and constricted. My shadow looked like a labored old man. I realized then that any marathon was out of the question. Now it was simply about getting my ass home.

Before mile 16 and the Spearfish City Rec Path I put the brakes on and walked for a hundred yards or so. I have a high threshold for pain, and it’s gotten me into trouble in some endurance events so I know pain from critical injury. This just hurt like hell. It was not a ‘damaging’ pain of the kind where you should just stop for fear of long term issues. Simply put, I was hurting and my body was giving me a good old fashioned “fuck you”. Fearing stopping I pushed on and alternated running with walking for the final 1-1/2 miles. By now my stride had to look as pained as I felt.

I got to the house feeling grateful to be home. Proud that while I didn’t end with the positive result I had hoped for I had just run 17 miles. But disappointed in myself, that I didn’t focus on running if this was what I wanted to do this year. Not to mention, pondering whether I was ever really serious about it.

In past years when constrained for time, I’ve ‘trained’ for endurance bike races with shorter, more frequent outings. Forgoing the long, all day on the bike, rides I would take on more frequent shorter distances at a more aggressive tempo. This year time and desire kept me to those shorter rides and runs but without the aggressive tempo. I found myself more happy to get out and feel good. Although I did put training in quotes earlier because that is really what my training is. I just like to be outside and do stuff. Enjoying that at my age I’m not fast by any means but I can hold my own alright.

I know many who take training and running seriously will look at this as a fool’s outing. One that was destined for failure from the onset. And that may be true. But I’ve always said that it’s all about getting outside, enjoying where you get to call home and pushing yourself a bit. I could join the masses of fool-hearty of fifty-plus in the belief that now, free of kids, they will train hard and be the athlete they always knew was inside them. That somehow age doesn’t matter and in some ways they may be right. But to your body and the clock at the finish, age does matter.

And lastly, yesterday was my 7 year old son’s birthday. So I still have that responsibility, and I wouldn’t change that for all the race PRs and non-existent podiums in the world. So now it’s off to another lake near Spearfish for Nate and I to do a little fishing.

About to start the decent on Iron Creek Drainage Trail, one of my favorite places to be.