Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Difficult Things

Trail running is hard.

This was my big revelation as I hiked up to Wesser Bald last weekend. It used to be one of my regular training runs and was one of the last runs I did before I tore my ACL. It is all uphill to the tower, making it a fairly difficult run, but not incredibly hard. Walking what I used to run, however, was an eye opener. Now granted, I haven't run since July and my cardio training has taken a backseat to rehabbing my knee, but now I understand the comment that trail runners frequently hear from hikers, "I can't believe you are RUNNING that!". As a hiker last weekend, I gingerly made my way through the wobbling rocks and slippery roots, sure I was going to take a spill if I didn't take it nice and slow. Then I looked up at a short section of even steeper trail in front of me, with even more roots and rocks to contend with. I used to run on that stuff, I thought... I guess once I had made the transition from hiker to trail runner years ago, I lost the appreciation of how difficult this sport can be. So while I don't buy into the argument that runners need to stop and smell the roses, maybe you should take a little walk once in awhile to better appreciate the ability you have been blessed with.

After I reflected on this, a discussion on the Foothills list about the relative difficulty of different ulra races made me think about my personal list of difficult runs. (I spend a lot of time THINKING about running since I can't actually do it). Not how I rank races compared to other races, but what runs were the most difficult for me. Here's my top five:

1. 2010 110 mile Bartram Trail run. Running sick and worn down on incredibly difficult terrain with an injured IT band in last 18 miles.
2. 2004 Massanutten. My first 100, 28 blisters and a chipped cheekbone.
3. 2008 Old Dominion 100. 100 plus degrees, near 100 % humidity, bad air quality and 42% finishing rate.
4. Hellgate 100K, the bitter cold, snowy and icy year. Wait, that covers every Hellgate I ran. Okay, the only race I ever missed a cutoff at. Snow with a thick layer of ice on top, which sometimes broke through and sometimes didn't. The runners in front had chunked up parts of the trail making it incredibly difficult to run on.
5. 2011 Massanutten. Nausea for most of the race, an epic low in the middle of the night in a cold hard rain.

That was fun. Feel free to play along and make your own list. I'd love to read your posts on your top fives. And I can't wait to have challenges like that again.

Rehab at 12 weeks. Started jumping side to side and front to back (6 sets of 1 minute) and running in place on a trampoline a couple of weeks ago. Also started this cool little machine which mimics the side to side motion of skiing. I have some pain under the knee cap, but apparently it is nothing to worry about. When that settles down I will start lunges and some treadmill jogging.