Tuesday, February 5, 2008

ROCKY RACCOON: A TRIAL OF ERRORS AND PAINS

ROCKY RACCOON WORKED ME OVER AND GOT THE BEST OF ME


Well - everybody has a first at everything. This was a first for me. I originally hoped it would be my first sub-24 hour 100 miler (161km). Instead it was my first DNF. I made it 80 miles (around 120km) but was forced to stop due to leg pain (piriformis). In addition, it seemed to be one of the races where nothing seemed to go as planned.


At the pre-race meetings the mood was excited and spirited. The RD's gave a great intro.

The evening before the race, I was packing my drop bags and realized that I left my arm warmers at home. Darn - I was hoping to have those for the early morning and night runs. Oh well, I did have some long sleeve shirts and a jacket so I would manage. I then headed out to town to have my standard pasta and red sauce pre-race dinner. I spent over an hour trying to find a spot in Huntsville that served pasta to no avail. Finally, I went to a supermarket and settled on the closest thing I could feast on:

I got to the race and got everything ready. I was bringing my blackberry so I could send updates and photos. As I got out of my car the last I put my race belt on with my blackberry in the back and camera on the side.


The countdown started and off we went. I was worried about my cold and sinus infection (I won't describe what came out of my nose that morning) but I was feeling pretty good.

About 2 minutes into the run I happened to pat my race belt where my blackberry was....the pocket was open and there was no blackberry! Crap! I knew this would bother me...so I turned around and like a salmon, went against stream back to the start. I looked around my drop bag and the grass nearby. I grabbed my car keys and ran to the car and sure enough it was on the front seat. I grabbed it and headed back to start the race AGAIN. I had given myself a nice 9 minute 20 second handicap, but thought that was OK.


I caught the back runners by mile 2 and slowly worked my way forward. I was feeling nice and easy. The time off due to the cold actually seemed to have helped a lot.
The course is definitely fast - I was cruising at sub 22 hours and feeling absolutely perfect.




However at mile 17 my piriformis started hurting. I came in mile 20 (first loop) and felt like I had just done a 5 mile jog except for my leg pain. I went out again and the leg kept getting worse. I was limping by mile 27. I would stop and do all my stretches but it wasn't really helping. By mile 33 I could no longer lift my left leg and bend the knee - I had to just shuffle it. I was so frustrated. I decided to see if changing shoes would help (I had a second pair in my drop bag). I changed them and actually it felt better. I made it to Mile 40 (loop 2) feeling a lot more confident. I actually felt that the problem was gone. But I didn't even make it to mile 44 when I was back to a hobble.


I saw Catra and we talked about it. She wished me luck but had to leave - I was just sitting on a log.

If this was mile 75 then maybe I could, but this was mile 44 and I couldn't even walk 4 miles an hour. That was a long f'n walk. I started off trying to see what I could do. I kept massaging the leg and stretching and found that I could actually handle downhills with pretty fast runs (the problem was lifting the leg, it was not really necessary to lift very high with downhills). But the limping was not only making my right knee sore, the sideways motion was creating blisters on both feet. Yeah...this was fun. At least the scenery was nice.




I ended up catching up with Catra at mile 50. We stayed together a bit and I actually passed her going down one hill - this limp/running sucked but I was moving. Then around mile 51 my left leg hit the ground and I felt a sharp shot of pain around my left knee and fell to the ground. A runner coming from the opposite direcion rushed over to help. I stood up thinking the worse, but it actually felt the same. Catra shouted "Go Alan - you're half-way home". So I continued.

Catra and I walked into mile 56 together. I sat down and an aid station worker tried to help my legs with a massage bar. After 15 minutes I got up and limped on. After about 10 minutes my left leg had gotten so stiff and painful, I could no longer bend at the knee without pain - so no downhill runs, nothing but a shuffle. By now my right leg was getting very sore from overcompensating for the left leg limp and the blisters were getting worse.


I made it into the aid station at 60 after an eternity of walking. I sat down and one of Vinod's friends who had been there at Sunmart (and who had been giving me moral support) came over to help. I went into the medical tent. There another worker tried to use a massage bar on my leg. I can tell you - it hurt like all hell when that bar went over my thigh and calf muscles. But when I stood up I could actually bend my leg.

I changed into my top and put on my Eric Clifton tights. I rested a bit and had some beans and rice. Next thing I knew 45 minutes had passed! I did not have that time cushion.

I stood up and took off. I could actually jog. This was great! I met up with someone else and we made it to mile 64 but my leg was tightening up again. I sat in a chair and using my fingers tried to massage my leg the same places as the massage bar seemed to work. It helped but I was limping and before I hit Mile 67 aid station, it was back to a shuffle. It was a long long walk out to station 70. I sat down and dozed off for about 15 minutes. When I woke up I felt good and my knee wasn't hurting as much.

So off again. I made it to the aid station at 73 and the aid station began working on my knee again. He really tore into the tight parts and when I stood I was able to stand up and bend my leg. I took off ...I was actually able to jog again. I will say this - Rocky Raccoon aid volunteers - ROCK!!!!! They were so supportive and helped so much.

But within a mile, my right leg, which was very sore began to hurt. Soon it was stiff and very painful. I would take a step with my sore left leg and the most I could move my right leg forward was to be even with my left. This was so pathetic. It took me nearly 2 hours to get 4 miles.


There are cut-offs (I had to be on loop 5 by 6:00am) and cut-offs one hour after that continuing at each aid station. I had 4 hours to go 3 miles and make the cut-off. I thought that even at my gait I could do that, but it would be close. After that I would only have around 8 hours to go the final loop. My body felt fresh enough (I was sleepy, but I had the energy) and I certainly had the stamina, I just plain could not walk. I knew then my race was over - by things completely out of my control.

I shuffled in the 80 miles and turned in my timing chip. It really sucked as it was right where finishing runners were being given their belt buckles. I sat down on a chair and one volunteer came over to me - looked at me and said he could see how swollen my right knee was - which was surprising since I didn't mention my right knee and I was wearing the Clifton tights whic seemed capable of hiding almost anything :)

I went back to the hotel and slept for about 20 of the next 24 hours. I then had fun popping my blisters (here are 4 of the 5 on my right foot).


Oh well - next race I will buckle! My left leg is sore and tender, my right leg is sore and stiff. Hopefully they will be better tomorrow. I will be seeing my sports therapist this week! I can not let this happen again.

At least one thing that could have got me didn't:


Oh and as a post-script. My flight out of Houston was delayed so I had to run through Denver airport 30 gates on sore/tired legs to barely catch my connecting flight to SFO. We than sat on the tarmac for almost an hour. Oh...the airline appears to have lost my luggage (including all my race gear). They "think" it is in Denver. What a fun time!

14 comments:

Eudemus said...

Alan, sorry to hear your race didn't go as planned, but as you know, in each ultra we run we learn a bit more. It sounds like you did the right thing by dropping when you did. You have a lot of big races set up for this year and it is wise not to put them at risk. Way to tough it out for 80 hard miles!

Alan said...

Thanks - I am disappointed, but I am not disppointed in myself. From mile 60 to 80 I knew that if I buckled at RR it would without a doubt be the hardest thing I had done. I gave every possible bit of myself trying to finish. I didn't have the time left to make cut-offs and my legs failed me. As you said, there are other ultras out there - I plan on completing those.

Rajeev said...

Alan,

You fought. Tooth and nail to move forward. That's what is most important. Better luck next time.

Rajeev

Chihping Fu 傅治平 (超馬阿爸) said...

Alan, what a great painful and heroic effort you have been through! Wish I were there walked (or limped) with you!

I know how the imbalance of legs due to the hurting left leg hurts the healthy right leg. I had this in my first 100 miler - limping for 50 miles or 20 hr.

After rest and treatment, let's just look for other wonderful races ahead. See you soon at trails!

Chihping

Alan said...

Raj and Chihping:

Thanks for the kind words. We'll struggle through some 100's together in the future.

Alan

Chase Squires said...

Dude, sounds like you stuck with it a lot longer than I would have. Congrats on toughing it out as far as you did, I found that course deceptive as heck, it lured me in, let me clip along for a while, then dropped the hammer, I was hurtin' for the last 40, but if I'd been in your condition, I would've dropped earlier than you did, I'm sure of it.

Hey, funny, you found the same picture I used on my blog for the race!

Alan said...

Hi Chase:

Congrats on your finish - great time! It is funny we used the same photo. I actually pulle dit off the internet awile back when one of our Texas co-workers was bragging about his favorite bird dog. I sent him the photo saying that it appears his bird dog has found other interests :)

I remembered it and thought it illustrated the way I felt after RR100.

Hao said...

great job, Alan! Hell of a run with all the pain and such. Hope you are recovering well. You definitely gave all you got. Hope you are not too tough on yourself over the DNF. You'll definitely get the next 100.

cheers!

Hao

Alan said...

Thanks Hao. I see my sports therapist tomorrow. He is an expert with a technique called ART. I am veryhopeful. For the past few days my lower back has been very tight and I have these tingling sensations down my legs (99% on my left leg) - but I am optimistic I'll be back out there soon. No - can't be too hard on myself. Like I said, I gave everything I had. If I held back I would be kicking myself. I am disppointed in the outcome, not the effort. Plus, no matter what, I did do 80 miles - so I kind of made a new event. The 120km Ultra :)

anil said...

Fantastic effort Alan. Too bad it did'nt workout as planned, but I am sure you will bounce back.

wishing you a quick recovery and hopefully your baggage is intact!
happy trails
anil

Alan said...

Thanks Anil. Got my luggage back intact yesterday. Have fun stomping around Everest!

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Nice pics and report, especially the raccoon one, and your sexy foot. Good to see the problem has been diagnosed. Maybe think of it as 100k plus a bonus 30.

Alan said...

Mark:

Thank you. At least one person here has recognized the sheer sex appeal in my foot! Now if only you were female :)

Did a short 4 mile run today. Had to stop and stretch in the first 1/2 mile but after that was able to run without stopping. The road back has begun.

Rajeev Char said...

Damn! Alan - I have not been keeping up with your blog and ultras...sorry to hear about your DNF...but the good thing is you stopped before you did more damage. Take your time getting back...start swimming and biking :-)