Highs and lows…and more lows

Jeepers, what have I gotten myself into? I was very happy just fantasizing about running a 100 mile ultra marathon. When I decided to actually do it my bubble burst and I watched all the enjoyment slowly leak out onto the ground.

When I originally set up my training program I had one goal in mind, “get to the starting line on November 12th healthy and injury free”. Of course I also needed to be in good enough shape to run 100 miles in less than 24 hours, but that’s the easy part. In less than 3 weeks of training I started to seriously doubt if I had enough miles in my training program and if I should start increasing my miles 1-2 miles a day now, then more in the future to be better prepared. This has caused me a lot of anxiety and stress over the past few weeks.

More Lows
Before I could actually start increasing my miles I injured my left calf.

Last Sunday I ran at the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, without warning after just 1 mile my calf started to tighten up. If running by myself I would’ve turned around and stopped, but I was running with other people and of course I couldn’t stop and look like a wimp. By time we finished 12 miles on a rocky and mountainous trail I was in serious pain. During the 30 minute drive home it tightened up more and I could barely walk. Ice and rest all week has helped but I still have swelling, my left calf and ankle measure 1 1/4″ larger than my right leg (see legs below). The good news is running 17 miles today hurt but didn’t feel like I was making it worse so there is still hope.

I know, I know. My title is “Highs and lows…and more lows” but I switched the order here to “Lows, more lows then highs”. It’s my management style, knock them down, beat them up some more, then before I’m done I have them leaving my office on a high note and that there might be some hope after-all.

With the temperatures above 110° in the Valley the past week and a half and today’s forecast of 116° (At 118° degrees this afternoon, Phoenix saw its hottest day of the year so far, trumping earlier forecasts and setting a new record from a decade ago, according to the National Weather Service.) I decided to drive north 100 miles and run in cooler temperatures. I woke up this morning at 2:50 a.m. and got ready for the 2 guys that were going with me. After a 1hr 25min drive on highway then 12 miles of brutal fire road we arrived 101.4 miles from home to 58° temperatures, 26° cooler than when I left my house!

The Cabin Loop Trail on the Mogollon Rim north of Strawberry, AZ was the perfect get away. In less than a mile from my car we saw 3 large elk cross the trail in front of us. Dirt packed trails were a welcome relief from the jagged rocks I normally run on near home and there was enough rolling hills to make it challenging.

Starting at an elevation of 7165′ above sea level the Cabin Loop Trail is in the Coconino National Forest, which contains the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States (and you thought Arizona was nothing but cactus and sand!).

Jay Danek (left) and I take a break on the trail. The forest is absolutely spectacular and the clean smell of fresh pine beats Phoenix smog and exhaust fumes any day.

Our 18.6 mile proposed loop soon turned comical. A couple wrong turns then back tracking on the trail made it so instead of being at the 6.6 mile cabin we had run 10.1 and still no cabin in site. All 3 of us were sure we knew where we were going…except none of us were in agreement which way that was. So the only smart thing to do was to simply run back down the trail we already ran and get back to the car, refill our hydration systems and head out again to finish up.

When it was all said and done we had one nearly 15 mile runner (Deron Ruse), I ran 17 miles and Jay ran 20 miles.

I had to put this picture on just for the fun of it. It looks like one of those pictures you find in a contest trying to get people to send in the funniest caption and the winner gets a free bar of bath soap. I knew my legs were dirty but when I got home I realized just how dirty they really were.

You can also see in the left set how much larger my left calf is, there’s no definition in the left leg between the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle like there is in the right leg. With increased miles this coming week I’m cautiously optimistic it won’t get worse.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July holiday weekend.

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2 Responses to Highs and lows…and more lows

  1. Dad and Mom says:

    You are a brute for punishment. Lord only knows what damage you are doing to that muscle. Does that sound like a parents comment??? We can see why you enjoy running, the scenery is beautiful. Could almost smell the pines.

  2. Pingback: You don’t know what you don’t know… | John Vaupel

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