Thursday, April 21, 2011

ZG: Listening to myself

A crew car perspective. Dusty roads and glimpses of beauty.  Thanks to Larry Hutton for all of the photos.
Going into Zane Grey I made the decision to run, and then not to run, and then to run, over and over again. And despite straining my calf 2 weeks prior, I had a promising few runs post-injury leading up until Tuesday, when I re-tweaked it and was forced, again, to abort an easy 6-miler and hobble back to the car.  I re-tweaked it while running up a gradual hill on a bit of a muddy patch.  I could jog lamely back to the car, which was an improvement from the first tweaking when I couldn't walk, but awoke Wednesday with it bruised and sore to the touch, which hadn't happened the first time.

At this point, I knew I shouldn't try to run 50 miles on it, but was getting conflicting advice. Coach said to take the rest of the week off and give it a shot.  Doctor said it was a bad idea, but said as long as I went into it willing to drop as soon as I first felt pain, he was OK with it. Other friends told me not to run, as calf injuries aren't something to screw around with. Many told me to be smart and not do anything stupid.  But, I really really wanted to run. It didn't help when we received our race numbers and I was seeded first (lucky #13).  I hate seedings, they imply expectations, but I feared if I actually tried to meet them I would end up with this little ball of calf muscle rolled up behind my knee.  The feeling of a muscle strain is a bit unnerving, especially because it comes unexpectedly, and brings the resultant knowledge that it can happen on any step without any warning.  Running along one minute and doubled over the next.  Not necessarily a stabbing pain, more like if a calf were made up of a hundreds of tightly stretched rubber bands, suddenly several of them are let go at once, and without all of them attached, running becomes painful and brings the fear of the rest of them letting go.

It's really hard to go into a 50 mile race, known as one of the toughest in the country on rocky and uneven terrain with 10,000 feet of climb, knowing that you can't run uphill and shouldn't run on uneven terrain. And in my mind, it wasn't so much a question of whether I would re-injure my calf, but how quickly that would happen--the first climb or the second?  Where would I be when it happened in terms of proximity to an aid station. ZG is remote, and aid stations because of the terrain are as far as 3 hours apart (moving at a racing pace). What if I made it beyond the first 2 aid stations, it felt good, and I decided to go for it, but then had issues on some of the more remote sections?  It took me an hour to hobble 2 miles to Pan Toll 2 weeks ago over smooth trail. If I re-strained it, how long would it take me to hobble out? Was it completely irresponsible to even start? But in the back of my head I hoped that 3 days of complete rest with lots of icing, compression and massage had done wonders, and that I would start the race and not feel anything.

Our cabin in the woods in Pine, AZ.  
Driving up from Phoenix I realized that I haven't spent much time in Arizona.  It's gorgeous and as I drove into Pine, AZ where we had rented a house, I so badly wanted to run. I lounged around the house waiting for the Flagstaffians to arrive, icing, massaging and talking at my leg about our relationship. I went to bed, planning to start the race.  I woke up at 1 a.m. on Saturday and flexed my foot. Decision made--there's no way I'm running, and went back to sleep at peace with my decision.  I wandered out into the kitchen at 3:15 a.m. and told the group that I wasn't running.  They all stared at me blankly, and I sensed disapproval.  I hardly know these people--what do I care?  Watching them get dressed, I longed to be nervous about racing, as much as I normally hate the pre-race hours.  I wasn't nervous, because I knew I couldn't race.  But, for the umpteenth time, I changed my mind and I decided to go through the motions of getting to the starting line, and hoping that maybe the race energy would get my calf so excited that it would be up to the task.

In the end, I started, but it was a half-hearted attempt and resulted in the quickest DNF in history.  I made it about 0.8 miles and as we were gradually heading uphill, felt some calf pain and knew that if I continued on I would be in about the same position I had been on Tuesday within a matter of minutes.  I headed back against the sea of headlamps back to the start, and told the RD I was dropping. Yes, I'm a flake.

Dropping at mile 0.8 meant plenty of time for crewing duties.  Unfortunately for Ian, this was taken at mile 8, and he wasn't smiling.  He didn't smile until his naked pacer appeared at mile 52.
Good eats with Shea and Larry in Pine. I really didn't run enough to enjoy a second breakfast, but I didn't want Shea and Larry to eat alone....
Crewing a race you want to be running kind of sucks. But it was warm and sunny, with a fun crew and a fun group to crew.  Our group had some great performances, while others were disappointed with their days.  It's always interesting to step back and watch things unfold from the other side. I basked in the sun more than I should have, but knowing that I might not see sun again until mid-July, had a hard time moving into the shade. Overall, a fun weekend despite not competing, and a needed reprieve from the rainy gloom that has been the norm in Portland.
Sean ran at least 45 miles with a shattered and dislocated thumb.  Can you say, "Immune to pain?"  Or, "Amy is a pansy?"
1. Listen to myself.  No one can make the decision to race except me, and no one else has to deal with the consequences.
2. Patience sucks. Injuries suck. The two are related.
3. I'm fairly flaky.
4. Appreciate every second on the trails, because injury comes when least expected.
5. Ultra runners are tough. Sean Andrish ran with a dislocated thumb* and Diana Finkel ran on an ankle the size of a tree trunk (which both make me question if I'm just not tough enough....). Ian Torrence pushed through despite wanting to drop all day.
6. I will run Zane Grey again.
7. Arizona is gorgeous. I may need to move there, despite the fact that you have to pump your own gas.
Are those sunglasses?  Is that sun? Are we smiling?  Despite being frustrated as hell? 

*Update: Sean's thumb wasn't just dislocated, but fractured into many pieces extending into the joint and required surgery and lots of pins and screws and things to piece it back together.

The cabin crew.  All from Flagstaff menos yo.  The reflection off of my white legs is practically blinding. Can you say "Pacific NW tan?"  


Ian said...

Hey Amy!

Glad you came to hang out in the AZ sun! I know it wasn't your ideal trip, because of your calf and all, but let it be known that I appreciated your help at the aid stations and your company at the tree house very much! I understand you went to Sedona...the Grand Canyon still awaits ;>)

See you again soon! Cheers!

Helen said...

Not your average race report but in the end you can only listen to your body and make your own decisions. You're giving yourself the best chance of another stellar season. And you'll make it back to ZG at full strength.

Olga said...

Amy, you're smart, and I am happy to hear that. I also really want you to be healthy and perform at WS. So, heal up!

Anonymous said...

Save it up ~ push for Western States. Listening & being patient is hard.

Anonymous said...

So fun to read. Sometimes sharing the voices in your head shed light on the voices in our heads. Thanks. Glad to hear that you took care of yourself.
Big hugs!!

saschasdad said...

I believe you're correct in saying that was the quickest dnf ever, and I applaud you for that, Amy! You made a very wise decision for a self-proclaimed flake. And apparently you will not be joining the fun on Saturday back at Monument Peak. Go get a massage instead. A very deep massage.

Ellie Greenwood said...

rest up and get better Amy - want to see you at that little race next month :) I had same dilema when injured at TNF San Fran - I so wantesd to start just in case a miracle happened, well least you started, found out it wasn't going to happen and made the smart choice, good call - there are lots more races to come

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Amy, wow. Yes, it is best to follow your 'gut' although frustrating, especially when you get to the start line and actually start. But, best to wait. Otherwise, you might blow yourself out for the next month, or more. What you described, in many ways how I felt before the Rumble 40. But, ultimately, I knew in my gut was the right thing to do. Have been squirrely in the meantime, just doing a ton of core work, cycling, and seeing an 'Active Release (muscle) Therapist', which has helped greatly alleviate the underlying issue (tight calves and need work on form). When with other runners, the look you described they gave you, hard to not let ego drive your decisions (can be for me anyway, get competitive). Look forward to hearing what is next on your race and recovery calendar. Wish you the quickest recovery possible too! -- J

Hone said...

Sounds like a good weekend regardless of not running the race. Arizona is awesome and the calf is one of those injuries you don't want to mess with. I loved your 7 thoughts. Spot on.

I especially liked the pumping gas comment at the end. I was pissed last year when I flew up to Pine to Palm and they would not allow me to pump my own gas. What is up with Oregon? I do not understand the reasoning behind that one. Just let me take care of the gas and leave me alone! I also wasn't sure if I was expected to tip the guy after he did it.

amy said...

Thanks for the comments, all. I did have a fun weekend, despite not being able to run, and hopefully the decision will have me healthy and back on trails this week.

Evan, it's a state law, but only 2 states are so gracious as to pump gas for you--OR and NJ. I don't plan to ever live in NJ, so I guess I'm stuck in OR. I think it pisses my dad off, too, that they don't allow you to pump your own, and no, you don't need to tip (or at least I don't....).

sea legs girl said...

Despite the fact that you have to pump your own gas???? What are you, royalty?

Okay, okay. That was quite a fun read, despite the fact I feel terrible for you. I guess the doctor's advice was good. Heck, I mean, that way at least you went down trying, didn't do any further damage and you got to experience a bit of Arizona. I just imagine that if you lived there in the middle of the summer you'd be like "This is WAY too hot. And NO ONE is coming to pump my gas."

I will say what you know: all injuries take time to heal and not just ice and stretching. The good thing is this sure doesn't sound like a permanent problem.

The Sunday Adventure Club said...

A good read Amy. It's a tough decision to pull out of a race so early, forget about it and move on to the next one!
Happy running :o)

Ronda said...

Despite not running it looks like you had a great time with friends and you spared your calf. I love the pic of the naked runner, thought you were kidding but nope!

Jane said...

Nice to meet you out there (even if you would have preferred to be running). You made the right choice - my husband had a similar injury, which he re-injured a couple of weeks later. A year on, he still has a deformed calf that hurts about half the times he runs on it. Hope it heals fast, and I hope I get to race against you next year!

ultrarunnergirl said...

I suppose if you have to DNF before mile 1, Arizona in March is a good place to do that and still have some fun.
I hear you on the injuries and gratitude. When you do heal, you'll come back better and stronger than ever.

Unknown said...

Hey Amy,
It was great to meet you, and though I really wanted to see you out there running, I too was very appreciative of your support. I certainly needed all I could get! Haha, especially when you were the only one that saw me desperately struggling with my water bladder. So thanks, and you'll just have to come back next year!

amy said...

Jane--Great meeting you and hope to see you out there next year!

Evan--Great meeting you, too, and glad I could help. I'll see you next year!

SLG--I LOVE heat.

Kir--It looks like you're back stronger than ever, so I'll hope for the same!

Anonymous said...


What you gonna do...........


scout said...

Amy, it was nice meeting you at the mile 44 aid station, I'm glad you enjoyed your visit in my home state. Hope to see you out on the trails next year!

Hostpph said...

At least you try to your best and it was a hard decision to run or avoid to do so.