Saturday, January 3, 2015

Snowdrop Report

Someone else said this, "I don’t know how to describe the pain... the excruciating, searing pain that each footfall brought to every joint and muscle fiber in my body or the exhaustion that left me unable to walk even a single step beyond the finish line."

I can't do that. My brain says that I should stop. This happens over and over; and why I fail at 100 mile timed races.

But I am not going to throw away the 45 miles I did do. So here goes.

I have been a fantasizer about ultra miles for years. And I have tried various venues. When I heard about this one, I thought it could finally work. The course is in Houston so I could drive to it. It is essentially 3 days which should be enough. They rented cubicle tents next to the course. There was a hotel 5 miles away. I clicked submit.

During the summer, I completed a virtual race where I got in 100 miles in 64 hours. This caused me to think Snowdrop was do-able. This was a mistake because the virtual race was in summer (my element). And I ran the virtual race from home where I could get food I needed and in between miles, I could lay on the bed with ice packs. I could use my rollers to limber up. I could make shoe adjustments.

Well, anyway, training went well. On October 31, I did a 50k in fine form. In late November, I did another 30 mile run with a 10 mile walk the next day. I was sure I was ready.

On December 18, I had a terrible sore throat. I thought I had plenty of time to get over a cold before the race. On Monday 12/22, I still had a terrible sore throat and couldn't talk. I went on a mission to obtain antibiotics. Yes, I had bronchitis. But I got well very quickly. No lingering horrible cough like I saw others having.

On Monday 12/29, I drove over to the race site and picked up my packet. I also dropped off numerous race medals for the Bling for Bravery program. This caused the volunteers to gasp and thank me for my gift. I also met with a woman who had expertise in taping toes. She showed me how she does it and taped two of mine. I did the other foot myself later.

The course is 0.76 miles, mostly flat. It had been raining in Houston so the course was wet, and of course muddy with numerous people walking around it. And cold and windy. Because of the mud, many of us spent the first 8 hours walking around the mud on the grass. This made the course longer but was worth it to keep the feet dry. Then a group of Boy Scouts were put to work putting filler onto the course so we could easily walk around it. That was impressive.

I got to the start ontime. Everything seemed good. Well, Team RWB is an annoying group of people if you happen to be a pacifist and non-patriot. I had to duck several times to avoid being slapped in the face by huge American flags being carried around the course.

Snowdrop Foundation funds childhood cancer research. Around the course were pictures of cute children Some said "In loving memory of _____;" these were the kids that died. Some said, "In honor of _______;" I presume these were the kids still fighting cancer. These pictures caused me to choke up. I thought about how they were probably loved. I mourned my own terrible childhood. I came to believe in a loving Father God.

For 30 miles, 8 hours, I did my walk jog. Then switched to power walking. Things felt really good. I was surprised. I walked 5 laps more than plan; and stopped to go to the hotel with 45 miles. I didn't suspect any problems. My main concern was food. As a vegetarian, I hadn't had the hot meaty meals other people had received. I was craving green.

I got in my car and drove the 5 miles to the hotel.

When I tried to get out of the car, whoa! My right leg won't straighten all the way. The tendons on the back had suddenly snapped tight and swollen. I could hardly walk at all. This did not seem good.

I went to my room. I warmed up some beans. Ate the yogurt. Took some Aleve. But mostly I laid there with a pillow under the knee. Every time I tried to get up, everything of my body hurt but also, the leg continued to be dis-functional.

Alone in my hotel room a decision was reached. I know that the leg could be very slowly warmed up and I could slowly walk all day and continue the race. It would be ungodly slow, cold, wet, muddy. Most ultra runners would do this. Alone in my hotel room, I thought that I didn't want that leg to feel the same level of bad again the next night or the following night. It wasn't worth a belt buckle to continue to destroy the knee. Did I really need to spend 2 more days walking around a muddy cold course?

Gulp! Early the next morning the knee is better, but I'm more worried about parking at the race (where I need to go to turn in my chip and pick up my gear), and morning traffic when I tried to drive home. My mind was not on trying at all. Only thinking about going home.

I think the power walking was yanking the tendons every step. That particular knee has had an ACL strain in the past. I know it is not a wholly perfect piece of work. I was surprised that walking caused this, but it was exuberant walking for 15 miles on top of 30 miles of jog/walk.

Anyone I've talked to outside of the race has told me I did the right thing. No ultra-runner has agreed however. There is a line there which I have not crossed.

My tendons did get better in a couple of days. I did realize I have a problem which limits ultra-running. Both a mental and physical limit. 45 miles is however not to be thrown away. I did it! I'm glad for that.

I've cancelled my summer expedition. That is because 2 of the 6 days were to be 39 and 43 miles on hills with time limits. I don't want to challenge my knee and then be stuck in a desert tent with no ability to deal with it. An eight hundred dollar lesson.

But my mind still soars. I don't know what to do except restrict ego activities and sink into silent prayer. I guess that is all that needs to be said.

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