Sunday, December 03, 2006

Race Report: Tecumseh Trail Marathon

ORN: DNF; 9.5 miles, severe right knee pain

Race Summary
On a beautiful day for a marvelously difficult
Tecumseh Trail Marathon, my right knee gave me fits and I had to drop out after 9.5 miles. Despite the disappointment, I learned (and am learning) much. Darrell and I had a marvelous time together. He ran a super race and I’ll let him tell you about it on his blog.

All the Gory Details

Darrell and I have been planning this event since mid summer. Thus, it was cool to have it come off, as planned. On Friday afternoon, he got to Indy 20 minutes ahead of schedule. We met at security, started talking and didn’t quit talking for a day and a half!! I can’t even describe how enjoyable it was to be with Darrell. I will try, however, in a separate posting in a couple of days. Suffice it to say, meeting up with a fellow running blogger was even better than either of us had anticipated.

The weather played a big factor in this entire marathon. The huge storm that dumped heavy, wet snow all over central and northern Illinois on Wednesday and Thursday also unleashed 4” of rain on southern Indiana. We first found out just how severe this was when we tried to go to registration on Friday night. Arriving at the turnoff to the state forest that had race HQ we encountered a phalanx of parked cars and milling people. The road was cut off by flood waters. Oh my. We eventually found the “back road” to HQ and, an hour later, took it. Appropriate to a trail marathon, the drive in included two stream crossings, where we took my little Saturn through, not over, two gushing stream.

Our hotel worked fine and, like a slumber party, Darrell and I stayed up, talking and talking. Eventually we fell asleep.

Race morning started with the alarm at 5:15. We dressed and took the “back road” to HQ once more. Getting there early was a good idea…we got a primo parking spot, saw the sun come up over the lake at the finish line and had some great conversations with other runners. Eventually, 12 school busses lumbered to the area to take the 500 runners to the start line. Having been early all along, we got on the first bus which headed out at 9am. Now, a school bus is hardly a Lamborghini, so the trip on narrow forest roads to the start line took nearly an hour. By the time the 12th bus arrived, our 10am start time was 10:45. We’d been up for over five hours, including nearly two hours traveling…everyone was antsy to get going. The 29 degree temperature also had the pack collectively shivering while standing around. But we were grateful for the clear blue skies, the lack of wind and the chance to spend the day running in the woods.

At last we started and it felt better than most races just to be moving. After giving us a quarter-mile on asphalt to stretch out the pack, we moved into the woods. It was simply beautiful. There is not much to say about pace or splits. We simply ran in the woods and enjoyed it.

Darrell and I had agreed to run the first 6 miles or so together and the plan worked. We had a great time finding a comfortable pace and others were with us. Up and down the hills. Over the streams. Switchbacks. Ridge trails with falloffs on both sides. Across earthen dams.

The heavy rains caused the dominant feature of the race; mud and water. Each time we went downhill, we knew we’d find muck to pick our way through and a tough stream crossing; typical trail running conditions. It was a race in which one just kept moving and that was enough. Darrell carried his super-small, super-cool camera and he’ll have some great photos of the course, I’m sure.

Early on, my ITB felt fine. I wasn’t pushing the pace, walked most of the uphill sections and exercised care through the muck and slippery footing. It was fun and I felt OK. While I did sense that Darrell could push it harder, our original plan seemed good and we stuck with it.

About 90 minutes into the race, we got to the aid station at 6.5 miles. In a brief conversation as we headed back into the woods, I encouraged Darrell to carry on. It was the right time and I really wanted him to be able to run his race. So, off he went and he went well.

I continued the pattern of walking uphill and running the flats and downs, a pattern that a lot of other folks were employing. It felt good and I continued with this for another 20 minutes or so. At that point, I started to notice my right knee. It was getting uncomfortable. It felt better after I walked uphill. But then it started hurting when I ran the flats or downhill sections. Then, it got to the point where I couldn’t run at all without serious, wincing pain. I realized the race was done for me. It was clearly not going to get better. At 8+ miles, there was no point in trying to go the full 26. I needed to pack it in and avoid more serious injury.

I was still in the woods, however. I knew the next aid station was around the 9.5 mile mark. So, I just walked. It was humbling to step aside, repeatedly, to allow folks I had passed earlier to now pass by. The multiflora rose thorns that snagged my nylon shell each time I stood aside were a cruel reminder of my new status. But I chose to shift my attitude; I decided to be a lucky guy to have such a nice walk in the woods on a beautiful day.

Eventually, I came out of the woods at the aid station and the crew was very helpful. One of them gave me a ride back to the finish area, where I got into some dry gear and began to ponder what happened and what will happen next. This will be the subject of more blogging in days to come.

At the finish line, I was able to watch two-hour’s worth of runners while waiting for Darrell. That, in itself, was very helpful to me; I’ve never watched a marathon from that perspective.

Darrell made it in, looked terrific and I got a nice photo of him at the end. Wow, did he run well over a very difficult course. You’ll enjoy his perspective. After he had a chance to get some food and get dry, we took off, having had a most enjoyable day. We grabbed some food in Bloomington, (don’t ask me about bleu cheese) and drove back to Indy. Talking all the time, reliving the day and running in general, we capped off a wonderful weekend. Dropping him off at airport, we knew we’d formed a new, substantive friendship.

My next step? I’m calling the local sports med center on Monday. I need to get a real diagnosis of the knee problem. My self-diagnosis clearly has not worked. We’ll see what the pros think of it. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, the knee hurts a lot. I can’t really bend it much and am limping noticeably. Running right now is only a dream.

In it all there is much I’ve learned. I’m really quite happy with where I am. Running is a long-term activity for me and dealing with an injury is part of that. Thus, this is an important lesson for me. Will I pass the test? We’ll see. Like the
Running Chick with the Orange Hat did during her tough injury earlier this year, I’ll keep you apprised of how this goes. The community of runners is important. And Darrell was front and center in this community. Thanks, Darrell.



Anonymous said...

Hang in there Joe. You gave it your best and now the professionals at Sports Med can take a look.

I did enjoy reading your account, altough I know how it bothers you to not be able to participate..... that's because I'm your sister!!


Darrell said...

Aw shucks! I too enjoyed every minute of our time together.

I was at first secure in the decision to part ways at 6 miles, then began to second guess the decision a couple of miles later. The pack really thinned out later and we could have more easily run and enjoyed the day together. But as the day wore on and the hills continued and the trail conditions got muddier and more tenuous I feared that you might aggravate your ITB. It was a tough run and I'm sure you made the right decision. I know you are thinking long term and rightly so.

I have to admit it was a very cool way to end the race with you there to cheer me on at the finish.

Jodi said...

You may not have finished, but you ran a very smart race. There will be plenty more trail marathons, and next time you'll go into it healthy.

What a great new friendship! It's so refreshing :-)


Backofpack said...

Even with the knee injury, it sounds like such a wonderful day! I don't know if this makes you feel better, or worse, but we have had three knee surgeries in our group. One was a year ago October - that'd be Jenny, who just finished the three marathons with me, and one was a year ago January, and that is Rick who ran the second marathon with us. It's a short setback and then back at it! (The third runner with knee surgery ended up having another different medical problem - not running related - and had to have another type of surgery a month ago, and so is on her second recovery of the year).

I'm glad you had so much fun with Darrell. That is so cool!

Legs and Wings said...

That's a great report despite the DNF. That's tough! Sometimes it is those darn hills that aggravate the ITB - the up and downs swells really add a lot of pressure. That's the sad part. Hopefully you'll get fixed up and back out there sooner than later.

Good to read your take on meeting and running with Darrell. I've been following his blog for a year and he is one of those special guys. I suspect you're one of the same Joe.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

You always take something away from experiences like you had. a blogger turned friend. A chance to recovery and come back better. A chance to watch the race from the finish. Most of all you've proven how smart you are by knowing your body.

Running Chick said...

ah yes, the downhills will get you every time. ironic, isn't it? the part that is supposed to be 'easy' is actually hardest on the body. sigh.

you did right today joe. on many levels.

you listened to your body. and you found the right perspective. to me, that makes you a winner. =)

and yes, it was almost exactly a year ago that i had my first doctor visit about the itb. injuries can be overcome, especially with such a great attitude. i'm rooting for you!

besides...there's this really cool trail race here in CT that you could always run. =)

Mmem said...

Cool that you have developed a new friendship, that is priceless:-)

I am sorry to read about your knee, but I am glad you did the smart thing (though it was the hard thing) and are thinking long-term. GL with the sports doc and in your healing journey back to running.


Anonymous said...

Hi Joe -

Sorry to hear about the knee injury. Trail terrain is quite strenuous and I am sure that the mud & tricky footing didn't help. But I;m glad that you still enjoyed the peace of the woods.

Sarah said...

Sorry about the DNF, Joe! I hope your knee pain is short-lived and you can find the treatment that does the trick. You have a great attitude! : )

Wes said...

Nicely done, Joe! You are indeed a smart man! That trail marathon will be calling you again in the future, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

"But I chose to shift my attitude; I decided to be a lucky guy to have such a nice walk in the woods on a beautiful day."

Sorry about the DNF and the knee pain, but glad to hear that you made the most of it.

Aleks said...

I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to pull yourself off the course. Hoping for a positive report from the docs about your knee!