Saturday, July 7, 2012

203 hours 36 minutes 2 seconds

That’s how long I was out on the road over my 29 day run.  In that time I managed to run 1,140.76 miles.  Here’s the long recap of the 4 week run.

It’s been just over a week since I dropped and I’ve had some time to think about everything.  First off, it was a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Mike, Jen, and Marty are all great runners and the trip without them would have been a lonely one. 

When we started the run I knew the finishing rate was about 50% and also knew that mike was going to finish, he just had that look about him.  After Marty dropped on day 3 I knew that it was between Jen and me for the next DNF.  Then 1st week of the race went really well, no major problems, no injuries, no getting lost for anyone.  I didn’t know how my body would hold up to the 250+ miles/week pace that we had to keep, but it did really well.  I only had a little calf soreness in the mornings which was gone before breakfast was over.  My confidence was sky rocketing finishing each day feeling great with lots of energy and about an hour before anyone else.  Katie was a big help and my recovery after each day was because she was there to take care of me and force me to do the things I didn’t want to do.  After she left and we hit Moses Lake, WA I started to get injured.  I think it was around day 8 or 9 that I developed tendonitis/shin splints in my left ankle.  A few days later the tendonitis moved to my left hamstring when we crossed the Columbia River.  Over the next few days the tendonitis got worse in both places and eventually I couldn’t bend my knee without pain or wiggle my toes.  My hamstring would creak when I bent my knee (crepitus), it was red, hot and swollen enough to remove any definition from behind my knee.  Taping my ankle helped a little, so did the Aleve, but every step was a painful fight.  The days of effortless running were gone.

The tendonitis spread to my right ankle as well but never as bad as on the left side.  I could have slowed down and walked for 3-4 days and probably calmed down the inflammation, but I always wanted to run.  I tried to walk every once in a while but got bored and frustrated after about 10 min.  So I ran on everyday thinking that Jen and Mike were right behind me. 

Each night we reconvened to talk about the day, give a run-down of our injuries (that were mounting quickly), ice, eat, and preview the course for the next day.  Weeks 2 and 3 were gorgeous running through Eastern WA, ID, and Western MT.  The weather slowly changed and the rain stopped in Montana, the sun came out and brought some warmer temperatures.  Marty had left us in Spokane and Adam took over Crewing duties from Spokane through to Helena, MT.  Those weeks continued to go well and even with all the injuries I continued to run well, putting time on Jen and Mike every day.  At this point my appetite had caught up to me and I was eating anything I could, probably about 5,500 calories a day but hadn’t lost any weight yet which was a good sign.  Mike and Jen had battled their injuries, Jen recovered for the most part and even being as bold as to run without tape or NSAID’s.  Mike was battling recurrent hamstring/ posterior tibial/ achilles tendon injuries but continuing to move along at a consistent pace.  I continued to run day after day, slowly watching the landscape change as we moved from the pacific through the cascades and into the central plains of Washington State.  The Palouse in eastern WA was amazing as was running the length of Lake Coeur d’ Alene and the Lolo national forest.  Eastern Montana had many rolling hills and hayfields with a surprising number of canyons and sage brush. 

Every day I thought about the same things: the daunting task of running 7-8 hrs a day, the excitement of getting a step closer to the Atlantic, looking forward to seeing my family and running strong through Indiana, thinking of Katie at home in Flag, and worrying about Tuba City.  Thinking of all my patients, wondering how they are doing and feeling very guilty for making Keith work all summer alone.

The run always felt the same, and each day was routine.  Waking up and taping the legs, eating breakfast and then a drive to the start.  The 1st 10 miles always went by pretty effortlessly, working out the kinks and loosening up my back/knees/and ankles which took about 45 min to an hour.  Miles 10-20 were always the best, getting into a good groove, moving well in the cool mornings with little traffic on the roads.  Miles 20-30 always took a little more effort and felt like work, right in the middle of the day-a bit of a grind.   And from about the 50K point- 31.2 miles, to the end all I could do was try and push to the finish, thinking about putting time on everyone and thinking how good it would feel to stop for the day and sit for a rest.

 The 1st 2.5 hrs went by without any walking breaks except at the car for some food and water, not even looking at my watch most of the time.  The slump would always come around the 3.5 to 4 hours in and would last about 1.5 to 2 hrs.  I really had to work to continue moving forward during that hour and a half.  I usually changed to a run 20 and walk 2 min routine, constantly checking my watch waiting for those walking breaks.  These were always long sections.  After about the 5.5 hour mark I would get my second wind and could usually finish pretty strong, putting together 45 min runs with short walking breaks in between with the lure of the finish around every next turn in the road.

From around stage 21 until stage 27 everything was automatic. I just woke up and from then until 9 pm I knew every event of the day, it had turned into a job, a good job, but a job.  Just go out- run and eat, then recover and sleep.  I knew the pain during the day and how to fight through it; I knew when I would want food, Gatorade, tums and where I would have to walk, etc. Everything was routine, no surprises. 

Sometime during that week I started to develop some left knee pain and a little swelling, but I thought just add it to the list of injuries and continue on.  After 3-4 days the pain was gone and it only had some mild swelling and warmth.  I thought, I am still out front, pushing every day to lose sight of Jen by mile 8 (always one of the goals for the morning), then running all day like I was being chased.  It worked up until day 28; Hardin to Busby, MT along US-212.  Not a particularly tough day- 44 miles on rolling hills, but we were down to one crew vehicle while Margaret handed the van off to Mike Melton in Billings.  The Temperature also rose that day topping out at 103, with a good 20 mph wind.  We decided to all stay together at a slower pace than I was used to running.  We also had more stops for water, food and aid.  We saw the start of a large wildfire that afternoon, the ash creek fire which was 110,000 acres the next day.  After a group consensus we cut the day short by 3-4 miles, and called it a day after 9.5 hours on the road- my longest day so far. 

The next day we started in the smoke not knowing if we could run our route due the fire.  About 15 miles we got our answer in the small town of Lame Deer, MT when the sheriff said 212 was closed due the fire and road destruction, but “it might be open in about 2 weeks”.  Thanks.  We had Mike Melton scout out a route south toward Wyoming, while we sat and recovered from the 1st part of the day.  This was fine with me because about 15 minutes before I started to have some kidney issues with what looked like the start of myoglobinuria, which worried me a little.  After the rest and lots of water/gatorade everything was looking better and we started off on a slow pace south to Wyoming.  I lasted another 8 miles before my symptoms came back.  So not wanting to but knowing I should, I stopped short for the day at mile 23 to drink and rest.  Everything started to clear up again and Mike and Jen finished a hot and smoky 35ish mile day.  We ended up staying in Sheridan WY that night about 90 minutes away.

That night we formed a plan that Mike Melton and I would drive back early to my stopping point and I would finish day 29 and start day 30, trying to make up as many miles as I could that day.  The 1st two hours were fine, actually pretty normal, feeling good without any issues.  Then the next 8 miles turned bad pretty quickly, some abdominal discomfort/pain, signs of dehydration even though I was drinking 20 oz. every 4 miles, and already had a liter of Gatorade that morning.  On top of that I had some worsening sacroiliitis over the past 3 days from some unknown reason that was controlled with Aleve.  But since I hadn’t taken any in 24 hours, the pain was getting worse.  After those 8 miles (approx. 2 hrs) I stopped.  After talking to Katie and my Father-in-law the night before, I told them that was the plan.  To continue on until the symptoms came back or got worse, and they had, so I stopped.  At this point we were on a dirt road 1 mile from Birney, MT I don’t know if anyone has been there before, but I doubt it.  It was 1.5 hrs from anything along a dirt road or 1.5 hrs back through the fire, so we went forward to help crew for Mike and Jen making sure they were okay while I drank lots of fluids. 

While we were scouting the route for the day we ended up getting a flat tire on the back roads, busting the back doors of the van open with crowbars, and changing the tire with the help of a very nice local couple.  All in all it took almost 90 minutes in the sun and heat.  Eventually we made it back to Sheridan around 5, just late enough to miss the clinic, but I was starting to feel better so that was a good sign.  I decided to go to the clinic in Gillette the next day for lab work.  Everything checked out okay.  The doctor said I could actually run the next day if I wanted to.

My sacroiliitis was getting worse; Jen said that I was walking like an 80 year old man.  I tried to run through the parking lot and make it about 49 feet before I had to stop and limp back to the car.  We talked that night about me restarting where I stopped, trying to make up the 80 miles on foot over the next week or so, maybe biking that portion and then rejoining Mike and Jen in a day or two, but nothing worked out.  I couldn’t run and catch them at my current pace, and I was running across America, not running across America except for the 80 miles I biked in Montana. 

So that was it, my race was over.  29 days, 203 hours 36 minutes 2 sec, and 1140.76 miles on the road.  Stuck in Southeastern Montana somewhere near Birney. 

It was a good run and I wouldn’t have done it any differently.  I ran like I always do, pushing until I feel like shit, and then trying to hold out to the finish.  I can’t pull it back and slow down even when I know I should.  Something to work on I guess, but I learned a lot about myself over the month, what I can accomplish, what I can work through and how to continue moving forward even when I don’t want to. 

In the beginning I said that it was always about the experience of running across country, the goal was the Atlantic, but the adventure was the more important thing.  My experience ended earlier than I wanted it to but maybe it was supposed to.  So now I am home in Flagstaff with Katie, recovering and planning the next race.  Maybe another attempt across America at some point in the future, straight across US-50, but probably not for a while. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

day 23- rough start

The best thing I can say about day 23 is it's over.  I started to feel bad yesterday about 2:30 or 3 o'clock after the run and got progressively worse until I went to bed about 8:30.  My stomach was very upset, I didn't really feel like puking, but if given some money probably could have produced something.  This morning at breakfast I still didn't have an appetite but forced down a little breakfast.  We made the starting line by about 7:10 and Mike and I walked for the 1st 20 minutes or so.  My left ankle was still sore from the tendonitis, but my lower back was better from the strain yesterday.  We started to run and Jen was out ahead of us by a little over a mile.  Our 1st 8 miles was south on US-89 and then a left on 294.  I made it to the van while jen was still there and tried to eat a muffin.  my stomach still felt off, but was the same walking or running.  I was tired most of the day and my stomach didn't want anything in it most of the day.  I think that I ate a muffin, yogurt, bananna, and a gatorade all day.  Heidi gave me a ginger candy about 10:30 or 11 which helped and around noon my stomach was feeling better, but I still felt sluggish.  During this whole time my plan was to try and plod along until noon- 5 hours in, and then walk whatever was left.   At noon with about 18 miles left I changed plans and ran 10 min/walked 5.  That continued to the finish.  All day long Jen and I battled back and forth, never more than 0.5 miles apart and always at the aid stations together.  If it wasn't for her being close I don't think that I would have finished as well as I did today.  This morning my plan was for a 12 hour day, with her pushing me and Margaret there for aid it turned into an 8 hour day.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 17

 Arlee, MT

It was a beautiful sunny day today.  Montana 200 is a long road to say the least.  We were on it all day today, only one turn at mile 30, a right to merge onto US 93/MT-200.  Bright with a cool breeze the mountains continued on, in the distance they were still heavily covered with snow.  I backed off a little today, after a fast day yesterday there is no need to push hard so early in the run, but I ran an even steady pace and felt comfortable all day.  Jen was walking a lot today, Mike was running well.  We met a couple on MT 200 when we were crewing for Jen who gave us some Cinnamon Bear Jerky.  It didn’t taste too bad.  We are staying in Missoula tonight and then Lincoln tomorrow.

Late Entry Day 16

Today was awesome.  I woke up last night about 1 am with Adam snoring again, not a big deal.  I put in some ear plugs and that helped the noise.  My right ankle was extremely painful; I probably had the most pain I have had since it began swelling, probably from all the downhill yesterday.  I finally got back to sleep and woke up this morning with my left ankle and hamstring felt much better and the right ankle was much better after the compression hose all night.  Tape and compression hose on both legs, 3 English muffins with peanut butter and 3 donuts later we were ready to run.  The morning started cool about 45 degrees and very foggy.  The 1st 90 minutes was on a frontage road near I-90.  Near mile 6 I dropped my jacket, turned east and ran up old Mullen road into the Lolo national forest.  The sun broke the fog and the mountains were all around me.  I was feeling good and met Adam 11.5 miles in.  We turned on to some single track trail and headed down into the forest but I didn’t get to see any wildlife.  We got back to old Mullen road and into St. Regis around mile 19.  The legs were feeling good and turning over well without any pain at all.  Just a little tiredness from the climbing yesterday.  Next we turned down Montana 135 and headed down the Clark Fork River next to the train tracks.  The road seemed as though it would never end.  There were great views around every turn but after about 35 miles I just wanted to finish.  The sun was out and it was getting a little warm, only about 70 but no breeze.  Nothing compared to what we will encounter soon.  I turned in a time of 6:41 for the day without any pain. I got home iced the legs and ate a big dinner.  Hopefully the worst of the swelling and injuries are behind me. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

A long time

I just looked at the blog and realized that its been a long time since I posted anything.  The last few days have been getting better.  Everyone is getting stronger and their injuries are improving.  My hamstring actually feels better when i am running, although I am now taping both ankles but I have been able to run that way.  I think I should tape them for another week or so and hopefully they are back to normal.  Adam got in to Spokane on the 9th and crewed yesterday and today with out to many problems, only one late aid station arrival. 
The run on june 9th was pretty miserable, we ended up doing about 38 miles on rough loose rocky trail.  it was also about 55 and rainy.  It's done and the weather is now much better. 

Today was a big day, we crossed  into Idaho.

The scenery was amazing, we went from this...

To this...

Tough to say which is better.

Tomorrow is going to be a great day.  a little longer than we have been going-44 miles, but we start right outside the hotel, the temps are in the 70's and we are on the same trail all day long which means no turns and no extra miles. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

a mixed day

I thought today was going to be an easy one.  only 30 miles, out of the mountains and clear skys to start sounded pretty good.  It was windy again but from the west so it pushed us all day long. 

the start lead us through central washington university and then back on to the JWPT.  10 more miles along the trail with great views of the kittitas valley and the stuart range.  we were even treated to a view of mt rainier.

the sun came out and it really warmed up, maybe in to the upper 60's which is the warmest its been since we started.  Marty helped again today, but i didnt need to much, 2 water bottles, a PBJ and 1/2 a cookie.  the road section started about mile 10 and the hill started about mile 19.  to be more correct the downhill started around mile 19.  with the combination of sun, wind at your back and a nice 11 mile down hill section should spell a FAST finish.  but my ankle was acting up, it started a few days ago and has been off and on since then.  early today it was nice and stable, a little painful but stable.  during the down hill section it really started to act up and began to hurt more and more.  the last 2 miles were pretty rough with the combo of down hill and gusting winds.  During the last section i thought a lot about the start last week and all the weather we have run through, the scenery, the bear encounter, and running over the snoqualamie pass.  its been a busy week and quite an experience.  I hope my ankle turns around and then next few days go by with everyone healthy and happy.

Kittitas Valley

Me about mile 11

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Week one is complete.  We had 4 starters and 3 finishers for the first week.
the mileage was close to 260, increasing later in the run. 
today was cool and very windy with gusts from the west at about 25mph a very nice tailwind.
Jen has a vastis medialis that is bothering her,  i hope the ice and NSAIDS kick in and she is feeling better for tomorrow.
Today was the first day without katie, i think its going to be a long few weeks without her, but marty stepped up and did a great job today.
now its time to sleep in the van, a short day tomorrow and a longer post to follow.

Feeling good.