Thursday, September 27, 2012

Horsetooth Recovery

I removed my stitches on Tuesday, exactly 10 days after my Fall, and it healed up nicely.
Awesome job from the PA who stitched me up!


I still have 2 bruises that I can feel when running, but those are going away, too.

I finally returned to the Rock for the first time since I fell.  I didn't intend on taking that long to get back up, as I wanted to go as soon as possible, but that's how my schedule worked out.  Previously this year, in fact, I had been up at least once a week, until the fires closed down the park for over a week.  I'll still plan on ~50 summits for the year, which pales in comparison to those that can run it a few times a week from their driveway.

I was anxious to summit again, but also wanted to check out where, and how, and how far, I fell.
I'm not sure exactly where I landed, but my best guess is pretty high up in the gap along some mossy rocks.  

 Basically, I fell down most of this from the right (my head would have been just over 3/4 of the way up the top of the pic).



There's a narrow, steeper pitch below that which I'm very fortunate not to have fallen.

The pic doesn't do much good without perspective, so here's a pic with people on it for scale:
 
I was at least 3/4 of the way up the right side of the right gap, and fell to just below the bottom of that gap.  In person, I could tell my feet were over 4 "Mike Heights" above the highest spot I might have landed...so at minimum, I fell at least 25 feet -- or my body and head fell 30.  Yikes.

So I poked around a bit on the route that Nick actually took up, so I could also try to get a better view and pic of where I was.  I only went up a little bit with no intention of going further than just a safe distance, and I hit wet rock (from the previous day's rain) as expected, but I had a purpose of testing this safe distance out.  Although I was only 6-7 feet off the ground, when I turned around to downclimb, I hesitated.  Then I thought about sliding and my heart started racing.  Craph, that's exactly what I was worried about.
My body's healing nicely, but my mind hasn't yet.  
I paused twice (for a few minutes) to shake away those feelings on a few easy steps, rotating around and deciding whether to face in or not on something I could easily have jumped off of.  

I slowly reassured myself that I had great footholds and got down, but it shows that I need to shake this off and gain my confidence back in as slow and safe of a manner as necessary.

It also occurred to me how little Class 4+ downclimbing on rock faces I actually do -- I feel great upclimbing, I feel great on ledgy exposure on ridges and stemming both up and down chimneys, but having to search for smaller holds with my feet when downclimbing is clearly a weakness.

It also occurred to me that I couldn't remember how Clark got down after I fell, but it certainly must have sucked even more for him to have had to hurry a somewhat technical downclimb.  Normally, we would have just gone down the standard route.

Once I got passed where I fell the rest of it was easy and without a second-thought, so it could also be very specific negative thoughts from being on the exact same route.

I went up for a quick summit on the standard route, something I think I could do with my eyes closed.

I learned that I have to get my confidence back slowly and safely -- but I also learned, again, how lucky I was.




Thursday, September 20, 2012

Steamboat Run Rabbit Run 113+ Race Report

The Inaugural Steamboat 100 was the most spectacularly absurd thing I've ever witnessed.
And I can't believe I was lucky enough to have a front row seat.

Going into the event, I was unsure about how well my stitched-up leg and bruised body would hold up.

Well, it turns out that my body held up better than expected.  But it turns out this wasn't the major challenge of the day; instead, it was a mental and physical challenge against uncertainty and unpredictability, more than any other race I've done.  The distance, of at least 113 miles, also happened to more than I've ever done.  And in the end, I only made it not just by being aided by friends and family, but literally willed to the finish line by their efforts, spirit, and generosity, at a level I still can't fathom deserving.

So let's start back at the beginning...






The Steamboat Run Rabbit Run 100 was a brand-new 100-mile event.  New events always have risks -- even 5k's sometimes take a year to get things dialed in.  But this event had some promising reasons to give hope that it would immediately be a top-notch event: the event is run by the same race directors as the perennial Run Rabbit Run 50-miler, which is an immensely popular event that sells out every year.  Like the 50M, the event is part of the Montrail Ultra Cup, providing Western States spots to the top finishers, and the 100M also gained an unprecedented first-year credential as a Hardrock 100 qualifier.  But that wasn't the biggest buzz surrounding the race: the Run Rabbit Run 100 was also promoted as a high-dollar, competitive draw, by providing $40,000 in cash to the leaders, 5-deep.  It was shaping it to be a Big Deal.


The Steamboat course actually seemed quite attractive to me because it runs directly through town several times.  This mean that crewing and spectating would be comparatively "easy" -- if I may use that word humbly and ironically.  Seriously, while nothing will relieve crews of interminable and uncertain waits at aid stations, at least they can do it with less driving and the ability to hang out and enjoy the town of Steamboat.  So, the race lent itself well to a fun family and friends weekend getaway.

Another twist in the Steamboat 100 is the division of runners into "Tortoise" and "Hare" groups.  Because of the large prize purse theoretically inducing a fair share of "elite" ultrarunners into the event, the idea of the split race is that Hares start the race later in the day (5 hours later) and the Tortoises can thus see the Hare competition developing later into the race.  Additionally, the Hares are limited by further arbitrary restrictions, such as not being able to use poles or pacers (surely, pacers with poles -- fuhgeddaboutit!), yet being eligible of course for the big prize money while subject to stricter time limits due to starting later.

I'm not a fan of the split start and separate rules, because I find it more divisive than I do exciting, but I'll acquiesce to the majority if it's truly a preferred system, but I think it will be more enjoyable with a much larger field.  I'll write more about that separately.  Mostly, I think pacers have an important place in past, present, and future ultrarunning...and I'll write a separate post about that, too.  

As it stood, I was somewhat torn between which group to run with, because I'm sort of a B-level "bubble" runner that expected to run slower than most Hares, and faster than most Tortoises, on a good day.  But what sealed the deal was the pacer thing -- I'd have the ability to run for hours with one of my great buds, Alex May, if I signed up as a Tortoise.  Done.



So as a Tortoise, I had the advantage of starting earlier in the day on a beautiful morning.  With the typical non-fanfare of these things, we were off like a herd of turtles.



Start to Mt. Werner
Our first task?  Climbing 3500 feet straight up Mt. Werner.  Although we began on ski service roads, we'd ultimately be following flags straight up some ski runs in order to reach the top.  I had started in the middle of the pack, kept my pace in check, but moved steadily up until we were off trail.

Now was the first test for the stitches.  I was hiking purposefully and well up the mountain, and soon enough I was in a group of 5 guys, and then 3.  And I felt great -- I guess I've been humping up and down unmarked mountain trails as much as anything all year -- so I tucked my bottle into my shorts, put hands on knees, and Euro-hiked one flag at a time.  Yeah, I was pushing the heart and lungs here, but usually my cardiovascular system is utterly untapped and bored in these races as my legs give out instead, so I went with it.  Soon enough, I was ahead and in charge of finding and pointing out flags, first in the shade, and then with the sun in our eyes.  And I was still gaining.

Bryon Powell floats above in the irunfar balloon

Finally, we reached a road juncture, at a bench just above the gondola, and nobody else was in sight.  I knew we had to go climber's-left here, so I headed left, despite lack of flags in either direction.   More ski runs appeared to my right, and since the race directions talked extensively about heading straight up the hill, I thought that might be the direction.  But, tried as I might by scanning the amber brush for yellow(!) flags, I didn't see any, so I kept going.  Now, having remembered something about seeing a flag every quarter mile, and suspecting my sight line down the road was over that, I was getting nervous, so I looped back to the ski run and headed up, hunting for flags.  Soon enough, 3 other guys came by and said we should indeed go straight down the road, so I jumped back down with them.  It was nice to be in a group again, no big deal....

Mt. Werner, more popular in Winter

Until the next road intersection.  Up there, we clearly saw a yellow flag at the junction, and another to the climber's right.  This did not jive with our expectation of the course, which should head over to Storm Peak lift to the left (yes, you're best off augmenting your own maps with ski hill maps...and I had actually done this, suspecting confusion on this part of the course), but the marking was clearly to the right.  And, we couldn't see anything to the left....so we followed the flag.  

We continued down for maybe close to a half-mile, before a few of us started getting nervous.  Oh, here I should mention, 2 of the other 3 guys had pre-run the course, and they were both confused and slightly annoyed.  We knew that the service road would still climb to the same point, but with more distance (and technically being off-route).  We cut our losses and headed back, determined to look the other way for a flag, and assuming/hoping that others had found it by now.

Whoops: as we headed back, the cavalry was coming: a group of a dozen or more had come this way as well, including Aaron Marx -- it was great to see him again, and he was wondering why we were seeing each other again!  One guy actually had the stack of race directions with him (did I mention it's an impractical tome of about 8 maps and extensive narrative?) -- he read the part about Storm Peak, and the small group of us continued on our way.  The bulk of the group continued the incorrect way behind us.

Sure enough, down the trail, we saw another yellow flag, and went with it.
Eventually we got to the final pitch of steep hiking.  2 of the guys that had started with us, then kept going the wrong way, saw us through the trees (fortunately for them) and bushwhacked down to us, so we had a group of 5 again.

I'm sure we lost at least 10 minutes here, but pretty much everyone did.  Hopefully this information would be useful to the Hares who would be starting later, as we now felt more like Guinea Pigs than Tortoises.  
I led the charge up the hill again, and with slight separation again, I was the first up the hill.  This means nothing in the grand scheme of the race, but I thought it would be fun for the folks back home -- it turns out it was even more amusing than I thought, given what happened in the next couple hours.

Race Position, by Mile

After filling up (I had one bottle at this point) and grabbing some Stinger Waffles, it was time to run some trail!  My plan in general was to push the uphills as needed in the beginning, but take the downhill super easy, so I watched as one of the other 2 guys got ahead.  I stayed with and chatted a bit with Rick, but encouraged him to head on as well as I was content to take it easy.  

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the crew had a pleasant breakfast, and began toiling through race descriptions.


Let me talk a bit more about the Crew.

The Crew
The Crew was again a dream team led by J, Nora, and Debby, with more advice from experienced runner and The Pacer, Alex May.  This time, they were also joined by Nora's sister, Jill, who ended up spending most of her vacation from Oregon by joining in on this nonsense.

We were very fortunate to stay in a big, beautiful vacation condo right at the base of the mountain.  This was a fun and relaxing place to hang out, and later we'd be joined by the rest of our family in Colorado, making for a fun weekend overall.

Anyway, the pacing plan was to have Alex run with me presumably through the night, starting at mile 67.  Additionally, J would be able to pace the sections through town (advertised as under a mile, but actually closer to 1.5 each time).  I could have a pacer from 40M to 67M, but had not planned on having one.  Otherwise, I know that other groups have various planning methods, but I feel so silly about the whole thing anyway, that I generally try to keep it simple, letting the crew know the basics about the course and things I might expect to need.  But, the script usually goes out the window, so mostly I'm proud of how great they are at solving problems.  It turns out, their ability to not just solve problems, but anticipating problems, ended up being the crux of the race.

As a treat for them, though, they got to see I was in first place...so they hurried to get ready!  This was going to be serious business, it seemed!

Mt. Werner to Long Lake
The route continued to roll along very pleasant, buff, high mountain singletrack, and there was a gap in front of and behind me so that I was running all alone.  Fun times up high.  Soon enough, I neared the first trail junction.  An infamous trail junction, as it turned out.

I knew my goal was Long Lake.  I knew it should be near, probably within 10 minutes or so.  I wasn't expecting any sharp turns, but there it was: the trail junction was very clearly marked with a yellow ribbon.  Coming down the trail, it was easy to spot, because I was staring right at it.  Below the trail junction was a race sign, solidly affixed to the post, was a laminated RRR sign.  It would have looked exactly like this, in ASCII:

RRR
100 Miles
/\
|
|

Indeed, it was the very first sign encountered during the race.  Because of the 50M race the next day, we were told to be aware of divergences from the 50M course.  I knew that the 50M race headed generally East, and because of the specific 100M course, I thought this might be an important divergence from the course.  I glanced upward and saw a pink ribbon (50M course), so I ran in the direction of the sign until I encountered a yellow ribbon.

Cool, I must be on course.

I ran another 10 minutes, than 15, than 20.  I was expecting to hit the aid station soon, in a high, falt area, and maintain elevation, but I was descending slightly.  I saw more clearings ahead as the trail flattened out again, and thought that the aid station might be near, so I continued.  Nope, more marshes and open terrain.  25 minutes.

This was not feeling good...but the arrow pointed this way, and I was following yellow ribbons, so what other option would there have been?  Up ahead, the terrain became thicker with aspen, and the surrounding terrain was funneling into more of a canyon.  That seemed more like the terrain that would define what I imagined Fish Creek Falls to be.  Crap.   I planned to stop and turn around or wait for other runners at half an hour.
Then, I saw some hikers come up.  "Congratulations!" they said. 
"Thanks...uh, have you seen other runners?"
"No, you're in first place!"

That's about the worst news I could get.

I asked them if they knew if this was the trail to Long Lake.  "Yes," they replied "we started at the trailhead, it said 5 or 6 miles to the Lake!"

I shook my head and told them, "Thanks...I'm going to have to turn around."

Ouch, that was disappointing.  I started running back, at the same or maybe a tick faster than I was, before I could stop and think too much about it.  Within minutes, first and second came by -- now an hour ahead of me (again, they had pre-run this part).  I confirmed my fears.  Both were upset, for me.  Rick said, "I told them they needed to mark that" and "Check with the next runners that they went the right way."  About 10 minutes later, I saw Hessek and Boots.  They said they went about a quarter mile down the wrong way before making the correction.  I checked with subsequent runners, and the ones I talked to had made it to Long Lake, often after having gone the wrong way for a bit, or stopping at the intersection, or being shouted at and corrected by runners behind them.

I still hadn't thought about the implications yet.  I could have had knowledge from the maps and course description, and I take responsibility for that, as I had a notion that the correct direction was indeed the other way.  I do not, however, agree that races are sufficiently fun or interesting if they require extensive orienteering: course design is a comprehensive combination of maps, description, and marking, and all of them have both importance and limitations in conveying important information (e.g., maps don't always have sufficient resolution for course ambiguities).  I'll get more into that as a separate topic.

Why didn't I turn around earlier?  A few factors compounded to make the decision more difficult.  First, the ambiguous and blatantly incorrect marking earlier in the race had shaken my confidence.  Second, the explicit sign directed me to go in that direction -- without a sign, I would have checked out both trail options, and naturally wouldn't have made the sharper turn.  Not intended to be excuses as much as information, which could have been simplified to help 150 people.

So, I came back to the junction about 65 minutes later, I figured 5.5-6M out of my way.  The sign was still there, and I headed up the correct direction. Indeed, there was a yellow flag on a yellow tree in the shade up there as well.  Within just a few minutes, I could see the lake -- Wow, I blew over an hour by being just a few minutes below sight of the lake.

I got to Long Lake aid station, and was calm and pleasant to the volunteers, thanking them for everything.  But I tried explaining the importance of the course marking, and was now more concerned about a large chunk of the Hare Race blowing through it.  They were well-aware of other complaints, and said they had sent somebody down to "fix" it.  I was confused, but went with it.

Shortly down the trail, I saw what they had done to "fix" it -- put another sign at a junction that wasn't important until much later in the race.  There was also a sign that said "Steamboat Aid" and "Long Lake Aid" with arrows in the correct directions.  So the problem was, all of these signs were placed well-after the confusing turn.

Long Lake to Steamboat High via Fish Creek Falls Tr.
Well, now I was back on track.  I was annoyed but didn't lose my cool.  The worst parts ended up being running an extra hour which put me later into the warmer part of the day, still with one bottle...and I had dug myself a hole on water and calories already.  I drank extra at the aid station, but finished my bottle well before finishing Fish Creek Falls trail.

Otherwise, the trail was nice, and had just a few miles of the only really technical section of the whole course.  Slow and easy, at least I had fun passing some people here.  Mentally, as soon as I thought "I'd be down the trail by now" I put it quickly out of my mind.

Finally, I was done with the trail, with a few miles on the road left, and well out of water.  I was going to make it to the aid station, and am a stickler for the rules, but I recalled Fred saying, "Don't drive next to your runner all the way up the road, but if want your family to meet you at the Fish Creek Falls TH and give you a bottle or something, they can do that."  We hadn't planned on that (possibly with them heading up later at night), but someone else did and was waiting for their runner, and offered me water, which I accepted.  I drained that bottle in the few short miles down the road, and finally rolled around to the High School, embarrassed at being late.


I started telling them the stories, but word gets around, and my crafty crew was already in the know.  They'd been hearing tales of course marking issues from many of the runners, and then another runner specifically told Alex about me having gone significantly down the wrong way.  I was disappointed but it was "only" 20M into the race, despite having already run a marathon, but seeing them charged me up again to keep going.  I grabbed a 2nd bottle here.

Now the race crosses right through town, and for safety reasons, everyone is allowed a pacer as we go across town.  This was pretty cool because, for the first time in the middle of a race, I was able to have my wife as a pacer!  It was great to run with her and she kept me right on course, with a positive attitude and energy.  

I checked in and out of Olympian Hall, and began the second ski-hill assault up Emerald Mountain.  I told a guy at the bottom that I'd catch the 2 people already up the hill -- that was my goal, and I did.

There were a few more runners up here, I ran with some and then headed up ahead, as we looked for flags.  We hit another ambiguous spot, so 2 of us scouted each direction to find the correct one.  I think they were actually more annoyed than I was about another marking issue.  But now we were confidently on track and kept heading up the hill.

No pacers, no pictures, but it was a bit hotter and more exposed being early afternoon.  At least the flags were easier to see in the sun!  The rest of the climb was straightforward and well-marked, and a guy on a bike told us to follow along the ridgeline to the right.  That was scenic and enjoyable, and now we were ready for a long, hot descent down to Cow Creek.

Again, I took it easy, had some occasional conversation, and the trail was in good shape with some nice views. But, it was hot.  Near the bottom of the descent, I caught up with Aaron Marx.  It was great to see him running, and he was both happy and concerned to see me again.  Unfortunately -- and I suspect it was the heat -- his stomach wasn't treating him well. I enjoyed meeting //fixme who was running his first 100, very well, and was also a research professor at CU Boulder in //fixme, so we enjoyed knowing the same circle of people and topics.  

At the bottom, I was happy to see Trimboli.  I camel-ed up on fluids (so I thought) and grabbed some food for the long climb up the //fixme B trail.   It began with a steady 2-mile grade on a hot, dirt road, which was runnable although hot, and I was looking forward to the shaded climb.  The turn to the left was well-marked, and we began our climb.

This was probably my energetic low-point of the race, as I grinded up the hill.  It was a nice buff track that had runnable flat parts and generally runnable uphill as well, but somehow I was already running low on water, and I hadn't grabbed enough food.  I hadn't really "fixed" the deficit I made before.  I leapfrogged a couple guys but otherwise wasn't normally the conversationalist I would be this early in the race (we were only at mile 30-something!)  Finally, we were near the top, and I drained the rest of my water.

As we hit the ridge and rolled, I kept it easy on the quads, but was having legitimate pain in my knee, and some in my back where I had bruised it.  I could barely run downhill at all (it started a little bit earlier but I had a big break on the climb), which sucked.  It felt like I was compensating for pain in my back and leg, and that my leg was swollen a bit and then pulling my ITB against my knee.  As it continued, it felt like the sort of chronic thing that would be a bad thing to continue running on for 60 Miles.  Besides, I thought, there will likely be more surprises in terms of course markings or issues, or my injury will get worse...so why not stop now and enjoy the rest of the weekend? 

For the first time in one of these, I thought about dropping. 


Along the ridge, now, we saw some of the Hares for the first time.  I said "Buen trabajo" to the shy Raramuri runners, but had other-back-and-forth with the next runners.  One of them looked fine, I said "Great job man," he looked and had no reply.  I remarked to a nearby runner that it annoyed me when runners didn't return a simple hello.  "You gotta understand it's different with these elite guys," he said, "they're running pretty seriously and focused."
Whatever dude, plenty of fast guys are still friendly.  Next female had a big smile, next guy said "Nice job" before I did, and then, 

"Peeeeeeete!"

It was fun timing after having just remarked on runner friendliness, as we were both happy to see each other, than came to a dead stop to start chatting.  I started walking back uphill with Pete (so as not to slow him down...but so we could keep talking!) but he didn't care.  He was alright but feeling it, and I told him of my thoughts to drop.  He told me to make the right decision but think about it or something.  Well, seeing him was nice encouragement, but I still was hobbling downhill.  Back in the hot part of the dirt road now, I finally saw PG.  He looked remarkably well...for having puked moments before.  He was still doing great and now felt better, but said he had quite a rough patch.  Again, seeing him charged me up a bit.  I only had a few miles left before the aid station, and thought about my options.  I was in pain and also very tired: obvious, but not usually something that happens in the first half.  I figured I could lie down in the grass and give my back a rest, maybe take a nap, and contemplate life, telling my crew I was open to any option and I didn't want to inconvenience them further.

Heck, I could be done soon, so I just hurried a bit and ran more.  My legs started loosening up a bit.  Huh.  At the bottom of the service road, before the steep final pitch, I saw Brownie.  I told him I wasn't feeling well, and he asked if I had a pacer.  Aaron was done, unfortunately, so Brownie wa available.  Well, that would certainly help things out a bit... I thought, but 
I really felt like an uncertain liability at that point.  I told him thanks, I was going to hang out with my crew and thought about dropping -- he definitely encouraged me to take a rest before making that decision, which is certainly good advice.  I wasn't thinking clearly enough about his pacer offer, not wanting to put him through a miserable trudge that might not end well, but I figured if I took a long break, he could easily make it down to the HS and check us out if he was still up for it.

Well, the last pitch was the same steep scramble we had getting up.  Although it was short, I watched people stumble and slip gingerly.  But I've played this game so many times bushwhacking through the stupid woods, so I let it go and just ran down the damn thing.

iPhoto's auto-enhance made this look like a painting almost.  Cool.

My awesome wife was waiting for me, again ready to escort me across town.  It was a good long day, but I was ready to tell her my plans. 

I didn't get the chance.

"So, Jill's going to pace you now.  It's been decided."
Huh?
"You really want me to keep running?  I don't even think I want to keep running.  My knee has been killing me."
"She's all ready and wants to do this and it's going to be fine.  Just keep going."
Um, OK.  J thought I was concerned about Jill's ability, when I was concerned about my ability.

In moments, my decision was made for me.  It probably sounds Drama Queen-ish when typed, but I was seriously unmotivated to keep running in a way that I've never felt before.  Too many strikes were against me already, with much uncertainty ahead.  Heck, at WS, I lost a bit of time, but even at mile 40 I just had confidence that I would still finish.  Now, my top focus was still making sure my crew was having fun, and it still seemed, inconceivably, that their top focus of "fun" was keeping me going.

We got back to the HS, and I was very pleased to see Cat and Mary helping out, as well as Katie.
I told them I was in no hurry but wanted to be smart at the aid station.  I grabbed a new, dry shirt and light, some extra clothes.  I thought about what I could do for my knee, and decided to switch shoes, to the bulkier Cascadias -- perhaps with more heel cushioning, my leg/knee would be less stressed and stretched out.  (Answer: yes).




And, I was craving salt.  They all get a kick out of the pickle juice, for some reason.  ('Cept for Alex, noted pickle-hater).



Feeling somewhat refreshed, and knowing a sustained climb was ahead (thus, my knee would get a break), Jill and I headed off away from the sunset.




Pacer Jill

Here's how ridiculous this plan was on the surface: Jill was roped into this whole thing during her vacation, as I mentioned.  She just came into town the previous night from sea level in Portland. She's never run a marathon, so this would be her farthest "run."  At night, toward an aid station that was ravaged the previous night by bears, on a first-year course with notable course marking issues.  We had met briefly when she had visited the previous Thanksgiving, but otherwise why put this much work into something for someone you don't know that well?  And, what if I started doing typical ultrarun stuff, like puking or falling asleep or whining?

I was totally amazed and inspired by her willingness to do this.  Nora had already told me months before that her sister is a strong hiker especially, and I could tell that Jill was up for the adventure portion of it.  We weren't going to be moving that fast.

Still, the whole thing flipped a switch for me: first, she was totally willing to do this, and my crew was really in support of the whole thing as well.  Having just seen them and FCTR friends at the aid station, I learned that some folks had dropped, but Marie was still Out There, and Pedatella took the same wrong turn I did.   So the other thing that inspired me was how absurd everything was.  Instead of fighting it and getting upset -- I didn't have the chance to race my best and see how well I could do because of several factors -- I began to embrace the absurdity of everything.
And, somehow, getting off the script and expectations completely was the relief I needed to keep going.

So we headed up the road, and then the rocky parts of Fish Creek Falls trail.


Alex and Nora had advised Jill on what to do during pacing...whatever it was, it worked perfectly!  The advantage of not knowing each other the way Alex and I do was just having easy, new topics of conversation.

So here's the real truth:  Jill has biked and hiked a lot, including a 40M mountain circuit in 24 hours.  Her parents are distance cyclists and have through-hiked the AT. She's climbed Mt. Rainier.  Five times.  By five different routes.  She ran XC in High School...against Krissy Moehl.  Successfully.  Oh, she's been a ranger as well, and while talking about that, she jokingly and humbly asked, "Guess what other somewhat-famous person I know?"  I came up with the most awesome answer I could, based on context.  Indeed, she was talking about Andy Anderson!  There were no worries at all about her mountain credentials.

So I really enjoyed the conversation with Jill, and it really helped the time move by quickly.  If I had thought about pace or amount of time remaining, I might have lost my mind, but instead it was just a great hike.  And we passed a few people here and there.  Under the new moon, it was pitch black, with the Milky Way visible, but our aid station should be coming up soon.  I realized she'd never had that experience before, and she appreciated the surrealness of a campfire and aid station in the dark of the night in the middle of nowhere, as we made another visit to Long Lake.



The aid station folks were great and it was a pleasant place to be, despite bad memories from missing it hours earlier.  Now we were on a new part of the course again as we headed out to Summit Lake.

This part was a rolling incline, I should have run more but just kept it steady.  We still maintained or gained position a little bit here, until some headlamps behind us moved just a bit faster.

D-Bow!

He was looking good and I congratulated him, but he remarked that "Karl is right on my ass!"  Karl came by minutes later, running steadily a tick faster than Dylan (but very patiently, as it turns out he would still take an hour or two to pass him), and then Tim Olson.  All 3 responded kindly to encouragement, that was the best part.  Otherwise, the whole spectating aspect of Hare group lasted for about 30-40 seconds per runner.

We made Summit Lake, and our directions were now down Buffalo Pass Road to Dry Lake Aid Station.  Straightforward and easy directions with no chance to get lost.  The "downhill" starts with some rollers at the time before actually descending, and on noticeable descents and flats, my knee was really tight again.  I did get passed here as I was unable to make great progress downhill, but eventually we made it to Dry Lake aid station.  And, the place was rockin'.

My crew was there in the freezing cold, and Alex was getting his last bits of sleep:


There were also lots of other friendly, helpful, and drunk faces: Brownie, Eric, Aaron, Kircher, and Stefanovic.  This picked me right up, and these pictures of us having that much fun at night really makes me smile.



That was the last aid station for Jill, now just a downhill down the buff Spring Creek Trail.  Being charged up from seeing everyone, and from mashed potatoes, I was able to start running again.  Running down this trail at night ended up being a blast.

Alex is in charge of math and pace calculations, and they were surprised at our arrival.  It was perfect timing to grab another layer of warmth:


It was well into the middle of the night, and I was "only" 2/3rds done, but having reached the point of having Alex pace me, it felt like the final hurdle to the finish line.  All we had to do was make it to sunrise, and then surely the new day would inspire us to the finish.  That was the hope, anyway.

Pacer Alex
(Both) regular readers should already know enough about Alex: I'm lucky to count Mr. May as a great friend of mine.  He's a long-time, experienced, and enthusiastic runner, a critical part of the FCTR group.  We've had some quite long runs and adventures together, and he's already paced me earlier this year at Western States.  I am so much chomping at the bit to return the favour some day that I couldn't stand the excitement of his Leadville finish last mile and ran out to see him and Nora in the last mile.  Yet, he agreed to pace me once again.  My promise was to be a happier runner this time -- a simple proposition on its face, but both words are important.  I didn't want us to trudge through dark places through the night at a slow pace like we did in WS (although we still had tons of fun)...and I really wanted to be running the final miles.


Everybody's in a happier place though, now, because WS is where Alex and Nora really first met, and started a perfect match and beautiful relationship together.

*Two* of my favourite peeps!

Reversal of Direction
Now it was time to head back up Spring Creek, and then back up Buffalo Pass -- a long sustained slog in the night.  The good part was, I guess, that we'd get to use all the daylight for flat and downhill miles, and it was easy non-technical stuff remaining at night.  We had enough clothes for the cool evening, but just had to make it up.  

First we had to get there, though, and we, like many others, had trouble getting through city streets and finding the correct way.  We were led through a 4-way only by distant shouting by somebody standing out on their deck at a neighbouring house.

We made it up Spring Creek OK, and then began the slog up Buffalo Pass.  Sleepiness was hitting me, and though I was moving, I was doggin' it.


The worst part is, I felt a bit dizzy by staying awake, and the dizziness made me feel nauseous.  Without permission or warning, I told Alex I was going to nap for 90 seconds.  I wasn't foolish enough to deviate from vertical:


I counted, too, and didn't take much more than a minute.  Before I closed my eyes, I could see the tree branch next to me fluttering...but after I closed my eyes, I could still see it, clear as day.  It was a strange and new sensation that I could see everything around me with my eyes closed...but I was convinced that's how it worked.

I hadn't had to deal with this before, and it wasn't comfortable, but I thought about how bleary and red-eyed NMP's eyes were the second morning of Hardrock.  This is the sort of absurdity I need to embrace to have a chance to finish a race like that.

Anyway, that one minute or so was exactly what I needed.  We kept moving, as we got more sunlight.  At Summit Lake, mash potatoes again gave me more energy.  Eventually, I was able to trot.  And then run.  I enjoyed new views on the buff Wyoming Trail, and I was rolling.


I passed a few guys, and then I saw Kircher pacing along the way.  They were doing great, and he made a crack about being a road runner because of my Boston jacket.  I charged down the trail and put some time on them -- 2 hours as it turns out.  Man, I've never been able to do this in a trail 100.  (Guess going slow all night was kind of like a fresh start).

Alex said we'd finish under 29 hours, and I said "No way."  29 was special because it was the Hare cutoff time, something I expected I should have been able to hit.  30 was still a magic number, too...and both are ridiculously large numbers, but let's just keep going with the running and see what happens.

We made it back to Long Lake for the final time.  Since I had my one and only drop bag here, it was a convenient place to get rid of extra layers.


And we kept moving.  One more aid station!  Beautiful views on great singletrack.  The sun and the pace was making us warmer.





It was awesome.

Alex thought they may have moved the aid station to the saddle instead of the summit (for the 50M and return trip for us), but indeed we had the final trudge to the summit remaining.  Hands on knees for me, Alex was starting to run to keep up.

I was certain I had already gone 100 miles.  (Final course estimates are between 108-115+ miles when run correctly.  With my detour, I'm sure I ran 100 miles plus another half marathon at least).  We still had a 10k to go, all downhill.

Free miles?  Depends on if you've saved your quads!  At WS and Leadville, nope, mine were completely shot.  I was saving my quads all day for this.  My knee still felt fine.

Down we went.  It was a blast.

The trees had changed noticeably since I started the race.



So had I.

Anyone was welcome to hike up or ride the gondola and finish with a runner during the last 4 miles.  The girls had agreed to this, and we made it easy on them by coming down late morning instead of in the dark, you know.

They weren't at the 4 mile mark, or the 3.5  We were moving, though, and ahead of schedule.   Finally, 2.5-3 miles out, we saw each other.


We made a pack, and again, my wife was right by my side.


We were running downhill harder and faster than we usually do when we jog around the neighbourhood.  After 100 miles.  And here was my wife coming right along with me.

And my friends as well.


You know what this is like?  It was like we were 9 or 10 years old, just kids, just running around for fun.  This memory is going to stick with me for the rest of my life.  Think about back to when you were a kid, and the feelings it gives you, and how it's somewhat different than those adult memories you have.  Somehow, we were able to cross over into that domain


















Feedback on Inaugural Run Rabbit Run 100

Grab onto the Festivus Pole.  It's time for the airing of grievances.


I've got plenty good to say, if you're patient, and I suppose if you read my race report, I had a fun time overall.

The Ugly
Course Flagging: Early in the course, the course markings were difficult to see -- yellow flags were tied to yellow brush going up ski hills.  It felt more like an Easter Egg hunt.  The most egregious problem was when we had to connect with the Chisholm Trail over to Storm Peak, when a flag clearly led us over to the opposite direction.  Of the early group of Tortoises (first couple dozen), the majority seemingly went the wrong way.  In this case, I do not believe there is evidence of course tampering or vandalism -- the most likely scenario remains that a yellow flag was put up mistakenly instead of a blue one.

A note on course flagging:  Some argue that the full responsibility for following a course resides with the runner.  This is a gross oversimplification.  The race course is defined by several communications methods: flagging/marking, course maps, and course descriptions.  All are susceptible to human error and interpretation issues.  Maps may not be sufficiently detailed, or even incorrect. When the majority, or even an appreciable minority, of people interpret something in the same manner, it is a strong suggestion of ambiguity, and it is a severe disadvantage to ignore what the majority is doing if you're taking a risk about being wrong.

The idea of "elites" taking maps, let alone everyone else, is laughable in big-time races.  While some navigation is required, the whole point of flagging and marking is to keep the flow going.  Signifiant navigation questions take away from the concept of a race.  Yes, some fast finishers in both races won't see the issue....because they pre-ran the course with maps!
I'm concerned about the worst and average-cases here -- people should have the chance to do well without having pre-run the course.

Course Signage:
The first sign on the course very distinctly pointed in one direction, saying "100 Milers."  I followed that sign, incorrectly.  If this sign didn't exist, I wouldn't have followed it!  And I wasn't alone.

Again, signs are meant to convey information, and can be augmented in ways that provide as much information as possible.  On the other side of the arrow, tell us where we're coming from.  Later, I saw a sign that pointed one way to Long Lake aid station, and another to Steamboat High -- this would have been the perfect information to be placed at the Fish Creek Falls junction!


I take responsibility for missing the turn, as I had the information at my disposal to have done it.  All I can say for sure is that I hadn't encountered such ambiguity in any previous races, and if I had the chance to save 160 people from making a mistake, I would feel more concerned about that than I do as an individual runner.

Course Mileage: Apparently the mileage was off appreciably -- race winner Meltzer had it around 110 (8 miles long) and others had it closer to 115.  It's one thing to meet the physical demands of running 110 miles or so when you know it ahead of time, but it's another thing when water and calorie needs are planned accordingly, or estimated arrival times at critical junctures and aid stations.

Course marking: As opposed to flagging and signage, some of the marking getting to/from the high school was confusing.  Chalk?  Glow sticks?  Signs?  We managed it decently, but I know it ruined some other people's races.

Cutoffs: Again, this didn't affect me, but I'm looking at the big picture.  Some cutoffs seemed to be enforced differently or affect people later after they were told they could continue.  I think some Hare money was won after the cutoff if I'm not mistaken.  Clearly this was confounded by marking and mileage issues.  I don't have all the information on this, but it's worth hearing the voices of those that were affected the most and giving them more weight.

Drop Bag Management:  They were dropped off overnight in Bear Country...and some bears got into them.  Didn't affect me, but potential bummer for some. 
After the race, drop bags were spread all over the place: some in various spots of The Bear Bar and Grill (sense a theme here?  just wait...), while others were outside at a bus stop, unattended.  Here, I should note that, immediately before entering the awards ceremony, we saw a bear in the parking garage!

Unattended food in bear country = bad.
People's expensive jackets, gear, etc. getting stolen when unattended = also bad.  (Luckily my gear is a hodge-podge of nearly worthless junk).

The Overrated or Unsatisfactory
Prize Purse/Competition: This was a big deal, and didn't affect me, so why bring it up?  I thought the prize purse was awesome and was really looking forward to seeing what it would bring out, but course marking issues and lack of a deep women's field took away from this.  I hope it's sustainable and that they can bring it back in future year's, because I do like the idea of good runners getting paid.

Split Divisions of Tortoise/Hare: I've heard that many folks raved about it, so if that's the majority, so be it.  My experience was a few folks raved loudly about it, and the rest of us focused on grinding out out our own races.  I'm happy to be wrong and follow the majority.  I thought it was cool to see the guys at night, but I literally saw the top 4 or 5 for about 40 seconds each.  This would be improved with a deeper, larger field, I imagine, and was confounded by other contenders dropping for issues beyond their control, as there'd be more visible action.

But as it was, I was in a bubble, netherworld in between Hares and Tortoises.  I'd rather run with as many folks as possible.  Splitting the field up makes that part harder.  Especially, when there are different rules on pacers...

Lack of Pacers:  I'm going to write this up extensively at some point, because I feel very strongly that pacers are a good thing for the sport in general.  Briefly, pacers do increase performance for everyone, and though some may call it "cheating" (I know there's a high-profile opinion or two against it -- I respect that) -- I call it 
  -- faster performances
  -- less DNF's from getting lost due to course markings
  -- more involved spectators on course
  -- better pictures and stories and thus more exposure
  -- interesting team dynamics from sponsors -- you don't think companies like PI love to have a couple jerseys in the picture when one guy's racing and another is pacing?
  -- great recon for runners to do it the next year
  -- a gateway for other runners to be introduced into the sport.
  -- a nod towards history of American ultrarunning, as much as it is a nod towards supported historic alpine efforts

  The crux of my argument is that attacking the concept of pacers is biting the hand that feeds the sport in multiple ways, and that allowing pacers provides for better performance.
My observation is that a lack of pacers, combined with course marking issues, combined with a split field, lead to less compelling competition and finishing rate than could have otherwise been achieved.

The Good
I wanted to end on the good note, so hopefully you got this far.
I was pretty upset immediately, and for hours, when I took a wrong turn after several marking issues, and then learned others had done the same.  If I had written to or talked to Fred immediately afterward, I'm sure I'd have more choice words.  Luckily I had a bunch more miles to work my frustrations out!

I thought more holistically about what goes into a race, and remembered the things I was initially excited about.  I know many things go into a race like this, and I remembered that many things, up until race day, went well.

Sponsors: Great sponsors led to many great things: a big prize purse, raffled-off schwag before the race, great beer afterward.  Work was obviously put into building these relationships, and I hope it's sustainable.

Profile: The race got immediate attention, it became a Hardrock Qualifier in its first year (definitely merited!)

Timing and Coverage: The race great coverage from Bryon at irunfar, and decent timing on ultralive.  (One issue: some checkpoints were missed, such as my Cow Creek and Olympian, despite explicitly calling out my number when entering and exiting at all times.  Others are missing splits, this is somewhat of a deal when your crew is racing, but some of the moneyed Hares are missing splits as well -- this could be a huge deal potentially in the future with all this money on the line!)

Time of year/weather: It's a great time of year in Colorado, I love having an option during the Fall Colour season.  Steamboat housing availability was reasonably available.  We had great weather this year -- not to be taken for granted, for had it been more like last year's 50, combined with the other issues for this year's race, I think consequences could have been semi-disastrous.

Overall Course: Get it closer to 100M, but I still liked it.  PG has some thoughts otherwise, but going through town was pretty cool and needs to be maintained (IMHO) if you want to build spectator following in the coming years

Charity: This isn't a corporation making money, it's local charities.  I'm a big fan of that still, and it kept my disappointment in check when I took a wrong turn and thought about asking for a refund!

Aid Stations and Volunteers: Everyone was awesome!  Things were a bit shaky at Long Lake in the morning, when people were getting things figured out and we were trying to communicate marking issues, but overall everything was awesome. Volunteers were kind, quick, and helpful -- food was plentiful and available.  I especially liked the Honey Stinger products and ate their waffles all day...drank Jameson coffee at night...and really dug the mashed potatoes!

We were "warned" that aid station volunteers might not necessarily be familiar with the course, but at night, we always asked for explicit instructions, and there always seemed to be a sort of "leader" that gave great directions.

Recommendations for Next Year

The mistakes were big, but counting it up, there are plenty of positives as well.  I would hope to take feedback from everyone, not take just the happy voices of those that finished "in the money" or Tortoises that finished well.  Let's try to find out the experience of everyone and not easily dismiss wrong turns as boneheaded runner mistakes (when they were made by many) or missed cutoffs as unprepared runners.  Some folks picked this race to run hard and try to win some cash, but missed out from course markings; other folks have full-time jobs and families and wanted a good race and run, but didn't get that chance.  We should look at it as a loss for everyone who was prepared to run but didn't get the expected chance, and move on.  Let's take a poll of everyone and see what the consensus is, rather than making assumptions.

My opinion is that multiple factors compounded to cause problems: too much complexity at the same time.  Simplify, simplify, simplify:

-- Fix the distance and get it closer to 100M.  
-- Better course marking -- ideally, courses are marked in the direction of the race, as it appeared to me that some markers were "hidden" from sight lines because they were possibly marked in the opposite direction.  Consider using a colour other than yellow!!!
-- Better map and description: The course "map" is actually a stack of maps.  The initial part going up the hill refers to some ski run names, so if you want to know that, you should look at the Steamboat ski map (keeping in mind that the run names won't help you on the actual trail because they're downhill-skier oriented).
Your best bet was to acquire the Steamboat Skyterrain map and get out some markers:


(I actually did this....)

Other folks were even more ghetto (I like it!):

Source: Steamboat Today
I'm not kidding about this.  Next year, there'll be a single map -- I'll draw one out!

-- More on-course information: Better signs that tell you which direction each aid station is, and possibly the mile.  Also consider the fact that flagging can be informative in other ways: striped flags before turns, or flags consistently on one side of the trail to suggest direction (e.g. always on the right your first trip on that trail).  More re-assurance markers.
-- More people running together: we were quite spread out, and people got lost.  One possibility is eliminating the separate divisions, but this gimmick is more likely to stick and admittedly does have other benefits (people finishing closer together or entering aid stations in a tighter window of time).  So my preferred suggestion is allowing pacers for everyone.  If not, I'd like to see a strong majority response to my list of benefits of pacers; yes, I'm curious if the majority of contending Hare runners (and possibly sponsors) think racing without pacers is the wave of the future.
It ain't my race, though -- just putting an opinion out there.
-- More cowbell: 'nuff said.

Overall, I'm excited about another 100M option, especially in Colorado, so I want this thing to succeed.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Getting closer and moving along....

Mike, with his pacer Jill, rolled into Steamboat high around 3:20am. Doing well, feeling great and onto the final stretch of 32 miles with pacer Alex. Time for bed, crew is sleepy... : )

Friday, September 14, 2012

Doing great and looking good!

We met up with Mike at Steamboat High at mile 20.4. Mike was feeling great and in good spirits! He is ~75 minutes behind due to being misguided by some course markings (we worded this kindly!). He is back on course, stay tuned!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Steamboat Run Rabbit Run 100 Tracking

Track my race here (bib #240, Tortoise), starting at 8AM MDT Sep 14th:
http://www.ultralive.net/rrr100/webcast.php

The 100 Mile "Hares" start at 1PM and are tracked separately -- see (by checkpoint) how many I can stay in front of with a 5 hour head start!

And the 50M race:


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Catching Up...

Since I spent most of the last couple days sitting around inside, I finally got caught up on posting some pics, reports, and videos from the last month or so, but I backdated the posts to keep them in some sort of rough order.

A Lucky Fall from Horsetooth

I fell off the Rock on Saturday.
I'm fine, just scrapes and bruises. Considering....everything...could've been much worse.

Here are small pics to spare you if you're squeamish about blood, but clicking on them yields the larger ones:





It wasn't a random accident, it was a preventable incident. I overstepped my capabilities and slipped, end of story. Broke the rule -- no, Commandment, really -- about having solid points of contact with the rock. I was lucky to learn my lesson, I'm not laughing it off, I have no excuses, and if anything I hope someone else learns something (or reiterates something they already knew).

***

24 Hours of Towers was today, so many FCTR folk are heading up and down the iconic, hilly testpiece in a gorgeous September Day. I'm tapering for a race -- remember that? -- so I was looking to join for the premiere lap at 7AM, jog over to the Rock for a weekly summit, and then call it a day.

We had a great group for the morning, alternating between good conversation at a steady pace and Slush and I push each other a bit. At the top, we hung out and cheered on a few more runners, took some pictures, and then Slush, Nick, and I took the Secret Trail over to the Rock. On the way over, Nick and I talked about investigating some Rock options, as we've been excited (spurred by his ideas a few weeks ago) about different climbing routes up the Rock. As you'll recall, there's a South, Middle, and North summit, with the North summit having a trail and light scrambling to the top, while other Class 4 and higher options abound.

We decided to explore the South Rock. Knowing that there are several easy options on the South end, we decided to investigate the North "gap" a bit more, and after sighting a line from the ground and watching Nick lead, it became apparent that it wasn't going to go easily. I wrapped around to the West side of the Rock and it was even more vertical. Cautiously, we abandoned this effort, and made our way to a chimney that Scott had pointed out.

That was a good salvage, as the chimney provided easy and clean passage to the top. It was easier than the Middle Rock is, so it's good, fun practice for that little bit of climbing.

We headed down and decided to explore the south gap of the North tooth a bit further. Nick had done a route recently and was eager to show it. But as we were over there, I tried going a bit further East. It looked like a viable option, except for a tricky move or two near the top, but then it would be home free. But I didn't like the look of it, so I headed down after I wasn't happy with the next move.

Then, unfortunately, I took another glance from below, and convinced myself to give it another try.

I made my way up and was plastered to the side of the rock, but ended up vertical and one good foothold, an OK hand, and the rock bulging slightly towards me. I needed a better 2nd foothold, but it looked like if I pressed myself against the rock and pushed up, I could get a better handhold and then a knee. I got the first hold and moved up, and now I was committed -- I pushed up further with a knee, and then as I tried to bring my foot up, I lost my other foot. I tried lowering myself to regain a foothold and scuttled my feet some more. The rest happened both instantaneously and very drawn-out, but at some point I knew I was going to fall and prepared myself more for that rather than trying to swipe at the rock for more grip.

I kind of fell and slid against the rock. I didn't have time to think or react or shout, but the most distinct sensation was that of incredible speed (mixed with disbelief). I couldn't believe I was moving that fast down rock. I don't know how far I fell or slid, but I was at the incredible mercy of the terrain. I didn't feel like I was at a fatal height, but I didn't spin or flip, and I didn't hit my head, and I didn't break any bones. I didn't twist awkwardly and pull any ligaments. And immediately, I didn't every really hurt.

I shouted to Nick but also myself that "I'm alright" and took more inventory -- scrapes and some blood. I couldn't believe my fortune. I stood up and still felt OK.

Then I noticed a deep gash in my outer thigh -- that one was going to need some attention. It was all the way through the outer layer of skin, revealing gristle underneath like cutting into a piece of chicken, but luckily hadn't penetrated any further. It was only superficial blood vessels that had been affected, so I wasn't bleeding too much.

I tied my shirt around my leg to try to hold the wound closed, and Nick made his way down.

I was OK.

***

We got off the Rock and headed down. Nick was kind enough to stay with me and made various offers about either getting help or getting the car, which I appreciated, but no other options really seemed to be more expedient than just making our way down on foot, which was unfortunately down to the farther Soderberg TH. I alternated swearing at myself, apologizing to Nick (who saw me fall, which is a painful thing to witness as well) and my wife (who wasn't there but deserved the apology) but otherwise was able to jog back down.
Until today, I had never gotten stitches before, but it was clear to me that would be the preferred treatment. I called J and explained, and I thought the Urgent Care (right by our house) should be sufficient, as I downplayed the fact of it being an emergency. Suspecting that it would be harder to do later and that there wasn't other imminent risk, I took a quick shower to get rid of anything sitting on my skin. I didn't want to get too much water in the wound but the little bit that I did stung like hell, probably worse than anything else.

After the typical American administration portion of the visit (standing in a line, dripping blood, getting my insurance card ready), the rest of the visit was great. The nurse was great and helpful, and a PA stitched me up, kindly engaging me in conversation and answering my questions and describing things to me, along with some comical discussion about the health industry. I was also overdue for a tetanus shot, so that seemed like a good idea.

18 stitches later, and the leg is holding up pretty well. The rest of my body, now that the adrenaline is wearing off, is starting to feel like I went through a wash machine.

Stitched up:



***

Ironically, I've been pushing myself toward climbing a bit more, and though am very far from competent or talented at it, I've enjoyed being challenged a bit more than the past. However, the lessons here were clear: I stepped too far and "hoped" to make a few moves quickly that took too much of my weight off the rock, rather than sticking to more assured moves that could be reasonably undone. I also ignored my initial instinct to back off -- several times in the last month or so, I've contemplated something a bit more committing, and then backed off to find a better way. I have to remember that, at this point for me, assessing and re-assessing are invaluable. A 3rd point is the fact that I overclimbed my ability because of the presence of another person and my perceived familiarity with the Rock -- a potentially bad fall is still bad when you're with a partner, so it's irrational to risk otherwise. Finally, I was wearing a brand new pair of Cascadia running shoes -- literally the first mile in them started at 7am that morning -- but they are consistently crappy for me in gripping rock, even when new. I had switched to Peregrine Falcons last month and they've made a huge difference, and that's what I've been playing around with in climbing recently, but was only wearing the Cascadias to break them in for running. Shoes aren't an excuse, but the amount of grip you have on the rock (whether from shoes, the composition of the rock, how wet it is, etc.) is part of the larger equation.

Anyway, I'm very lucky, sorry, and humbled.

***

Steamboat? Who knows. I'm in no shape to assess that. This was a stupid thing to do before a big race. Jogging down was encouraging, but I expect to hurt for the next few days, and can't really think about it until then. Medical-wise, I did get the approval, which came in waves: first, I asked about activity level (keep weight-bearing and water off of the stitches for a day); then I mentioned wanting to run in a week (she said I'd probably and hopefully heal up quickly). Then my wife blurted out something about "100 miles" and the PA didn't flinch, but basically said avoid re-injuring the same area.

If I'm still hurting in a week, then the whole thing is a sunk cost and we'll go up anyway on vacation. Pain will dictate if I run, and if I can't then I have nothing to prove. Typing this will be a helpful reminder in a few days, but the relief at not being injured worse still exceeds me disappointment at being injured at all. But there's also hope that several days of total and complete rest will heal my body up.