Sep 1, 2019

The Inevitable Injury

It was bound to happen. An injury that would stop my running streak and even worse, stop me from running. A week ago I was running on the Metacomet Trail near Heublein Tower in Bloomfield when I tripped and fell on my left knee. Not a bad fall and didn't even break the skin. I got up, brushed myself off, and ran another three miles on the trails back to the car. Nothing unusual. Later in the day my knee began to get sore. The pain increased steadily through the day. I assumed it was just a delayed reaction to a sprain or twist. I'd be over it in a few days. The next morning the pain was even worse. I went out and forced myself to run just to keep the streak alive which was at 1,658 days. Suffered through the day with doses of Ibuprofen. Onto the next day it was a repeat. Pain and forced myself to run because it surely was something that would clear up. On the third day it was getting worse yet my mind was trying to deny it. That was it....I had to have it checked and knew there was a chance my running streak would end at 1,660 days.

I called the orthopedic doctor and got in to see him. After examining the knee he suspected a torn meniscus. Some good news was no fractures on the x-rays. To confirm the tear he ordered an MRI which I had done in the afternoon. The tear was confirmed with ligament damage as well so he gave me a steroid shot in the knee joint and laid out the prognosis. He explained that I could live with the tear but he also saw that the articular cartilage on the end of the femur was wearing thin. I knew what that meant....a total knee replacement. Not right now but it would definitely happen within a few years. He said my recovery would be based on my comfort level as the swelling subsided. By the next day the swelling had gone down and the pain was much less. Sadly my running streak was officially over.

I tried some walking which brought back the pain. It subsided with rest. I tried a second day of walking and the same thing happened. Good at the start of the walk but resulting in pain at the end. Tonight I realize that a complete cessation of activity is needed to heal. So for the first time in 10 years I will have no physical activity until this pain completely disappears. A shock to my body and emotions.

I really miss running which will be temporary but there are bigger concerns. Because I burned so many calories with my daily runs I could eat anything I wanted. That needs to be controlled immediately or I will blow up like a hot air balloon. I'm reviewing my diet and adjusting it accordingly. Another concern is my cardiovascular fitness. Not sure how I'll deal with that. If my leg heals in a week then no big deal. If it doesn't I'm going to need to start some sort of new cardio exercise. Bicycling is something I had planned on starting so now is a good time to get it going. Biking on the Farmington Rail Trail will be easy and great since I live on it.

I'm trying to stay positive and come up with a plan to deal with all of this. My mind is consumed by it. This post is my way of getting my head on straight and hopefully start Monday with a game plan and new attitude. It's a tough time of year to do this because I'm watching all my friends running in all the "fall" races. Wish I was out there. I have two big ones coming up, Hogsback Half Marathon and the Hartford Full Marathon. Can I even run those? This week will tell me. If I can start running within the next seven days I'll manage those races. If not I may pass on the half and only do the full. If the knee doesn't heal maybe I miss both.

I'm struggling with all of this but I can handle it. Staying positive with a plan that fits my condition is key. I knew a debilitating injury was inevitable. Just wasn't expecting it now.

Aug 18, 2019

2019 Anchor Down Ultramarathon

The 169 members in attendance
A short review of the 2019 Anchor Down Ultramarathon in Bristol Rhode Island. I returned to this race with a goal. Finish and finish well. After my disastrous outing last year I needed to redeem myself. Last year as I crossed the finish line during the 24 hour event my common sense kicked and realized I wasn't cut out for 24 hours. I didn't finish the required minimum loops and received my first "DNF". So this year I entered the 12 hour race. It's a manageable time/distance and still running at night which I enjoy. This is one of the best races I've run. The course is a mix of trails and paved paths with good support/aid stations.
The weather didn't look too bad. Temps in the 70's and almost no chance of rain. I drove over mid day and arrived at the Colt State Park at 1:00pm. My plan was to setup the tent and get some sleep. As usual sleeping was impossible. Probably due to the anticipation and excitement. But I rested for a while. As the runners gathered and the tent city grew I mingled and hung out with friends. Many 169ers and other trail racing friends were in attendance nervously waiting for 7:00pm to arrive. I had a big turkey sub for lunch and had a few snacks before the race but skipped dinner. Always drinking as much water as possible to stay hydrated. As the start time neared I gathered my bag of essentials such as salt tabs, a few snacks, backup power supplies and batteries, Stinger Gels, and my Tailwind mix.
The course passing the bay.
 After the mandatory announcements and National Anthem we were off. I was shocked to learn my phone won't let Strava start recording the run! I had been adjusting settings and apparently turned off something. Within a quarter mile I had to stop and fix it which meant I was now the last runner out. Had to catch up which was easy so early in the race. The minimum mileage required to receive the medal was 39(16 loops of the course). After a lot of analysis I knew the average pace for 39 miles in 12 hours had to be 18:22/mile or better. Easy right?
Heading back towards the aid stations
My long distance training focused on a 10:30 pace. Not because of some scientific reason but because it was comfortable and easy to maintain over long distances. So..the plan was to stay around 11:00/mile early in the race knowing that I would gradually slow down later in the race. As the night went on I made sure I stayed hydrated by drinking two cups of water at each of the two aid stations. The volume was about 8oz per loop. Occasionally at the main aid station I would drink some of my Tailwind mix. This year I focused on nutrition as well. Making sure I consumed plenty of calories but without over doing the junk food. This meant Stinger gels, boiled potatoes, and bananas. I did have a slice of pizza at midnight though. I made sure I did not take any long breaks. Analysis of other long races show that I took too many breaks where I sat down using up valuable minutes on the clock. This year I did not sit once through the entire 12 hours.
Just the right amount of trails
After 2:00am the air was still and the humidity high. I was past the half way mark to reach the 16 loop goal. My head was swirling with calculations on pace needed by 7:00am when time ran out. I was confident I could do it but worried about the pace late in the race. At this time of the morning it's super quiet and lonely since the 6 hour runners were finished and those remaining spread thin.
I finished 14 loops easily before 4:00am and knew I would finish in time. Soon after the sky began to brighten as sunrise approached...always good to see because the finish wasn't far behind. My legs were getting tired and felt some discomfort in my toes. probably blisters which I would deal with later. I ran two more loops to reach 16 and at 6:10am. I did sit at this point and said I was finished but it occurred to me I might be able to finish one more loop before the 7:00am cutoff. I headed back out knowing it would need to be faster than the last few loops. With the trail illuminated by daylight it was easier to navigate and therefore faster.
As I approached the finish line it was 6:55 so a 17th loop was in the bag! Many of the 169ers were there to cheer me on. Now I was finished. Got the medal from the RD and waited for the awards.
I was the Grand Master winner(yes I was the only one in the age group). This was redemption for 2018 and a confidence builder.

Jun 30, 2019

McLean Game Refuge Trails

For the past two years I have been meaning to get out to McLean Game Refuge to run the trail system. Today was the day. The weather was good and nothing to do in the morning so off I went. McLean is in the town of Granby CT about 20 minutes from our house. It's a privatly owned park but open to the public. My goal was at least 6 miles but happy to do more. I've driven past it for years and heard from others who had been on the trails.

Trail maps were not easily accessible on the web so my excursion began with little knowledge of the trails. I assumed there would be a sign at the trail head with a detailed map. Wrong...there was a wimpy old map that was difficult to read so I just headed into the woods on the gravel road. My recollection was that there was a main loop of about 5 miles with many side trails so the chance of getting lost was slim.Early in the trip I came upon a sign indicating three trail loops of 0.8 to 1.5 miles in length. Orange, Red, and Blue blazed. Easy right? Well those markings were not as good as the typical state Blue Blazed trails. These markings were tough to see and sometimes far apart. I learned quickly to be alert and check trees frequently.
Tree markings were tough to see.
The trails were easy. Wide and flat with few roots or rocks. Mostly covered with pine needles or leaves which was easy on the legs. Most were very "runnable"(is that a word?) and at a good pace. The lack of substantial underbrush allowed for forest floor viewing up to a quarter mile. A releif since there are many bears seen within the park.
At one of the many trail intersections I came upon a sign for "The Summit". There was a mountain up there so I turned to scale it. This section of trail had more rocks and roots. Much steeper than the previous trails. The path also thinned and became single track in some sections. Once on top I was treated to a view west of the park. Looking down on a farm and residential areas.
Looking west
There was a nice cool breeze on top which was refreshing after a misty start at sunrise. As with many of the local peaks I came across some flowers that I had never seen before. Not sure what it was but the blooms were a magnificent blue.
There were no wide open vistas on these cliffs as are at Ragged Mountain or Penwood State Forest so I headed back down to explore other trails. I followed the signs for the Picnic Grove. This section was much darker with the sun completely obscured by the forest. But more easy trails.

I was running out of time as I tried different trails and stopped to plan a route back to the car. I had a choice of a Blue or Purple blazed trail. I remembered they all came back to the entrance of the park so it didn't matter which one I chose. Except for one small problem which I will explain later. I started off on the Purple Trail on the rolling hills. Beautiful scenery and some small ponds. I even found an abandoned tractor from long ago. This area was probably all open fields 100 years ago but had evolved into a forest. Not uncommon in Connecticut.
This was probably farmland 100 years ago.
Back to the Purple Trail and those loops. I had noted the sign at the beginning of the park with three color coded loops....Orange, Red, and Blue. All short and all leading back to the park entrance. Easy except I am on a Purple loop! Looking at my GPS tracker it was apparent I was going away from the parking lot and head towards the west. Not lost but not where I assumed I would be. So I turned and headed back to the previous intersection about 3/4 miles away. Once there I turned onto the blue loop which led to the main loop. Finally back on track I had about 1 mile back to the parking lot. In the end I did 9.4 miles.

There are many more trails to explore at McLean. I needed this outing today to get familiar and learn some of the main trails as prep for a more in depth exploration. I loved the easy trails and the many options to add on some miles. Glad I finally got out at McLeans and this will become a favorite running spot for all seasons in the future.