Saturday, July 11, 2015

San Juan Solstice 50 Miler 2015

So Jemez had given me great confidence for this race.  It had been four or five years since I last ran it and now I felt confident that I could finish it.  I knew I would not approach the 10:30 time from then but hoped to just finished.  After having been injured for so long and for a time thinking I may never run again, Lake City was a celebration that I was back and so time did not really matter.  This was a run just to be happy to be running and Lake City is my favorite and most beautiful race of all time.  Though when my chest is beating and hurting at 13000 feet and you can't get air, I really began to wonder why I thought it was my favorite race.  This race is sooo tough for flatlanders, especially coming out less than 48 hours before the start.

This was also part of a larger and epic family vacation and I am happy to report that the race and the vacation was awesome.  We camped at the Great Sand Dunes National Park on Thursday night.  I had driven by there many times but had never stopped in part because I just didn't get how sand dunes could be that special.  It was awesome.  I've never seen anything like it.  Against the backdrop of 14ers are these incredible sand dunes that are 700 feet high!  We lucked out and got a great campsite in the National Park.  Really lucky because I had not made reservations.  Me and the kids hiked to the top and played in the river that runs through it.  We ate quesadillas off the camp stove and all was well although I could definitely feel some altitude sickness.
Jim and Olivia atop the Great Sand Dunes after a very tough hike!

The next day we drove on to Lake City and as you drive over Slumgullion pass which is also the mile 40 aid station, the San Juan Mountains are beautiful but are so intimidating knowing that you are going to attempt to run 50 miles up and around and over them.  But unlike Jemez, I did not really have a sense of dread.  Strangely, I felt confident that I could finish and that it would be great.

We stayed at the Town Square Cabins which is perfect because I could look out the back door of the cabin and see the finish line.  So when I did finish, I didn't have to worry about making it back to the cabin.

Ready to Start at 5 am

The next morning the race began and I felt confident so I set a pretty good pace and climbed the first mountain at a very good steady pace.  As we climbed, we had to cross the stream about ten times and it was really moving!  A couple of times I thought myself or someone around me might be washed downstream it the current was so swift.

After we climbed, I descended rather quickly and felt good until a few miles from the Williams Aid Station.  It was there that I got of course for about five minutes and I began to feel a little bit of the altitude sickness.  I also had a sock that was rubbing and I was worried about a blister after all those water crossings.

Luckily at the Aid Station my Mom and our friend Deanna were there to crew for me.  I told them to sleep in and not come out but I was glad they did.  I basically stole the socks off of Deanna's feet and got rid of the wet ones.

I continued on to the next aid stations at Carson but the altitude was really killing me.  But I struggled up to the aid station but now the other foot was beginning to blister.  I asked if anyone there had a sock.  I would normally never do that but I was desperate.  I knew if I didn't get a different sock on that foot, I was in for major problems.  It was really my fault because I should have had a drop bag there but I never do drop bags because I'm always able to get what I need at the aid station.  From now on, I will be packing a sock drop bag.

Luckily there was an older woman there and she gave me her sock!  It was a long tube sock and she said it was her husbands and just make sure to turn it in at the finish line.  At first I refused because it was just too generous.  I've heard of giving someone the shirt off your back, but sock off your foot!?  But I went ahead and accepted and that sock made it to the finish line.  I did end up with a large blister but it had only started to form the last four or five miles.  Needless to say, I did not turn the sock in at the finish line.  There was no way any one would want that sock after I had finished with it.  But I wish I could thank that aid station volunteer more!

As I left Carson and continued up toward the Contintental Divide, the altitude really began to take its toll.  Last time I ran this race I was able to kind of push through it but not this time.  Every time I got higher in elevation, my pace slowed and my chest really began to hurt.  The aid stations are really far apart and after Carson, runners have a four mile huge climb to the Divide and then another five plus miles to get tot he Divide Aid Station.

After making that climb, I was at about mile 26 or so and if I could have dropped out there, I would have.  I just struggled to make it to the next aid station.  There was also a ton of snow to deal with and we had to posthole our way through some of it and walk very gingerly so we wouldn't end up on our back side.  It's during this stretch that a lot of runners began to pass me and I would like to have picked up the pace here but the altitude was just making it very difficult.

Running along the Divide

As I came into the Divide Aid station I began to feel better and knew that I would finish.  After the Divide Aid Station there are still some good climbs but nothing to difficult and then a long down hill to Slumgullion Aid Station.  And sure enough, with every foot of elevation I descended, my ability to run increased and the chest pain began to subside.

As I came into Slumgullion my family was there waiting for me.  That was great.  I was feeling good again and so I gave high fives to the kids and I now had 2 1/2 hours to break the 12 hour mark.  I began to think I could do it which was really great because at certain times, I thought it might take me 13 to 14 hours especially as I was crawling along on the divide.

Kids Waiting for Me at Slumgullion ( I was behind schedule)

I was even lucky enough to pick up a pacer, Kristen Snyder, the last ten miles.  We cruised downhill and then began the final ascent.  I did remember that last climb being the toughest of the whole race the last time I ran and it did not disappoint this time either.  I could barely walk up that mountain and as I got higher, the chest pain came back worse than ever.

Even after cresting the top and beginning the downhill, I still had trouble running.  I think I was just spent.  Eventually I did begin running again and at the Vickers Ranch Aid Station I was told I had 3 miles to go and I had about 40 minutes to make it under 12 hours.  Long story short - it was definitely more than 3 miles because it took me 50 minutes and it was downhill (although very rugged terrain).  So I stumbled in at 12:10 and I will take it.  It was the toughest race I've ever done.  Tougher than Leadville 100, tougher than my other hundreds.  The altitude just made it so tough to finish so I was proud to make it through.  I had a lot of stomach issues for about 24 hours following the race.  I blame the altitude and the tone of gatorade/water I had drank during the race.

Family Photo During the Breakfast Awards on Sunday Morning

Afterward, we resumed our family vacation and we made it to:
Arches National Park

Jim at Delicate Arch - That was a hot and tough hike!


Swimming in Mirror Lake at Yosemite

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco

What a Great View!

Limkelin State Park and the Pacific Ocean
Our Campsite at Limkelin State Park

Swimming at Pebble Beach

It was the I think the best vacation I've ever taken - what an adventure!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Jemez Trail 50K - "Searching"!

This is a very belated post as I have been very busy but I wanted to be sure to get it down.  After doing the Mt. Magazine 18 miler trail run as a training run, I knew that I was feeling much better about the HHT injury and had more confidence going into Jemez.

But despite feeling better, my last ultra was exactly one year ago at this race where I hobbled in injured and knew that I would not be running again for a long time.  The pain from that run was so lasting that when my family and I got to Jemez this year, I began to have some serious pre-race jitters.

This was a fun end of school year camping trip for the family.  We took the pop-up camper and were going white water rafting the Sunday after the race.  But Friday afternoon as I was setting up camp in the parking lot at the Posse Shack (Start/Finish area), I could not get the pop-up to crank up.  The cranking mechanism was completely stripped!  Long story short - we had to buy a tent to sleep in for the rest of the trip and I fixed and sold the pop-up when we got back to Oklahoma.

Friday night was rather sleepless in that tent.  I really didn't want to do the race.  I guess I was just scared because it hurt so much last year, I thought it would hurt again this year.  But there was no way I was not going to start.  I DNS (did not start) at a race five years ago and still have not forgiven myself for that one.  Once we started my nervousness did not abate even though I had already decided to drop to the 50K distance instead of the 50 miler.  As we ran in the pre-dawn darkness, I began to really doubt why I was doing this at all.  I moved really slowly and as we climbed up Pajarito Mountain, I thought about dropping out.  The altitude was already killing me and I felt ghost pains where my injury used to be and convinced myself that I was really doing damage but I think that was an excuse.

The self-doubt and negativity would not go away so finally around mile 10 we crossed the road to the ski lodge on the way up the mountain.  I knew my wife Suzanne would know where this was as we scouted the location the night before.  I decided I would call her and have her come pick me up.  I exited the trail and sat down for a while to contemplate it.  I finally decided to call.  I pulled out my cell phone (which normally I don't take with me on trail runs but that's how nervous I was) and I turned it on and the phone said "searching" - no signal!  Well shit!  I guess I have to keep moving now.

So I climbed Pajarito and down to the ski lodge at mile 18 or 19.  From there it is all downhill so I had to continue now.  I certainly didn't run my best race by any means but my goal was to finish comfortably and without pain.  I did that and was able to run the entire way in.  Which means my injury is much better if not healed and that is exciting news.

That night we had a wonderful dinner in Taos -

And the next day - white water rafting with me and the kids!  The water was really moving and it was great fun! -

Saturday, March 21, 2015

PRP - Platelet Rich Plasma Will Help Your HHT - High Hamstring Tendinopathy

A very unoriginal title but I do that purposely in the hopes that someone searching on google for more information will come across this blog.

I won't bore you with all of the details because if you really want to know everything, I have about four or five blog posts that detail my experience with this dreaded running affliction.  So here's the long and short of it.

For the past two years my running performance and corresponding pain was spiraling downward.  I had a dull ached and tightness that just did not allow me to run fast.  Over time, my race performances got worse and worse.  I had numerous poor performances in road marathons like Houston in 2012, Boston 2013 and Little Rock 2013 and equally poor performances in trail ultras.  The final nail in the coffin came last May at the Jemez 50 Miler when I limped in the 50K and could barely walk, much less run.  I was not long after that, that I could no longer run at all.

I searched high and low to find out what type of injury I had.  For years I thought I had sciatica or piriformis syndrome.  One doctor (unfamiliar with running injuries) was sure it was my back and this was just referral pain so he gave me a steroid injection.  As if.  After another doctor who listened very well did a piriformis injection and that ultimately failed as well, I then began to look at what else it could be.  After some more research on the internet, I came across HHT - High Hamstring Tendinopathy - my symptoms fit it exactly.

The only options for HHT is rest in the hopes that the tendon will recover, or PRP which costs $1500 for the bilateral injection.  I chose to wait for three or four months to see if there would be any improvement.  So from July through November I did not run hardly at all.  I played tennis to maintain my sanity but otherwise grew pudgy and for the first time in 16 years, I started to get ''out of shape".

In late November and early December, I thought enough time might have passed that I could run again and so I slowly tried to run but to no avail.  Nothing had really changed.  Maybe slight improvement, but there was still no way I could ever compete again.

So on December 12th, I finally had the PRP injection done and coughed up the $1500.  I was already out of pocket well over a thousand dollars for various costs like MRI and doctors visits and injections and the insurance is just a joke.  They only partially covered the things that did not work, and they did not cover at all the PRP which did work!!

So after the injection I had about 7 weeks where I did absolutely nothing except Rubik's Cube and Netflix.  What a sad hard time.  Luckily I also had to organize my 50K trail race, the Ouachita Switchbacks and that helped entertain me during this trying time.

Finally in early February, I slowly began to run again.  I could tell there was some change but not a lot.  I did do the White Rock 25K at a very slow pace and although this was encouraging, I still struggled considerably and for a time, I did not think the PRP worked.

But slowly over the following weeks, I began to run 15, 20 and then 30 mile weeks.  And each week, the HHT got a little better.  I really noticed it in my daily life.  I could bend over and pick something up without pain, I could drive in the car for long periods without pain, I had much greater flexibility and just felt so much better.  So even if the running did not get better, this in and of itself was worth the money.

BUT THE RUNNING DID GET BETTER!  I started to feel well enough to run fast.  At first it was limited effort like a single 7 minute mile.  Then I ran a 5K a couple of weeks ago.  I ran 20:35 which is about 3 minutes off my best, but more importantly, I did not really have any pain or discomfort.

Then this past week was just a major breakthrough!  I've been on Spring Break and since we returned from a skiing trip, I've run 7 miles twice a day and I've run it at a good solid training pace without any discomfort.  Today I did a ten mile hard and hilly forest road run and it was just like old times!

I have a half marathon next week that will really test things but I expect I should be able to run without much trouble - or at least I hope!  Naturally I am much slower and I will not be running any where near as fast as I used to but I am beginning to think that with careful training, stretching, rest and monitoring of the formal injury, that I might just yet have a second act in competitive running.

So if you are like I was and searching for some cure, some hope, some answer to your HHT, I sympathize with you.  I did the same thing.  There is a lot of conflicting information out there and that makes it even more difficult.  But my advice would be to have the PRP done.  It really worked for me.  Don't expect an instant cure.  It will take months and months to get better.  It's been four months since the injection and only now do I feel like I am a runner again - able to run without pain and carefree and  really enjoying it for the first time in two or three years.  So for me, that is a cure even if I am never really competitive again.