2013 will go down in the books as perhaps my worse year for trail and ultra running and this was almost entirely because of the sciatic problems which unlike previous years, never went away and created much agony throughout the year.
The year started promising with another win at Athens-Big Fork Trail Marathon and a win at White Rock 50K. Sylamore 50K was a little disappointing after a busted knee but I made a strong 3rd place showing in spite of the bad fall. Then I paced Little Rock for the 3:05 pace group and the sciatic pain was bad thereafter and I never really had a good race for the rest of the year with the possible exception of Mt. Magazine.
I had debated going to the Boston Marathon for the past 13 years since I first qualified but always felt it was too much money and too much time from work. But with good friends going this year and an opportunity to visit relatives in Maine, I thought this should be the year to go and so I signed up. It was a wonderful trip and great to visit with family and it was wonderful to finally "experience" the Boston Marathon despite my dismal time and terrible sciatic pain.
But all of this was of course so trivial as I found myself a tiny part of what I've read in the paper today was the number one sports news story of the year according to the Associated Press. That is of course the bombing at the marathon. I was already on my way back to the airport when the bombs were detonated and so in many ways although I was there and had just crossed the finish line where the bombs went off, I still felt like I wasn't involved.
As I got off the plane in Dallas and heard the President speak about the bombings, a surreal feeling over took me and I had to ask myself whether all of that really just happened. I suppose the lesson to take from this is that there are far bigger and more important things in life than running or sciatic problems. I am grateful to just have been able to come home to my family and that they are safe and healthy. I hope that such tragedy never besets upon them.
May is usually a tough month for me but I did have a course record performance at the Mt. Magazine Trail Run and I had hopes that maybe I was back to feeling strong.
But then throughout June, July, and August I continued to struggle with pain and discomfort. Sadly, I could not participate in any mountain 100s as I had wanted to. The only bright side was a great three day hike on the Colorado Trail where I covered nearly a hundred miles. I will never forget my first real backpacking adventure and hope to do the rest of the Colorado Trail very soon.
By September I had hoped that maybe I could come back from sciatic pain because fall weather usually has me feeling better. So I signed up for the Arkansas Traveler 100 and after a tune-up marathon where I ran a pretty easy 3:10 on a tough course, I felt ready to go.
But it was not to be. I love the Traveler so much and there is just such a jubilant and excited ambience there and I wanted so bad to cross that finish line a third time. But by mile 25, I was walking and shuffling because of the sciatic pain. Finishing just did not seem possible so I dropped at around mile 31. Maybe next year.
Later in October I ran Bass Pro Dogwood Canyon 50K and once again the sciatic pain limited my performance. That was also very frustrating and so finally I reluctantly took a couple of weeks off from running and really pondered whether I would be able to keep running ever again.
But then a visit to the doctor along with anti-inflammatories, stretching and a new running form that emphasizes keeping my right foot in which had been kicking out and running more on the mid-sole and less on the heal strike seems to have me feeling better and optimistic about the future.
The LOVIT Trail Marathon seems to show that I might be able to make a good year of 2014! But I really won't know until I have some tough races and the first will be this weekend's Athens-Big Fork Trail Marathon. That will definitely be a could test to see if the sciatic is better. I also need to get in a 5K. Sadly in 2013, in addition to having zero good road marathons, I also did not get a single sub 18 5K. During the height my injury, I could not even run under 19. So in February I will have a 5K and that will be a good indication of how I am feeling.
So 2014 is starting to look pretty good especially when you consider that only 6 weeks ago, I thought I might not be able to run competitively ever again. So here are my plans of which I'm pretty firm
JANUARY - Athens-Big Fork Trail Marathon, Mississippi Blues Marathon (3:20 Pacer), Ouachita Switchbacks 50K
FEBRUARY - White Rock 50k (maybe), Sylamore Trail 50K
MARCH - Little Rock Marathon (3:20 pacing)
APRIL - OT 50 Miler or Hogeye Marathon
MAY - Jemez 50 Mile
JUNE - Bighorn 100!
JULY - Colorado Trail or John Muir Trail Speed Hiking
AUGUST - Chill in the pool
SEPTEMBER - 5Ks
OCTOBER - Arkansas Traveler 100 Miler or UROC 100K
NOVEMBER - Tulsa Marathon
DECEMBER - Lovit Trail Marathon
No doubt another busy schedule but I have high hopes with more focus on stretching and taking care of my aches and pains, that I can have the best year ever!