Monday, April 16, 2012

Don't Run Boston (at least this year)

Sometimes you just want a do-over.  For me, that usually means I've been orienteering or urban racing.  And while we did exercise our nav skills, that wasn't the problem this time.

I was excited to bring John to the Trail Animals (TARC) "Don't Run Boston" 50k and 50 mile races yesterday.  This is event is fairly informal (but with a drop bag/aid station, water drops, and awesome volunteers) and involves doing your own navigation in a maze of trails around Blue Hills park to the south of Boston.  Last year I had such fun in the 50-mile race, I couldn't wait to try it again.  John figured he's not quite ready to run a 50k, but some trail miles would be good training so he was game to try.

I started at 6 a.m., stuck with a group of guys for a couple miles, and paid more attention to the beginning of the course this time.  John watched us run around the pond and then headed to Dunkin Donuts to hang out and wait for the 50k start at 8 a.m.  I enjoyed doing my own nav early on, learned some things about unmapped trails while climbing up to Buck Hill on the Skyline Trail ridge, and managed to pick the correct trail heading down the other side.

Similar to last year, the group of guys was at the first water drop to greet me but then took off as I mixed up a Spiz baggie.  I didn't quite follow the correct trail up to Hawk Hill but quickly found it again at the top and located an occasional old purple blaze as it wove around in the rocks and scrub.  A trail re-route, a quick journey through a couples holes in a fence, and then I was running well near the swamp.  The early miles felt great, the short climbs were going fine despite not much hill training this year, and I felt like I was running faster than last year.

I hardly saw another runner the rest of the race.  I did yell hello at a couple guys who crossed up ahead of me as Sassaman Notch (not sure if they heard me).  I saw a large group of 50k runners on the red trail right before I climbed up Tucker Hill, and I saw them pause at the exact spot I had questioned a couple hours earlier, so I yelled "Right Turn!" and I think that helped (hope so anyway!).

The volunteers at the aid station car were great, and someone named Jill had even baked a bunch of delicious cookies to share.  Neil told me that John had started just a bit late, but he did get a drop bag in place with his Gu's and stuff.  I finished the Skyline Trail section and really enjoyed it.  Last year it had seemed slow with all the rocks and ups/downs, but this year I really enjoyed it and managed to feel like I was actually running and not just hiking on it.  It probably helped that the rocks were dry this time.  In fact, it probably helped a great deal.  I was still careful on the steep downhills, but nothing was slippery this time.

Yay for the tower and the views on Boston!  Beautiful blue sky.  Some wind to cool us down occasionally.  What a nice day.

Hello again, wonderful aid station folks!  I had an orange slice and got set up for the next big loop.  The yellow section was easier footing than the Skyline Trail, but I guess that means I have to run.  A couple muscles were getting a bit stiff but nothing too bad.  Eventually I worked my way around to the museum where I had a fig newton and filled a Spiz baggie.

There was a ton of tourists hiking up the trail to the tower.  It was such a beautiful day for getting outside, it was good to see that many people were taking advantage of it.  At the top I headed over to the ski area, figured out the right ski slope (last year Bob had helped me with this section) and started down.  It was getting quite warm and my stomach was slightly uncomfortable.  Good heat training to start the season.

Back in the woods, but not much shade.  A group of mountain bikers had gathered, and they parted to let me through while asking if I was running 50 miles?  Yes, and thank you!

One more hefty climb back up the hill.  Near the top I knew I was about to hit another section with a large hiker population, so I stopped for a pee break and to relube some spots that tend to rub especially when I sweat a lot.  My stomach appreciated the former, and other parts of me appreciated the latter.  Ah, much better.  I was back in the shade, the wind had cooled me off, and the brief break was hugely helpful.

I came over a hill to see about five people standing along the next trail, all looking in my general direction.  But not at me.  I stopped to try to figure it out, and one guy directed my gaze to a large hawk that was standing directly in between me and the other folks.  Wow!  As soon as I spotted it, it spread its wings and flew away - looked like a red-tailed hawk, and way closer than I normally get to see them.  Then the guy told me that it had just eaten a snake.  Double wow!

I ran down and took a right onto a lesser-used trail in the direction of the best nav section of the course.  Turn upon turn, hitting several intersections twice (or 3 times) but never repeating anything, always keeping your mind focused on which way to go.  Plus I was started to feel good again, not as hot or bloated.

Then bam, my left foot caught something that I never saw, and I went flying.  Most times (luckily) I catch myself when I trip but this trail looked so nice and smooth that I totally didn't expect it and I was moving too fast to recover.  The map went one way, water bottle another way, as I rolled on my side.  I hit my knee on something, and 2 bumps appeared on it almost immediately.  Hmm, that's not ideal.  No blood, just some scrapes.  I tried to get most of the leaves and dirt off my shoulder, back of my shirt, and back of my legs, then gathered myself and started walking to see what would happen.

Last year I had slipped on some wet granite and sported a bloody elbow and knee proudly around the rest of the course.  I had joked that it would be interesting to do that again, but I was JUST JOKING, I swear.  I guess you still have to be careful what you "wish" for.

I was able to walk/run around the green trails and down to the water drop near the road.  But it wasn't going well, and my knee continued to hurt.  There was also a faint pain deeper in my leg so I was wondering if I had slightly pulled a muscle.

As I approached an intersection with the Skyline Trail I suddenly saw John up ahead.  Hey John!  It was so great to see him.  I limped over and he told me about getting lost a couple times and I told him about my tumble.  By then I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish the whole 50 miles.  But I was still OK for walking, so John continued on up to the tower.

Every time I stopped even for a minute my knee tightened up a lot.  Walking did help loosen it up, but I decided I shouldn't push it at all.  We have too many interesting weekends coming up, so I opted for the "let it heal" approach instead of even trying to finish the 50k.  Maybe my mistake in the 6-hour race last month (where I let a blister grow to epic size) helped with the decision.  So I walked back down to the volunteers at the truck and told them I was done.  Bummer.

John was there already, and he was getting ready for the big loop of yellow/green trails.  I iced my knee as he set out.  The lure of being able to head home early was too much for a man who wasn't quite trained for 31 miles of running anyway, so he stopped early too, after a respectable ~24 miles.  We did get to talk with a couple friends and had an easy drive home (with more ice on my knee).

A bit of rest, ice, elevation, and even an ace bandage wrapped around my knee overnight for the heck of it, and things are going better today.  I even biked to work.  Now it just looks like 2 scrapes and a bruise.  I have high hopes for a quick recovery.  But I wish I could have run the rest of the course.  Not sure if I'll get a do-over for this one!

On the plus side, we brought home quite a haul from Trader Joe's and REI  :)

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