Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Salem Twitch Trials - Salem Lake 30K Trail Race

Running while recovering from an injury is like running on the edge of a knife. One false step, one little slip, and you risk total evisceration. You must delicately balance the training with the slow recovery from injury. Not too fast. Not too much.

Training for a big race while injured is like running on the edge of a knife with paper plates strapped to your feet. You can pull it off, but it requires ninja like concentration and dexterity.

Racing a big race while injured is like throwing your naked body off a rooftop into a dumpster full of samurai swords. While being sprayed with alcohol from a firehose. It just can't end well.

I knew when the alarm went off at 4:45AM that running the Salem Lake 30K Trail Race would be stupid. My PF riddled foot was already throbbing and I hadn't taken my first step. So, I turned off the alarm and told the beautiful wife that I couldn't run. I think we were both relieved. My foot is a mess and her mileage has been way down recently (life with small kids preempts running very often in our house).

Fifteen minutes later, I was out of bed and scrambling to get ready for the race. No reason to start being smart about running at this point. Besides, being smart about my running would probably mean never running again.

Twitch Trials
The beautiful wife and I have had a series of showdowns over the past year or so, with her getting closer and closer to finally ending my winning streak. Luckily, we both agreed that this race would be a training run for the upcoming Medoc Trail Marathon, so the pressure was off.

Due to terrible parking logistics and a race site packet pickup that was located somewhere other than the start/finish area (really, Salem Trail Race organizers? Really?!), we missed the race start by over 2 minutes. Well, I wasn't stressed about missing the start. This was only a training run. Or so I thought.

Within the first mile, I knew I had been totally tricked by the beautiful wife. She pulled ahead of me and began passing dozens of people running a pace I knew I couldn't maintain for 10 miles, much less 18.6 miles. I hung on for dear life trying to stay on her shoulder. I managed to stay with her for about 11 miles before my PF battered left foot had had enough and I had to let her go. She was totally out of sight within a couple of minutes. My winning streak had come to a sad, injured end.

I thought someone had hidden a red hot knife inside my shoe. Each step felt as if the knife were slowly, painfully, cutting the heel off my foot. I arrived at the turn off for the 7mile race, which was a short cut back to the start/finish line of the 30K race and had to make the decision - quit or continue. I slowed to near crawling speed to give myself a few extra moments to consider the decision, and noticed that my foot didn't hurt. Maybe I could finish the last 7 miles of my run, only at a much slower pace. I lumbered on, running near the edge of debilitating foot pain.

I ran the next few miles at what felt like walking speeds, but slowly, imperceptibly, my pace increased. I was passed by about a dozen people and could never even see the beautiful wife on any long stretch of open trail. By the time I passed the 3 miles to go marker, I had regained a good bit of speed. Somehow, I had managed to find a running style that didn't aggravate my foot. Unfortunately, this involved using my "good" leg in a kind of super aggressive limp-run. And my right hamstrings were screaming at me for the abuse.

Passing the 2 miles to go marker I thought I saw the beautiful wife through the trees on the trail on the opposite side of a particularly long finger of the lake. I couldn't be sure though, but it gave me a bit of hope that I could perhaps keep the streak alive one more race. I pushed a bit harder.

After passing the 1 mile to go marker, I rounded a turn onto a long straightaway and was sure that the person just disappearing around the far bend was my wife. She had slowed down to a sane pace in the last third of the race, but was still moving well. I had a shot at catching her! I went all in with an over striding, foot pounding, spit spewing, curse filled sprint trying to catch her.

I closed the gap to less than 100 meters, but I was running out of trail very quickly. I passed a spectator who cheered me on, telling me the finish was right around the corner. Time to enter the puke zone! I threw everything I had left into an ugly, slow motion impression of a 90 year old Usain Bolt.

I caught the beautiful wife within 50 feet of the finish line, smugly putting my hand on her shoulder and chirping "Hey honey!"

At first, she was surprised and happy to see me. "Oh, hey sweetie!" she said. Then the look on her face changed to anger and she said "Oh no you don't!"

She sprinted hard the last 40 feet.

I couldn't catch her.

I lost.

By 2 f'n seconds!

Well, the streak is over, but I can't say I'm that unhappy about it. Actually, it's kind of nice to be done with the pressure. I failed the twitch trial, but was fairly beaten, and by quite a beautiful, fast, little witch.
Post race beer heals my
wounded pride.