The Road Back – Dirty 30(ish) Race Report
My last post was over 5 months ago. I was motivated and enthusiastic, very much looking forward to, well, right now. I had a lot of hope that, with hard work and a good attitude that just maybe I would be a runner again in a time horizon measured in weeks rather than years. With the help and support of many Rocky Mountain Runners friends, my family, and good people scattered far and wide, I think I’m back to a place where I can call myself a runner again.
This past Saturday I ran the Dirty 30 50k up and down the mountains in nearby Golden Gate State Park. It’s a rugged mostly single-track course, much of which is above 9,000′. I ran it last year and finished middle-of-the pack. This year’s version added a couple miles, bringing the distance to about 33 miles, with what I’m told had more than 16,000′ of combined climbing and descending. That’s a lot of up and down for the distance (my first 100-miler at Cactus Rose had less total elevation change).
The run was a pretty good validation of the work I’ve done these last 5+ months. I was able to finish the race strong, feeling relatively good all day, in roughly the same overall position as last year. It took me – and everyone else who returned from last year – a good 30-60 minutes longer this year due to the course changes and heat. Last year I ran it in 7:08 for 131st place, this year in 7:47 for 129th place. So, all in all, I performed about the same as last year. That’s huge, considering that a couple months ago even walking a mile was far out of the question.
The whole weekend was really a nice getting-back-to-the-lifestyle affair. About 20 of us camped out near the race course, where I was able to break in the Sportsmobile (kick-ass name TBD). Spending the pre- and post-race with my trail buddies was uplifting, as was the on-course support by all the RMRers who were crewing, taking pictures, and running with (ok, mostly well ahead of) me.
As usual, I ran pretty much all the flat and downhill sections, sometimes cruising, occasionally pushing a bit. I probably hiked 2/3 of the climbs, only running when an especially good song came on or to close-in on the next runner (I think I passed 20+ runners between Mile 17 at Aid Station 3 and the end). Two days removed I’m still sore but my ankle held together without any real pain.
The months since my achilles injury have been mostly good. I think I did all I could to make the best of the situation, with lots of physical therapy help from Larry Meyer, and 10-20 hours/week of fitness/rehab work, combining stationary bike and hand cycle, strength training, and eventually a not-too-slow ramp-up of walking to hiking to running. I’m still far from where I’d like to be, or where I was or can again be, with regards to overall fitness. But, I’ve now been able to work mileage back up; the Dirty 30 marked my 5th long run in 2 1/2 weeks, 3 of which were in the final 9 day period.
Does all this mean the Western States 100 will go well? Of course not. But, I’m a runner again and I think I have a real shot of making it through the race. Time cut-offs will likely be, for the first time in my racing experience, a real concern. I’ll do what I can and knowing that I have a little bit of reason for optimism, that’s going to have to be enough.