But, that is not why I stopped posting to this blog. I stopped posting to this blog, because I was tired of the regular updates about my foot and the recovery process. I was up one week, and then down the next 2.
At the end of February, I was settling into my training for the Mt. Diablo 50k, after sitting out the entire fall and most of the winter with my torn (my diagnosis) Plantar Fascia. In spite of the pain, the training clock was running.
I don't even recall what the day was, but I was hoping for a 24 - 26 mile training run. After 15 miles and a clenched fist full of tough climbs and excruciating descents I altered my plan in duress, navigating down trails that would cut the route and head me toward home. My foot was screaming, both knees were aching from landing wrong on my hobbling stride; I was crippling myself in real-time.
I called Bec to complain, but she was away from the phone and didn't pick up. When she called back I was hurting, angry, disappointed, despondent, and the list goes on. I asked her to come pick me up. Never had I made this request before, it was lame, I was done. Done with training for this blasted race; done with running through pain; done with exposing myself in the stupid blog. She found me a half mile from home - and I took the humiliating ride because it hurt that bad.
I sat out for 2 weeks. I was so angry after that run, that I didn't ice, didn't elevate, didn't compress, didn't do anything that would help me heal from a rather brutal beating. I paid for it over the next few days, and then pulled myself together to start treating the injuries properly. The rest and treatment paid off.
A longing to run began to return. I'm a runner. I can't not run. Just over 1 month ago, after sitting out for those 2 weeks, I headed out for what would be a pivotal run. I ran a familiar route from the house, over the Shell Avenue hill, and up a staggeringly steep fire road behind Alhambra High School. I was winded at the top. Two weeks had sucked a little life out of my cardio. I paused and looked around to take in the ever-changing beauty of the spring hillsides, then stopped the music and pulled out the earphones as a realization overshadowed me like one of those huge puffy clouds passing in front of a mid-day sun - my foot wasn't hurting. No pain, at all.
I twisted my foot about and stomped it a couple times, then started talking to God. See, He and I chat a lot on these runs. This was going to be a quick, one-sided chat, but a very poignant one for me.
"God," I began.
I knew I had his attention, but I feel it's always good to start off a conversation with unseen beings by addressing them by name. It helps bystanders.
"God, thank you, so much, for the opportunity to run. And, more than that, thank you that I'm up here right now - and my foot doesn't hurt."
Understand that I have many conversations with God, and I don't like to be presumptuous as we chat. I'm just little old me, and He's, well, God. Keeps a person humble if they think on it very long.
"I don't know what to say, other than thank you. But, I have a bit of a dilemma here. I have given up training for the 50k because of my foot. I'm 4 weeks out from the race, and I'm not sure if I have enough time to get fit for a run that long - no less a race. But here's what I propose. If you keep me pain free (or pretty close) for the next 4 weeks, I will train hard to get as close to being prepared as I can. If you bring back the pain, then I will back off and take it as your plan for me to sit this one out. And - it's all good. Whatever happens, it's good. Your will - Your way"
I had been vacillating for months between the facets of this decision. When not in excruciating pain, I could imagine running the necessary distances to get back in shape. I had been limping just to walk for the previous 5 months. Actual training for this race was a shot in the dark at best, and only made possible by an overactive ambition. I had paid for the insurance on my race registration when in a moment of immense optimism I had signed up for the race; I could get the $100 back if I needed to. I ran in pain for many weeks before the fateful training run that I never finished. Every run, and probably 7 times a week I asked myself or my wife if I was crazy to be training for this race. Each time the answer was the same - probably.
I paused to wait for a reply, yet the stillness was not split by a peal of thunder, nor the hillsides shaken by His voice. I started the music. I resumed running, and waited for the answer to play out.
I upheld my end of the bargain. I picked up my training as if I had never quit, as if I had been training for months, and the race was only 4 weeks away. In competitive running and training lingo, this would be referred to as - Stupid. My next 3 runs were flush with hills, and each over 20 miles. I took one week to taper and my long run was 12 miles - a week before the race. My foot was not hurting me on my runs; after the run and at other times, yes, I was doing a lot of treatment with anti-inflammatories and ice to manage the pain, but I could run over 25 miles without so much as a limp.
Race day, Saturday 4/19/2014, I toed the line with 157 other runners, shivering in the cool dawn, crowding into patches of sunlight to stay warm. A driving beat set to Braveheart style bagpipe music, pumped from the loudspeakers after the 10 second countdown. A herd of half dressed humanity was unleashed on the Diablo foothills.
My personal goal, 11 months ago, was to finish the 2014 50k in the top 10. I have finished 15th and 19th in the past. This morning I had modified that goal to simply - finish.
My friend, Matt Fowler, had crushed me with kindness by offering, not only to drive me to the start so that Bec and the girls could sleep in, but also to meet me at mile 24 and pace me to the finish. Having never run with a pacer, I was not prepared for the psychological boost it would provide. Just having a friend to chat with, and someone to share my discomforts was liberating. My last 7 miles had always been the worst. Today they were my best. I managed to move up several positions as I passed one racer after another - suffering just a little more than I was.
Cramps were an issue at the half-way point and near the end, but nothing like in years past. I consumed enough calories throughout the run to sustain the typical human for several days and enough electrolytes to make the Dead Sea jealous, and drank several liters of colored liquid labeled innocuously as, "energy drink," though I suspect you could run your car on the stuff.
The first year I ran this race my time was 6 hours: 29 minutes in the blazing heat; and 5 hours: 50 minutes last year. Today - 6 hours: 6 minutes. To say I'm pleased would be understatement. With a minimum of training hours, I managed to run 31.1 miles in spectacular time.
My place? Well, not so spectacular. The field was extremely competitive, and fulfilling my objective of finishing in the top 10 would have been - amazing. As we were running up the first few hills, it became obvious that I was not ready to run with the big dogs, and a serenity settled over me as I reminded myself to "run my own race." I was happy, but I was not amazing. I finished in 34th place.
In the time that I had finished 19th last year - 25 racers had already finished today. 10th place today came across the line in 5 hours and 13 minutes.
I sit and smile to myself. Could I have pulled 5:13 out of my running hat if I had trained all year as I had planned to?
I sit and continue to smile. The answer to that question is the answer to the "What if?" that has plagued the unfortunate for ages. And yet I don't feel unfortunate. I am blessed. My God answered my prayer 4 weeks ago with His version of, "Sure, why not."
Thanks. I really enjoyed running today. I sincerely appreciate it.