It's been a long time, a very long time, since my last blog post, 8 months to be exact. Could I have written additional posts, dove into more details about my recovery, or about the effects my injury and other health woes had on me mentally? Sure. Would it have helped me deal with these issues? Maybe, but I didn't think so at the time. I didn't want to at the time. Am I fully recovered? Physically? Mentally? No, not fully. But it's much better and I don't really worry as much anymore.
I haven't had a "freakout" in a while. Freakout is an official medical term I coined. It's not a panic attack, but it sure doesn't feel too good when it happens. This would occur over a period of a couple of months after I had left the hospital. Even though I was on blood thinners, every little pinch or odd feeling would send my mind flying, back to the day I ended up in the ER with a scary diagnosis, multiple DVTs and PEs as a result of an initially misdiagnosed traumatic ankle injury. Who would've though that an ankle fracture and tendon tear could be diagnosed as "just a case of inflammation". I would start sweating, worrying and wondering whether I had another clot, whether I was going to be lucky yet again. It wasn't a very pleasant experience and I don't think I would've made it through these periods without my wife, who continuously reassured me that everything was fine.
With every passing week, I became more and more confident that things would be okay and stay okay. I became more confident in my physical recovery as well, slowly adding miles in the pool, on the bike, and on the road. Trails were still out of the question as I continued to try to build confidence in my ankle and me as a whole. I started to head out for very slow runs on the road, very slow runs, mostly on my own. Eventually, I would join my wife her runs here and there.
After a couple more months, I figured it might be time to try to hook up with my old running buddies again, as long as they were doing some road runs. Again, I wasn't quite ready for trails and sometimes I wondered if I ever would or even should. I wasn't on a real training regimen. Yes, I was rehabbing my ankle, by I didn't really consider it real training. Instead, I decided to pick up and focus on some other hobbies of mine and spend a little more time with my wife and son in the process, all good things. Then my son decided to join his high school XC team. I was extremely excited for him. It also made me realize that I missed running quite a bit. My wife was now often logging more miles than I did even when I was training in earnest. I also finally started to gain weight, not the good kind of weight either. I had been somewhat lucky until this point, but those days were over. Something had to give. I was not willing to turn into a complete couch potato just yet.
I started to join my wife more frequently and to add some miles here and there, never worrying about pace (I still don't). I was and am just glad to be running again. Then October came around and I remembered that I had wona free entry into the Coyote Springs 100 Mile race in the desert just outside Las Vegas, Nevada. My wife and I had booked tickets and a hotel months earlier, since I was crazy enough to think I might be ready. I was so confident, in fact, that I booked both a nonrefundable airfare and hotel. Well, kinda anyway. I knew the RD was offering multiple distances and I figured, if I am not ready to run a 100 miles, maybe I'll be ready to run a 50K? Well...I wasn't.
My wife and I arrived at Las Vegas airport Friday evening. Once again, the trip didn't go quite according to plan since our flight schedule had changed and i was aware of it. So when we arrive ready to depart Huntsville International Airport (The "International" designation is the result of some cargo flights, I believe), our flight had already left. "Bummer!" Actually, I used a different word, but let's move on. After begging the counter lady to help us out, we managed to reschedule via a different route and still make it to Vegas just 10 minutes later than our original schedule. An we even had time to intimately get to know Huntsville Airport, since we now had to wait 3 hours for our departure flight. That meant no Chicago pizza for us after all. Oh well.
Once we arrived, we quickly picked up our luggage and headed to the rental car shuttle. Smooth sailing to the rental car center. While waiting for our paperwork to get sorted by the super friendly rental car staff at the counter, we had to witness the worst of the worst kind of people. This absolute "tool" of a fella berated the rental car desk clerk about how he is "not going to settle for anything but an American made car. Nope, not gonna happen, American or nothing." "Sir, we do not have an all American made car." "Then keep it, blah blah blah." This went on for at least 15 minutes of the clerk trying to help this nimwit while he continued to abuse him. I literally had to hold my wife back. She was ready to rumble. What an @$$ this guy was!!! We ended up apologizing for him. This guy just made me cringe.
We arrived at our hotel save and sound and after dropping a couple of coins in the slot machine, I started to get my running gear ready for the next day while my wife went to sleep, in less than 2 minutes:-) I had already decided that there was no way that I was towing the line for 100 miles and asked the RD via email, if I could drop to the 50K distance and he kindly agreed. I left the hotel bright and early and an hour later, I arrived at a trailhead in the middle of the desert. It felt great to be back at the start of an ultra marathon...as a runner.
If you think just because you're in the desert and just outside Vegas that it is going to be warm, think again. Holy cow, it was bitterly cold when I arrived at the start of the race. I stayed in the rental car as long as I could until it was time to ready myself. The 100 milers had left an hour before the 50 milers and we were to follow an hour after that. 50K racers had to run two mostly single track trail loops with a short out & back sandwiched in between. I decided to take it easy and to take in the scenery. I had ready Liz Bauer's race report from the previous year along with a couple of pics she had posted, so I wanted to make sure I got some good pictures as well.
If memory serves me correctly, there were just 4 of us tackling the 50K distance. We were in the last group of racers for the day. On Sunday, runners would tackle a 10K, Half Marathon or a full marathon distance on the same course. I settled in briefly with another local guy just ahead of a couple of other runners. After a brief chat, I decided to pick up my pace just a little. This was only my third run on trails since my second Pinhoti 100 attempt exactly 12 months earlier. A couple of miles into the run, I crossed paths with the 100 milers as they made their way along the side of one of the ridges. I was heading in the opposite direction at this point and I never saw them again. I maintained a steady slow pace, picking it up on the downs and slowing significantly on the ups. There were quite a few switchbacks, but also a lot of scenic views. I am most definitely not a pro when it comes to photography and it definitely shows in my pics. The sun made it difficult early on to get nice clear shots, but I think the few shots I got still convey the beauty of this particular desert area.
By now, there were 100 milers, 50 milers and 50K runners on the trail and I would occasionally spot someone on a ridge ahead or just a turn behind me. I continued to move fairly well without any major ankle issues, but as I was heading closer to the start/finish area, I started to think whether it was wise to continue based on my current level of training and recovery. For once in my life, I actually made a smart decision. When I arrived at the start/finish area, I told the RD that I would call it a day. My GPS watch showed 14 miles and that was good enough for me today. I needed to consider my current physical state. It also didn't hurt to realize that an early finish would allow me to head back to Vegas to meet up with my wife for a nice and fancy Italian lunch at one of the famous hotels.
As I was grabbing some fruit and getting ready to leave, the RD returned to hand me a Half Marathon Finisher's Medal. "You ran the distance and if you run the distance, you deserve the finisher's medal for that distance". Mind you, the official Half Marathon didn't take place until the next day, but since I had ran the actual race course and distance, he still rewarded me with a finisher's medal. I tried to decline, but he wouldn't have it, once again reminding me why I absolutely love the ultra running community.