“It’s a long road up to recovery from here, a long way back to the light” Frank Turner
OK, so its been a long summer. Nine weeks ago I was at my absolute running fitness pinnacle, racing a near 19 flat 5k in the dead of summer, and all jacked up to begin my attempt to qualify for Boston in November at Savannah. All of that crashed down, quite literally, in the span of about 3 seconds on a cliffside in Hawaii. Incredibly I survived, not only with my brain intact but no spinal or otherwise permanent injury. What I did get was a whole lot of everything else: completely wrecked forehead with 17 sutures, a nice bite through my lower lip which later required an emergency root canal on the tooth that did it, broken left hand, 2 severely sprained wrists, hugely swollen left knee contusion later diagnosed with a hairline femur fracture, and a severely dislocated left toe which caused a sesamoid fracture.
Recovery has pretty much been a bitch. Once you’re used to churning out 40-50 miles a week, being completely sedentary for the first three weeks was my own personal version of waterboarding. Kudos go out to my wife who dealt with having 3 elementary schoolers and a 4th very large, irritable child at home most of July. On the flip side, I’m now a freaking awesome Candy Crush player and I’m all caught up on the 1982 season of TJ Hooker. I went back to work August 4th and I’ve never been so glad to leave the house in the morning. I also started going back to races as a spectator. It was great to get out, though when you still look like you got your ass kicked, you’d better be ready to explain why….about 2000 times. But that’s OK, it was worth it to get off that damn couch. Watching races has been bittersweet – great to see my friends again, not so great to be relegated to the sidelines of the sport you love.
Oh and the “rehab”. I wasn’t prescribed any specific physical therapy. Its not like my freakish legs needed more working out. Trying to figure out how to maintain some level of cardio fitness has been challenging though. Turns out you have to basically assault an elliptical machine or spin like a cracked out spazoid on a bike to try and get your heart rate up to running levels. I will hand it to the stairclimber though…I sweat like a whore in church every time I jump on that thing.
My first attempt at running was 2 weeks ago, did 2 miles two days in a row. The first time was great, the second time the toe wasnt happy. I did find out that week my left sesamoid bone (little peanut m&m size bones that float in the tendons below your great toe MTP joint) was indeed in two pieces at my follow up appointment. It had been like that since the fall, but hadnt been caught until the weird “sesamoid view” x ray. I had a CT of my foot the week after and now still have to see a specialist to see if surgery will be necessary. Doc was on the wishy washy side about continuing to run on it. I decided to give it another 2 weeks, which brings me to the race this post is supposed to be about…
The Dry Run has always been one of my favorite races. Its small, very “flat and fast” in Shandon, and usually held on one of the first cool mornings of the fall. This years edition was no exception, mid 60′s at race time. I swear I was just coming to take pictures at this race, but I got a wild hair just before heading out the door and grabbed my checkbook. I got there about a half an hour early and signed up, and suddenly I was all scared, hopeful this wouldnt be an epic disaster. Of course I had very little expectations for this race, and planned to treat it purely as a fun training run. For some reason there was a really small crowd this year. Usually there have been 70-90 registrants, but this year it was just over 40. At least a quarter of these were CRC peeps, so at least we represented.
Mike Hedgecock always does a great job organizing this race, even if he did lose the vote to continue the ironic pint glass awards (proceeds go to FAVOR, a substance abuse recovery group). He told me that Eric Ashton and Kathryn Cavanaugh were already out there somewhere, which basically sealed the two overall wins. Angel was on hand to easily take third. James Hicks, Andrew Touzel, John Gasque, Henry Holt, Alex Ponamarev, Meg Weis (with Luke in stroller for his first race), Geary MCAlister, Michele Parnell, Pete Poore, Del Soule were all part of the CRC contingent.
It was a little weird at the start. One, the tiny crowd made it feel pretty sparse out in the street, like a moderate size group run. Two, I wasnt toeing the line this time, but almost all the way to the back. With the start, Eric took off like the beast he is and soon he and the pace car were out of sight. I took it super easy in the first quarter mile, and it seemed the toe was going to hold up. I admit, it was hard to see almost the whole competitive field leave me in their collective dust. I was probably trucking along somewhere north of 10 minute pace to start off. By the first half mile, the toe started loosening up further and I felt more confident in pushing off of it, which quickened my pace considerably. I could see Henry and Pete pretty far ahead and I tried to remain in the same ballpark with them. I hit the first mile at about 9:05, which was OK, since I figured anything sub 30 would be great after the last 9 weeks. Knee felt almost normal, though certainly the leg strength wasn’t there.
After the successful first mile, I felt a little more assured everything was going to hold up structurally, so I tried to ease into my old (i.e pre-cliff dive) easy run pace of around 8 minutes. This actually felt great – the stride started to flow more naturally and I started catching up to people. With the bright sun and a nice breeze on a cool morning, I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t a little emotional. The moment was a little dampened by the fact that this was a lot harder from a cardio perspective than 2 months ago. Turns out reaching level 76 on Candy Crush doesn’t do wonders for the lungs. I hit the second mile in like 8:18 and finally caught up with Henry and Pete. I passed some guy who I didn’t know and he actually cheered me to finish strong. A nice change from the attitude of the pack I’m usually racing, who would give up their position over their cold, dead, bodies. Me included. The last half mile I was kind of overcome with the euphoria of being able to finish and even have a respectable time, so I felt a little bad about blue shoeing Ponamarev and Gasque in the last stretch, but they know I take no prisoners! I turned the last corner and was shocked to still see 25′s. I resisted the natural urge to headless chicken a sub 26 and crossed the line in 26:06. The 2nd slowest 5k Ive run, but definitely one of my favorites. There were moments in that Hawaii ambulance when I wasn’t sure this would ever happen, so to say I’m grateful for every day on this planet since is not an overstatement. Being able to do what I love is just a tremendous bonus.
But hey, lets get to what’s really important: age group placement! I finished 2nd in the 35-39 and even finished 14th overall. Not bad for a gimp toe. Eric and Kathryn of course won the overall, and even finished 1-2 as well. Angel finished 2nd male/3rd overall with Alex Wilcox taking 3rd male. Meg , coming back after her baby, took Luke on a brisk stroll and ended up 2nd female. Not bad. Michele Parnell took 3rd. Geary easily won masters without that pesky Tisdale guy to challenge him. In the age groups, Michele’s daughter Brianna won 1st in the 2-14. Andrew Touzel is also coming back from injury and rocked a 23:40 in a PR first in 30-34. He did have to suffer the shame of James Hicks crushing an all out blue shoe to nip him at the line. He won the 35-39. John Gasque ran a strong race and finshed just 5 seconds behind me to win the 50-54. Ponamarev also easily claimed the 60-64. Racing legends Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt took the 65-59 and 70+ categories. They only went one deep with the awards, and now just have a crystal coaster instead of the pint glass. Geary , who probably has a mound of age group and overall awards in his home gave me his. Hopefully I can keep it as a memento of the start of the road back!