Friday, May 23, 2014

My Big Fat DNF

There aren't a lot of 100k trail races out there so I was pretty excited when I found one in California that just happened to coincide with our spring road trip plans. (At least that's how I remember it. It's possible that the whole road trip came about as a result of this race, but that makes me feel like a selfish jerk so I'm going to pretend that it happened the other way.)
I often find it difficult to find a happy balance between racing and road tripping or any holiday really. Leading up to a race, even when I know that I should be taking it easy and being my most healthful self, I don't want to miss out on any fun. (Fun being new trails to bike or run, beers to drink and yummy, but not always healthy, foods to eat.)
With the Gold Rush 100k being smack dab in the middle of our road trip, I think I did a fairly decent job of taking care of myself without being a total drag to my friends. (Dave and I were travelling with two other couples.)

Dave and Dora somewhere along the northern Cali coast. 

This was primarily a mountain biking trip for the rest of the group so we hit up some sweet trail towns (Bend and Oakridge, OR) on our way to Sacramento. I even did a couple of rides. (My fav was by far Paradise Royale near Shelter Cove, CA although the drive in was ridiculous!) The rest of the time, I did short, easy runs on the trails while everyone else was out riding. It worked out pretty well.

Creek crossing on the Paradise Royale trail.

When we arrived in Folsom, CA to pick up my race package and check into our hotel, I was feeling rested and ready for a good long run. Folsom turned out to be a much cooler town than I had expected and I was happy to have the better part of a day to wander around. There was also a good vibe -- and a whole lot of spandex -- in town for the pro cycling Tour of California second stage TT that would be taking place on Monday.
Since the race started at 5am, I went to bed early and had a fantastic sleep. I was feeling great as Dave, Dora and I walked a block from the hotel to the starting area to get organized. Even with two distances (50k and 100k), there weren't a ton of people there. I made one last trip to the porta potties and then spent a few minutes adjusting my shoes, pack and headlamp. Just before 5am, the runners lined up for our final instructions and then we were off. The first 8-10k of the course traversed paved roads, trails and bike paths. For this reason, I decided to wear my new North Face Ultra Smooth shoes, which were the perfect choice for this race that was approximately 80% smooth singletrack and 20% paved trails.
About 15k in, one of the guys who I caught up to told me that I was the first women running the 100k distance. Being so early in the race, I didn't give it much thought, but then I was surprised to see another woman ahead of me at one of the few out and back sections of the course. I figure she must have passed me when a few of us were misdirected out of an aid station and ran an extra 1k or so before getting back on course. It wasn't long before the situation was reversed and the woman and another runner took a wrong turn and I caught them both as they found their was back on course.
The woman turned out to be Jennifer Pfeifer, a friendly local runner whom I'd actually run with at a previous years' The North Face Endurance Challenge in San Fran. Having won the 100k race last year (I think), I suspect she was the favourite to win again this year (spoiler alert: she did). We ran together for a bit, trading off the lead, but always in sight of each other. It was around this time that I had a funny little stumble that I didn't think much about at the time, but would come back to haunt me later.
Cruising along on a beautiful, rolling stretch of singletrack, my right toe caught on something hidden in the long grasses bordering the trail. My left leg was already in motion and, in attempt to stop myself from crashing to the ground (which, in hindsight, might have been better for me), I landed very awkwardly and suddenly with my left heel bearing the brunt of the impact. I felt a pop in my left butt and my Achilles was throbbing. I did a quick body scan and tried a few tentative steps and then decided that no serious damage had been done so I could carry on. I carried on quite happily for another 20k -- still playing cat and mouse with Jenn -- and then my left calf seized totally and completely. That was at 48k and I assumed the turnaround would be at 50k so I alternately hopped and limped my way towards the halfway point where I hoped a calf massage would fix me and allow me to carry on. Unfortunately for me, the course was either long or my GPS wasn't accurate because it was almost 5k more before I made it to the turnaround.

Where's the turnaround?!? 

Heading back out onto the course...but not for long!
I immediately plopped myself down in the med tent and asked the kind lady to work on my calf. She gave it her best but as I headed back out onto the course stumbling along with an incredibly painful calf that still wasn't firing, I strongly suspected that my day was over. I continued along like this for another km or so before conceding that I was done and then berated myself for being so stubborn and having to gimp back to the turnaround where I hoped Dave was still waiting. He wasn't so I hung out with a few other 100k drop outs and then caught a ride with the super nice RD and his daughter to the next aid station where Dave was expecting me and waited there for him.
Once Dave and Dora showed up, we went down to the river and I soaked my lower body and then we had a bite of lunch in the van and cheered for the returning 100k runners as they passed through the aid station. We eventually ended up back at the hotel where I had a nice, long nap and then we joined our friends for beer and pizza. (A winning combo for either post-race celebrations or drowning one's DNF sorrows!)
On Sunday, we headed to Tahoe where we had a house booked for three nights. When I wasn't sleeping, I had my leg elevated, compressed and on ice with the assumption that I had a calf muscle strain. To pass the time while everyone else was out playing, I read, surfed the web and watched a lot of Law & Order - gotta love TV marathons! By Tuesday, I could walk slowly but normally again.
As soon as we got home, I saw my awesome PT Mark of IronSport Physio and he surmised that I had pinched the nerve in my butt that sends signals to my calf. When my calf stopped getting the signals it needed to function, it seized and quit on me. The goods news is that the nerve impingement is nearly resolved and I'm running again pain-free. If my next few runs go well, then there's a 50-miler down in WA in a couple of weeks that I'm considering.
If anyone is looking for a 100k race to do, please consider the Gold Rush 100k. It was really fun, the organizers are great and the trails are super! And Folsom is definitely worth checking out. We heard a rumour that due to low registration, they may not be holding the race next year and that would be a real shame.
If you want to see the results, please go here. (I have the special honour of being the top drop out!)

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