Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Canyonlands Half Marathon

After four months and countless miles of running, this past Saturday, March 19th was finally the Canyonlands Half-Marathon.  I was so excited and so prepared for the race!  Last week this time I just kept counting down the hours until I would finally get to leave and head out on the journey to Moab.

After lots of and lots of waiting we finally hit the road last Thursday around 3:30PM.  The first part of the trip was easy and smooth sailing.  There was a winter storm warning out for the mountains and western Colorado but we managed to clear Vail Pass – the highest point on the trip, without any snow or any problems.  However about 20 miles to the west of Vail Pass we began to pick up some snow.  The snow got progressive worse and worse as we continued to travel to the west.  After a quick stop for some dinner in Glennwood Springs, we got back on the road and quickly ran into the worst weather of the drive.  By this time the sun had set and driving became near impossible.  The visibility was so back the only way I could determine where to go was to follow the white line at the edge of the road.  At times this too became impossible as the road was covered in snow. 

Despite the trauma of the drive, we finally emerged from the storm just to the west of Grand Junction.  From there onward we had some light snow and rain showers but it was much easier driving.  The delay because of the storm put us into Moab a little later than I would have like but all-in-all not too late as we arrived at 11:30PM.

Friday was all about getting out and exploring Arches National Park.  I made sure that we got to see the best parts of the park – Landscape Arch, Pine Tree Arch, Delicate Arch, Park Avenue and the Fiery Furnace.  We spent pretty much the entire day in the park exploring and seeing things.  After we got back from the park I had to go and pick up my race packet to get my bib number, timing chip and all the other swag they give you.  In the evening we spent some time walking around Moab and then managed to get some dinner at Pasta Jay’s which was right next to our Hotel.

(Me with Delicate Arch in the background)

(Zack in front of Tunnel Arch)

(Pine Tree Arch)

Saturday morning dawned way too early as I had to get out of bed around 5:45AM so I could get ready and then walk over to the hotel that was being used as the meeting place for all the team-in-training members.  From the Ramada we all walked to the Moab Town Center Park where we would catch buses to take us to the starting line of the race. 

The race course follows Utah Highway 128 which is a winding, narrow 2-lane road that runs along the Colorado River.  The river and highway run through a relatively deep and narrow canyon which has been carved out by the river over the eons. 

The buses took us up to the starting line which was about 11 miles up highway 128.  During the race the entire highway would be closed down as there was no way it could accommodate 5000 runners and cars at the same time.

I arrived near the starting line at 8:15AM which was an 1:45 minutes before the race start at 10:00AM.  I spent the time stretching and just chilling out.  It was easy to chill out as the weather was cold and the wild was blowing with 20 – 30 mile per hour gusts.  Needless to say you needed to stay warm!

 (About 1.5 hours before the start - people milling around the drop off point from the buses.)

(Runners relaxing at the side of the canyon before the start.)

From where the buses left us off near the starting line we had to walk ½ mile to the actual starting line.  Along the way we could drop off our “sweat bags” into trucks that would transport them back to the starting line.  A sweat bag is used for you to put stuff that you want to wear while waiting for the race to start but not during the race itself.  Given the cool temperatures, most people were dropping lots of stuff off in their sweat bags.

While I waited for the race to start, I really spent a large amount of time stretching my legs out as I had experienced some pain in both my left and right legs during my final training runs.  As the time for the race to start approached I felt amazingly relaxed and well-stretched out.

At 10:00AM sharp the beginner’s gun went off and the race began.  Because of my estimated time to complete the race I was in one of the “corrals” towards the end.  It took almost 2.5 minutes for me to get to the starting line once the race had already began.  (By that time the elite runners where almost through their first half mile.)

Once I crossed the starting line I really concentrated on running the race that I wanted to run.  I did not want to get carried away in the moment and run the first mile much faster that I wanted.  However, the first down miles were pretty much down hill – so regardless of what I wanted to do my pace was about 30 seconds per mile faster than where I wanted it to be.

And then…  the INCIDENT occurred.  Around mile 1.5 I felt the onset of some severe pain in my left leg and heard something of a pop.  Oh no – my race plan suddenly went out the door as caused by something going wrong with my leg!

I managed to continue to run through the pain.  It was very hard at times but I was determined to keep going.  I imagined all kinds of things to keep myself going.  I imagined I was just out on another training run with my Team-in-Training teammates.  But despite all my efforts the pain just kept getting worse.  A mile after the onset of the pain I was down to walking as I just couldn’t run any more.  Well – I shouldn’t ever say walking – I was down to limping.  By mile 3.4 I just couldn’t even walk as the pain in my leg had grown so severe I could barely stand to put any weight on it at all.  Worse than the pain from the injury, I was also gripped with severe muscle spasms that increased the pain 10 fold.

So 3.4 miles into the race – I was done!  I had to actually sit by the side of the road just trying to a handle on the muscle spasms that were running through my leg.  About 5 minutes later on of the team-in-training coaches came by and waited with me until the sweep van came by.  He actually shocked when he looked at my leg as the entire leg from my ankle to my knee was experiencing muscle spasms.  He said that you could even see the muscles clenching and releasing.  It hurt!

So I didn’t finish the race.  Needless to say I was not exactly happy!  I wasn’t disappointed I was angry and annoyed.  After all this work I have done for the last 4 months why did this have to happen on this day! 

I took the sweep van back to the finish line and when I got out of the van I couldn’t even walk.  I had to sit in the grass in the park waiting for someone from the medical tent to bring a wheel chair over for me.  The doctors in the medical tent took a look at me and determined that I had not torn an Achilles Tendon which would have been really bad news.  They thought I had done something to one of the tendons on the outside of my leg.

After my examination by the doctors I managed to hobble around for the rest of the time in Moab.  Given I use my right leg to drive I was able to drive the entire way back to Denver on Sunday.

Bright and early Monday morning I called my sister-in-law who is a doctor to ask what orthopedic doctor I should try and see.  She gave me the name of a doc who is associated with a very large orthopedic practice and called him.  I managed to get an appointment on Monday at 11:00AM.  After a thorough examination, the doctor determined I had NOT torn or ruptured any of the tendons in my leg – I had just severely strained them.  Based upon what he said, I had probably been running with this injury for the last month or so, but the 2 miles of the downhill right at the beginning set it off.

I am back to square one with my running.  I need to take the next 4 – 6 weeks off to give my leg time to heal and then rehab.  I am hoping by early May I will be able to back out there training again.  Since I didn’t finish this race I am signing up for the Fall season of team-in-training with the goal being to run the Denver Marathon on October 9, 2011.  I will be doing the full marathon at this time as opposed to just the half marathon.  I know I can do it and I darn well intend to prove it to myself!

My plan is to rest and rehab until late April and then get back to running.  I am already planning on running the High Line Canal 10K in mid-May, the Steamboat Half-Marathon at the beginning of June and the Slacker Half Marathon at the end of June.  Once I have accomplished these races I feel I will be ready to tackle the Denver Roll’n’Roll marathon in the fall.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this past weekend happen.  I couldn’t have done it without all the support I received from everyone.   Big thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for watching the dogs for me and to my sister Lesley and Shelly for accompanying me to Moab and helping me deal with my injury!  I particularly want to thank all those who donated to finding a cure to leukemia an lymphoma!

I raised almost $4500 dollars for leukemia and lymphoma research and treatment.  Because of all the generosity of those who gave I was the second highest fund raiser in the Denver Metro area for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's winter season of Team-in-Training.  I am humbled by how much people contributed to the cause.  Thank you all so much!!!

I hope everyone has had a great weekend so far!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

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