Friday, May 4, 2012

2012 Potawatomi Trail Half Marathon

Shannon wasn't there, so no good pictures.

New and Unimproved
So after my re-invention as a new, healthy, and pain-free runner, I found myself in a sadly familiar situation:
Limping around the day before a race. This time it was the Trail Half Marathon on the Potawatomi trail in Pinckney, MI.

Despite taking the previous 4 days off, my left foot seemed to be getting worse and not better. As I walked around Grosse Pointe, an ice pick was being jabbed into my foot with every step.

It seemed that some tendon along the top was horribly inflamed, probably from running too fast and too far in my Merrell Trail gloves.

Suck It Up
"Suck it up," my sister Monique told me, "We are all going to hobble through this thing whether we like it or not." She was working on an injury of her own, this time a possible stress fracture in her femur. When it comes to running injuries she ranks among the elite.

Since I was having trouble walking, the idea of running a half marathon the next day seemed ridiculous.
But having pain before a big race seems to happen to me all the time, which makes me think it is all in my head.

So as I went to bed that night, I tried to think positive thoughts, visualizing running smoothly and easily down the trail. But this vision kept getting interrupted by nightmarish flashes of Ryan's tendon surgery.

Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions.
Driving to the race, I had a couple cognitions arguing like a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.

Angel- "You are going to hurt your foot much worse. Don't run this race. Be smart"
Devil- "Nah. You'll be fine. Don't listen to the pre-race jitters."
I can't run like Dave Roche, so I'll have to settle
for including cute dogs in my blog posts. 

But instead getting rationalized away, the conflict spiraled out of control:

Angel- "All your tendons will snap like old rubber bands!"
Devil- "In training you ran the Figure8 really fast, and you were fine!"
Angel-"You had trouble walking down the stairs this morning!"
Devil- "You are a hard core trail runner!"
Angel- "You have only been running like 20 miles a week!"
Devil- "Uh...  you ran the Figure8 that one time!"
Angel- "After 3 miles all of your foot bones will crumble to dust and you will have to carted off the trail"

Devil- "No way! You are going to WIN!"

At this point, I realized both of them were being silly and went to warm up. Oddly, the foot actually felt better running than walking, and I figured I could make it the 13 miles one way or another.
It would be my longest run since Uwharrie 3 months ago.

With a field of over 800 runners, I decided to be very optimistic and lined up near the front, with the 7-8 min mile group. My brother and sister lined up much more conservatively, farther back.

With a "GO" we took off across the grass and hit the single track in about a quarter mile.
Running fast in the Trail Gloves (a 7 min mile is fast for me) still feels really awkward and unnatural. I have to think about how to move my legs. I felt a few twinges in my foot, but I was more focused on trying to keep up with the pack.

Holy crap! Bring your climbing ropes! Oh wait. Are those 20 foot increments?

Kick Butt Hilly
This is how the website describes the course:
"Potto", is a big bad loop of hilly kick your butt wilderness single track trail.
Was this a joke? The entire elevation profile was only 100 foot high. I had to put it in perspective:

Poto vs Umstead Single Track

Poto vs. Owl's Roost Rumble

So it looked easier than Umstead single track, but maybe slightly harder than Owl's Roost Rumble.

Super Secret Goal
So going into the race, I was secretly hoping for a top 10 finish.
I would show those Michigan flat-landers how we run trails in NC! "Big bad hilly kick my butt?" Ha. After Uwharrie, this was going to seem like a moving walkway at the airport.

At about mile 2, I ran by a spectator who said, "You are 8th overall!"
Wow! If I could just hang on to the pace, I could get top 10!

The Trail Gloves felt pretty good.  The trail was non-technical, with only a few short rocky stretches. No mud, no stream crossings, few roots. Really a perfect surface for the shoe.
My foot was holding out OK. It hurt a little when taking the downhills hard, but in never really got any worse.

Though my feet were OK, the hills were, in fact, kicking my butt.
While they were very short, they also felt pretty steep. While powering up one slope around mile 4, I started feeling the familiar pre-cramp twinges in both calves. Uh oh. I still had 9 miles to go, which is like half of my weekly mileage.

So after mocking the hills here, I ended up having to walk up a lot of them to give my calves a break.
I got passed by 5 people, and ended up in 13th place. Happily, no tendons snapped and no bones crumbled to dust.

My sister and brother came in about 20 minutes later, having been caught in the traffic jam of 840 people on a single track trail.

Bizarrely, my foot somehow felt better after the race.
I think the problem was actually caused by tying my shoes too tight, because leaving my shoes loose seems to alleviate it. When running barefoot I feel no pain at all.

My calves however, were absolutely wrecked.  I still have a long way to go adapting to these minimal shoes. It seems my calves do a lot more work trying to run gently.

But my knees feel pretty good. Maybe the best they have ever felt after a hard race like this.
So I would have to say this race was a qualified success for minimalism.

Next Test
The next test for the Trail Gloves, my aching foot and my quivering calves will be tomorrow at the Philosophers Way 15K Trail Race.

Last year I ran a 1:07:56 in cushy shoes.

Will the Trail Gloves be like sports car tires and provide better handling around the switch backs?
Or will they over work my calves and slow me down?

The minimal experiment continues...