Friday, June 18, 2010

Old Dominion 100...The Injury Report

In the early years of my life, I had a recurrent nightmare in which I got elephantitis in one of my legs! (It’s a horrifying disease where you’re infected by the Brugia malayi, a parasite carried by mosquitoes. Then your legs swell out to elephantine proportions.) Anyway, in my dream, my right leg gets elephantitis, and the first thing I think about is, “How the heck will I run now?” I attach a skateboard to my leg and can thereafter only run on pavement, pulling it along. No big deal. And I still have friends.

I guess that’s how I feel right now. USELESS, elephantine(?) leg [foot]. How the heck will I run now?

Answer: I cannot.

For a short period of time, I am resting. Rest is a good thing. I am starting to see that it is—Sabbath is a vital part of training life. Do you know what is interesting? Our cells have Sabbaths. I could not make this up. If you look at the life cycle of a cell, there is a “quiescent” phase, known as G0, in which it rests. It just sits there. No RNA is produced, and it quits dividing. There is a metabolic interlude. Why? The authority of God is written into the structure of the cosmos. Just sayin’. Rest is a Biblical mandate. So…I’ve heard a lot of athletes say they don’t need to rest. Well, yes, they do. The average human body contains somewhere between 50 to 75 trillion cells. Each cell takes a Sabbath. I disagree with those athletes because their constituent cellular components are modeling a wellness rule that would benefit them in life. Ohhhh you don’t rest? Hmm. It seems like ALL OF YOUR CONSTITUENTS DO. Got you there.

During the Old Dominion 100, I broke my foot and tore part of a tendon. I actually walked (limped?) away from the doctor feeling relieved because the diagnosis validated the pain. I’ve never cried so hard during a race before. I thought I was a big wimp.

And don’t think that it’s what I should expect for being an ultrarunner. All sports have some level of risk. I broke my nose playing softball. I broke my finger playing basketball. I scarred my chin swimming. I broke my nose playing piƱata.

I also love going to the doctor! The dentist is my favorite, but any doctor is fun.
1—I like to fill out forms about my name and all the numbers (SS#, height, insurance ID) associated with my life.
2—I love the brief exposure to diseases in waiting rooms. (It preps your immune system for later battle.)
3—I love to speed-read through all of their magazines. I once read 12 magazines before being seen.

When I go to a new doctor, I never tell them I ultrarun when I first arrive. I wait until they check my pulse and are taken aback by how low it is. Then I tell them. I don’t really look like a serious athlete. It’s my secret identity. I’m like Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana. The best of both worlds.

Do you know what amoebas do? Their actin and myosin microfilaments slide over each other as they extend pseudopodia (false feet). That’s how they move. Their feet are only present briefly, until they suck them in and shoot out new ones. Say what you want about amoebas, but they got it right. I would like new feet right now.

The last time I broke my leg, I was standing around with the German foreign exchange student (who had a broken arm). She was smack-talking me about her comparative agility, so I challenged her to a jump roping competition. I beat her on one leg. Arms don’t affect that sort of thing.

So I am broken, but I’m okay! And I have other hobbies. I cannot currently ultrarun, but I can do other things for long periods of time. I’m going to ultra-sit and ultra-read and ultra-play-the-viola. Probably I’ll ultra-color. Ultra-talk on the phone. Ultra-learn-some-neuroscience. Ultra-make-some-friends.

I love my fracture boot. Velcro goes with EVERYTHING.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Old Dominion 100

Today, I rode the DC Metro on one leg, struggling to keep the pressure off of my right foot. The Metro wasn’t especially busy, but all of the seats were taken by middle-aged businessmen with ipads and proletariat man-purses. I was in a skirt and wearing a foot cast, but they let me struggle and wobble. I relished in my balance game and delighted in the challenge, but mourned the loss of chivalry.

My training season for the Old Dominion 100-Miler was one of my best ever. I put in a lot of hours on mixed terrain and lifted quite a bit. My peak week was 185 miles, which included two 45-mile runs. I was well-rested and loose. I felt strong for the first time in about a year.

The race was set to begin on Saturday at 4 a.m., but by 1, I was awake and ready to run. My crew was asleep, with their stuff strewn about the hotel room. I was so excited.

At 2:50 a.m., I hopped out of bed and assembled my gear. Two weeks ago, I raced in the Girls-On-The-Run DC 5K with a 5th grade friend from church. She’s new to the sport, and we had a lot of fun running together through the pouring rain! At the GOTR race, every girl was given a bright blue hair ribbon. I decided to wear mine for the Old Dominion. I tied it into my ponytail, and my brother rolled his eyes in disapproval. Look good. Feel good. Run good.

The Old Dominion began wonderfully. The first 2 scores of miles passed quickly, as we wandered through the beautiful town of Woodstock, Virginia and explored the Massanutten Mountains. I tried to stay in-step with one or two men at all times because of the loose farm dogs.

I once watched an episode of The Tyra Banks Show. Tyra had all these ladies on who had been bitten in the face by dogs. She kept saying things like, “You’re beautiful just as you are,” and “Actually, you’re probably prettier with that scar because it makes you unique.” Great show. But then, she sent them away to get makeovers. She had their faces doused in so much cover-up that you could no longer see the scars…or their original faces. Tyra exclaimed, “See, you’re beautiful just as you are!” I will never let a dog get my face.

My favorite section of trail was a steep, muddy incline that was populated by dozens of teenage locals riding four-wheelers. As they drove by, giant mud globs were liberated from the course and launched at me from all sides. The cool mud felt great against my skin because it was over 90 degrees and humid. Plus, things like that never happen in DC. It was unreal.

The technical trail sections were neat, too. I was worried because I’ve had some ankle stability problems/tendonitis lately, so I had to focus. The course wasn’t anything like the Grindstone or the Mountain Masochist, but it was still pretty rocky—like playing tetris with your feet. If you were to misstep, you could lose some teeth, especially since your hands were bound up in racing hand-bottles.

I heard some locals practicing with their shot guns in a corn field. I’d be so mad if somebody accidentally shot me in the middle of my 100-miler.

Large sections of the course smelled like the anaerobic decomposition of corn. Also: manure.

At about mile 49, I sprained my ankle. BAD. But it’s always hard to say how much pain is too much pain over a 100-miler, so I kept going. There is dignity in completion. My pace remained stable, and I was in good spirits through the next marathon of miles. But eventually the tears came. By the time I picked up my safety-runner at mile 75, I was in intense pain with every step. I was almost inconsolable. Almost.

My safety runner for that 11-mile stretch was Austin Morton, and he is AWESOME. We’ve been friends since middle school. We ran together in gym class and argued about whose last name was closer to “moron” …Morton or Moran. (Clearly, Morton is.) He kept me laughing and didn’t mock me when I cried. At mile 86, he said good-bye and sent me off. The sky started to darken—metaphorically and because it was nighttime.

I GOT LOST. I got lost SO MANY TIMES. Sometimes, it’s my fault. I have an unparalleled, unnatural proclivity for getting lost because I spend a lot of time inside of my own head; I was a Philosophy major…But some of the markings were difficult. In certain areas, there were only ribbons to mark the way. Over the course of the day, they were blown upward into the branches of the trees, so with only a headlamp, they were hard to see. I was limping and confused, and I didn’t know which way to go. At one point, I ran two miles in the wrong direction. After mile 90, that’s demoralizing.

But I finished! I got 1st place for women and third overall. It was not a PR, but it was encouraging to get a win. It made me feel like an athlete. I felt strong, and I am driven to compete harder (once my foot recovers). And now I have another belt buckle!

HOLD UP. So: In a 100, if you finish in under 24 hours, you get a belt buckle, not a trophy. For some reason, there is a general consensus that trophies are impractical. There is no real utility in them. It’s just too bad I spend all of my free time in running spandex. No belts required.

Hopefully, I’ll be back at the Old Dominion next year. I really enjoyed it! The people were wonderful, and the aid station volunteers were so friendly! Thank you so much for all of the work you put into the race! :) Also, thank you to my wonderful crew: Teddy Moran, Garret Martucci, and Austin Morton. I love you guys.

Old Dominion, next year I want your record. NO INJURIES. No getting lost.