Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mtn Mist Race Report

So here's the deal. I'm injured. I strained my groin sometime last summer and didn't think much of it. I continued running normally for months and it gradually got worse and worse. It turned into tendonitis where the adductor connects to my pelvis. Eventually the pain spread up into my abdominal wall in what's commonly called a sports hernia. I didn't really understand the depth of the injury until last October. I backed off for most of the month of November, but I still wanted to give The North Face Championship a good shot in December, so I brought some intensity back into the program and ran through the injury to stay sharp. I actually had a decent race at North Face off my residual fitness, but I knew my current trajectory was unsustainable and I needed some time to heal.

After TNF50, I backed way off. I continued jogging, but did no hard workouts, no trail runs, and my weekly mileage was only in the 20s. I thought 7 weeks of shuffling around would allow the adductor to heal while keeping me sane before Mtn Mist. But progress was extremely slow. Everything I've read about groin injuries and sports hernias indicates they can be very slow to heal, especially if they have lingered as long as mine has. Going into Mtn Mist, I knew I still wasn't 100% and running 31 miles on an untested injury was a risk. The Mist is the only race I would have started -- even though I don't live in Alabama any longer, it's basically my home course, where my trail running career started.  I'd won it 4 times and wanted to get another step closer to a 10-time finisher jacket. I was hoping I still had enough fitness to sneak out the win.

A cold smile.

The start was cold and windy. I was in no mood to take the race out fast. Most everyone thought the frozen course was going to run fast, but a minor course change at the beginning threw off my normal pacing checks. I knew Scott Breeden would be my competition for the race.  We separated from everyone else around an hour into the race. Twenty minutes later, I stopped for a quick pit stop and Scott kept running. At the second aid station, I knew we were really slow. But I didn't feel like I was running slow, I felt totally flat. I was hoping that Scott was just throwing in a surge, and I'd catch back up, but it wasn't to be. I was low on energy, foggy-headed...more like I was at mile 80 of a hundred miler than mile 15 of a 50k.

I went more into a finish mode than a chase mode at this point. The second half of Mist is much harder than the first, so I knew I would need to keep some energy in reserve just to finish based on how I was feeling at half way. I didn't have my normal trail agility and could barely lift my knees. I caught a toe on a rocky section and nearly went down. I caught myself with my Ultimate Direction water bottle and hit so hard that it actually busted it open. It leaked all over my gloves, freezing my hands and pouring valuable calories out on the trail. I had to ditch the bottle at the next aid station and run the hardest section of the course with no nutrition.

I was totally spent after climbing the waterline trail, but I was determined to finish. I shuffled along, continuing to trip uncharacteristically. I proceed to walk the final climb of the race. There was no power hiking here, just a defeated walk. I was checking my shoulder to see if third place was going to appear. In the end, I finished alone in 2nd place, ten minutes behind Scott and 9 minutes in front of third place. I was over 30 minutes slower than the course record I set last year. That's hard for me to fathom. Scott was 20 minutes slower than last year as well, but I think a lot of that was me going out so slow the first half of the race.

Just happy I finished.

My groin injury wasn't a major factor in the race itself, although obviously it severely limited my preparations. Evidently, I underestimated the amount of fitness, sharpness, and trail agility I would lose after 7 weeks of jogging. I knew I wouldn't be in CR shape, but I didn't think I would be 30 minutes slower either. Now I need to continue my focus on getting healthy. I don't think I set myself back too much racing the Mist, but the process is just really slow. I don't have a race on the calendar until Boston Marathon April 21st. I wanted to run the Mad City 100k in early April, but I don't see any way I can get healthy and fit enough to make it worthwhile to run that one now. So my plan is to continue running very minimally and add in core work that doesn't aggravate my groin. If that doesn't work, I may have to take some time completely off so this tricky injury doesn't become chronic.

The course has some beautiful views when it's frozen.

Big thanks to We Run Huntsville for all the awesome pictures!