This last Tuesday, I spent the day making videos demonstrating Merrell Bareform. We spent the morning doing voice-over and interview stuff, which consisted of me talking. I royally suck at this, so thanks to the entire crew for tolerating my repeated butchering of the lines.
We shot “b-roll” scenes the second half of the day, which consisted of me running around trails. At one point, the crew filmed me running down a steep hill with a small cliff at the bottom (about 3-4 feet high.) One of the camera guys asked if I could jump down the cliff. It wasn’t too high, so I tested it out. The first run was perfect. The second attempt also went well. I declared it was doable.
Over the next 20 minutes, they filmed me from different angles running down the hill and jumping off the cliff. We decided the last shot would be cool if I jumped over a camera perched on the edge. This would require me to jump up and over the camera, which caused a harder landing. I did it twice.
The second time, I felt an all-too-familiar twinge in my left knee. It was my patellar tendon. The jumping, especially the last jump, had caused tendonitis to flare up once again. I’ve had reoccurring problems with this for years. This particular case was a concern because I will be running the Grindstone 100 miler this weekend. Ten days is NOT enough time for this to heal.
To make matters worse, I was also scheduled to run Mark Cucuzzella’s Freedom’s Run marathon in Harper’s Ferry, WV on October 1st.
I briefly considered cancelling the marathon. Based on past experiences, I knew 10 days was not long enough to heal. I decided to run the marathon anyway. I’d use it as an opportunity to test my running form. If I could get through the marathon, I could survive the 100 miler.
Much to my surprise, I made it through the marathon without any knee pain. My knee hurt more on the bus ride back to the campground. It was the first time I was able to completely avoid the pain of the patellar tendonitis with good form. Uphill was fine. Flat ground did require some attention to avoid overstriding, which aggrevates the knee. Downhills also were not a problem as long as I kept my cadence high (about 210 steps per minute) and shoulders shifted back. I have a great deal of confidence going into Grindstone; the knee should be a non-issue.
The shoes I chose also played a role. I opted for my soon-to-be-released Merrell Road Gloves. The shoes performed flawlessly. They did exactly what a good minimalist shoe should do: They stayed out of the way. The shoes allowed me to run with my natural, optimal form.
As far as the race itself, Shelly and I did surprisingly well. We took it easy for most of the race. The weather was terrible- rainy and about 47°. The course was scenic as it passed through both the Harpers Ferry and Antietem Civil War battlefields. The only negative from a trail runner’s perspective- the distance between the two battlefields was flat and boring. Road runners would call it “fast.” The latter half of the course featured a few paved hills, which were a ton of fun. I couldn’t help but treat them like hill repeats.
We saw a few people fall during the race. One older lady was accidentally tripped by her running partner. Another dude tripped on a rock while running on a trail along a paved road. Another lady fell but we only saw the aftermath.
Shelly and I were running together along the flat section. A man and a woman were walking; the woman was holding her head. We stopped and asked if everything was okay. The lady had tripped and hit her head. She moved her hand revealing one of the biggest knots I’ve ever seen. It was above her left eye and was actually causing her eye to swell shut (warning sign #1.) She wasn’t sure what she hit (warning sign #2.) I was concerned about a closed-head injury as she obviously whacked it hard. We decided to walk with them to the next aid station to make sure she would be okay. After about a mile and a half, the local EMS met us immediately before the aid station. We stayed a minute longer to make sure she was in good hands, then headed off. A minute later, an ambulance sped by presumably to take her to the hospital.
We were walking on a two track road. I was walking next to her in case she fell; Shelly and her husband were walking behind us. There was a lane to our left for people to pass. Most runners passed without problem. Some people slowed down to ask if everything was okay (the lady had a lot of mud and blood on her arms.) One lady, however, piped out a rude “Runner coming through!” and an audible “UGGGHHHH!” as she passed. She was clearly pissed that we were taking up two of the three “lanes” of the road. I replied with an equally rude “We have an injured runner.”
Here’s a helpful tip: If you see a runner walking and they are covered with mud and blood, there’s a better-than-average chance they are hurt. Don’t be a bitch. If you don’t have the decency to stop and help, at the very least don’t be a rude bitch. In the unlikely event she reads this (you were wearing a purple dress, have long dark hair in braided pigtails, and were wearing orange-accented foot coffins), I hope she changes her attitude. Have a little compassion. Some day it may be you that has a serious running injury.
Just a uick note about Grindstone. This will be my chance to confirm the effectiveness of my training regimen I used earlier this year in preparation for Western States. My training hasn’t changed. I still do an occasional long run (average about two weeks apart) with Crossfit-like crosstraining two or three times per week. I’ll take the same approach to my race strategy- go easy and enjoy the first half of the course, speed up on the second half if I’m feeling good.
The course appears to be more difficult based on elevation, but I tend to do pretty well with hills. As such, Gridstone may actually be slightly better for my running style. It also helps that Grindstone is an out-and-back, so the elevation change is the same up and down. Western States was a net-loss course; we went downhill more foten than uphill. Downhills are still a weakness for me.
Here’s the elevation profile for each: