|Pre-race focus (Aaron Schwartzbard Photo)|
After the road miles we turned off onto the dark and wet trail (it rained quite a bit overnight). The good news about the first climb of the day up Short Mountain is the rugged and rocky terrain demands 100% of your attention (particularly when dark and wet), so unless a hawk is actively trying to peck out one of your eyes while you run, you're probably not going to notice anything else. This section helped me forget about the hamstring for a while, and by time I rolled down the other side of the mountain through Edinburg Gap (mile 11), I had adjusted to my short stride and everything felt great.
|Being careful on the wet rocks just after Edinburg Gap (Aaron Schwartzbard Photo)|
Since my leg was suddenly feeling great (and the adrenaline of an actual race was now kicking in), I decided I'd try to open up the stride a bit more on the next section to catch up with Neal and David. There's strength in numbers when running these races, and after running the first 20 miles solo, I was hoping for some company to help me work through some of the climbs. Unfortunately, my hamstring had other ideas and gave its first loud "Danger Will Robinson" warning of the day about a mile after Woodstock. I realized the common trail-running act of planting my left foot and pushing off to the right was no longer a pain-free option for me. So much for catching up to the guys ahead, it was time to cool things down and officially go into 75% mode. Bummer. So much for racing...
A couple miles later on a downhill (which I was beginning to realize my hammy couldn't run too quickly either) Evan Cestari and Jim Blanford caught up to me and moved easily ahead. Ugh...it was definitely going to be a long day. The climb up/down to Elizabeth's Furnace (mile 32.6) was sort of a "learning on the fly" section during which I figured out how to work around using the painful part of my hamstring, particularly on the downhills. After a quick refill at Elizabeth's, I ended up catching back up to Evan near the top of the next climb. My uphill legs were still feeling great, but with each downhill turn I felt another 1% of my hammy calling for mutiny.
Evan and I joined forces at this point and ran most of the next 30 miles or so together. It was great meeting him, even though I'm sure I was talking more than he preferred as we worked together on the dirt road sections between mountains. After heading up, over, and down a couple more mountains, I left the Habron Gap aid station (Mile 53) a little before Evan (he was tending to a blister) and walked the whole climb while drinking a bunch of calories. The intention of this walk break/extra-300-calorie-drink was to gear up for the second half of the race. Even though I was limited a bit in my stride/lateral movement, I was still 100% intent on finishing as strong as I could and making a run at a sub-22 hour race.
Shortly after finishing the climb (and my drink), Jason Lantz came buzzing by me like I was standing still. He was nice enough to ask me about my leg as he passed, and he went on to rock a 5th place finish in 22:15 (nice work, man!). Almost immediatley after that I came up on Jim Blanford. He was walking very slowly as he dealt with some serious leg cramps. The weather wasn't really hot (low 70s), but it was super-humid all day long, so cramping was a definite concern to be dealt with all day long. After passing Jim on the ridge, I started running a bit quicker and enjoying the energy burst from the calories I downed on the climb. As it turned out, that good feeling was frustratingly cut short a few minutes later when the trail forced me to push off on my left leg in the precise manner I was trying to avoid all day long. ...and just like that, a real lightning bolt hit my hamstring and I knew my day was done.
Evan caught up a few minutes later, but I couldn't hang with him on the downhill heading to Camp Roosevelt (mile 63). I couldn't run (or even shuffle) the downhills anymore, so my last 3 miles involved lots of tricky sideways crab-walking on the downs. Evan went on to nail the 2nd half of his race and reach his #1 goal of a 21:30 race. Well done, Mr. Cestari, way to close it out! When I limped into to the aid station I let them know I was dropping and made my way slowly back to Race HQ to get some treatment on my leg right away.
It was pretty disappointing to have the hamstring completely give out when it did, but the next morning offered some pretty cool insight as to why it happened then. My right leg (the healthy one) felt fresh and loose the following day, but the massive soreness in the left one told the story of how all of its muscles were working overtime to protect the hamstring for 60+ miles. My left glute and groin were completely fried (they never usually hurt after a run of any distance), so whatever I was subconsciously doing with my stride to protect that hammy obviously called them into double-duty. I'm guessing once those helper-muscles fatigued themselves, the hammy had to start pulling its own weight and gave out shortly thereafter. It stinks that it happened that way, but the results of this physiological experiment were pretty cool to feel the day after. It's nice to know my muscles have each other's back!
|Thanks to my left leg muscles all pitching in to help out, I really was happy out there for 60+ miles!|
(Aaron Schwartzbard Photo)
Final congrats have to be sent out to Karl and Eva Pastalkova on their big wins in the race. This was Karl's 30th 100 mile victory, and Eva's smoking hot time of 22:30 broke the MMT record and placed her 6th overall! Congratulations!!