Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Highlands Sky 2008: a disappointing reality check

This year was my 2nd running of the amazing and tough Highlands Sky 40 mile run out of Canaan Valley, WV. I did not originally plan on running this event in 2008 as I had my sights set on WS 100-and I thought the 2 events would be too close and I wouldn’t be rested enough to give Western States my best shot.

My original planning, however, did not include dealing with funky calf muscle soreness with no measurable mechanism for injury and little response to 4 weeks rest, physical therapy and a new chiropractor. I lost all of April for training and started to cram (as much as possible without making things worse-since my calf wasn’t getting better-I thought I would at least not let it get worse!). May and the 1st weekend of June had me doing doubles every weekend-yet never longer than 30 or 34 miles at once. During the week I was running 45-90 minutes 3 days and on the bike or elliptical on other days. If I hurt, I would walk or cut things short. I figured I’d go to Highlands Sky and run –NOT RACE-as I wanted to go at an “easy” pace that might mimic those early miles of the hundred. If I felt good during and after this event, I would go to WS, if I felt bad during the event or had a very difficult time recovering, I would not go.

The week before Highlands Sky I was feeling pretty good and looking towards at least going to WS 100 and not clogging up the trails. (All my travel arrangements made months ago-even Monica Ochs, my pacer from WA was good to go-though she knew I was teetering with my decision-I was being optimistic!)

After a long traffic filled drive up to WV, I reunioned with a large group of amazing ultrarunners at Canaan Valley Lodge (race headquarters). I registered, ate a quick bite and retreated to lush and rainy Harmon Mountain Farm Campground,10 miles to the south.

The night before as I got my stuff ready for the run I was nervous. Not about competition-as there wouldn’t be any for me-I continuously reminded myself that this was to be a “test” run and there was no place for the hard out mental and physical efforts of competition. If I proved to be physically strong enough to follow through with WS, I didn’t want the emotional tax that competition can sometimes leave! My nerves stemmed from knowing that tomorrow would be a naked look in the mirror. A reality check from which I could not hide. I didn’t want to go away from this event and withdraw from WS 100. I wanted to run, play, celebrate the trail and get stoked for Western.

The next morning I got wonderful and warm hug from David Horton who was making his way back home after his change of plans on the CD Trail. (Sooo good to see him!) I got to enjoy a 5am conversation with 2x prior winner Justine Morrison as we sat together during the bus ride to the start. I mentally predicted she would win as she was running very strong this year from what I could tell.

I estimate there were about 170 starters. I started off steady and passed and was passed by people on the pavement. Coming through the 1st aid station someone shouted “7th woman!” I heard and beat the dorsal fin instincts to chase and continued to settle back into my slow, steady plod up the hill to the rocky highlands. I loved being out there! It was fun! And very muddy and very technical and very wet! I ran loose and easy and felt very positive until I didn’t. Somewhere around mile 18 I started to struggle. My calf didn’t bother me. It just seemed that everything else did! My chronic hammie soreness kicked in and I got stiff all over. I felt nauseous. I was frustrated and felt uncoordinated. By mile 20 I knew I wasn’t ready for WS. Although my overall fitness is not so bad-my overall body strength isn’t where I want it to be going into a 100 mile run. As I continued to run at Highlands Sky I reflected that if I started a race out strong and prepared and bad things happened and I had to walk lots to finish, I certainly would. Yet I don’t want to knowingly go into an event I know I will be walking much of the later miles.

By the halfway point I’d accepted “no go WS 100 (2008)for Bednosky”…and now my challenge was to find a reason to continue the rest of Highlands Sky. I must have felt pretty pitiful and sorry for myself to be thinking this way. I didn’t feel good and I wasn’t injured or sick-just disappointed. So I kept on slogging and had ups and downs as I went along. The Road Across the Sky went quickly and was a good break for the little supporting muscles. Dolly Sods was beautiful, yet as the miles rolled by, I just wanted to be done. I would finish. I was a Bednosky and a Montrail ultrarunner afterall and just to stop because I “didn’t feel like it” was fun to think about, yet just not going to happen. So I slowed down, not from attitude, but from discomfort and fatigue. (Oh how I hate the symptoms of being human!)

So I finished (finally) amist a very cool thunder storm and cool showers. My time was 8:16:36-almost ½ hour slower than last time. This put me in 27 place overall, 6th woman and as David Horton said “1st old lady (masters). I appreciated David listening to me babble about disappointments and expectations after I finished. He was a very good listener and made just enough fun of the situation to keep things lite! I also enjoyed meeting some of the tough young women finishing just ahead and behind me. I was fairly emotional as I shared my decision about “no go Western” with the handful of people who knew what I had set out to decide that day. I am so very grateful for the support and encouragement from Tammy and Rick Grey, Sophie, David, Dan and so many others! Thank you my friends for understanding as only fellow ultra runners could understand!

It has been 10 days since Highlands Sky and I proudly wear my finishers Patagonia Capilene shirt all the time. It is one of the first races I didn’t take for granted that I would finish and I am more learned and humbled almost than I care to admit from Saturday, June 14, 2008.

“What’s next” I am asked and I too wonder? I must sort this out and figure out how ultrarunning, training, and figure out my weird “body mechanical” will be able to live together inside me of. So much feels lost with giving up on WS 100 and the chance to complete the Montrail Ultra Cup again. I will post again when I have further processed this “current reality”.