Taking My Kicks Back to Route 66

Jason

It was about one year ago that I began contemplating running the 2012 Route 66 Marathon. During the previous Summer, I had averaged 2-3 5k training runs per month with some cycling thrown in here and there.  Needless to say, starting late in September left me very much behind the 8 ball trying to prepare for a mid-November marathon.

I felt like I approached the starting line in 2012 prepared to run a solid half marathon. If I had run the half, I would be staring at a finisher’s medal with a 20-30 minute PR over OKC 2011.  Unfortunately, I was there to run the full marathon, and it would have taken a perfect day for that to happen. It didn’t, and I eventually DNF’d due to my foot injury and other health concerns.

My foot is still a challenge, and those “other health concerns” are still there, but I’m heading back to the Route 66 Marathon anyway. Though I’m not as deep into a training program as I should be, I feel like I have a much more solid base than last year.

As for the plan to get to marathon shape:

  • Fuel: Due to food intolerances, I came up with the unusual combination of Zico Coconut Water, a homemade electrolyte mix, Water, Kelp (seriously), and Pirate’s Booty (because why not) for the 2012 race. For the past month, I have experimented with different combinations of fuel to try to find a way to make it past the 2 hour mark in better shape. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m feeling more confident with each run and will detail some of my experiments here on the STS blog.
  • Fuel Transport:  For my last two marathons, I’ve carried all of my fuel in an Ultimate Direction Diablo hydration pack.  This worked well, but had two drawbacks.  1. I’m limited to 2 types of fluid.  2. The majority of the weight of the 12 pound pack is on my back.  Fortunately, Ultimate Direction has released an incredible new pack that solves both problems.  I’ll post a review to the blog sometime soon.
  • Hills: Largely due to construction, I spent most of 2012 training near the Arkansas River where it’s very flat, but Route 66 had a lot of elevation changes. I believe my foot was initially injured on one of the early, long downhill stretches near Brookside.  As a result, I’m taking all of my 5k and 10k training runs to an area of the trails with more hills. I’m also planning to spend some time at Turkey Mountain to give my feet a break from the pavement but still get in some additional hill work.
  • 18-20 Mile Long Runs Aren’t Enough:  I know the experts say a couple of 20 mile runs are sufficient, but due to some of my unique health obstacles, I disagree. I’m planning to go beyond marathon distance at least once during training.
  • Cross Training: Instead of foregoing all other activities during marathon training like last year, my strength training and cycling will continue, and if a workout must be sacrificed, it will be a mid-week run.
  • Shoes:  It’s hard not to look at your shoes if you have a serious foot injury. I’m going to lay most of the blame on insufficient training, but I’m going to look into a shoe with slightly more structure than the Newton Gravity I’ve run with for the last year.
  • More Races:  I’ve only run 3 races in the 3 years I’ve been running. 2 were marathons, and 1 was a 5K just a few weeks ago. A few dress rehearsals with positive outcomes will go a long way toward boosting my confidence at the next marathon.

Last, but certainly not least, the most important part of my training program this year is to begin using the Subdue the Sloth GPS training app.  No, it doesn’t quite exist yet, but it’s getting very close.  With a couple more weekends of work, I should be able to start alpha testing on my runs.  With any luck, I’ll be ready for a marathon by mid-November, and STS GPS will be ready for your training runs around the same time.

 

Race Report: 2012 Route 66 Marathon

Route 66 Marathon Training

For about 11 miles, it looked like I was going to have one of those perfect days. I started off running with a friend of mine with half of Corral B blocking me from running too fast. At 3 miles, my friend pulled back to his target pace, and I quickened my pace to get to my target of 8:45 to 9:00. For most of those 11 miles, the course even managed to gift me the perfect camber for my IT band injury, and even though I’m no fan of downhill running, I turned loose and let gravity do its work to try to save my quads and knees.

As I left Brookside and moved to Riverside, everything was going great.  The wind had picked up a bit, but I was only a couple of miles from turning North and running with the wind at my back.  I was also drafting off of other runners in front of me to conserve energy.

I don’t recall the exact moment, but somewhere on Riverside heading North toward the half marathon finish, my left foot started screaming. I backed off of my pace and did some walking knowing I had over half the race left to run, but it only got worse. I made it to the turn off for the half at just over 2 hours with about 1 mile of walking. That’s actually a 20 minute PR over my previous (and first) marathon’s halfway point, but it was a bit slower than training.

I slowed to a walk again when I saw the hill transitioning us from Riverside to Downtown. Along the way, I chatted with a guy struggling with a knee problem and started to realize the magnitude of my own foot problem. As we came over the hill, my friend passed me, and I couldn’t get going again. I stopped for a few minutes to talk to my wife and told her things weren’t going well still fully expecting to be able to run at least in the 11 to 12 minute pace range for much of the balance of the race.

I walked another mile and ran a quarter mile with no further improvement. As a fairly new mid foot striker, I resorted to heel striking to try to spare the foot. I even tried putting on my knee brace to see if it would dull the pain. Nothing seemed to work. My muscles were game, but my foot felt broken.

I ran about an 1/8th of a mile at 18 with remarkable pain. I was probably running 8:00 minute pace, but it was doing a lot of damage to my foot. Doing some math as I walked, I realized I was looking at 6 miles of injured walking for, at best, a 5 hour 30 minute finish.  At 20 miles, I decided it was time to stop. I finished well over 5 hours once before under extreme circumstances, and I wasn’t interested in being injured long term just so I could say I finished.

For the time being, redemption from my first marathon debacle will have to wait until my 3rd marathon some time in the future.  In the interim, I’ll try to remember the many positives of my 2012 Route 66 Marathon experience including significant PR’s in all race distances (other than full marathon of course) and discovery of a safe fueling strategy for my numerous food intolerances. There’s still much work to do, but I’m optimistic that I’m in a good position to run my next race successfully.

Why I Run #Rt66Run

Jason's Ankle X-Ray

Considering some of the insane things I did as a kid, it’s a miracle I had never broken a bone before that icy night in February.  At what would have been the last point in the game at the end of Jodi’s tennis drill, I jumped for a lob at the net, and I landed on two tennis balls.  With the help of those two tennis balls, my right foot relocated itself 90 degrees to the right.  In medical terms, I had a dislocated foot with a bi-malleolar fracture, spiral fibula fracture with a butterfly fragment, and severe ligament damage including a complete tear of the syndesmotic ligament.  In laymen’s terms, skin and my achilles were the only things holding my foot on my leg.

It was 5 hours before my foot was put back in place. It was 1 week before the ankle was surgically repaired with a permanent tib-fib anchor and 5″ titanium plate. It was 20 weeks before I was finally out of casts, ortho boots, and physical therapy. It was 2 years before I felt anywhere close to recovered.

My right ankle will never be right. If I rotate my foot through its entire (limited) range of motion, it grinds like the gears shifting on my grandfather’s old ’47 Dodge truck, if only I could double-clutch my ankle and shift gears like that old Dodge. The physical therapists told me I’m a couple of degrees shy of the range of motion necessary to run. Candidly, there were times it seemed like cutting the foot off just above the ankle would have been the best solution.

I was a very physical, hack tennis player. My first serve, the biggest weapon in my game, required jumping to generate the power. I relied on foot speed and hitting power to balance my extreme inconsistency. My ankle changed all of that.  I couldn’t move to the right for forehands, struggled to get enough lift to serve properly, and didn’t have the speed to close on short balls. These aren’t the only reasons I stopped playing tennis, but they certainly contributed to my waning interest in the sport.

Right around the 2 year mark, my friend Kevin sent an open invitation on Facebook to any friends who wanted to run the 2011 Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon with him and his wife. Elementary School PE was the last time I had ever run outside other sports like basketball and tennis. I’m still not sure why, but I did a couple of test runs and told him I was game.

During my training, I discovered that even though my right ankle doesn’t do so good with cutting or jumping, it’s pretty effective at running straight ahead. I completed the marathon in horrible conditions with an abysmal time, but I completed it nonetheless and discovered a love for running somewhere along the way.

Why do I run? I run because somewhere between 5k and 10k, I completely forget about my injury. I run because one day I will play tennis again, and I want my speed back. I run because those two tennis balls have taken as much from me as they’re going to take.

On Sunday, I will attempt to run the Route 66 Marathon. I started my training late and have missed or shortened several runs due to injury. Nevertheless, I’ll lace my shoes up and hit the pavement with everyone else and see what happens. Maybe I’ll have one of those magical days where everything feels good, and I have to fight to keep my pace where it needs to be for the distance. Or, maybe I’ll have one of those miserable days where my IT band flares or my muscles seize up and refuse to continue. No matter what happens, I win because I can still run.