“Man, this hurts and it’s really cold”. I thought to myself as I sat in a chair at midnight, a scant 5 and a half hours into this 24-hr event (the 24-hr Round Robin by RunningFit, in Michigan), contemplating what may have been poor life decisions. I had already finished 50K (31miles) but I had been dealing with some kind of foot/ankle tendinitis on the top of the foot for an hour. It was starting to be pretty painful. It was extremely frustrating and disheartening because I have had previous experience with this kind of tendinitis before (but the last time was almost 5-6 years ago) and I could not think of a short-term fix to relieve it significantly. Something similar has taken me out of a race before 5 years ago and it was threatening to kick me out of this one again.
Frustrated, I got out of the chair and proceeded to do another of the 2-mile loops that made up this course. I was doubly frustrated as I had a goal of reaching a 100-miles for the 24-hrs and the tendinitis had now crushed that goal to smithereens. I could walk with less pain but, from prior experience, I did not want to walk for another 19 hours. By now, 1st place male had already put on about 8 miles on me so there was no way I was in contention for first. I was grouchy, sleeping and, with air temps dropping to below 40F, feeling rather cold.
Finishing another loop (34-miles in the bag), I shivered as I contemplated my less-than-ideal options. It was cold enough that, I couldn’t stop for more than a minute. In these conditions, I did not think it would be a great idea to expose my feet and fingers to the cold to try and troubleshoot whatever was causing my tendinitis. That’s when I decided to pack it in, do a quick change of wet clothes, and, wearing pretty much everything that was still dry, dive into my warm down sleeping bag for a nap. It was the best sleep I have had this year.
Waking up 6-and-a-half hours later, I felt a dozen times more refreshed and was hoping the break would have alleviated whatever was causing the tendinitis. Nope. At 7:30am, I still had 11 hours of this event left, a bit less than half to go. As Arielle prepped to start her first loop of the morning, I finally had the presence of mind to apply Biofreeze on the tendons, do some myofascial release on my lower leg (peroneals, calves and anterior tib.) and KT-tape the tendon and anterior tib. I walked lap 18 with Arielle and caught up with our friend Erin. I already had 34-miles and Arielle was halfway through her 50K so I figured, if nothing else, doing her 50K 2nd half with her would get me to an even 50-miles, which was not too shabby.
After that first wake-up lap, I started doing a test shuffle to see how the foot would hold up to running. The pain while walking was minor but the landing and push-off while running was what was straining my tendons. While the pain was still there, the Biofreeze, taping and massage had helped reduce the severity and I was somewhat mollified to find that the pain was somewhat tolerable. Earlier, during the night, I had changed shoes every loop to see if any particular pair would be better than the rest. No dice. In the morning, after going through 4 different pairs, I finally landed on the Hoka Challengers ATR (the original Gen 1s, baby!). 24-hr Round Robin – Part 2 – Here we go!
The next 13 loops went by without too much fanfare in 6-ish hours. Eat, drink, hobble, walk. All in a pretty constant state of dull pain but it wasn't getting much worse. In passing, I had discovered that Mike, the race leader, had also taken a 5-hr nap the night before and had a calf sleeve on one of his legs. Maybe he had the same issues I had. In the first few loops of “Part 2”, through more body scanning and troubleshooting, I discovered that stretching my hip flexors and calves, as well as activating my glutes and TFL during my gait, was helping alleviate the pain briefly so I did a bit of that every loop as well as focused on driving my upper leg as part of my gait for the rest of the loops. Powering on. "This is who I am. This is what I do" - Scott Jurek
I hit the 100K mark around 1:30pm, 19-hours in. It was unlikely for me to do another 38-miles in 5 hours to get to the 100-mile mark so I was pretty much good to call it at that point. I have done sub-24hr 100-milers so I did not really see the point in pushing myself to “see how much further I could go”, especially with an injury. After that, I basically chilled around, started packing up and did a couple more walking loops with Arielle and Erin to spend some time with them as they wrapped up their 50Ks. I am really proud of Arielle for going for the stretch goal of a 50K. Love you, sweetie!
All-in-all, everything felt good, except for the foot. Nutrition, hydration and energy levels were fine. I did not have any major muscle tightness or soreness creep up. I think what got to me the most (and apparently, a lot of other people) was the uneven-ness and off-camber of the surface, which really wrecked my stabilizer muscles to cause the tendinitis. My lower legs were definitely not prepared for the terrain, what with all the track and road running that I did to prep for this race. If I take out the 6.5-hr nap, I finished the 100K in 12 and a half hours so I would have had just over 11hrs to finish 38-miles if I had forgone the nap. Would have, could have. Oh well. C’est la vie.
It is hard for me to think about things that I was pleased with about this race. I guess I could say that I persevered and went on to complete 100K, despite the foot issue. (Arielle’s note- this was huge!! You looked awful Day 1, and came back looking so much stronger and happier Day 2. We commented a lot on how much better you looked. I’d call that a win. Also, doing a 100k with 0 training? Supporting a beloved race organizer? Taking time with friends, perhaps? Continuing to walk with me even after you finished? :D That bringing all of your shoes to a race paid off. Good tent set up location- convenient to course.) Nutrition/hydration was on point and pretty good at a bottle of Tailwind an hour and switching to Coke later in the race.
Honestly, though, I had 11 hours left after my nap. What else was I going to do with all that time, if I did not continue walking/running? (Not drink, that’s for sure, because we should have bought alcohol before the race!) As for things I would do differently, I’m not sure either – maybe not do races with night-starts? I have done 3 races so far with night starts and I have bombed every one of them. I think I need a good long nap at least before night starts, instead of spend the afternoon driving to the event. Maybe start hitting the Coke early for some night time amp, as I was feeling pretty grouchy and negative, and not “save it” for the daytime. Maybe something else to change would be to be able to just chill, take it easy, have some beer during the race and not take it so seriously.
I think Eliud Kipchoge, marathon world record holder and first person to run a sub-2hr marathon, said it best. He did not have the best day at the London Marathon either on this same weekend. After the race, he said, “I started off well….I tried to do all necessary, I tried to hold back, but it was not possible. But this is sport. Today you are up, tomorrow you are down. I am truly disappointed. I always wanted to win to show people you can always win if you focus yourself and always get good results. I’m sorry about this, but that’s how sport is. Sport is unpredictable, but you know what they say: If you want to enjoy sport then you accept the results. So I accept the result and congratulate all finishers.” And so, it is what it is.
Trail/ultra runner, Designer, Foodie, Rock Climber, World Traveler, Triathlete, Level 1 RRCA-certified coach, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES)