Sunday, September 22, 2013

Taper time

One of my goals for the summer was to blog more. I totally failed. My other goal was to train for the Grindstone 100. This time I succeeded. I got in some great runs, some tough runs and some runs that I'll never forget. Getting stuck on the summit of Old Speck in a lightning storm for example, and having to sleep beard to beard with a bunch of thru- hikers before summiting the mountain again in the pitch black and rainy morning was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I wouldn't wish the experience on anybody, but it was good, if  completely accidental, ultra training.

Unfortunately, that's the run where I sprained my ankle. Three weeks before the race.

It swelled to three times it's normal size, turned every shade of black and blue and left me with a lot to think about heading into my taper for Grindstone.

On my final double digit run this morning I took a few missteps and paid the price. You could hear me yell from Route 9. And I was on the snow mobile trail, about 5 miles away.

The ankle is still in pretty rough shape and with the race just twelve days away, I'm nervous. The Grindstone course is notorious for ankle bashing rocks and hairy descents. There is also a "best blood" award at this race. And I don't want to win it.

But, that's both the beauty and the allure of these things. You never know what's going to happen, everybody's got something hurting them before race day and one way or another, everything is going to shake out in the Blue Ridge Mountains in less then two weeks.

The Grindstone race means a lot to me, for many reasons. I'm thankful that I've gotten a summer of good training under my belt and I'm hopeful that almost two weeks of rest, recovery and some easy breezy runs around my new neighborhood will find me feeling strong at the starting line. But, in the meantime, I've got some serious thinking to do...

Assuming that the ankle heals enough that a finish at Grindstone seems possible (and that's what I'm assuming at this point. I have every intention of running this race) then what can I do from now until then to best prepare? As a coach, I find myself hesitant to ask these questions because, well, I should know the answers. Right?  But that's bullshit. It's just ego talking. I truly believe that coaches need coaches and I am absolutely humbled when I look around at all the amazing runners, talented coaches and genuine mentors that I have in my circle, and in my life. So I'm throwing these questions out there and appreciate all of the feedback and insight that anyone has to offer.

Ankle sprains: Has anyone else gotten a sprain before a big race? What did you do about it? Any advice, words of warning or inspirational stories of how you kicked ass regardless would be greatly appreciated!

Footwear: I'm wearing my Inov-8 Roclite 315's for the first half of the race, and changing into my Hoka Bondi B's for the second. Has anyone had ankle issues in the Hoka's? I sprained the ankle on a moderately technical descent off of White Cap mountain while wearing them. I feel like I would have landed awkwardly regardless but wonder if anyone can comment on the trade off between the added protection vs reduced proprioception and if they feel the trade off is equitable?

Trekking poles: I've always kind of frowned on the use of poles in a race. But, when a client asked me whether I was using them at Grindstone my argument against them just didn't hold up. I really don't know what my beef is with trekking poles and, if the ankle is still really shaky, am considering picking up a pair for the Grindstone. (I guess I felt like they offered an unfair advantage, but if they are within the rules I have to reason that makes them fair. And, just as some of us choose hand-helds over packs, Hoka's over Vibrams or show up solo as opposed to having their own personal entourage it seems more like a matter of personal choice.) Incidentally, the Hardrock 100 is an eventual goal of mine (and Grindstone is a qualifier). I would definitely bring poles to Hardrock so what would stop me from bringing them to VA? How high a mountain do you need to have for poles to be legit? And, more importantly, what do I want out of this race? After a respectable 7th place finish at last year's Virgil Crest 100 I purposely picked a race that scared me just a little, and humbly shifted my goals back to just finishing. My goal at Grindstone is to see all 101 miles of the course, and if a pair of trekking poles increases my odds then I just might bring them along.

Rhetorical questions aside, and long question short, has anyone used poles at an ultra? And if so, what was your experience like? Were they a major help or a pain in the ass? And what poles would you recommend for a race like Grindstone?

Thanks in advance and looking forward to your thoughts!


  1. Yo David. I've been following your progress reports ever since I met and ran with you in Maine Late July/early August.

    You've got the experience and training under your belt. You've got a SOLID support team. And most importantly you have the drive to get it done!! Don't ever forget that!
    Don't let ANY doubt enter your head! You know what you are capable of doing and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. This is rule #1!

    It would be silly to not try! You'll know when or if the time comes to bow out respectfully, but until then go for it. What's the worst that can happen? You spend some extra gas money to drive to VA. Bummer, but that's what money is for, to do shit like this! Bail now and you'll never know...

    It's just a twisted ankle dude. And that my friend could be 100% better by race day. My friend Rod thought he had a broken leg [stress fracture] less than 2 weeks away from this years Wasatch 100, he rested and in the end had more of a taper than he had planned perhaps; he ended up 3rd overall. Crush it!

    I've lived, trained, recreated and worked in the mountains most of my life. I've seen lots of minor and major injuries heal much faster than you'd think. It's better that it happened now and not at mile 70. At least now you have time for it to heal.

    Re: poles... Max king used them in this years SpeedGoat 50. I'd like to hear someone tell Max he shouldn't use poles. I used them at Wasatch and liked them. You've even got an excuse now to use them.

    And in the meantime, lots of water, NSAID's, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

    Good luck! You got this!

    Rob Gowler

  2. Getting injured just weeks before your most anticipated race is truly a worry. But before deciding to continue with the race, please check with a doctor first on the risks of doing so. But most importantly, if you are allowed to join the race or not. And in the case that you are, get insights from your doctor on how you should keep the activity at a level where it can do you no harm.
    Sienna @ Fort Lauderdale Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine