Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mile Run Trail Challenge Half Marathon (Race Report)

I was on hand Saturday morning at Mile Run, for the kick off of the 2015 Central Pa Trail Runner Trophy Series. I had no racing goals, but hoped to use the event as a tune up for the Hyner View Trail Challenge 25k three weeks later. It soon became apparent, however, that nothing would go as planned.

Expecting a late March day in the upper 30's to low 40's, I awoke at 4:30AM to unexpected snowfall and temperatures a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler. I caught a ride to the race with fellow Valley Running Club members Chris and Paul. We hit heavy snow in Southern Bradford County, with the roads growing steadily worse as we climbed across Sullivan County. Conditions cleared up at the bottom of  Sonestown Mountain, but grew steadily worse again further South. We'd wisely left early, allotting ourselves plenty of time for unexpected delays, such as the weather. But we soon found Interstate 80 closed, at which point that ever so wondrous technology - GPS - concocted a diabolical adventure, bringing us safely (eventually) to the start line - but not before crisscrossing a labyrinth of of narrow, steep, twisting, trackless (with 2 or 3 inches of fresh snow) forest roads. In retrospect it was kind of fun, but then, luckily I wasn't the one behind the wheel.

We arrived at the race start with plenty of time to spare, checked in, used the bathrooms, and while watching snowfall from the warmth of our vehicle, eventually learned that the race would be delayed until 10:30 in order to allow for those delayed by the detour (most of whom apparently had better GPS units that we did - but their loss - the 'back way' in was loads of fun. hehe)  

The gun went off. The trails were rocky, snow covered and often slick. Paul and I called a truce to run the race together. It was no day to be setting records, and we went out super-conservatively. The course begins with a short road out-and-back to spread runners out before ducking onto the single track and slowly beginning to wind up the mountain. Eyes on the trail, we slowly picked our way between the rocks, and then through the field. I had an excellent winter of training under me and at this pace I felt excellent, running hills with ease. Two miles in we began to see Valley Running Club friends up ahead. I was smiling, chatting and having fun. By 2.5 miles, however, it all came crashing down.
Picture: Pa Runner

I passed a runner in the deeper snow off the left of the trail, and just as I did, my left ankle turned outward. I heard, or perhaps more aptly - felt - my ankle crack and tear.

I hadn't injured my ankle in years. Ankle rolls are pretty common in trail running, but usually it happens, you walk it off, and keep running. I tried to do exactly that. I kept to the side of the trail for a few dozen yards, walking as other runners past, and then began to hobble forward toward he first aid station at the top of the hill at mile 3. I was carrying food and water, and the race had only just begun, so I rolled on through without stopping. I could feel my ankle beginning to swell in my shoe, but it also seemed to be numbing up, and so on some of the flat mountain top sections that followed I was able to run hard, as long as I was careful to intentionally heel strike (which is not at all practical in trail running of this kind). But I couldn't seem to maintain any sort of cadence on the downhills without causing pain.

I eventually made it to the second aid station, at mile 7, and sat down on somebody's tailgate to take a look at the damage. My ankle has swollen up like a softball.  Local running friend, and Central Pa trail regular Amey Johnson, who was volunteering at the aid station,  came to the rescue with an ice pack, ibuprofen, and a warm blanket. If I absolutely had to, i felt like I could gut it out to the finish, but at what risk? The entire rest of my spring racing season (which is now in doubt)? I decided to drop from a race for the first time since 2009.

I soon caught a ride with a spectator back to the start/finish. The ride back was an adventure all its own. Just beyond the aid station we found a tan pickup truck in the ditch and spent the next half our pulling him.

Although my race was a bust, and my injury is unfortunate, the day was still an adventure and a positive experience filled with fun, like minded extraordinary people, challenging trails, hot food and cold beer.

Green Monster Trail Challenge 25k (2012)
Hyner View Trail Challenge 25k (2013)
Green Monster Trail Challenge 50k (2013)
Red Baron Half Marathon (2013)
Sayre Turkey Trot (2013)
Hyner View Trail Challenge 25k (2014)
30th Annual Guthrie Gallop 10k (2014)
Chief Wetonah Callenge 7M (2014)
Pound the Ground for Ultrasound 5k / 10k (2014)
Memorial Miracle Miles 5k (2014)
5th Annual Race For Chase 5k (2014)
The Trojan's Must Dash 2.5 Miler (2014)
Hiking For Helping Hands 8 Miler (2014)
Race For Healing 5k (2014)
Monroe Hose Inferno 15k (2014)
Prowl the Sproul 10k (2014)
Catharine Valley Half (2014)
Call of the Wilds Mountain Marathon (2014)
Pine Creek Challenge 100k (2014)
Camptown Races 10k (2014)
Pink Panther 5k (2015)

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