A small problem with my toe

January 9, 2012

Two days before Christmas, we were almost done unpacking the important stuff after moving to a new place. (For the first time in either of our lives, we’re actually living inside the Portland city limits! But that’s a story for another time.)

That’s a ceramic platter we have. It weighs nine pounds.  It fell off a chair onto the tip of my left big toe. I was wearing socks and standing on a hardwood floor. The platter hit edge-first. The good news — the platter is fine. The platter thanks you for your concern. My toe hurt like a mother. Here’s a blurry picture of what it looked like a few minutes later, after the searing pain had subsided.

I could wiggle my toe and touching it didn’t seem like it hurt that much — except for the nail — so I didn’t think it was broken. But soon it started to bleed out of the corner of the nail, and once it got going the blood wasn’t stopping. It didn’t hurt much, so we wrapped some paper towels around it and had dinner.

It was still bleeding an hour and a half later. It showed no sign of letting up and I was going through a lot of paper towels. We decided to go to the emergency room. I put on a flip-flop and we drove over. Here’s my toe in the hospital:

After an hour or so of waiting and triage, we saw a nice PA. The best thing about her was that she was also a marathon runner, so she was very sympathetic. Especially after her and my wife talked me into getting an x-ray, and it came back looking like this:

You don’t have to be much of a medical expert to see something wrong on that big toe. That should all be one bone, not five or six. Ouch. Shouldn’t that hurt more? Don’t ask me.

They pressure-bandaged the toe to slow the bleeding and sent me home in one of those open-toed post-surgical shoes. It oozed and bled for about four days; it was such a relief when I no longer needed any bandages. I limped pretty badly for a week and I still have to be very careful if I’m wearing shoes. I saw a podiatrist the week after it happened, but he didn’t give me anything different to do — no casts, splints or boots.

Obviously, I can’t run either. I don’t know exactly how long I’ll be out — I’m supposed to go by how it feels. Six to eight weeks is a good guess though. I’m two weeks and three days into it now.



Race Report: 2011 Silver Falls Half Marathon

November 5, 2011

I have a pretty good streak going: I have finished this race every single year it has been held. (This was its second year.) Here’s my report from last year. You will note that I have reused the same scenic picture. Ah, you’ve seen one giant waterfall with little ant-like people running behind it, you’ve seen them all.

Really, though, it’s a spectacular course. I know someone who runs a half marathon or two every single week, and he ran this one today for the first time, and you should see what nice things he’s saying about it on Facebook. Even if you aren’t a runner, if you live anywhere near here and haven’t been, you should take a trip to Silver Falls State Park and hike around a little — it’s a gem. If you live anywhere near here and are a runner, this is a must-do race. But hurry, because it fills up fast. This year they opened registration on August 1st and it filled up on the 3rd. New next year: they’re going to be doing a full marathon also! If it’s just two loops of the half-marathon course (as seems likely), I’ll probably take a pass on that, though.

I was in mostly decent shape coming into the race. No real aches or pains to speak of; not sick; plantar fasciitis very mild. My biggest problem was that I’d only been putting in 22-26 miles per week for the previous six weeks, to give the aforementioned PF a break. Still, I thought I had a good chance of beating my time here from last year, when I was sick and gimpy.

The course has a lot of uphills and downhills. Here is the elevation profile, as published on the race web page.

As you can see, the race sucks you into going out way too fast during those first four gentle miles. I’m not sure what my pace was but I’d guess it was 7:30 or faster through there. Everybody else seemed to be running fast too. Seriously, this race seemed to have attracted a lot of fast runners this year. The winner posted a time of an hour and eighteen minutes. Look at that elevation profile! Remember that most of it is on wet and/or rocky trails. That’s just insanely fast.

Mile four kind of sucked. I complained about this hill last year, writing “My lungs weren’t giving me enough air and my legs felt heavy.” Well, no duh, that’s actually a pretty steep climb there! I probably got up there faster this time around but it was certainly no easier.

Near mile six, we descended into the gorge via a route that wound behind the North Falls, then we got two miles of mostly-downhill trail, downstream alongside a creek. I was feeling OK and I ran this portion hard. Maybe seven-minute-miles; it’s hard to say since I wasn’t doing manual laps on my Garmin and its accuracy is rubbish in that kind of terrain.

Shortly after mile eight, we started heading upstream along another creek, and then we hit the two big waterfall climbs. The first involved an endless series of stairs; the second only some very steep trails. I knew better this year and just briskly walked these sections, rather than pretending I could run them and then petering out into into a gasping slow trudge.

After that, it was all pretty easy except for (a) the fact that this was my longest run in two months and (b) the sadistic hill they insert just before the finish. At least I was mentally prepared for the hill this time around. I finished in about 1:44:10, which would be a 7:58/mile average pace, and more than six minutes faster than last year. So, mission accomplished there.

Post-race, they had bread, chili, and a roaring fire in the picnic area shelter. They didn’t have finishers medals, if you care about that sort of thing. I don’t, and would much rather have a lower race entry fee. I think it might have been $25 this year? An unbeatable race bargain.

Update: Official Results. 1:44:11, 67th of 454 finishers.

Some pictures of me at the 2011 McKenzie River 50K

September 14, 2011


September 13, 2011

A picture of the smoke, at its worst, on the highway near the McKenzie River trail run. <Cough, cough.>

Race Report: 2011 McKenzie River Trail Run 50K

September 12, 2011

(Preliminary) official results

The McKenzie River 50K is usually a pretty easy run, at least as far as thirty-one mile trail races go. Yes, there are a few miles of “technical” rocky trail where you have to pay attention to every footstep. And, yes, there is a bit of climb in the first few miles. But most of the last two-thirds is downhill and you cruise to the finish on miles of soft, gently downhill trail. Usually.

This year, the Shadow Creek forest fire changed all that, closing the upper portions of the route and forcing the organizers to stay away from the ranger station that normally serves as the finish area. The race organizers did a great job coming up with a workable plan at the last moment, and communicating the changes with the runners. The new route was basically an out-and-back, down the river and then back up. There was also a separate 2.5 mile out-and-back at the very start, along the waterfall trail just upstream of Carmen Reservoir.

With the changes, here is what the elevation profile of the course looked like. (Elevation is in feet.)

Hard-core trail runners are looking at this and chuckling a bit — a thousand feet of climb over the last fourteen miles: big deal. Compared to the normal course for this race, though, this was a big change in the “harder” direction. I’d wanted to break five hours but with the new course I knew that would be unlikely.

Now, did I mention that the race turned out to be on the hottest day of the year? And that the whole area was a little smoky from those forest fires? Not that I’m making excuses. At least the bees (or wasps, or whatever they are) along the course decided to ignore me again. A lot of people do get stung every year and 2011 didn’t seem like it was an exception. (So much for my theory that the smoke would calm down the bees :-)

I don’t mean to be negative though. This is a beautiful, gorgeous, incredible trail and it was great just to be out there running it. I love this race.

We had no problems getting to the 7:30 start from our motel room 25 miles away. It wasn’t hot yet — probably in the mid 50s — but it was the first time I can remember not actually getting cold at one of these early-morning race starts. Earlier, I had a cup of coffee in the motel room, and that helped gear up my digestive system to properly do what it was supposed to pre-race, if you get my meaning.

I went a bit faster off the starting line than I usually would, because I didn’t want to get caught too far back when we reached the tight single-track trail a few hundred meters farther along. Of course, this meant I was up with people who were probably in better shape than me, and the first uphill mile proved challenging. I felt like I was having trouble getting enough air, and no doubt I was — probably not because anything was wrong, just because I was running hard to keep my place in line.

Fitness-wise, I was a mixed bag coming into the race. My weekly mileage and long runs had been adequate but nothing spectacular. My taper was too long. I had tweaked my back doing nothing at all on Wednesday, and that still bothered me a bit. My left foot hurt.

After a bit more than a mile of uphills and steps along the spectacular waterfall section of the McKenzie headwaters, we crossed a little bridge to the north/east side of the river and headed back downhill through the first tricky steep section. I had no problem keeping up with the people around me here. I enjoyed all the downhills, including the rocky, volcanic boulder strewn “cheese grater” sections. I got through the race without any falls, and only twisted my ankle once, which is still one time to many, but is a lot better than I did last year.

Soon, we passed a little water-only aid station and could look down the hill through the trees to our left and see where we started. From here on out it was an out-and-back course, and every nice downhill plunge plagued me with thoughts of having to run back up it so many miles later.

Sweetie was going to see me at the aid stations again this year, and this time we decided that as long as she was “crewing” me, she should really crew me. With that in mind, we brought two handheld water bottles, so we could swap out. We also brought a cooler, which we filled with ice that morning at the motel, so that when we did swap out, I’d be getting ice water. Without even having discussed it, Sweetie started putting gels and pretzels into the handle pockets on the water bottles, which cut my aid station stopped time to literally zero seconds. The trickiest part of getting through the aid stations was waving off the official volunteers who wanted to take my bottle to refill it. They were doing exactly what they should — great volunteers.

After five or ten miles, I stopped noticing my aching back, which was good. My foot, though, stayed painful through the entire run. It never became a sharp pain, though, and after a while it stopped getting worse, so it wasn’t a major concern.

Predictably, I ran strongly for about 25 miles, then we hit the technical section below the famous Blue Pool, this time in the uphill direction. Soon, I was sucking wind. My legs felt OK but my heart rate was too high and I was breathing too hard. The heat probably was having some effect on me too, but it was hard to tell while running — I just felt bad.

The aid stations that had seemed so close together on the way down now seemed about three times further apart on the way up. They said it was five miles to the finish after the last one; it took forever. I started walking a lot. I wondered why I did this to myself. Eventually I made it.

Official results: 5:09:48 (Which is an average pace of 9:58/mile, if the course was an accurate 50K). 37th out of 151 finishers.

Tough 26

August 15, 2011

I suppose it is good once in a while to run yourself into the ground, then force yourself to keep on going. That happened to me on Saturday, twenty miles into a 25.6-mile run in Forest Park.

I started at the Leif Erickson trailhead (at the top of Thurman Road) but turned off almost immediately, for almost a mile on the sharply uphill Wild Cherry Trail. After that it was basically a loop, more than 14 miles north on Wildwood and more than 9 miles south coming back on Leif. (Other connecting trails were Dogwood and Springville Road.)

I took the whole run slowly, but I already had a lot of miles on my legs from earlier in the week, and it got hard for me shortly after getting back onto Leif. Fortunately, Leif is (relatively) flat and (mostly) downhill in that direction. So I was able to keep shuffling along the whole way, with only the occasional walk break. It was mentally tough, though. I was taking it mile-by-mile, treating each new whole number on the every-quarter-mile mileposts as a little victory.

Eventually I finished, in about 4:35. My feet hurt quite a bit, but have gotten much better since.

Still Running After All These Weeks

August 12, 2011

Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but at least the running has been going better than the writing. July and August have been good training months. I’ve had three recent weeks with more than 40 miles of running, and recent long runs of 19, 21, and 18 miles. Tomorrow I’m doing about 26 miles in Forest Park, which will give me 50 miles for the week. I’ve been feeling pretty good. My biggest worries are my left foot, ankle and calf, which get tight in various places between runs, especially when sitting at my desk at work.