Two marquee trail-running events captured my attention in 2012, and at the time I wasn’t ready for them – at least I didn’t think I was.
My training wasn’t ready to tackle all three days of Three Days of Syllamo (I’d planned on just running days 1 and 3) but was unable to get away from work. Another three-day stage race, the Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race, had sold out by the time I first caught wind of it.
Long ago, both events guaranteed their placement on my 2013 race schedule.
It’s turned out that both events have quite a bit more in common for me than when they captured my interest or the fact that they each last three days.
I’ll also enter both events at much less than 100 percent.
Calf issues that can be traced back to Big Bend led me to enter Syllamo with only two double-digit mileage runs in the two months leading up to the event. Not good for a 97-mile stage race with about 27,000 feet of vertical gain. Not surprisingly, I didn’t finish all three days. I survived the 50K on day one and had a great 20(ish)K on day three, but dropped 19 miles into the 50-miler on day three.
No regrets there. The weekend went better than I expected, and I went home sore and exhausted, but healthy, and with a world of great memories spent with fantastic friends – both those that I knew beforehand and those that I shared the trail with. There are folks who I got to run with who I can’t wait to share some miles with at Syllamo again next year.
Coming off of Syllamo, I began running my strongest since Leadville Silver Rush last July. I finished 10th at the Free State 40-miler in April, and then cranked up my hill training to prepare for Chattanooga and, ultimately, the Meet Your Maker 50-Miler on Sept. 1 in Whistler.
Excessive rain made the dirt trails a sloppy mess for weeks on end, and that left me stuck doing hill training on pavement much more than I’d prefer. Two weeks ago, the repercussions began to reveal themselves as my patellar tendons became inflamed. Twelve days ago, that pain worked its way into the upper tibia just below my left knee, after another day of hill training. The same – though less prevalent – happened to the right leg. It wasn’t too noticeable at first, but after the Wednesday Night Run it couldn’t be ignored.
Since then, I’ve run just once. That was Monday, and I turned the right ankle hard on a muddy tree root. Karma.
Excessive icing and zero running since then have the right knee feeling close to 100 percent. The left knee is vastly improved, but still not ready to be run on.
Which brings me back to Chattanooga.
When I signed up I had expectations of running well. Two weeks ago, I expected to perform even better than originally envisioned – not as far as competing, or placing high, or anything like that. I just really felt good about where my legs were. I could bang out a Saturday 20-miler and feel reasonably strong and recovered the next day. I was hammering my hill training, gaining about 1,500 feet over seven miles without needing to walk.
Now, I’ll head to Chattanooga hoping to be healthy enough to run all three days and return home in one piece.
It’s tempting to back out. Maybe I should. Why take a chance on the knee?
Then again, why not give it a go? If race day arrives and the knee tells me it’s not ready, then so be it.
If I learned anything from Three Days of Syllamo, it’s that there’s a lot more to stage races than the running. Stage races have a vibe unlike any other event. By nature, they’re basically field parties with a little running thrown in on some of the most beautiful trails in America.
I can’t wait to explore a new city, see a few familiar faces, meet even more new ones both on the trail, while soaking in the creek post-race and kicking back at the Crash Pad. I can’t wait to share trail stories and let my brain be tantalized about other races around the planet that will quickly find their way onto my bucket list.
If all of that happens and my knee also cooperates and lets me run all three days, fantastic. If all of that happens and I only get to run one day, so be it. I’ll enjoy the heck out of everything else that the weekend has to offer.