I’m incredibly blessed or lucky that injury is a rare occurrence for me. I can see that objectively, but subjectively I’m pretty pissed right now. Last week, I toed the line at the Double Chubb 50K, my local trail and thus my local ultra, put on by the St.Louis Ultrarunners Group in whom I am one. Prior to doing the race, I thought I had done every inch of trail West Tyson park had to offer. My normal jaunt is a 4.5 loop that starts and ends at the Chubb trailhead, it has two decent climbs for Missouri and averages out with about 650 ft of elevation per loop. The Double Chubb runs an out and back loop to Lone Elk park, which yes there are Elk. It’s about 7 miles there and then you come back, then double it and therein lies the name Double Chubb. Weirdly this also means the direction I’d be running my normal trail is reversed twice. It was a hot day for April in Missouri, rockin temps in the mid 80s.
I had really prepared for this race, I’d run the trail almost every day, I had all of this beastly endurance training from the Katy FKT attempt, and I just felt good. The start was money, with the loose goal of going sub 7 for the first time I knew I’d have to run a bit but not really any of the hills. Well that means you’re not really running the first mile and a half because it is just one big hill. Somehow we managed to go up an ever steeper portion than I normally run down, but then I noticed the switch backs we were skipping to the south, I made a mental note to run this pain in the ass hill all next week. The first 10 miles were easy. Awesome people, awesome course, somehow all the mud had dried up, things were going awesome. I power hiked my way up the hill to get back to the start and I was hiking at a respectable sub 14 mile pace. Since I had been ripping 10’s on the previous flats, I felt pretty good about my race. At about mile 13, on the only section of the trail that I am normally running on I clipped a rock, regained balance, just to trip again, and then I fell. I have a big beard and it doesn’t go a day without someone mentioning a lumberjack in my presence, I wear a lot of flannel, I guess I kind of always liked Al Boreland from Tool Time. Well when I fall, it takes an absurd time to make impact so the lumberjack moniker in this particular case fits the bill. I fell hard, ripping a huge hole in my hand, scrapping my thigh and elbow, and really hurting my toe. I stood up, assessed myself, and started walking. I hadn’t hit my head at all and the blood coming from my hand was easily addressed with holding my shirt. But my toe, oh man, that did not feel hot. Initially it felt like my middle toe had taken the brunt of the beating but after about a half mile, I realized it was the grand daddy. For about a mile the war between my ears raged. Stop, go, stop, go, dnf, buckle, excuses, perseverance. Every single cliché rifled through the ole noggin. I opted to continue, I ran the next 18 miles on what I would learn two days later to be a broken toe, man that thing was purple when I took my sock off.
My doctor, who is hilarious, called me a dumbass then said the words of doom, no running for 6 weeks. 6 weeks? 6 mutha flippin, perfect spring weather weeks? Running for me is a borderline spiritual experience, after the Katy FKT attempt I made a little pact with myself to run only on the trails, rain or shine, fast or slow. Because the trails are how I discovered running again 6 years ago and huge reason as to why it has become an integral part in my existence as a human. When I heard no running, a part of me heard no living, no feeling, no happiness.
“Here’s the crazy thing, that shit works!”
I’m a pretty happy dude so that lasted about an hour because my doctor also gave me this little bit of sage knowledge, a stationary bike is fine and you can still do squats. Oh, it was on. I bought a used Kurt Kinetic on eBay approximately 18 minutes later. You see I have some shit to get done, and 6 weeks of no running is not going to stop me from the Kettle Moraine 100 the first week of June, that tiny kettle is mine. What I chose to do, with the support of my main bro el Jeffe, is go full beast mode. You see since Never Summer 100K last year I’ve been doing strength workouts daily, its mostly just squats and lunges (you know, gym class favorites) so that I am physically stronger going up the hills and sturdier when running along rocky trail. Here’s the crazy thing, that shit works! I literally find myself wanting the hills now so I can take a breather from running and power hike up the hill, it’s weird but that little change almost rejuvenates me for the down hills and the flats. This toe thing is going to cause some other training I’d been putting off, mental strength training. 6 weeks of stationary bike on the daily, not seeing anything cool or beautiful other than my sweet garage, not moving at all, no streams, no cool bird songs, no other people, just me and the hum of that oh so sweet hydraulic roller. I am full blown embracing the suckiness, embracing how awful this is, how unlike trail running this is, I am building shelves in the pain cave. One hour on the bike, 50 squats, 50 leg raises, and some crunches, every day. I’ve been doing this now for two days, my ass is killing me (I just figured out what chamois pads are today thank you), I sweat way more, and I can confirm that this blows major monkey balls. But on the positive, when does mile 80 ever feel good, when does the heat feel great, and the sweat not get everywhere? It does, it will, and in running ultras it always comes down to will power and preparation. And Kettle Moraine tiny kettle I’m preparing to take you home and no broken toe is going to stop that.