Our team 14 mi run (about 3 weeks ago now… ahem) was just north of Santa Cruz, starting at the back entrance of Natural Bridges park, going north paralleling Hwy 1, into Wilder Ranch and our first water stop, through some beautiful trails, past the water stop going toward the ocean and the Bluffs, to the turnaround, BACK through Wilder Ranch to do the trail loop again, and back out to the parking area.
It was a beautiful morning, though a bit brisk, and we were lucky to have dry trails to run on, as it had POURED rain for a couple days straight earlier in the week, and there was some question as to if the rangers would close the trails for fear of being too muddy. I was solo again in “Wave 1″, as my usual speed-challenged compatriots were still dealing with injuries. I started off accompanied by Heather and Brandy, with Brandy marking the trail with chalk along the way. Eventually, we reached the water stop… which was conspicuously absent, so Brandy stayed behind to direct traffic and retrieve the chalk marking powder which was going to be waiting at the water stop.
Heather and I continued on through some beautiful green hills and trails, chatting about this and that, and how the team like to make sure we were running with a buddy through this area, because of frequent mountain lion sightings. When we hit the left turn at the trail loop, Brandy hadn’t caught up to us yet, so Heather stayed at the turn to direct people after me, and I kept on going on the trail return loop.
Of course, that all makes it sound much easier than it was.
The first third or so of the trail portion was essentially one long gentle uphill. I alternated running with walking up the steeper bits, but really didn’t make very good time through the uphill area. On the return trip, a lot of it was downhill… but so rutted by the runoff rain from the prior days and weeks, that for much of it I was basically single-tracking through narrow ridges, doing my best to stay balanced, and not go slipping and sliding down the muddy ridges.
At some point on the downhill, Brandy came up to mark the trail and Heather caught up… and we caught up to a teammate on who looked a bit pale, and was going the wrong way. We soon learned that the mountain lion warnings were for good reason, as she’d come around a corner to see a mountain lion much too close to the trail for her comfort, and decided to wait for it to go into the trees, then turned back around to find someone to run with through that area! She paired off with Heather, and off I went on my own again.
I passed the water stop (self-sufficient with hydration belt, of course!), ran through Wilder Ranch itself, a neat little working “showcase” ranch, where workers dress the part of old-time ranchers and demonstrate real ranch/farm skills to visitors. A short water-reclamation (pee) stop later, and I started off along the Bluffs trail toward the ocean.
This is where my tendon issue decided to flare up again.
I just got going up toward the Bluffs, and felt a twinge of the old pain. I thought to myself, “Self, let’s just slow down a little bit, and see if the pain eases up a little – we’re nearly to the 7mi turnaround point!”. So I tried that.
It didn’t work.
As with past experience with my peroneal tendon issue, the pain just built up steadily until it was uncomfortable to even walk. Being as close as I was to the turnaround point though, I wasn’t about to stop yet. I figured, “I’ll just get to the 7mi, then walk it in to the water stop, and if I need to, I can get a ride back to the cars”.
I walked to the water stop (about 8 miles into the outing, now), stretched out a lot (I’d been stretching during the walk back from the turnaround, too), and chatted with a few people as they passed the stop in either direction. A couple of the ladies from the Walk Team were heading back toward the finish, so I figured I’d just walk back in with them, and just take it slow so as not to injure things any further.
It was painful, but eventually turned into a dull background hurt, rather than the flaring ouch it’d been while running, and I focused on keeping good form so that I wouldn’t limp.
Total mileage for Rick: 11 miles, probably 4 of it walking.
It was a definite bummer for me, as I was really looking forward to being able to say, “I ran over a half-marathon distance already!”, but it just wasn’t going to happen that day.