November 6, 2016

Icebox480 Trail Race, 11/5/16 5, 2016
Whitetail Ridge Bike Trail
River Falls, WI

This was the 4th annual Icebox480 race. It was my 3rd year running the race. This race is very local for me. Last year I regretted missing the race so knew that I would be running it this year. It is a great opportunity to run 8 hours in the woods with friends and a great way to end the race season.

This year was a big year for me in mileage and races. I achieved my goals and then some. I have been struggling, though, since around the end of August. It started with a training run that resulted in some major pain in the toes of my right foot. I blamed it on a new shoe purchase and quickly sent those shoes back to the store and went back to running in the brand I had been running in for over a year. I thought this would fix it and everything would be good. I was able to get in some good training runs and then on another training run it happened again. It was time to taper for my pacing duties at Fall Superior so I tapered and hoped that this would be the end of it. I ran Superior with manageable pain in my foot but started to get worried. I talked to a few people who had similar pain in their feet and the news was not good. This was not going to stop me, though, and I ran Goosebumps 24 hour run with considerable pain that was on and off throughout the race. I was stubborn. I wanted that 100k and 24 hour run so I ran through it. After that race I realized that I needed to take a step back and get this injury healed or at least figured out.

I actually went to a Podiatrist to see what was happening. Armed with information on the various injury possibilities and wanting to rule out a stress fracture I showed up for my appointment. She told me what I did not want to hear. Morton's Neuroma. In a nut shell all I got was "wear a metatarsal pad in your current running shoes until you replace them and resume your activities slowly." While I thought this was good news, she did not tell me to quit running, I left this appointment with not much of anything. So I tried to resume my running that week. Just what does "resume your activities slowly" mean when you are an ultra runner logging 30+ miles a week? I ran a few easy training runs that week without pain and decided to host a group run out at Lebanon that Saturday. This run was a disaster. I was in considerable pain and instead of stopping my run I ran 6 miles with the group. After this run I realized that I needed to do something. I work best by setting goals so I asked my friend Robyn to be my accountability partner and set a goal to NOT run for three weeks until Icebox480. I would pool run, recumbant bike ride, and at the most hike with my husband on the weekends. This was very difficult. But I made it the entire three weeks without doing any running. I was still experiencing pain in my foot even though I was not running.  I sold and transferred my Surf the Murph 50 mile race bib, with permission from the RD, to another runner and chose to volunteer at the race instead. Although this was hard I wanted to be involved with the race.  Surf was my first completed 50 mile race the year before and I really wanted to run that race to try to pr my time.

Finally Icebox480 race day arrived. I went into the race keeping my expectations very low. I would do at least one 7 mile loop and then see how I felt. I knew I could hike this race and the beauty of an 8 hour race is that you can do as much or as little as you want. Well, except that you do need to finish at least 1 loop in order to not DNF or DNS.

Weather was predicted to get in the upper 60's and may very well have hit 70 degrees at least. Very unusual temps for early November but it was great weather for running and in my case partially hiking in the woods. The sun was shining and there was very little wind to speak of. The trail was dry and overall it was a great day to be in the woods seeing all my trail running friends and getting in some long awaited trail running.

On the Upper Midwest Trail Runner Facebook page there was a group of runners from the Brainerd area looking for someplace to camp the night before and all the local campgrounds were full. I live in the country and I am only 30 minutes from River Falls so I offered up my yard to total strangers! But, hey, they are trail runners so really not strangers at all. Turns out we had a mutal acquaintance and I had even run with a few of them at local group runs. Yes, this trail running community is getting larger but still seems like a small community at the same time.   They arrived late Friday night (after I had gone to bed) and in the morning I made them some coffee and we got to know each other and then they followed me up to the race.

I arrived at the race around 6:45 am for packet pickup. That was after stopping at the gas station to use the facilities and get some more coffee. It was busy at the gas station as there were other runners that had the same thoughts as me. Avoid the porta pottie lines at the start of the race! I dropped off my drop bin (of course overpacked with things I never needed, but it is better to be prepared just in case), picked up my packet and started chatting with others while waiting for the race to begin. It was still dark but the sky was starting to lighten as the sun rose. By the time the race began just a little after 7:30 we no longer needed the headlamps.

There was a few announcements, which I mostly missed and could not hear. I made sure to get in the very back as I knew I would be moving slow and did not want to be in others way.  The countdown began and we were off. I was in no hurry so the walking to funnel onto the single track trail did not bother me in the least.

Loop 1
I thought I was starting at the very back of the pack but somehow I got in front of some runners that ended up passing me at some point within the first few miles. I found myself running with Kelly and we chatted about injuries and health in general. I quickly realized that by trying to keep up with her I was pushing myself too hard with my foot issue. This day was suppose to be all about taking it easy and after tweaking my right ankle a few times I backed off.  I found myself hiking with Julie and Vicky and I discovered that both of them have experience with a Neuroma. I had never heard of this injury or issue before and all of a sudden I am running across alot of runners who have had, have it or have taken measures to fix it, through surgery and even a new procedure called cryotherapy.

So far things were feeling good. I was concerned about the few times I seemed to hit a root or rock on the trail and would tweak my ankle. The last thing I needed was to injure my foot further with a different issue. I was starting to wonder how just 6 weeks of low to no running could weaken my ankles so much! Or maybe it was the 72 miles out at Goosebumps that just really messed everything up. Turns out I just had my shoes tied too loosely and when I finally decided to tighten my laces (on the second loop!) I had more ankle stability.

I finished up my first loop feeling surprisingly good. I believe I finished in about 1:45 and my plan was to complete 2 hour loops I took my time at the aid station knowing that I did not need to rush out like I normally would.

Feeling good and enjoying my time on the trail!
Loop 2
I headed out on my second loop feeling good and telling myself to take it easy to ensure that I would not injure my foot. I was enjoying being out on the trail enjoying the fabulous weather! I ran very slowly and hiked the hills. It was on this loop that both of my feet started to hurt as a result of my loose shoe laces! I think my feet were moving around too much and causing my metatarsals to hurt as a result. I finally tightened my laces about 6 miles into the loop! I really should have done that a long time ago as it made a huge difference. As I was finishing up this loop I told myself that this was the last loop. I wanted to be smart, even though in my heart I wanted to keep going. So I made the decision to hang out at the finish line and cheer on all my friends. I told one friend, Jim, that I was going to run this race with my head and not my heart. This conversation came up again later in the day to my chagrin.

So I hung out at the finish line. Took my shoe off and chatted with some friends.

Julie and Vicky, my hiking partners for part of loop 2
After sitting and relaxing for about an hour I decided to head back out to hike a third loop. I had just shy of three hours left of the race and knew that after a mile I could choose to bail if things weren't looking good.

Loop 3

I headed out on this loop with Dawn and was planning on running only some but mostly hiking. After trying out running slowly and realizing that nothing felt any different running or walking I took to running. It felt so good to be out there I could not stop myself. I know some would lecture me and ask if running 21 miles with an issue is smart but I have really gotten to know my body and the difference between injury pain and just normal ultra running pain. My discomfort had nothing to do with my injury and more to do with my low mileage for the last six weeks.I completed this last loop in about 2 hours as well. There was still an hour left on the clock when I finished up but this time I was done for sure. 21 miles was way more than I ever expected to run and I am happy with those results. I hung out at the aid station and cheered on all the runners that were running the 1 mile short loop. While walking that 1 mile loop did cross my mind briefly I decided to be nice to those trying to get in their mileage and not walk this loop and get in everyone's way in the process.

Felt good to be racing! Group runs are great but there is nothing like running a race!

With the sun shining brightly all day my company for the day!

The trail was surprisingly clear of leaves in many places

Lots of green for early November!

So I am officially putting an end to my running moratorium. I will go forward with running and take it easy to see what happens. If what I have is a Neuroma there is no amount of not running that will help it. This journey will become more about managing it instead. If what I have learned about this condition is true others have been running with it for years. Only time will tell how this will play out and in the meantime I will try to hold back on setting any goals or expectations for next year's racing season. In the meantime I am going to enjoy running weekends with others out on the trail.
Lebanon winter running here I come!

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