Fat Ass 2011 brought a change of venue, but the sub-freezing temperatures remained the same. I guess to be fair it was warmer this year. It was a balmy 19 degrees at the start, up two degrees from last year! At 5 a.m. when the alarm went off, I still wasn't sure if I was going to run this. I have hardly run at all since Pine Mountain a month ago, and I hadn't run one mile in the last two weeks. After Pine Mountain, I had a really painful bout of tendonitis flair up in both of my knees. I have been trying to be really good; lots of rest, minimal if any running, taking anti-inflamatory meds, broke out the knee braces, strengthening the quads, etc, etc. I had suffered with a bout of this two years ago, and basically with the help of a brace and anti-inflamatory meds I ran through it. I keep hoping the same will happen here, but it hasn't. I have seen slight improvement, but when race morning came I considered my right knee questionable and my left knee was definitely still in pain.
Nevertheless, three hours later I toed the start line with one of my good friends and upcoming 100+ pacer Brett Luna. In my head, before the start, I planned on being a 'half ass' and only running 15.6 miles. After the first step, I knew I was going to run the whole thing....no matter how long, or how bad it hurt. At the moment, I had no idea on the answer to how long or how bad it was going to hurt though. I did have one thing on my side , this years' race was at Sweetwater State Park, and I knew these trails like the back of my hand.
Off on the first loop, and I felt great! We ran down the parking lot and headed for the blue trail. The blue trail is a gently rolling fairly easy 2 mile stretch with good views of the river. Brett and I settled in somewhere in the back of the top ten runners, and started our 31.2 mile conversation. There was no one else I'd rather run a Fat Ass race with than Brett. I knew that the entire day was going to be one joke after another, and we would truly be embracing the spirit of a Fat Ass run. After two miles, we were down some washed out rail tie stairs, and off on to the White Trail. The White trail is my favorite of all the marked trails at Sweetwater, three miles long with great river views and Jack's Hill. A little over a mile in to the White Trail, I felt the first twinge in my left knee....and so it begins. Nevertheless, I tried to ignore it, and up Jack's Hill we ran and then through the pine forest to the Start/Finish. One loop down, five to go.
The second loop was fairly uneventful, this was the one loop that I chatted with some other runners. I got to see Javier de Jesus and Kate Brun on this loop. The pain was still there and becoming more evident on the downhills, which is common for patellar tendonitis. The Blue Trail was the main aggravator of my knees for the rest of the day, and I often looked forward to getting next to the river on the White Trail. At the start of the thirs loop I was entertaining the idea of only running a half ass. I was really upset that the downhills hurt so bad. I am, after all, nicknamed The Salamander....because of the way I pick through technical downhills. By this time the level and uphill sections hurt too, so I guessed it didnt really matter. On the thids loop, I had to stop and walk for aminute or so....I was hurting. At least the company was good, and the weather had not yet turned bad. We decided that we wanted some tunes, so at the end of the third loop Brett grabbed his I-Phone, we cranked up some Bob Marley, and headed out on the fourth loop.
At this point, I had gotten really quiet. I really wasn't sure if I was making the smartest decision continuing on. Sharp pains had started in my knees whenever I landed anything but perfectly square on my foot, and on trails that meant greater than fifty percent of the time. Brett was doing a lot of talking, and I was doing alot of listening, to Bob Marley that is. We made up our own lyrics to the songs, one of my personal favorites was 'Buffalo Runner'!!!! I would have moments that I could perform, but more often than not I was just in pain. At the end of the fourth loop, I spent alittle extra time at the aid station refueling, which was a mistake. In the matter of a couple (literally) minutes, my knees had cooled down enough to when I started running again, they didnt want to. The pain was really excrutiating, and I started some weird kind of hitch in my step where I would kick my left leg way out in a roundhouse motion to keep going. And why did I keep going, especially in a Fat Ass run? I DONT DNF....PERIOD!!!! We had switched to listening to Incubus on the fifth loop, and that is pretty much all I did. Listen to the music, and talk trash about myself, and my performance. The fifth loop was the longest loop of the day, both in time, and in my head!
At the Start/Finish Line after the fifth loop, I knew there was only one more loop!!!! I tore away in an odd hobbit style gait, and headed for one more punishing loop. After a short period of time my knees warmed back up, and I actually started a somewhat normal run. The sixth loop brought some weird hard core metal that Brett had in his phone. Oh well, whatever does the trick. The last loop brought a bunch of trash talking and jokes that we hadnt seen for a coulpe of hours. I got to take one more look at the beautiful Sweetwater Creek, one last painful descent down to the creek from blue to white trail, and one more trudge up Jack's Hill. My knees were shot....
In case you didnt know, The definition of trudge is "to walk with purpose". I always do, and always will.
We finished in 6:30, my second slowest ultra ever, and 1 hour and 45 minutes slower than last year. Te weird thing was, I enjoyed the hell out of it. I faced demons and crushed them. I proved one more time that I am just that tough. I had a blast running every step with one of my best friends. I enjoyed being humbled, and I learned from it.....and that was the best part and the most important lesson to me.
See ya at Red Top....in one way or another....