…OF GRIEF and OPTIMISM by Nick Arndt

Besides training log entries, I haven’t made much time to write, in quite some time. This is a great time of year, to say the least. Autumn is a time of change and, as I sit here, I find myself in a similar state: existing in a perfect time, in a not-so-perfect situation.

After failing at The North Face 50 in Wisconsin in mid-September, I’ve been able to refocus, reassess, cinch my laces a little tighter, and get back to work with my thoughts and energies aiming towards California’s North Face 50 on November 18.

The North Face 50 in California is arguably the most competitive 50-mile trail race in North America, the pinnacle of sub-100-mile U.S. trail racing. A huge contingent of elite, seasoned speedsters meet on the same starting line in the Marin Headlands, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, with a chance to bring home prize money and garner national attention and a fulfilled ego. Ever since I stumbled upon mountain-ultra-trail running two years ago, I’ve dreamt of competing at this particular race.

As a whole, 2017 has been my most successful year of training. I’ve been able to run more miles per week than ever, with lots of vertical gain (despite living in this geographically flat area), completely solo, without going insane. I’ve experimented with different training methods and pushed myself to heights I never thought achievable.

My love for running has deepened, but only proportionally to my relative level of health. Ever since the Summer of 2013, right before I stepped onto the U. of Southern Indiana’s campus for cross country season, I’ve been battling unpredictable medial tibial pain, surely caused by running too much. Its most recent bout (Nov. 2016 – Mar. 2017) had me on wheels and planks instead of in running shoes.

So, with North Face being three weeks out, the competitive juices have been flowing. I’ve planned two more hard weeks of training (both above 100 miles) before tapering everything back and resting up before my flight.

However, when I thought the injury gods had left me alone for the year, I was wrong.

On Thursday morning, I was on Trail 2 at Potato Creek doing a 15-mile downhill-specific speed session and I felt a slight tug at my inner left shin area, an ever-so-familiar pain. Like usual, I played it off as a “general effect of hard training.” I shook it off and finished the workout.

Later that night, I headed out to Spicer Lake for another hour of easy running. Same thing: just enough of a pain to notice it, but this time my stride was being compromised.

With experience, comes wisdom. Right? In the past, I’ve continued to train right through the pain until I was sure I had cracked my tibia and was forced to take time off. This time, I resolved to take some immediate time off, being proactive with self-rehabilitation, hoping that my tibia can manifest itself in time for North Face.

I plan to fall back in love with my Trek bicycle for the ensuing 2.5 weeks. I don’t plan to run a single step during this period. I’m hoping the cycling will preserve (and enhance?) my running fitness while allowing my tibia to heal. Most of the hay is already in the barn, right?

The gun goes off at 5am in San Francisco, whether I’m there or not.

I’d rather not have an early off-season.

“Your health is your wealth.”

***Update: my tibia didn’t heal quickly enough, and I ended up not making the trip to Cali.

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