Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On The Rocks Trail 30k - Cyclops Race Report

When I was in my late 20's an optometrist told me he saw tiny cataracts in my eyes. He told me not to worry then, but I'd need to attend to them in about 25 years. Well, here I am 20+ years later and the cataracts had grown to a point where they had to be dealt with. In May I had the surgery done on my left eye. Dr. Ernst of Schein, Ernst Eye Associates performed the procedure and the surgery and recovery went so smoothly and the results were so amazing, I couldn't wait to have my right eye fixed. I had my right eye scheduled for the beginning of this month and Janice's first question was if I'd be fit to participate in the two events I had scheduled the same month. I reminded her how smoothly the first process went and assured her I'd be fine. Famous last words...

Long story short, there was a minor complication with my right eye which kept me on the table a bit longer, but more critically it evolved into a rough patch in the recovery.

Two days after surgery was Janice's family reunion weekend which meant our annual participation in the Chiques Challenge. This was the third year for the light hearted event and unfortunately due to injury our team of five was dwindled to three. Yep, it was the slow old guy with Niece Becky and her boyfriend Grant. A couple of twenty-something speedsters who can clip off a 3:30 marathon. My only goal was to see how close I could stay with them during the 4.3 mile run so as not to make them wait for me on the 2+ mile kayak stage. No matter what, we finish as a team and in numerical order by bib. (pretty serious event!) I held my mile time under 8 minutes and hit the water just a coupla-three minutes behind them. We had a blast, finished together and I went to watch Janice's co-ed softball team play two games before heading off to eat too much at the family reunion. Sunday was spent in a camp chair watching The Ridgerunners play five more games and take 2nd in their end-of-season playoff. All was good, I had a new lens in my right eye and I had a great weekend.

Monday told a different story. I awoke with a cloud over my eye accompanied by an annoying irritation. I was raised that if I could walk I went to school and I now typically wait till the grim reaper is ringing the doorbell before I call a doctor. I couldn't see through the soup on my right eye and the irritation wasn't to be ignored so I pulled the trigger and called the doctor. As a result of the complication during surgery, pressure had built in my eye. After two doctor visits and no running I was beginning to wonder if my assurance that I'd be fine for the On The Rocks 30k was pre-mature. I had one more appointment scheduled for Friday, but I couldn't take it anymore so I went for a run on Thursday. It was just my typical lunch hour 10k, but this time with no useful vision in my right eye. As I completed the first mile, suddenly I noticed I was seeing better. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, but something had changed. I closed my left eye and I could actually see with my right eye. As the miles went by my vision seemed to get clearer. When I got back to the office I was reading everything I could using just my right eye. I was encouraged and decided that unless the doc said no, I would be at the start line on Saturday.

I wanted to return Rocky Ridge County Park because last year it was announced that this year would be run in the opposite direction essentially making it a different race. The York Road Runners Club with Scott Newcomer as race director put on a good race. It's also a fund raiser for the nearby Margaret E. Moul Cerebral Palsy Home. The event offers a 5k Walk, a 10k and a 15k and 30k. The 15k & 30k runners start together on the same route, the 30kers simply get to do the loop twice. Scott Newcomer's a trail and ultra runner and he lists the course difficulty as a 6 or 7 out of 10 because of the running surfaces and the elevation gain . On The Rocks Trail Run is an appropriate name as it has a few portions where you pop out of the woods onto a gravel path, but the majority of the course is typical Pennsylvania rocky technical trail. Throw in 3,000'+ of climbing over the 30k and it adds up to a tough day.

Running with folks who are doing half as much, I have to keep an eye on my pace from the start to avoid getting sucked into their quicker pace. This year we took off heading west with a good bit of downhill to get us started. In short order though we were winding through the rocks to climb our first nagging hills. I felt good, saw Janice at a road crossing and seemed to be managing my pace and nutrition/hydration just fine. My Suunto Ambit2 S said I was slightly ahead of last year's pace enough to make me happy, but not too fast to make me concerned.






At the 7 mile mark there was an aid station and a bit of a downhill which lead to a long climb which lead you to the final climb before the start/finish area. Those two climbs slowed me and I was disappointed when my pace seemed identical to last year's. Those climbs also emptied my handheld so I was now wondering if I would see Janice with my other bottle or would I need to go to the refreshment pavilion to refill. Seeing an aid station canopy on the power line crossing before the start of the second loop filled me with positive energy and I passed another runner as we finished the climb into the start/finish.



I got to refill my bottle, smile for Janice and her ever-present camera and I started lap two with a new found energy. Before I knew it I was back on the opening downhill and feeling and going good again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~FACE PLANT!...mmmph...


Yep, I stepped on a loose rock that rolled under my right foot and quickly I found my head and chest making intimate contact with the earth. I didn't roll, it was more of a chest skid and after hitting my head I was definitely seeing stars when I got back up on two feet. I found my visor promptly, but my handheld flew a bit further and happily the runner I had just passed eventually came along and lent another set of eyes and found my bottle. She offered her concern and I seriously contemplated walking back to the start finish which was not far at all at his point. I thanked her, but assured her she shouldn't waste anymore time helping me and she was off down the trail. My head hurt, my chest hurt and I was now realizing my right arm had slid though a patch of stinging nettles and it was on fire from their venom so...I did the logical thing and decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and got going again - break time was over.


A fast limp turned into a walk and soon I was back to running. Somehow I had drank my entire bottle shortly after the spill and I was jones'ing for the next aid station. I eventually got my act together, re-caught the woman from the crash site and actually caught and passed a few others as well - very uncharacteristic of me, I'm typically the caught, not the catcher. I came upon a runner sitting on a rock complaining of immense cramping - I felt like a street corner drug pusher giving him an electrolyte tablet. Youngsters working the next aid stations stared at me in wonder - Janice was at the southern observation deck waiting with a handheld full of Nuun and she gave me that same look - I really didn't know just how much I was covered head to toe with dirt from my downhill chest skid.


Before I knew it I was leaving that last 14 mile aid station and heading towards the final climbing. Suddenly a runner appeared out of nowhere hot on my heals and I thought, "where the heck did you come from?". In an event like this you come to learn where other runners are around you, you have a loose inventory in your head and this guy was not on my list. It seemed to anger me, this guy was going to pass me and I didn't want that after fighting for the meager position I had established. His pursuit lit a fire in me and not only did I run him off my heals, but my new found energy/pace had me passing other runners in those final miles(also very uncharacteristic of me).



Covered in dirt and with my bib number flapping, I crossed the finish line with a 5 minute improvement on my time from last year and I successfully defended my 50-59 age group win as well. I was even happier to find out that this year there were actually others in that age group (last year I won as the only old guy - kinda' left-handed).



Great/tough race at a beautiful park supporting a wonderful program - go run this race next year folks!


Today my ribs hurt to the point that an easy run is tough, but the good news is that my post eye surgery recovery seems to have begun in earnest. Not to worry, I'm sure I'll be able to take deep breathes and I'll have brilliant vision when it comes time to run The Susquehanna Super & Ultra Trail Run next month.


No, none of those runners are me...just another cool

photo Janice snapped while patiently waiting for me to finish.

Posted By Blogger to Perry's Trails at 8/20/2013 06:08:00 PM

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