Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spruce Woods 100: What Happened in Manitoba?

"Eventually, competition and adventure wane, and I enter my ibuprofen phase. Tweaky hamstrings and achy knees restrict mileage, but I continue running for health, sanity, and the ritual of a Sunday trail run with like-minded buddies. We discuss the nagging injuries that bedevil us, and remember the good old days when we were kings." - Don Kardong

Granted, that quote is a bit dramatic for my situation, but whenever a runner is sidelined due to an injury, the deep introspection sets in. Doubts cloud an otherwise confident mind. It forces a complete evaluation of where a runner is in their career and how much longer they can hope to remain at their current level of competition. It forces an evaluation of how much longer running will even be viable.

Whether we want to admit it or not, it also inspires fear.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. Let me tell you how I got to this point...wallowing in my self pity, waxing poetically about the injustice of injury.

The Spruce Woods 100 landed on my race calendar because it's in Manitoba, Canada. I worked in the area for about a year and I grew to enjoy the rolling, rocky prairie and the people that lived in this part of the world. Canadians have a reputation for being extremely kind and polite, and this is especially true in this part of their oversized country.

I also chose to race in Canada because Jo had never visited the country before and I wanted to share this area with her so she could get a glimpse of where I spent a year of my life. I wanted her to have the full "Canada Experience".

Jo and I drinking Molson Canadian and Watching Hockey on a FREEZING Day in May...Canada!

Spruce Woods is in its second year and is still a small, local race. The course is made up of three, 33.5 mile loops. It's primarily Nordic ski trails, similar to what we have with the Ice Age Trail in the US. It's a sharply rolling trail with very little flat ground, but it's all runnable.

I won't lie...I wasn't expecting freezing temps in May. Spring is usually well on its way by this time of year. As expected, the Canadians were deeply apologetic for the inconvenience.

Temp at the Start...which was NOON!

Pre-Race Optimism

The cold temps were made worse by howling winds that rolled across the prairie with nothing to stand in its way. We were assured the terrain on the course would give us a wind break, so I was eager to get moving.

I knew I would be competitive in this race but I had very modest expectations. I planned to run the first loop at an easy pace, then develop a strategy for the rest of the race. Running out front wasn't part of my plan, but seemed like a natural thing to do.

I locked onto the leaders and matched their pace for the first mile, making small talk as we bounced down the trail. We were running a very relaxed pace, but we were still dropping the rest of the field quickly.

Reluctantly, I began to pull away from the other two runners. I wanted to stay close to them, but I also wanted to run my pace and generate a bit more body heat.

Finding myself running alone, I fell into my subconscious zone, hit cruise control and let my mind detach from what I was doing. I was snatched back into reality when a massive bear burst from the brush right in front of me and dashed across the trail. Startled, I watched him evaporate into the woods, like only a bear can do.

I'm pretty sure he said "sorry" before leaving.

The course was far more challenging than I expected. I had expected a much flatter running surface, but flat ground was scarce. I prefer a hilly, or rolling course, because it spreads the work to a wider range of muscles, which slows fatigue. The course I got was better than the course I imagined. I was pleased.

I was running well and I felt great. When I came to long, straight stretches of trail, I would look back, hoping to see other runners. They were gone. I had built a much larger lead than I had expected and this worried me a little bit.

I wasn't opposed to winning the race, in fact, the thought was pretty appealing. But this isn't a goal race and I didn't want to push any harder than I needed to. I slowed my pace even more, hoping to cut some distance on my lead, and maybe even let another runner pass me so I could use them to meter my pace.

Even my most modest calculations suggested I was well on track to break the current course record. I liked the idea, but not at the cost of an overtaxing run. I was content to take whatever result felt natural and comfortable. At that moment, I was at a very pleasant, easy pace.

Then something strange happened and everything unravelled in an instant.

As I launched myself up a sharp incline, I felt a tug at my right hip flexor. I didn't think much of it, because my hips usually start to bug me at this point in a race, then the pain fades until it's completely gone. All systems normal!

On the next hill, the hip started to burn. This wasn't a normal feeling and I was beginning to get concerned. When I got to the top of the hill, I stopped to stretch a little bit to see if that would fix it. At first it seemed like it did, so I went on my way, running an easy pace.

Then the pain returned.

Annoyed and in pain, I decided to walk for a few minutes. I had a huge lead and fixing this problem was more important than being out front. After walking a quarter mile, I resumed my run.

The pain returned.

At this point, I could no longer ignore the reality of my situation. The pain was acute, it was real and it was getting worse. I was forced to abandon the idea of running so I could walk to the next aid station and make a decision when I arrived.

After 4 miles of walking, the pain got worse. I still hadn't been passed by the 2nd place runner.

By the time I reached the aid station, I was practically dragging my right leg down the trail.

I've DNF'd before and it was always an agonizing decision. This time was different. My day was over and it was completely out of my control. There were no other viable options. I could NEVER look back on this and wonder if I made the right decision. I made the only decision.

I arranged a ride back to the start line. When I got there, I found Jo's car, but no Jo.

I talked to the Race Director, and of course, he said he was sorry.

I hobbled around, asking people if they saw Jo, but she was MIA. Then I saw her walking toward me from the course. When she saw me, the panic set in, thinking I had arrived under my own power and she had missed me. The worst possible mistake for a crew chief and one she doesn't make.

I explained my situation, we loaded up in the car and headed to the hotel to escape the cold.

Treating ALL my Wounds

I've been injury free since 2010 and started to think those annoyances were behind me. It's hard to take something seriously when you're so disconnected from it.

There's never a convenient time to be dealing with injury, but the timing couldn't be worse for me right now. This is the year when I finally got selected for Western States. This is the year I'll be running the Grand Slam. This was supposed to be MY year. Just typing that makes me feel petty and selfish, but it's nearly impossible not to feel some tinges of resentment. I'm human. Being injured proves that point.

While I type this story, it hasn't even been 24 hours and I really have no idea what my situation is...or will be. I don't know if I'll be running again this week, or even this year. And it's that uncertainty that bothers me. I've lost control of my plans and my goals, with no confident way, or defined path to restore it. I think that's why runners get so frustrated when they're hurt. Everything is out of our hands.

Time will tell the true story of what happened in Manitoba and what it will mean for me. Time spent differently than planned, or desired, but time is always the answer when these things happen. Let's just hope it's time that passes quickly.


  1. Best wishes, hope it mends fast. Sorry, sorry.

    1. Thanks, Davy. I'm sure this will be short lived. Hope to see you soon.

  2. Kelly - I'm currently in the midst of comeback 2.0 myself after (ironically) a bad hip injury and I agree, the mental aspect is the hardest. I found this video some time ago and each time I watch it I am a little more at peace with my status. Hope it helps you some and all the best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UT2BPCmJDkk

    1. Thanks, Martin. The video was great and I appreciate the insight. I hope (deeply hope) this is a very temporary setback, if a setback at all. I'm glad you took the time to share this with me.

  3. Kelly--
    I'm "sorry". Seriously though, you are right - the mental and emotional side of injuries (i.e the unknown) is horrible. I know all too well. I've been amazed at how you have run so much without any major injuries or setbacks thus far. Let's hope this is not major. Take it cautiously and seriously.
    BTW - we miss you over at RA. Take care!

    1. Thanks, Jamie. I may have been pushing my luck a bit, but I don't think it's going to be a major setback. Fingers crossed!

  4. Sending healing thoughts your way! Injuries happen unfortunately. Hopefully it is something minor and you can bounce back quickly!

    1. Thanks. It's much appreciated!

    2. Kelly, I know you'll be back and show Spruce Woods who's boss. Oh and I'm sorry.

    3. Thanks, Barb. And congrats again on your race. I'm super stoked for you!

  5. So sorry to hear of your injury. You were looking great when you blew through my aid station (#2). The decision to stop is the correct one, as it minimizes the damage and shortens the recovery time. Hope everything's looking up for WS.

    1. Thanks, Dale. It was great to meet you out there. Good luck with your training. Maybe I'll see you back in the Spruce Woods sometime!