Monday, August 21, 2006


I've heard it said that running ultras is an exercise in pain management. Well, I did the Big Basin Redwoods 50K this past weekend and I guess it went well, but getting up this morning I was made aware of how much pain I had been managing. This was partly due to the three stupid things I did before this race, but that is getting ahead of myself.

First, the race. There are few places more beautiful to run in the Bay Area than the redwoods north of Santa Cruz. The scenery and terrain were awesome and made the course seem easier than it was. I remember on the last uphills thinking that this course didn't seem that tough and wondering why I was struggling so much and why my time was so much further back than my last race. I think the extra few hundred feet that was added due to a last-minute course change took more of a toll than I realized. That and the beautiful setting distracted me from the pain developing in my feet. Don't get me wrong. I can't really complain. I finished fairly strong at 6:23 and was able to run the final downhill section despite the pain. It's just that the pain seemed much worse than in previous races from what I could recall. However, I am learning that, just like when I used to rock climb, the brain has a way of making the painful aspects of an event fade from memory as time passes. Maybe it is an evolutionary throwback from when our existence depended on not shying away from repeating previously painful events.

Anyway, yesterday was painful. Some of it was pain that I started with and some of it was acquired along the way. I started with pain because of my own stupidity ("the three stupid things"). My son was playing basketball with a friend and his friend's father and so I decided to jump in despite only having flip-flops on my feet. At first, I went barefoot (stupid thing #1). When running around on pavement without shoes started to hurt, did I stop? No, of course not. I decided to just put my flip-flops back on (stupid thing #2). This lasted about 5 minutes before I smashed my big toe into the ground and removed most of the flesh from the tip. My question is: "who does this the day before running an ultra?" I told myself at the start of the race that this was good training for my 50 miler. I was just simulating what my feet might feel like after the first 20 miles (yeah, right). Well, all this focus on my feet made me forget my training run the previous weekend where I had tried out my new shoes (The North Face Radials if anyone is interested). The shoes were great, but caused some irritation on my Achilles going downhill. I was supposed to remember this and do something about it before the race, but didn't (stupid thing #3) and ended up with two nice raw spots on the back of my ankles.

Apparently, these self-induced foot pains (combined with the normal pains of running 31 miles on hilly terrain) were not enough according to some local Big Basin residents. The native hornets decided that a few well placed stings (I got three) would help all these crazy runners test their minds ability to manage (and then try to forget) the pain of the day's event. Well, getting up this morning, my memorywas pretty fresh. Especially once I tried to stand up and walk on my still very sore feet. I think the frustrating thing is that my legs actually feel just fine (aside from the location of the stings which now itch) My legs feel just like after a long training run. I've suspected for a while that my feet are my limiting factor in these races. I'm just not sure if they are actually getting any stronger or if I am just putting up with more pain. Maybe that's all there is to it and I simply need to continue to learn better pain management. I guess we'll see come October. If you hear reports of a runner crawling the last 10 miles of the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 on his hands and knees, you'll know that my feet got the best of me.


angie's pink fuzzy said...

whew, that pain sounds, well, painful! Great time, though.

I remember camping at big basin as a kid - I *love* it there. I'd like to run this race next year, that'd be awesome!!!

Eudemus said...


You should definitely come out and run it next year. The one thing I forgot to mention is that the weather was absolutely perfect as well! None of that hot and/or stormy stuff you guys get down there in 'Zona.

matt said...

I remember Big Basin from the long hikes I took when I went to UC Santa Cruz. It is gorgeous there. I remember certain trails were well covered under tree canopy and others were fully exposed to sun. How was it out there on the course? Overall, would you say that this course was harder or easier than the Santa Cruz Mountains race? You did another great job of putting us right there on your run. I agree that simulating that kind of discomfort can only help test you for the kind you might encounter on your Dick Collins run. That was your third 50K, right? At this point, are you starting to develop time goals for your races or do you still look at it as just trying to finish?

Are you running any other races before Dick Collins? I want to start adding any races you are doing to the master calendar on my site. It helps me keep track of what everyone is doing and I want to point others your way, too. My goal is to get everyone rooting for each other.

I love your posts, Steve. I think I want to try out this course next year. Your post just made that desire stronger…pain and all. Congratulations on another strong race!

olga said...

Congrats on 50k, u R da man! Firetarils will be a bliss:)
I couldn't walk after trail 30k named Escarpment in NY even though I did a trail 50 k and a bunch of marathons prior - those climbs and descends were PAINFUL! But they gave me love for trails for life.

Eudemus said...


Big Basin is awesome and you should definitely run it next year. With the course change it had about 6200ft of elevation making it a bit harder than Santa Cruz. Yes, that was my 3rd 50K. I feel like I am starting to "understand" the distance (if that's the right word to use). I also think I am beginning to feel ready for the 50 miler even though I had to take 3 full days off because my feet were so sore. I am going to try a run tomorrow morning.

On the subject of time goals, I have to confess that I pretty much always have some goal in mind for a finishing time even when I shouldn't. I think it helps me to keep pushing forward during the tough spots. Even at my first 50K at Ohlone I was targeting a sub-7 hour finish. However, I don't get bent about not hitting the time since it isn't my main goal. My personality is such that I am often in a state of constantly re-evaluating the situation; adjusting goals, re-formulating plans. In my personal life I need to work to keep this tendency in check since others need my plans to be a bit less fluid. However, for my running, I think it is a strenth.

I like your master calendar idea on your site and you are more than welcome ot put me up there. Iin fact, I'd be honored. At this point, I don't have any races planned between now and Dick Collins. I am considering Salt Point on the 17th, but may be better off doing some long runs along the Firetrails course (there go those fluid goals again). I'll let you know if I change my mind.

I'm glad you continue to enjoy my blog and thanks for the congrats. Oh, and good luck to you at Bulldog!

Eudemus said...


Thanks for the encouragement. It means a lot, especially coming from someone with your running resume!

miki said...

ummm. someone forgot to mention that he placed in the top ten....pretty cool.