Saturday, November 5, 2011

Knowing Your Limits...or Not

So, yesterday I posted that signing up for the Leadville 100 trail run scared me. It isn't Leadville, per se, that scares me. I'd likely feel much the same had I signed up for any other 100. And, it's not the distance that scares me, although I certainly have a healthy dose of respect for it.

What scares me about the 100-mile distance is the mental aspect.

I think I have the mental toughness to grind out 100 miles, mind you. I worry, though, about whether I have the perspective required to know when to quit.

Last year at the San Juan Solstice 50, I out-ran my training and finished better than I should have given the work I'd put in. In the process, I ended up a shaking, shivering, aching mass of skin and bones at the finish line. I could barely move. The woman offering free massages at the finish ordered me off her table into a chair and she practically force-fed me electrolytes. My piss was a lovely earth tone color. Not good.

A few days later, I spent two days in a hotel room bed in D.C. wracked with the worst flu I think I've ever had. A few days after that, I was having an MRI on my cervical spine to try and figure out why I had intense pain that felt like someone had dumped hot lead on my shoulders and let it drip down my arms.

Fast forward to November and I'm still recovering from a gem of an auto-immune-connected brachial plexus neuropathy, which basically means my body turned on itself and started treating nerve cells in a nerve cluster beneath my right collarbone as the enemy. In the process, I chewed up some of my very own (and important) nerve cells, causing all sorts of issues down my right arm...loss of strength and fine motor skills, odd tingling and the long-since-gone pain.  Fortunately, the body has slowly been doing its repair work and things are 85 percent or more back to normal.

Did I miss during the run signs that I was doing more than the usual damage? Did I find my limit and kept going? Or, did I simply get a dose of bad post-race luck, picking up a virus thanks to an immune system depressed by the exertion of running 50 miles and hitting the jackpot in terms of the rare auto-immune response to the virus?

No real way to know.

Undoubtedly, though, it's all connected to the race.

So, will I put in the time and effort to get to Leadville in the kind of condition necessary to meet my yet-unstated goals? Will I manage to run to my potential, or better? Will my body endure the torture without another rebellion? Will I have the mental strength to quit if the signs point in that direction?

You know...come to think of it, answering those questions is exactly why I signed up for this race.

Nevermind. I'm not scared, I'm excited!

P.S. 8 miles yesterday late afternoon in Elk Meadow running the Meadow View-Plus route in the mud, slush and snow.


  1. Glad you're largely recovered, that was a strange one. On par with getting a case of Guinea worms.

    I'm betting with the hindsight of SSS50, you'll know when to say "when".

  2. I mean SJS50. It was the stout speaking.

  3. With zero medical knowledge, I'm leaning towards your condition was a fluke. I'm sure a weakened body didn't help, and I suppose it's possible you contracted this thing before SJS.

    You have way too much running experience to blow up at Leadville. I'm sure you'll pace yourself just fine. It ain't easy, but neither are any of the races you've excelled at. Leadville has a nice way of settling you into the pace you are supposed to run. Go out too fast? Well, it will no doubt snap you back hard and fast. If you pace well there, the issues you encounter will not be insurmountable.

    Glad you're excited! It's fun to have almost ten months to anticipate it.