Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saturday, 7/11/09 Grays Peak Attempt

After 2 months of discomfort and minor pain in my foot, I really did myself in yesterday on an easy hike of all things.

It all started at the very end of April, where a new pair of shoes were feeling a bit unsupportive and made the outside edge of my feet feel a bit sore and fatigued. I ran in them for two weeks, hoping I would “break them in”, but the writing was on the wall and I decided to give up on them to be on the safe side.

Within days, my right foot felt completely normal, but I had some lingering discomfort in my left foot, though only when I stepped on a pointy rock running downhill, otherwise I never even remembered that it was there. For insurance though, I took it pretty easy on the downhill runs and wore the most supportive, cushy comfortable shoes I had. The issue remained the same all of May and the first half of June, never getting better, never getting worse, until I ran the Brook Loop TT.

The downhill section of the loop is fairly rocky and technical. Normally, this descent would be no big deal, but for some reason, my left foot really started flare up, not just the occasional step, but every step. At the finish, it was clear that I had a problem and I decided to take some time off from running and heal. Over the next two weeks, I hiked some (easy) and biked a lot, but each time I tested my foot out with an easy run, it was clear that I had made no progress.

Feeling a bit anxious about the Pikes countdown timer, I decided to not mess around and go see sports injury guru Jeremy Rodgers who helped me with my knee two years ago. He took an x-ray and found nothing, determined that whatever it is that is bugging me was minor, prescribed some exercises, an night boot etc…. and I was beginning to make progress. I ran Green Mountain almost daily and though not cleared up, I felt better and better each day, so much better that I decided to run Quandary on Thursday.

Minutes into the Quandary run, I felt the pain in my left foot, more than I had in the past running uphill which slowed me a good bit, not wanting to really push off hard on the left side. The descent was somewhat painful, some steps especially painful, yet I still ran trying to catch my friend Nate. Although I was running to catch him, I was really favoring my injured foot and thought I was going a somewhat conservative speed.

I was pretty discouraged by the end of the run, having regressed to an all time low (regarding this injury). I could see my Pikes aspirations going down the drain, assuming that my foot would be giving me enough discomfort that I would not be able to train properly. I was still planning on running it, but had lowered my expectations to just getting the finishing shirt/jacket or whatever it is they will give away at the top this year.

Coincidentally, I had my final “follow up” appt. with Jeremy the next day. I woke up with my foot feeling sore, but slightly better than the previous day. When I went in, he gave me the carbon fiber insole for my shoe that I had been eagerly awaiting that was on order. I put that in my shoe and in an instant, I was feeling almost no discomfort when I put pressure on my foot. Amazing! (or so I thought).

I debated what to do on Saturday and strongly considered riding my bike, preferably up Mt. Evans, which in my gut I knew would be the best thing to do. Sierra’s extra playful demeanor indicated that she had energy to burn and I felt bad that she had not been for any hikes in a while. Taking pity on her, I decided to join my friends Nate and Dan for a trip up Grays and Torreys.

Though probably not the best idea, I felt confident that I could at least hike easy and just enjoy the day, get in some altitude and enjoy the company of good friends. I felt great for the first hour, truly amazed at how that plate was protecting my foot. At an altitude of a little over 13k, just prior to the Grays/Torreys junction, I stepped on a rock about the size of a tennis ball. Had I stepped on it with my good foot, it would have passed without notice, but I inadvertently stepped on it with my suspect foot, where it rolled (I think it only rolled like it did because it was already somewhat weakened) in such a way that something in my foot really let go.

The pain was unbearable and it about put me to the ground. I sat on a rock and encouraged Nate and Dan to continue and I would head back and wait. I started down the rocky trail and it was immediately evident that this was going to be the toughest ~3 miles of my life. I grabbed the boulders on the side of the trail for support, but progress was agonizingly slow. I could see that soon the trail would level a bit and there would be no boulders to assist me and I was stressing about what I would do. I tried walking backwards, but it was still very painful and very awkward. A few backward steps and I would certainly fall.

I was contemplating just sitting there to wait for Nate and Dan to return and have them help me, or crawl. Just as I was contemplating this, a woman caught up to me, having turned around due to the altitude (she is from sea level) and offered to let me use her hiking pole. I told her that I would be really slow, but she insisted that it was no big deal, as her friends were up the mountain as well and she was in no hurry.

The pole helped keep me upright and balanced, but did little to alleviate the pain in my foot. Sierra was getting a bit impatient and a bit confused over my situation and was getting too far ahead and distracted, so my new friend offered to walk her on leash, which helped me to focus on my task at hand.

The peak was incredibly crowded, even more so than last July when I deemed it the most crowded I had ever seen it. Almost everyone on the way up asked if I was OK, if I needed help, needed asprin, needed to borrow their poles etc…... I was not OK, but did not really know how to answer. It was quite sobering and embarrassing to be hobbling along, so feeble and immobile when normally I bound up and down these peaks with speed and confidence, feeling as though I can conquer the world.

It took me 2.5 hours to get back to the summer trailhead, where Nate and Dan returned 10 minutes after. Luckily Nate drove us up in his Jeep and we did not have to walk all the way to Bakerville. Even the jostling ride down hurt and I continued to have shooting pains through my foot and continue to do so as I write this.

Walking around the house is very difficult, driving my car is very painful because of the clutch. I am going to pick up some crutches soon, Kevin is loaning me a boot that I can wear to keep my foot from flexing and I hope to see a podiatrist tomorrow. Right now my foot is swollen and painful. Any thoughts of running Pikes Peak are completely down the tubes. Though I am very bummed out about it, I am strangely relieved about it at the same time (not to be guessing/stressing over not training well). It is amazing how quickly priorities shift from wanting to run up a mountain, to just wanting to walk around the house, work, supermarket, walk the dog etc….

I can’t recall ever hurting this bad, maybe breaking my leg when I was 6, but that was a long time ago. This one will certainly take some time to recover from, whatever the podiatrist diagnoses it as. Once the swelling goes down, I hope to be able to at least ride my bike within the next week if it does not hurt.


  1. :(

    The hills will still be there.

    Get well.

    Screw your header pic.

  2. You know I can relate. You know from your IT fight early this year that you'll be back soon enough. Sounds like a stress fracture. Hopefully, in a few days, you'll be able to get on the bike at least.

    Stay positive; you've got a lot of time and miles to go.

  3. Sucks.

    Your mouth still works I bet. Let's grab lunch this week and talk about something else.