Zen On Dirt

Dreaming while crippled


Last Friday we went on a run up on Mt. Lemmon. It was mostly inspired by it being too hot in town, and I think we were both over sitting in front of computers, and when the drive to the top of Lemmon, plus the hour we planned on spending lounging after our run was factored in, it made for an extended Friday Afternoon Adventure Club expedition.

We’ve slowly been ramping up our runs, and we’d done several near 1-hour runs out on Starr Pass, so we figured that an hour on Lemmon would be a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Except we, as novice runners, haven’t really figured out the finer points of running. Like not starting with a steep downhill. Or how to actually run downhill. Or, if the most elevation you’ve gained/lost in a run is 500 feet, it’s probably not a good idea to do a run that drops 1,000 feet with very little reprieve.

So we ran. Any by the time we got back to the car, we both agreed, That’s going to leave a mark. But maybe not that bad of a mark.


Long story short, I was hobbled for four days. My quads felt like I’d just descended into the Grand Canyon with a bike on my back. So I’ve had some time to kill because instead of getting up and moving around and futzing with stuff like I normally do when I’m bored, I’ve tried to stay sitting as much as possible. While googling “How to run downhill” I came across Geoff Roes‘ blog entry over at iRunFar.com where he talks about the shelf life of ultra runners, speculating on whether most really only have 4-5 good years of elite level competition in them before bodies break down, or if it’s just that fast most ultra runners don’t start running until their 30’s, and thus, reach an age ceiling.

But it got me thinking about the shelf life idea.

Geoff experienced a total body shut-down after 5 years of hard running that makes my body shutdown after 4 years of bikepacking seem like a common cold. I think we’re both left wondering that if we’d listened a little better to our bodies, if we could have avoided it. It seems like we both ignored our bodies whispering that something was wrong, we ignored the shouts, and finally had to face the ‘Go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.’

Maybe I reached my shelf-life for ultra racing.

My dreams of being an ultra runner came crashing down. (insert sarcasm)

But seriously, it got me thinking, What if my body will never be up for doing something retarded like a 100 mile foot race?

And then I started laughing.


Today is the following Wednesday (five days after last Friday), and for the first time since Lemmon, I was able to walk without hobbling. We even went for a little A-Mountain run this morning without dying.

I think I need to worry about not being a cripple after a 6 mile run before I can even think about physical limitations of my body in terms of running. But it sure is fun to dream.

Focus on the present, young grasshopper.


5 thoughts on “Dreaming while crippled

  1. here’s a good primer on downhill running technique… http://www.ultraufitness.com/ultrau-blog/downhillrunning-live-from-miwok …of course, that wouldn’t likely have prevented this doms episode; it’s funny how a little too much eccentric contraction can create such havoc, but a least you’ve now built a bit of a protective base for those quads — for incrementally more vertical 🙂

  2. I just went for my first run in eight weeks today. Four flat gravel road miles at 12 minutes per mile. That was hard. And it reminded me how quickly any semblance of my ability to run fades away.

    I’m sure runnerly friends of yours already pointed out that you went out too hard for too long, and that’s why you’re hurting. It never seems fast or far relative to your own fitness and what you know others can do, but running fitness is almost an entirely separate entity from cycling and even hiking fitness, or at least that’s been my own experience. Whenever I feel strong in running, my cycling sort of sucks, and vice versa. I still enjoy doing both, and feel I achieve the best balance that way.

    As for the long game, there’s really no way of knowing what we’re capable of, or what might ultimately shut us down. For that reason, I don’t see much point in assuming we all have a physical expiration date (beyond the obvious ultimate one) and might as well just proceed as though we’re never going to go bad.

    Go slowly, young grasshopper. 🙂

  3. You won’t remember me — but we met in Durango once and I’m one of your long-term blog readers. As someone who’s gone from running to cycling and back to a nice mix of both: I think the expiration date on ultrarunners (and ultrabikers) comes mostly from speed. Running is really hard on the body if you push it, but if you stop and walk when things hurt you can start to put in big miles and recover fast without much damage. This year I’ve really built up my mileage quickly, but my long trail “runs” are averaging somewhere around a 14-15 minute/mile pace. I’m in my mid-40s, don’t race, and like you I believe that “adventure” is a perspective rather than an event, so this suits me just fine. I’ve also gotten excited about bike-to-run outings, where I ride somewhere, do a run, and ride back. Have fun!

  4. You need to grow running muscles. How long this takes probably depends on how old you are… Took us (me and my husband) ages… Like months to years… Cycling is in your mid-thighs, running is in your bum and upper thighs, and walking doesn’t help that much. Practice rating highish – around 90 – helps get fewer injuries .. I think.

    • Oh and of course, the other thing is that the fitter you are from cycling, the better you can pulverise yourself in new sports or sports you do only rarely. This is also quite a good way of getting injured, in my experience…

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