Saturday, March 05, 2016

Green Jewel: I Was Having a Great Run, and Then THIS Happened…

Did that Subject get your attention? Hope so.

I’m heading southeast on the Valley Parkway, approaching Royalton Road, also known as Ohio Route 82. It’s roughly 20 miles into the Green Jewel 50K (GJ), and I’m having a great day. Amongst the GJ road crossings, however, this may be the busiest of the lot.

I can see the traffic signal from well over a half mile away. As I get a bit closer, I begin to think about timing my approach so that I can cross on green with little or no waiting. I know that if I were to just miss it, I’d have to wait an eternity (well, maybe 2 or 3 minutes, and I know – that’s nothing compared with the 5 hours or so that I’ll be out here – but it’ll sure seem like an eternity).

As I get to within a third, then a quarter mile from the signal, I am upset to see that it’s still red. I had been hoping beyond hope that it would go through a red-green-red cycle, with me arriving just as it changes to green again. But no, it’s staying red. This means I have to run even faster to try to make it on the next green, rather than the next to the next green.

It’s 200 yards, then 100 yards away, and I’m sprinting. At about 25 yards, it finally changes to green, but I have to keep sprinting in order to make it across before it changes back to red.

It happens just as I enter the intersection: I zig, but my left knee zags. It’s a sudden, extremely painful twist, as the knee seems to get off its normal tracking. I scream out in pain, but I don’t think anyone hears – the closest humans are in their cars, waiting for the signal to change (which it does as I limp up onto the opposite side). I’m sure that was by far my fastest quarter-mile in quite a long time, and up until the twist and shout, I had been actually enjoying it. Now, with 11 miles to go, would I be able to finish at all, much less in a respectable time?

With Michelle Wolff at the start. Yes, I know:
the tights.                        Shari Geiger photo
This my 3rd GJ 50K, and I also completed the only GJ 100K. Those other two had been in the 4:30 range, and I have no illusions of running that fast today; I only want to complete it at a steady pace. Okay, if you put the thumb screws on, a sub 5-hour time would be nice, but really, I am focused on that steady pace thing. At the start I tell Michelle Wolff that if I can complete this GJ without crashing, I’ll register for Rock the Ridge, a 50-miler in New York State.

I mentioned that I had been having a great day. I am averaging about 9 minutes a mile, and I’ve actually been picking that pace up since around mile 14. Perhaps it was a tad early to begin my Final Sprint to the Finish.

At about 27F at the start, the air felt cool, but really not all that cold. There was some snow, and a couple slick spots in the early miles, but this isn’t all that awful either. There would be no weather excuses today. I’m more intent on enjoying this annual romp through Cleveland’s wonderful Metroparks.
About half-way             John Pavlick photo
After crossing 82, things go downhill fast. Well, that’s not quite literally true; the course is actually gaining in elevation, and with the occasional shooting pain, I am no longer running fast.

I am walking up the biggest hill, the one heading up to the Ridge Road crossing, and I’m walking pretty darn slowly. I stop at the aid station and take my time getting nutrition and fluids. As if that’s going to make any difference. As I begin to run again, my knee continues to come undone – tracking off its normal forward type of motion, and giving me shooting pain. In my more lucid moments – and those are becoming fewer and farther between – I realize that with about an hour and ten minutes to run 7 miles,  a sub 5-hour finish is in jeopardy. I have no idea why that time is suddenly such a priority. It wasn't so a while back, when I was on a 4:40 pace.

After more, but smaller hills, I reach Broadview Road, the highest point in Cuyahoga County, and therefore also on the GJ course. I’ve still got nearly 5 miles to go, but now that I’m on some gentle downhills, I’m doing better. I am also finding that running on the right side of the road (most of the course is on all-purpose trail, but this is an extended road part) feels better on the knee. Too bad I also have to dodge the traffic and the construction crew (they’re extending said trail).

My pace has improved to better than ten minutes a mile again, and the knee pain continues to subside, as I cross Brecksville Road, Ohio Route 21. I know that this final mile and a half is steeply downhill, and I approach with a fair amount of trepidation. What would this do to my knee? To top things off, I still have very little margin of error for that sub-5. Yes, I'm aware that this is pretty insane. Bear with me, please.

In spite of the inherent risk, I pick up the pace and run my two fastest miles of the day – without any knee pain at all! I cross the line in 4:56 – good for a 9:30 overall pace - and I’m quite happy with it.

George Themelis photo
So what to do about Rock the Ridge? I said I wanted steady, and didn’t get it; I had about 25 really good miles, and about 6 awful ones. But it was encouraging that the last four were some of the better ones. I guess I’ll sleep on it.


Harold said...

I give you and anyone else, credit for running through pain. I haven't had to do that and I've always said I won't out of fear of permanent damage.

Dan Horvath said...

Thanks Harold. I'd had the experience before, so that helped. Mostly, though, I think I was just lucky.

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