Part 2: Elation and Frustration
by Ian Torrence
As the year 2002 opened, I had my goals for the year nailed down. I was accepted to the four 100-mile races I needed to run in order to complete the Grand Slam (Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch). I had what I thought was a pretty solid game plan set-up for my “pre-season” schedule. I was excited and raring to go.
I started the year off in good form running in and winning my eighth Red Rock Fat Ass 50 Km located just west of Las Vegas, Nevada. I felt strong, running my second fastest time on the course. I must admit that the push from Sandy, Utah’s Karl Meltzer helped spur me on to a fast time.
Two weeks later, in mid-January, I traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii for the H.U.R.T. (Hawaiian Ultrarunning Team) 100 Miler. It was quite the experience. The course and the hospitality were excellent. I had a fantastic race winning and setting a new course record. However, this title came with a payment. I ended up in the Molokai Hospital Emergency Room two days later, to have a badly infected toenail removed. And if that weren’t enough, upon returning to the mainland and to my normal running schedule I discovered that I had acquired a severe case of Achilles tendonitis. I would not be able to run for seven weeks.
During that period, I resorted to Moab, Utah’s only gym. I spent many mornings and afternoons on various elliptical trainers and stationary bikes. I lifted weights three or four times a week for a change of pace. I would have loved to been riding my mountain bike over some of the area’s famous trails, but the short daylight hours, work schedule and winter temperatures were too much for me to contend with. I became one of the “gym crowd.” I began to know the regulars by name. They were an excellent support group for me, even though they didn’t know it at the time.
I must also take a moment to recognize my girlfriend Anne for her patience and counsel during this time. When unable to run, I quickly become irritable and impatient. Anne dealt with me on a daily basis and amazingly put up with my sometimes rather abysmal attitude. She did an incredible job of reminding me of the “big picture” and that things would improve.
I had entered Way Too Cool 50 Kilometer Trail Race in Cool, California in March, but was relegated to “spectator status” for the event due to my seemingly ever-injured Achilles. I decided to travel to the race to see old friends and to visit my sister who currently lives in Pollock Pines, California with her fiancé, Duane. It was good for my spirit to watch from the sidelines and cheer on good friends who would have otherwise been competition on that day.
Oddly enough, three days after I returned home from Way Too Cool I was running again. The tendonitis seemed to have vanished overnight. After three days of “testing” the heel, I ran in the Canyonlands Half-Marathon held in my hometown of Moab, Utah. It was a great race and all my body parts survived. I must say, however, that I was very sore for the next week. My legs were not ready for pavement that hard after the seven-week layoff.
I slowly built up my weekly mileage again. I had healed just in time for springtime in the high desert. The trails, dirt, smells and sights were incredible. Stepping out from the gym after seven weeks was like a rebirth. I was running once again with friends and enjoying the benefits of the trails.
In mid-April I was sent to the Grand Canyon for some National Park Service training. After the week of training had concluded, my father, Paul, and Boulder Colorado’s Hal Koerner joined me at the Canyon. My dad opted for the sane “just down to the river and back.” Hal and I tested ourselves with a complete Double Crossing of the Grand Canyon. The day consisted of 43 miles, incredible amounts of altitude gain and loss and 90-degree heat at the river. It was a long day of running for me, but one that I’d do again in a heartbeat.
It is now early May. I have just returned from Prescott, Arizona and the Whiskey Row Marathon. I hadn’t run the marathon distance for almost two years. The course was not conducive to personal bests, but I had what I felt to be an excellent race. I stayed relaxed though most of the race. I was able to catch most of the early leaders and finish second overall in 2:58.
I am looking forward to the rest of the spring and summer. The high mountain peaks are slowly freeing from snow and this is opening up a whole new set of trail adventures and opportunity. I have already learned that I will have to be more flexible and patient with my running schedule. Circumstances will arise that I will have no control over. I have learned that the only way to overcome them is sanely and rationally. I have learned that cross training and, yes, even taking a day off from running periodically is a good thing. After fifteen years of running and completing 93 ultramarathons and 10 marathons I have acknowledged the fact that the learning process continues.
I have received some excellent feedback, advice, and encouragement from many of the readers of this e-column. Those who have responded have lifted my spirits, calmed my nerves and reminded me that I have many friends and fellow runners who are experiencing the same things I am. This is great company to keep. So as I share my adventures with you, please do the same and keep your stories coming my way. Until next time.