I don't even really know what I did to my foot. I'm not even sure which part of my foot is hurt. Sometimes it's the heel, sometimes it's the ankle, sometimes it's the achilles. I've been icing it and taking ibuprofen, and last weekend I thought I was getting better. I did a 20-mile run (with ibuprofen) without having foot problems. Awesome! And then my next two runs, each just two miles, hurt. I gave myself a couple days off and started wondering about the weekend.
My marathon is less than a month away. Counting this weekend, I have time for probably two more long runs before tapering. This is my first marathon, so I'd really like to go into it feeling prepared. On Friday, though, my foot was still hurting, and I was trying hard to avoid making the right decision. I posted on facebook and twitter: Trying to decide whether to do my long run tomorrow on a hurting foot or bag the run and do a long or trail ride. Suggestions? Oh, yeah. There were suggestions.
Stay off the foot!
Better 90% trained than 50% injured.
Skip the run.
And yeah, I knew that. I knew that. But I needed someone else to tell me. So, thanks Darin, Sasha, Debbi, Mike, Melissa, and Adam for telling me what I didn't want to hear.
Decision made, more or less, then I posted a link to a Trailnet ride for Saturday. None of my bike friends bit, but then I got an email from Ms. Sasha Petrosevitch. We had never met, but we have some of the same friends, and I've been reading her blog for a while. We'd commented back and forth on Daily Mile and Facebook, but I never would've thought to ask her to go ride with me because we are so not on the same level. God must've known I'd waver on the run-skipping and wanted to make sure I stayed off my feet, though, because Sasha was emailing to see if we could work out a ride time on Saturday.
I was so excited. I love to ride with better riders (and they're much easier to find than worse riders, lol) because you can learn so much. It's much easier to try riding things that look scary when you see someone else do it first. Having read Sasha's blog, I knew that she'd started out mountain biking at the same age I did and in the same manner: flat on her ass, requiring medical attention...so seeing and reading how she rides now gives me a lot of hope for myself.
We met at the Lost Valley Trail in Weldon Spring, MO. This is where my first mountain bike was with the Dirty Girls series, and I met some friends there for a run this winter, as well...but I'd never been there without snow cover. This was much nicer, except for the fact that now I could see the rocks that were waiting for me instead of just imagining them. :)
|Photo credit: Singletracks.com / toolboy70|
Of course right away was that dip in the trail that had me scared the first time I rode at Lost Valley. I took it with a little more confidence this time and made it to the top before I had to put down a foot -- way better than almost the top and almost rolling backwards! I feel a little more comfortable each time I ride, and this day was no exception. I was still slow, but I didn't spend quite as much time clutching the brakes. After the initial dip in the trail, I didn't get too nervous until we got to to a section that is a gradual downhill with a hill on one side. This is the section where I turned around on the Dirty Girls ride, but this time I rode it...and I wasn't too terrified.
Some of the other things we talked about:
"Momentum is your friend" (cycling truth and the title of a great book by Joe Kurmaskie)--like "don't run while injured", I know this, but it's hard to put into action sometimes. OK, always. I'm a chicken. My first instinct in a bumpy or rocky area or on a downhill with something tricky on the other side is to slow down.
"Look where you want to go" -- I'm getting better at this. Not just keeping my eyes ahead of me on the trail rather than right. in. front. of. my. wheel, but also keeping your eye on the line rather than the obstacles in your path. OK, truthfully, I'm only getting better at the former part. The latter is still problematic. I can't tell you how many times I rode right into the biggest rock or root because I was looking at it instead of my line. Obstacles are like eye magnets. One thing Sasha would do that helped was to put something small on the line I was supposed to follow and then remind me to focus on that.
Choosing a line -- a lot of path of least resistance. For example, I'm very good at running into the tallest part of a root on an uphill instead of finding the side of the root. Once she mentioned that, it was a light bulb moment. There were several sections where she'd ride a section first so I could see it (always helps me feel better...ok, clearly it can be done because I just saw that) and then come back and run the line so I could get a mental picture.
"You can do this. I know you can do this." -- I'm not going to lie. There were parts that made me nervous. I was born without any kind of daredevil bone in my body, so what I'm doing mountain biking I couldn't tell you...except for the fact that I LOVE it. I never felt like I had to do anything, but I wanted to...that's why I was out there. And it was invaluable to have someone coaching and encouraging me through some of those places.
|Photo credit: Singletracks.com / toolboy70|
"You know how long it took me to learn that?...two years" -- I heard something similar a few times on the ride. And to be clear, I didn't LEARN it...I just rode part of it. But I guess what I learned is that I can.
We got to ride some fun rolling trail and I worked on keeping my hands off the brakes more and more.
I had a blast out there. Of course, once you finish with all the sweet singletrack at Lost Valley, it's time to pay the piper. And the piper, if you're parked at the Mound, is a big long hill that just gets steeper at the top. I can remember having a hard time walking up it after the 11-mile run we did out there, and now I was going to ride up it? Right near the top, it gets steep, but I made it up finally, pedalling the whole way. Score one against the hill. If I lived closer, I'd go ride up it regularly just to get better at it; of course, I've got hills around here, too. Guess I ought to get to work.
As we rode, I mentioned something to Sasha about the last time I rode out there and it being my first mountain bike ride because I'd gotten my bike at Christmas. "So you've only been mountain biking for like 3 months?" she asked. I thought for a second: "Um, yeah...I guess so." Three months. I think this was about my fifth time riding on mountain bike trails. I guess maybe I can cut myself a break.
I really appreciated having someone experienced who was willing to go out and ride with such a beginner. As I said today, one of the best things about endurance sports is the awesome people, and Sasha is a prime example. But the amazing thing is that she's hardly the only one. In my very short time in this community, I've been blessed to find some wonderful people who've been very welcoming to me: the Team Revolution ladies, the members of Team Godzilla, the Team Virtus guys, the blog community...really, everyone I've met. I've got friends in the right places, for sure.