There is an expression that I’ve found particularly useful at certain times in my life: “Discretion is the better part of valour”. It is a literary expression which means that it is better to be careful and think before you act than it is to be brave and take risks. It is most commonly referenced to Shakespeare, in Henry IV, Part One (1596). Where have I found this applicable? Well, it’s very good to remind yourself of this phrase when you are a competitive athlete and have some sort of injury. Another good expression would be “Live to fight another day”. In the context of this post, I’m using it in relation to an ankle injury I sustained 3 weeks before my final big ‘summer’ race of the season, a 25km trail running race. While I may not have completely heeded my own advice, I did moderate my participation in the Fat Ass Trail Run, and this post will tell you all about it! I covered this event for Get Out There Magazine and created a video review, and also snapped a number of pictures from the event. Now read on to learn more about the event and my injury.
Pictures from Event
For me, it all started the day before Halloween. The much-anticipated and very fun All Hallow’s Eve 6.66km trail run put on by Dave and Lise as part of our Tuesday night trail running group training. In full costume, wearing a mask, and using bright headlamps, we were all queued up at the start line waiting for the work go. We were probably 60 runners or so, and when the start got underway, I made the brilliant decision to run through a ditch to avoid the group bunch-up on the start of the trail. CRUNCH, POP! Hmm, odd noise for my foot. Better go easy on that for the next few steps. Hmm, next steps are not feeling too good. Abort! Abort! I pulled the plug on running and instead went into the woods to scare people as they ran by, hoping ankle would feel better.
Fast forward to the next day. X-Rays completed, taping done, and laser therapy undergone, I learn that I have fractured a small bone in my foot, and seriously strained my deltoid ligament. To this day, it hasn’t healed, although it is feeling better. The problem was I had a race coming up, and wanted to do well in it.I was hopeful that I could salvage the race, and that it wasn’t so bad, but I would obviously need to take care of the injury. So, on went the Air Cast for 2.5 weeks. Each night, there was icing. I also went back for follow up laser therapy (this encourages blood flow and reduces swelling), and took it generally easy. Huge thanks to Dr. Annie Jean at Clinique Podiatrique de l’Outaouais. As a trail runner herself, she knew exactly how to help me out.
2 days prior to the big race, I went for a tentative jog. I got about 25m into it, and decided it wasn’t a good idea. Hiking was not a problem, but the impact of running was just too painful. I made the tough call to cancel the notion of racing in any way. I wrote the race director to let her know I’d drop to the 7.5km race option, and would hike it rather than run it. Hence, Discretion is the better part of Valour, as I realized I would be risking far more damage than the payoff for pushing. With that decision out of the way, I packed up my gear for filming the event, and got ready for a fun weekend with Deanna’s parents in Trenton, which is near the race site.
Race Summary / Stats
Now, for race day. The Fat Ass Trail run is a great grass-roots race put on by a local running and triathlon store in Trenton, which has grown from 25 participants 8 years ago, to over 600 that we had in this year’s event! They really try to make it accessible for all, and have a whole slew of races, and lot of prizes for interesting categories, like “slowest ass”, “most lost ass”, etc. Etc. It made for a great atmosphere pre and post-race. Of course the homemade Chili went a long way to help that as well! But more on that in a bit.
Deanna and I had both signed up for this race, with me originally in the 25k race, and her in the 17.5k race. After I changed events on account of my injury, Deanna also decided to change hers to be the 10k event rather than the full 17.5k. That way, we’d both finish around the same time, and be able to spend more time with family (who were out to cheer for us!). We had the same start times, but different start locations, so we made our way to our respective starts to part until we met at the finish.
I got in the middle of the start corral, with my camera mounted on a stick to get some fun footage of people running. Lots of laughs from people wondering what I was doing, but personally, I think this was the best mount I’ve used so far for filming a running event! When the race got underway, I started my ‘hike’. However, I moved to a gradual shuffle, then eventually a mini jog before too long. Call it the endorphins, call it the rush of competition, but I just couldn’t sit back and watch the world go by. I definitely felt the injury, but it didn’t’ seem too bad. I’d not only fully taped my ankle, but also used a brace on it, so it was pretty well secured in my shoe.
After about the first kilometer, we hit the first major uphill, which was basically heading straight up a ski hill on an access road. This of course is where I’m generally strongest in trail running, so it was incredibly hard not to pass people. Eventually, I gave up the ghost, jumped to the side of the trail and flew up the hill on the most dangerous part of the trail! Luckily, that worked out fine, and I felt strong, so as you may imagine, I spent the rest of the race pushing at near redline levels as far as heart rate goes, passing a lot of people along the way. I should mention that due to a bad cold I was also recovering from, I think my heart rate was artificially boosted, so I didn’t pay too much attention to that. Instead, I listened to my body, and dialed it back, either limping or walking when I felt pain, and pushing when things felt good.
The terrain was not super technical, but a good challenge. There were some great climbs, and a mix of access roads, ATV trails, and even some near-bushwhacking to get up the backside of the Batawa Ski Hill. It’s the kind of course I think I would have really enjoyed doing the full 25km course on, and I definitely hope that next year I’ll be able to take on the full race to see how I stack up against the competition. Deanna also reported back that her loop was also excellent and she had a good time. In a nutshell, my 7.5k race, and her 10k race form 2 distinct loops which were used for all events, i.e. The 7.5k race (single loop), the 10k race (single loop), the 17.5k race (1 loop of each), and the 25k race (2 of the 7.5k loops, one loop of the 10k race).
When all was said and done, I actually ended up placing 26th out of 200 or so runners in my race, which was a bit of a surprise, but a happy one. I’m sure I could have placed easily in the top 10 on a better day, but I didn’t dwell on that. After crossing the finish line, I dove into the warm chili, fresh bread, hot chocolate, and cookies that were on offer. To make things move quickly, all prizes were often pre-awarded and laid out on a table with names taped to them. Unfortunately, neither Deanna nor I had won anything. Too bad.
My only real complaint on this race was that the finish line was actually a 2-way finish. The 7.5k and 25k races finished in one direction, while the 10k and 17.5k distances crossed in the other direction. Very odd, and slightly dangerous (and led to some confusion). I don’t know why they could have just added a little loop around the ski lodge to avoid that, but it’s a minor nitpick, as I didn’t actually witness any accidents arising from this.
So, that’s that. A great race that I’d definitely recommend as a good season-closer for trail runners in a fun atmosphere. Granted mid-November will always be a weather gamble, but as trail runners, we can all embrace that, right? For me, it’s time to turn my attention to the flying snow, and concentrate on getting ready for ski and snowshoe racing season! Hope to see some of you out there, and if I do, please shout out a hello to me, ok? Till then, stay warm, but make sure you get out there!