"Because the mind is a terrible thing..."

Half Wit Half Marathon, Reading, PA 4,4

August 15, 2010 - Back for a three-peat of this fantastic, hilly, tough event. It is always a pleasure to come to Reading to run the Half Wit. Ron Horn knows how to put on a good show and I'm not the only one who appreciates it. The people who participate are as fun as the director and I always come away with a smile on my face.

This time I would not come to race Half Wit, but to test my recovering Achilles heel against one of the tougher trail events in the state. This would be the first time toeing the line since my catastrophic injury on March 27th earlier this year. After twelve weeks in a boot recovering from this injury and eight weeks and about 300 miles of training I felt ready for my first test - or ready to blow out my heel again and have surgery. The day's challenge would leave me encouraged to get back to my previous schedule in pursuing tougher and tougher events in exotic places.

The start of the event would prove to be less noteworthy than the night before, camped on the Appalachian Trail on the ridge above Pine Grove where I usually sleepover before the Half Wit. Mike Monyak and I had tented down for the night, trying to sleep amid the deafening raucous of the cicadas in the trees around us. Around midnight, I was awakened by a whoosh above us, traveling quickly from east to west above the treetops. At the same time, I could detect light behind my eyelids in the pitch dark forest. By the time I opened my eyes in my sleepy condition I could still see the walls of my yellow Eureka tent had a vague reddish/white afterglow from whatever had just happened. Within seconds the tent walls had gone black as before. I was coherent enough to immediately conclude a UFO had just zoomed by over the trees. Pretty cool. Lest I was imagining all this, I checked with Mike in the morning, who said the woods lit up like daylight at the aforementioned time. We both had witnessed something strange. I hold to my initial conclusion.

Back to the race: I lined up in the back of the field of 500 plus and took up conversation with some neat people there. Having run the event before I didn't want anyone nipping at my heals during the first mile, so I just took it easy - even walking a lot, waiting for those ahead of me to clear bottlenecks on the course. It was all conversational and fun to run from the rear. After a mile and receiving Mike's and Ron's encouragement along the way the field found its pace and I began to climb the first hills with a loose group of some of the folks I was socializing with. Watching the rocks and roots at every step I ran very deliberately so as not to trip and fall or do egregious damage to my recovering heel. I held back and guarded against my usual enthusiasm to race.

Keeping a steady pace I moved past hundreds of runners as the morning proceeded. The trail offers few places to pass safely, so I had to bide my time in line with other slower paced participants, but that was o.k. I kept to the plan and watched my footing carefully. I noticed my conditioning was very good as I was breathing easily and not sore in the least from climbing the steep grades on the course. While others walked up the hills I continued to shuffle forward at a comfortable shuffle without strain. Humidity was above average and everyone was dripping sweat. A woods bee caught a ride on the back of my shirt for awhile and stung the back of my shoulder pretty good before I rubbed it off at about five miles.

The race did not go fast for me, but being seasoned from many longer events, I was patient and continued until someone told me to stop. The course crosses a mucky swamp and stream that are unavoidable, so mud was flying, reminding me of good cross-country fell running. From the first mile no one passed me until the last half mile when a young fellow I had been towing along for a couple miles made a break and raced to the finish. Keeping my steady gait I crossed the finish comfortably in 2:35:35, a half hour more than before, but satisfied with the day's effort and the condition of my Achilles and ready to do it again.

Mike and I hung around a bit for refreshment and to get hosed off before heading back home in rain storms. The rain held off during the event, but cut loose on us as soon as we hit the road. The race left me with a bit of ankle soreness but little indication that I had aggrevated by injured heel. After a good night's sleep I have little muscle memory that I challenged my body yesterday. One thing of note is that during the event my muscles never went anaerobic - never indicating fatigue once. This I can only attribute to the Hammer Mito Caps I have been taking for the past two months. When I needed energy the mitochondria had plenty of fuel to crank it out upon demand. While I did run at a slower pace the entire distance, I can't remember a race in recent years where I have felt this much energy throughout and afterwards. I'm just getting better all the time!!!!!!!!!!!