The biggest lesson I've learned from the North Coast 24-Hour Endurance Run/USA 24-hour national championship is this: running for 24 hours on pavement is very hard on the body.
To date, I have lost three toenails. I had to pull all three off with tweezers. The first of the three was very painful. The skin underneath was blood red. But they had to come off and, now that they're off, my toes can begin to heal. I've also pulled some large amounts of dead skin off my feet. I guess this is just part of the recovery process.
I have three injuries that I'm dealing with (ice, elevation, arnica, etc.)--three! They are:
1) Inflamed cartilage under my left knee cap--similar to what I came down with during the 2008 Mohican 100 but not nearly as bad. My knee's seen some gradual improvement in the last few days but still isn't "there." The strange thing is that it doesn't hurt when I run--it only hurts only when I'm walking. I'm using my Pro-Tec wrap during runs and it's working.
2) Sore right arch. I didn't pay my sore right arch much attention at first but eventually it got pretty painful on my runs. It's improved slightly and I think the worst is behind me.
3) The worst of my injuries--Achilles tendonitis in my left foot. Awful. I think it's just now beginning to get better though it's still pretty uncomfortable. The swelling is down considerably--a good sign, I'm sure. But this is without question the worst case of Achilles tendonitis I've ever had. I've found that running in my stability shoes, with raised heels, helps. My lower-profile neutral-cushion shoes are too uncomfortable for the time being.
None of these injuries manifested during the 24-hour. They all hit me when I resumed running (very easy pace) the Thursday after the race. I took three full days off from running after the 24, came back very gradually and still came down with injuries! Fortunately, the bone ache I had went away. No muscle injuries, either.
Despite my injuries, I'm running...at easy pace. I ran 25 miles the week coming back from the 24-hour and this past week (Oct. 12-18) ran 59 miles. My Achilles tendonitis was without question the biggest issue of the week. If it doesn't see considerable improvement in the coming week, I will consider a shut-down. An inflamed Achilles is nothing to play around with. If it ruptures I can kiss 2010 goodbye.
I think it's safe to say that my 2009 racing season is over--as it should be. Looking back on 2009, I think this was a great year and I ran in some awesome races. Without question my win at the Mohican Trail 100-Mile Run was the big achievement of 2009 and, frankly, my entire running life to date. Nothing comes close. What made--and still makes--my Mohican 100 win so special is that I wanted to win in 2008, and then returned in 2009 looking for the victory and got it. For 18 months winning Mohican was the singular focus of my running life.
I'm still trying to figure out the North Coast 24. I'm not happy with the result. I should have covered more than 130.67 miles and finished better than ninth overall even as the field was very strong. I should have hit at least 135 miles and gotten close to 140. I went out a little too fast and, judging by what the race did to my feet, not having shoes that were a half-size larger really hurt me. I obsessed too much over my 100-mile split (which turned out being 17:02) and too little over covering the entire distance over the full 24 hours. I was mentally unprepared for what came after hitting 100 miles. Those last seven hours were the toughest seven hours I've ever had as a runner, and I've had some tough times like at the 2008 Mohican when I was hit with a blown-up knee and massive GI issues during the final 20 miles and dropped from 2nd overall to 4th overall, barely finishing with a 19:22.
Next to the Mohican 100, my most enjoyable race was the Lt. JC Stone 50K, a road race around North Park in the Pittsburgh area--the former site of the GNC Ultras. Despite a nasty virus that really took a tool on my respiratory capacity, I managed a 3:46 and 5th overall finish and really enjoyed the whole experience. I plan to return to the Lt. JC Stone in March of 2010 and will look to go sub 3:40 provided I'm healthy. That was one excellent race experience.
I don't know all of the specifics of my 2010 calendar except that I do know I'm returning to the Mohican 100 to defend. I plan to take my training to a new level and improve on my time. A 19:52 in the weather we had in 2009--80s, high humidity and very muddy--wasn't bad, but I really want to go much lower.
Of course, between now and then I have to get healthy!