I only ran three times this week, but it seemed like a big week nevertheless. First, I finally saw one of the great, athlete-focused physical therapists here in town about the nagging pain in my right knee, which just hasn't been getting better despite a pretty easy training schedule since Teton August 30 (previous post). His diagnosis was much better than the degenerative joint disease I'd feared: simple tendonitis likely caused by my "impressively" tight hamstrings and only mildly more flexible quads. The prescription: some easy running and a regular series of three stretches. Having worked with my kind before, he knew anything above a "Keep It Simple, Stupid" routine would never find purchase.
So far (now all of 5 days in ), I'm adhering to the plan, and although the stretching seems to be irritating things more than resolving them, I'm going to have faith that things will turn favorably over the next number of weeks. After all, he's helped athletes an order of magnitude more accomplished and injured than I.
Second, AJW and I got out for a fantastic 18 mile autumn run through Fox Creek, Oregon Gulch, and Chocolate Gulch on Sunday. The weather was ideal, the scenery spectacular, and the conversation, as always, entertaining. With frigid temperatures and snow upon us any day, runs like this are just gravy before a long winter of logging miles on icy pavement. They also remind me how lucky I am to live in an area filled with amazingly close in -- yet quickly remote -- backcountry trails and that's populated with a small, but fervent group of accomplished ultra runners (author excepted).
Finally, I had an epiphany about the '09 season around mile 10 during that Sunday run, thanks to some great and insightful conversation with Mr. Jones-Wilkins. My plan's been to try my first 100 miler next season, but I've been in a quandary over which one. They seem either front-loaded in late spring/early summer--where it can be hard to get the training miles because of the snow-pack here in the mountains; or they're back-loaded in late summer/early fall--where, frankly, I worry about training motivation, since my season's starting early with the Coyote Two Moon 100k in mid March.
Banking a bit on a lighter snow year than 2008, I made the decision to try to parlay my fitness from Coyote into an early season attempt at the Bighorn 100 in late June (assuming I can get in). Knowing myself and seeing how my motivation drained a bit in August this year, it seems like I should tap into that early season verve where you're often just thankful to be running on dirt rather than ice. That I'd be able to get in some big runs on Fridays while my boys are in school also assuages some of the concern about sending my wife over the edge with big runs on both Saturdays and Sundays, leaving her too often in solo survival mode with our banshee boys for hours on end.
To tempt fate (and my wife) even more, I'll probably put my name into the Wasatch lottery as well, just in case Bighorn goes well (or for that matter horribly wrong).
Of course, this all depends on the health of that nagging knee. But if I've learned one thing from my experienced running buddies, it's that good seasons begin with good planning. And you adjust as you need to. I'm beginning to get excited about the prospect of it all.