After back and neck surgery I went back at it immediately to prove I could do things – I hated being incapable or thought of as being incapable. I did some hiking. I ran 11k in an hour in March and 22.6k in two hours in April. The running hurt my back a lot; the surgeon recommended no distance running until November or so – and I soon lost a desire to do much but lie in bed. Occasionally I’d experience thoughts of wanting to run, but, confusingly, be unable to muster energy to get out of bed. Bert would suggest a walk around the neighborhood, 3.5k, and I’d want to, but it seemed such an enormous task to get dressed that we’d end up not going. Bert would suggest a weekend hike to get me outside; he would even offer to carry my backpack.
Why do a mountain when I can’t carry my own gear? Makes no sense, I told myself irritably. The self-pressure was immense, and worse was being able to recognize the pressure I was putting on myself. My mind alternated between driven and indifferent. I felt totally out of control.
“When all is said and done, I spent over a year away from the sport I love. [After surgery] I really wanted to run Western States again in June 2016. So I cross-trained really hard through the winter. When I got the okay to start running, I had overdone it and ended up injured again. I learned a huge lesson that when you’re injured, you should let everything go and just heal. So I didn’t put anything on the calendar. No races. Every athlete is different, but [when coming back from injury] I think it’s important to not have a race on the schedule, because otherwise you force yourself to push limits too quickly, rather than doing it when you’re ready. I think it’s helpful to not have any expectations and be totally honest with yourself about how your body is doing, because it’s easy to talk yourself into thinking you’ve progressed further than you really have.”
-Stephanie Howe, OutsideOnline.com
During a fit of optimism at the start of the year I’d signed up for Sinister Seven 100 miler and Black Spur 108km. I didn’t finish either race.
I did more hiking, more scrambling. I backpacked several small trips and all 220 miles of the John Muir Trail.
I should be able to do this marathon, I thought. I’m just going to take it easy and enjoy.
And I did.
I did it smart, and strong. My back does hurt a bit from the downhills, but still I’m enormously pleased.
We drove in from Monterey in the morning, 45 minutes from the start at Andrew Molera State Park. The run was beautiful, and not technically difficult as it’s run on an old gravel road. More lush and shaded and in the forest than I’d thought it would be, winding past coastline and residential homes hidden in the hills. Although RD (EnviroSports)recommended bringing a water bottle, I’d been backpacking the last while – I didn’t have my running vest with me, so I didn’t carry extra water, and it was fine.
After a somewhat sluggish start – too much beach time the past few days! – my legs finally decided to wake up around 10 miles in and I picked it up from there.
The reward of the course is, apart from the challenge of the hills, the incredible view of the famous Bixby Bridge from Old Coach Road. You get to see it twice. I so enjoy these sorts of intimate races with small fields (300 runners in the 5mile, half marathon, and marathon combined). Everyone was so friendly.
Apparently this race sells out every year. Very well organized. Recommended.