Delta flight 5724 from Salt Lake City to Burbank is completely full. This is not difficult given that it is a microscopic plane sporting 2x2 rows all the way back with the exception of first class which flaunts its four rows of ultra-wide 1x2 thrones for all of steerage to see.
Tomorrow, I hop on a United flight early enough to require a 6am airport drive for the impressive 5 hour flight across the continent before another 8 hour hop to Geneva, Switzerland. My body will land 15 actual but 24 clock hours after I begin. Upon deplaning I will immediately begin the breakfast routine of a country not my own. Coffee? Ya. Pastry? Not quite yet, merci.
Back up... There’s more to this prologue chapter.
My Achilles Heel Is... My Achilles Heel
Two weeks prior to race day—8 days ago—I was jogging the streets of my neighborhood, breaking my usual routine to watch a local cycling race that looped around city streets for hours on a Friday evening. drawing a weak number of spectators plus me. I darted to catch almost dangerous views of tangent cutting and pace cars. But one of those sudden starts landed a dart right in my Achilles, near the heel. Like most runner addicts, I limped a bit, ran some more, and then ran some more. No biggie: the next morning it would be fine, and I could get in some of my last anticipated runs before a massive taper in the last week.
It wasn’t fine.
Waking up reminded me precisely of the darting pain from the night before. Immediately I knew this was A THING and I was none too happy. I walked, a little. My stubbornness gimped down to the coffee shop asking my body to answer just what the fuck was going on in there. The unhelpful answer was, “you hurt me, idiot”. (To be fair, I added the “idiot” part. My body’s not that cruel, normally.)
Back up, even further this time.
The Signs Pointed To: Rest
Since September I have run three 100 mile races, all of them deliberately and with what counts as speed in my body. September’s gorgeous Stagecoach 100 took me over Babbitt Ranch land near the Grand Canyon in heat and sun to exactly the finish I wanted. I celebrated. Then I fell calamitously in love with an old friend and rode the vibes to a November personal best at 50K—a record I’d previously set at age 30, which was a long time ago. Winter brought a move to my new lovely hometown of Salt Lake City and a reboot of many personal motivations and values. Through heartbreak and upheaval and new romance I trained and trained and ran the race of my life in late March, my first win in a 100 mile event. It was a very good day.
The week after my March race I ran over 30 miles and almost couldn’t believe it.
I felt…. fine. Of course I knew I ran a hard race, but the miles did not feel heavy or wooden, so I listened. Spring passed as I prepared for my third round at San Diego 100 in early June. Without complications, I had a difficult yet satisfying race. But after San Diego, the recovery looked different. The miles were harder. The legs were heavier. With that new bodily information, UTMB was definitely looking like it would be a “get it finished” kind of goal. My body was ready to stop racing for the time being.
So the mileage stayed reasonable through the doggy summer days of Utah. The weeks ticked down to the UTMB trip with all its planning and packing and mandatory gear and weight limits and hooboy. So much planning for this event, relative to most others where one can show up with some running clothes and a jacket and get through the day. Here my kit will weigh at least 5 pounds before water, not a burden but certainly more than the usual carry even for all-day runs.
But I can finish. This much I KNEW.
I might even want to finish well ahead of cutoffs, perhaps 39 hours instead of 46 is a reasonable goal…. that would be lovely.
And then, the dart to the Achilles.
(Next Up: Guinea pig in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc)