Five weeks - thirty-five days - is all that sits between me and my fifth attempt at the Superior 100. A finish gets me a third buckle, a 60% finishing rate at the race, and like every 100 miler, catharsis from a year of training that has had its great highs and miserable lows.
The good of the 2016-2017 running season is my great training in December 2016, January 2017 and the first two-or-so weeks of February 2017 when I put the treadmill in my basement to good use and did hikes at various inclines, 3 min interval sets, and 8-10 min threshold sets.
And then the week of February 13 came. I was reading a bedtime story to my then-four-year-old, and swung my right leg off his bed when I was done. The inside of my right ankle struck the top of a white wooden step-stool, and it shot instant pain through the inside of that ankle.
My training cratered after that, with two doctor visits and starting a course of PT providing the answer: I likely hit a nerve on the inside of my foot - my best guess is the medial calcaneal nerve - and it set off a chain reaction that messed with that right foot and ankle to some degree even to this day, even as the symptoms slowly lessen. The impact irritated the nerve, causing a protective muscle spasm of the muscles in the area. That muscle spasm - an involuntary tightening of any surrounding muscles - then slightly angled my foot with the inside (medial) side feeling slightly raised as the muscles pulled one side of the ankle, but not the other. This imbalance then caused other issues, such as swelling on the front/top of the ankle to compensate (which started in earnest in early May 2017, in part forced my withdrawal from Bighorn, and has since gone away without returning). Add in my imbalanced pelvis that every once in a while needs to pay a visit to my PT and you get a recipe for no training. That was the bulk of April, May, and June.
But running resumed, slowly, with doctor OK, at the end of June and I slowly worked my way back to a more normal mileage of 50 mpw. July was 202 miles in a month in 24 running days, with four zero days forced by work obligations an stress, and I am on track for and aiming at 250 miles in August. I've had a pair of PT visits so far, two more on the calendar before Superior 100, and two more after the race to deal with the inevitable issues that will rear their head post-event.
Which leaves me looking at Superior.
Unlike in past years, I don't have the bulk of training I would desire or even a bare minimum I would prefer. What I have are my past experiences on the trail, the visualizations and memories of what I should see and feel, and when I should see and feel it. The thought of rounding the corner on the top of Mystery Mountain, seeing the group campsite, and hearing the Poplar River knowing that the finish is a mere 1.5-or-so miles away still makes me tear up. I know I can finish this, I know a smile and positive attitude will be what gets me there, and I know that I will do whatever it takes once 8 AM on Friday, Sept. 9, 2017 hits to get to Lutsen before 10 PM the following day.
Expectations are a mere outcome goal: Finish, preferably in the daylight (Goal A) but I'm not picky (Goal B). I'd like to feel as comfortable as possible under the circumstances of the race, a process goal, knowing that I don't have the training I would prefer and don't want something to go haywire despite that fact that I know, we all know, something will at least once and likely more.
And when in doubt, go into grind mode and manage a brisk walk and minimal aid station time to get it done.