Well that didn't go as planned


My day according to



One of the coaches/performance experts I follow is Chris Hauth, who coaches, among others, Rich Roll. The day before this year's Savage Gulf Marathon, I was pondering this passage on his website: "Control the chaos.  Understand things will go wrong.  Brace for things being more difficult than planned."

My Savage Gulf Marathon on March 16 proved Hauth right. Little did I know, as I read his words, that something that had never occurred in my thirty-plus years of racing would introduce a new level of chaos into my marathon day.

The morning started perfectly. With my friends Grady and Doug, I arrived at Savage Gulf State Park feeling ready and fit. Over 70 of us toed the line in the parking lot, then took off for Stone Door, warming up quickly despite temps in the upper 30s. Down the near-vertical steps into the gulf, across the bottom, then climbing the steep trail back up to the Collins campground, all was well.

At mile 12, just before the second aid station, I tried to hop up onto a stone shelf -- and bashed my head on an overhanging rock that my cap had hidden from my view. Stunned, I sat and felt my head, then looked at the bright blood on my hand. I told a runner who was with me that I was okay, then crammed my lightweight shell down onto my scalp under my hat to staunch the bleeding.

I jogged the short way to the aid station, where a park ranger sat me on a cooler and patched me up. Rinsing the blood from my glasses and face, I wiped the shell somewhat clean of blood so I could put it and my gloves back on, as the chill sucked away all the heat I had built up.

By the time we stuffed extra bandages in my pack and sent me off, I was basically forced to restart my engine, hoping to return my core temperature and muscle warmth to the point they had reached after the first three hours on the trail. But it was not to be. Soon after I left the AS, clambering through the undulating rocks and roots of the trail, my leg muscles began twitching, then cramping.

I barely beat the five-hour cutoff time to the next aid station at mile 18, as my calf and shin muscles continued to spasm and lock, bringing me several times to a sudden grimacing stop. Pickle juice and Gatorade at the aid station momentarily helped, but by mile 20, I knew I was done. Abandoning the race, I hiked straight up, back through the steps of Stone Door to a ranger's truck, and hitched an ignominious ride back to the start.


The elevation profile of my day.

What a race.

Grady and Doug were waiting for me with a sandwich and Coke, and were full of support and sympathy as we drove home. Doug snapped a photo of my bloody hat for us to text to our friends and wives.

A feeling of unfinished business seems to be my main emotion at this point. I can certainly imagine giving it another shot. For now, however, spring is happening, and after all those layered-up winter training miles in the Tennessee fog, the only outdoor plan on my mind is summer paddleboarding on the lake. And lazy dog jogs on the trails.