April 10, 2014

Crown King Scramble 50K - Best. DNF. Ever.

«If you're hurt or injured, don't press on and make matters worse. Just know when to call it a day.»

Although it's not always easy, I try to live by my own advice. Mind you, I consider myself privileged because I run all I want and I seldom, if ever, get injured. Knock on wood, I haven't had any serious injuries for a couple years now.

But that comes with a little price to pay; I can't have an ego. Not that I want one anyway, but still, I like to keep up with my running friends and do well in the events I run.

So when my right knee started to hurt less than 2 miles into Crown King Scramble 50, the pinch I felt the most was to my pride. I was running with La Mariposa, and I was feeling very happy to be out in nature with my friend, about to experience a new part of beautiful Arizona. The morning was fresh and the day full of promise, but all I could feel at that point was disappointment and worry.

«What is it?» she asked, noticing my form had gotten weird. «My knee. It hurts. I'm gonna have to walk bits. Just go on, run your race, I'll see you at the finish.»

«No way», is what I got for an answer, and after a couple friendly «Andale, huevon», I gave running another shot. For about 300 yards. Things were getting desperate, and I knew I couldn't hope for a finish that day. I stopped at Nathan Coury's truck, less than 2.5 miles in, and looked at his passenger's seat. «Really?!» he said. «The day's just starting. Take it easy, walk bits. No worries. Make it at least to the first aid station, then see how it goes.» I returned his friendly smile, and went on.

The first aid station came, about 8 miles in. I hadn't run a lot, and when I did, I felt this shooting pain in my knee that I know too well. It's exactly like an IT Band symptom, except in my case, it's just my body screaming at me. Like a warning light on the dashboard. «If you keep going, I'm gonna mess you up.»

No one at the first aid station, including La Mariposa, had any pity for me. Most of what's ahead is hiking anyway, I was told, so no point in stopping now. Make it to mile 15, then you'll be at the bottom of the long steep climb. Keep a good hiking pace and you'll make the cut-offs, easy.

My buddy Richard
Ah, well. Walking didn't hurt, so I reluctantly kept going. I was really grateful that my friend was with me, even though it was turning her run into a leisurely walk while everyone else was whisking by. Soon enough, though, my other knee started to hurt, and then my hips. Walking was now painful, too, and my greatest fear, getting hurt, came to haunt me. Luckily, the mile 15 aid station was coming, and I told Maria I was done for good. I stopped and sat on a chair, massaged my legs in the morning sun and cheered on the other runners.

Soon, the aid station staff figured they had to do something with me, but no one was going in the direction of the finish line, where all my friends and El Capitan were. While they were breaking down, one of the local radio operators, Richard, showed up in his macked-out Rubicon. «Can you take this guy up the trail?». Richard just smirked. He pointed to his Jeep with his chin and said «The ride might be a little bumpy.» I smiled wide and said «Bring it.» Instantaneous friendship ensued.

Richard's macked-out Rubicon
We climbed in his Jeep and Richard gave me a preview of what his machine could do. We climbed rock walls, bounced off pitches and rocked left and right as we drove up to the next aid station, listening to French music and talking trail adventures. We picked up another tired runner on the way, Chris, who was more than happy to jump in with us and enjoy a little break. We all squeezed in the two-seater and we got to the third aid station before we knew it. I high-fived my new friend, thanking him for the awesome ride. «Chris will take you guys to the finish from here, I have to go back to work.»

Crazy Chris and his Trail Machine
A third fallen brother, Vance, was waiting for a ride, too. His face was pale and he looked like he was ready to call it a day. I figured we'd hop on some kind of pickup truck, but instead, we were pointed to a 4-wheel dune buggy-looking machine, which I later learned is called a Razor. There, another Chris waited for us, and he was smiling, too.

«Let me set up your guys' harnesses», he said, smirking. This guy looked like trouble, and I loved it. I called shotgun, not that I think any other guy wanted the seat anyway, and jumped in front, my camera in hand. So, instead of telling you how it went, let me... show you :)

My DNF ride absolutely made my day and allowed me to cheer on my friends and experience the trails they ran on. I got to the finish line dirty and grinning from ear to ear, excited with our trail shenanigans. It was an absolute blast, and a good reminder that whatever you do out there on the trails, including dropping out from a run, has always the potential to make you happy and enjoy a great day out with friends!

Post-race note. My knee's just fine. After 3 days of rest, I've been enjoying two days of pain-free running over all sorts of terrain. I guess my long drives from the days prior to Crown King kept my legs always in the same position and caused some sort of muscular unease.

Abandonner une course, ce n'est pas abandonner la vie. C'est juste prendre un autre chemin, qui peut se révéler aussi passionnant, excitant et mémorable que le plan initial:)


  1. Nice write-up Flint. I am glad you enjoyed the ride in my Jeep. I enjoyed having a passenger who likes French Music! I downloaded the photos you took, Thanks! I hope to see you next year when we do this event, of course I hope you are feeling better and are able to finish the race. That course is a popular Jeep Trail here in Arizona, thanks for riding along with me for a few miles.

  2. Hey, Richard!!

    Thank you again for the sweet ride, the music and the great times :) Yeah, my legs are just fine, I don't know what happened that day, there are just times like that. You just have to roll with it, and man did we do just that!!! I will definitely see you again on the trails my friend :)