the higher the bounce (week 15).

The day before heading to Clinton County for the Hyner View Trail Challenge , I sprung for Chinese and was greeted with the following fortune:

Considering the questionable state of my Achilles, the demands of the Hyner course under the best of conditions and the horrendous weather report for the weekend ahead, I didn't like the sound of falling or bouncing.

My legs actually felt quite good and the right Achilles seemed to have quieted down during a low mileage week and with the aid of diligent icing and heating.  I'd managed a fairly demanding (though not long) run in the rain on Tuesday, clambering up and down Mole Hill in the closest mimic of Hyner I could find within easy striking distance.  Steering clear of my most stripped down footwear, I stuck with my relatively burly Montrail Mountain Masochists.

I sometimes forget how much I genuinely like these shoes and I definitely appreciated the extra support during this forced taper.  Eking out sub-10 minute miles on Mole Hill with recovering legs left me hopeful for Hyner.

Chris and I pulled up in front of the start/finish around 9:00 PM on Friday night and found few inhabitants.  The National Weather Service had issued a wind advisory for much of Pennsylvania and heavy rains were projected for Saturday morning and afternoon.  Temperatures hovered just above 50 degrees Fahrenheit but threatened to plummet.  We spent little time considering putting up a tent and agreed that Chris's minivan had ample room for both of us to sleep comfortably.  Listening throughout the night to the van bracing against the increasing gusts, I felt thankful to be "indoors" and wondered what sunrise would bring.

We awoke an hour-and-a-half before the 8:30 AM start to find participants starting to assemble.  Twelve-hundred runners and hikers had signed up for the 16-mile event but we wondered how many would show with the forecasted conditions.  The start was pushed back nearly a half hour due to overnight winds that had toppled one of the support tents.  It was apparent that many who had signed up stayed away when we saw volunteers with fistfuls of unclaimed race bibs.

Knowing that we had little more than a mile before the course settled into climbing single track, Chris and I inched up in the pack.  The maneuver paid off as we left the road behind with no more than 40 or 50 runners ahead of us, all of whom were holding a steady pace.

The first climb up Humble Hill came upon us almost immediately and I was thrilled to find that I felt strong.  I wasn't strong enough to run much of the climb (few were), but strong enough to maintain forward progress on the ridiculously steep pitch.

Just over 3 miles into the race, we'd climbed 1200 feet and reached the first top out at Hyner View, a popular launching point for hang gliders.  The wind was whipping and I was shocked to see my mother, stepfather, aunt and uncle waiting with Lily and Piper.  I knew they'd planned to attend the event but thought the weather would keep them away.  My initial excitement was immediately tempered by the realization that Lily was visibly shaking in the cold.  I spent several minutes with the kids before continuing on my way.  Chris had trucked right through the top out and was long gone.  I wouldn't see him again until we were both done racing for the day.

I was feeling some stiffness in the Achilles but nothing too concerning. Overall I felt solid.  The next 3 miles consisted mostly of downhill running which saved my lungs but had me second guessing my footing.  An extended section of side hill running found the trail basically disintegrating underfoot,  putting undue strain on my outside leg (which just so happened to be my already strained right leg).

 "Nothing too concerning" suddenly seemed a premature determination.

The upside was that this section included frequent creek crossings that allowed me to continuously dunk my right foot and enjoy the on-the-fly icing.  I hoped that this might keep any swelling at bay.

The climb out of Reickert Hollow seemed gradual in comparison to Humble Hill and I hit the 9 mile aid station surprised to learn that the first two major climbs were now behind me.  Though I now knew I was going to be hurting at the end of the day, I was pleased to know I was past halfway both in terms of mileage and required climbing.  I couldn't remember the description of the next section but was initially relieved to see that it was downhill.

That relief vanished quickly as I found myself tiptoeing between the rocks that littered the next mile of trail.  I was getting caught from behind with regularity and kept an eye out for places to step out of the way to let fresher runners pass by.  Despite the raw weather, I could feel heat emanating from my right shoe and wondered if my Achilles was going to hold up.

At Cleveland Hollow, just ahead of the final climb, we passed by two volunteers in pick-up trucks and I considered hitching a ride back to the start.  I was already past 10 miles, however, and expected I could claw my way up the S.O.B. and hobble through the last 4 miles if it came to that.

A mile later my day was done.  My toes stopped responding and I'd progressed to actually feeling pain with every step.  Jesse had sent me an e-mail on Friday with a warning about attempting the race if things weren't in working order.  The words "you'll be out the entire summer" were rattling around in my head and I worried that I'd already accomplished that setback.

Disappointed, I began creeping back the way I'd came, struggling at this point to put weight on my non-responding right leg.  I eventually got back down to the Hollow and commandeered the ride I'd skipped over in the first place.  I was on the way back to the start with my first DNF.      

Chris ran incredibly well and was still looking fresh at the finish.  He was good company and I was in relatively good spirits considering my wounded pride and my swollen leg.  I'd get to see Chris the next day too as he was the attending physician in the emergency room on Sunday morning.

X-rays were negative and I was further relieved to find that I didn't appear to have any tears.  Chris did confirm, however, that my tendinitis was very much for real.  At least in the short term, per my new physical therapist, here's what my workouts will look like:

So there's my "hard fall".

Nearing a full four months into the year, I'm heading in the wrong direction.  The first two of my "goal" races resulted in one missed event due to scheduling conflicts and a did not finish.  I can't even think about the races I'd planned to run later in the year when I'm not even able to log short runs without repercussions.

Here's hoping for one hell of a bounce.


weeks 12-14.

My last post looked back at my last few weeks but didn't provide any of my usual visual evidence.  Lest you think I ceased my documentation project, here are photos to prove otherwise.

Before I get to the post-run shoes and GPS screens, here a couple of random images, starting with one from the weekend just prior to discovering my Achilles issues.  With any luck, it was also the last frost-inducing weather we'll see until October.

While my running has fallen a bit short of expectations, life at home has been great.  Piper turned 2 on the 4th of April and Lil's 4th birthday happens next weekend.  We've been plotting mischief together to celebrate.

More on that some other day.  For now, here's the weeks that were:

Tuesday, March 22 - Post-work run on Power, Sun Hill and Park Hill Roads 

Wednesday, March 23 - Pre-work run on the Horseshoe Trail
Saturday, March 26 - Pumping Station and Horseshoe Trail
Sunday, March 27 - Eagle Rock and Mole Hill - felt great but may have been the straw that broke this camel's Achilles.

Sunday, April 4 - This run was a test to see if I was imagining my injury.  I wasn't.

Tuesday, April 5 - Pre-dawn run with Chris on the Horseshoe and Light Trails - ran tentatively but the heel felt "ok"

Thursday, April 7 - Horseshoe/Light Trails and State Game logging roads - ran harder and feeling good

Saturday, April 9 - Matthew Paul Arment's first 5 trail miles - not too shabby

Sunday, April 10 - Mole Hill repeats - concentrated on transitioning between running and power hiking - gave trekking poles a try to see if they make sense for next weekend's Hyner Challenge - the jury is out.


out of the woods.

The words never crossed my lips, but I heard them in my head clear as a bell and cringed.  I do not espouse to the implications of the phrase "we're not out of the woods yet" and grit my teeth whenever I hear it used.

But there I sat pondering another long and not nearly as fruitful as I would've wanted day and week of work.  I'd been falling further and further behind as deadlines loomed ever larger.  My to-do list was not acquiring any checked boxes and each day seemed to bring unexpected issues that required prioritization.  My spirits were flagging and my body was threatening to slide as well.  Trying to play catch up from home was cutting into my allotted hours of sleep and, even once I did put head to pillow, slumber often proved hard to come by.

Progress had occurred that afternoon but as I made a mental checklist of the week to follow, I recognized that this wave of work had not yet crested.

And that's when my subconscious reached for that preposterous phrase.

At 11 years of age, I moved with my family to a small church-owned campground in northern Lancaster County where my father served as the groundskeeper/chief fundraiser and my sister and I became camp mascots.  Though much of the camp's 87 acres consisted of leased farmland and developed facilities, there was also plenty of woodland to be explored.

Into the woods I went and, spiritually and emotionally, I don't think I've ever come back out, not fully, and I have not intention of doing so.

The phrase that I am railing against implies danger, a threat.  I've felt neither while under the forest canopy, certainly not like I have in the dark shadows of civilization or in unknown company.  People have asked why I'm not afraid of animals or the criminals who are rumored to lurk along well-established trails.  To the former, I can think of few native animals worthy of fearing and even amongst those, the likelihood of their taking any interest in me and my crashing about in the woods feels very remote.  As to the humans, I don't see any reason to distrust one in the woods anymore than I do on a city street or a suburban parking lot.  Which is not to say that I don't distrust them.

The fact of the matter is I turn toward not away from the woods when the weight of the world presses down.  And that is where I headed the very next day and much of that weekend.  It wasn't until that Monday morning that I realized that my Achilles was not behaving normally.

Before I begin the next sentence, I would like to explain that the sound you're hearing is me knocking the crap out of any and all nearby wood.  I have enjoyed several years of relatively injury free existence.  I've had numerous dings, bumps, cuts, bruises and oh so many aches, but I've managed to avoid the need for crutches and haven't seen a cast or a protective boot in a good long time.  But the pain just above my heel was nothing I'd felt before and, frankly, I was worried.

Not only was I out of the woods but I just might be looking at some extended time away.  I laid low that week and work did plenty to fill those idle hours and allow me to pretend that it was the reason I wasn't running.  It wasn't.

A short run the following Sunday confirmed that a week without running hadn't diminished my discomfort.  I was pretty sure it was time to see a doctor but I decided to reach out to friends to see if they could weigh in.  Three separate inquires to trusted to sources with detailed explanations of my recent activities, the appearance of the pain and the symptoms I was experiencing prompted three nearly identical responses that were unwavering in their diagnosis of Achilles tendinitis.  A malady probably brought on by a too aggressive switch to minimalist footwear without any backing off of mileage or accounting for the severity of terrain.


I was pretty bummed and wasted energy by childishly feeling sorry for myself.  I NEEDED to be able to run to counterbalance the stresses of work.  This was, of course, nonsense but I was genuinely feeling low.  However, I hadn't just been given opinions, I'd also been gifted some suggestions for stretching and strengthening the tendon while continuing to run, if in a slightly less aggressive fashion than I would prefer.

I've taken the advice and been surprisingly disciplined in doing so.  I've set aside my most stripped down shoes for the moment with hopes of easing them back into rotation after I've established a better overall leg strength to better accommodate their use.  Thankfully, I'm still in relatively minimalist offerings that continue to allow me to enjoy life away from overbuilt shoes.  I've been diligently alternating between ice and heat on my Achilles and am sticking to gentle, controlled stretches that seem to be helping.

I am back on the trail and have been there with the company of dear friends.  I'm not sure that they know how important it is for me to be there or how much it means to have them there with me...but it is and it does.  Life is good in other ways too with Piper Bea turning two and Lily just days away from her 4th birthday.  Lindsay is making high marks in her classes and nearing the end of the semester and her much deserved reward of a week away in Jamaica.  I received word that I will get to traipse around the wilds of southern Utah the last week of April, putting some good gear to the test and, with a little luck, getting in some early morning Escalante runs.

All isn't perfect.  Work is still demanding and the leg is certainly not 100%.  In fact, if it'll make you happy, I'll go ahead and say it.

"I'm not outta the woods yet."

Thank goodness.