By Sunday afternoon, my feet were just as swollen as they were after the 2012 Susitna 100 — which is to say, very swollen. I didn't take a photo like I did last year, but you can really only take so many pictures of sausage toes before they all look the same. I'm really not sure why this only seems to happen to me during winter ultras. I ran several long races during the summer — sometimes in very wet (UTMB) or rapidly fluctuating hot and cold (Bear 100) conditions — and did not experience anywhere near this level of edema. It's a puzzling mystery.
I did try to take precautions to avoid skin maceration and swelling. My shoes were GorTex Montrail Mountain Masochist, sized 1.5 sizes too large to accomodate extra socks. Because of the "warm" forecast, I opted to go with two layers of DryMax socks: a trail sock and a larger winter sock — mostly to fill out the shoes, but I expected the socks would move the moisture away from my skin like they do in summer runs. I did wear gaiters, which were in hindsight not needed, but you never know when you're going to have to wade through softer snow and I didn't want to get snow down my shoes. On top of all that, I slathered both feet in Hydropel the morning before the race. Hydropel is an anti-blister ointment that repels water from skin. The company discontinued production last year and Beat bought up every last remaining tube at Zombie Runner at the time. He gave three to me, and I treat it like liquid gold these days. Used only in races, and even then, only the most foot-shredding races. But by the end of the Homer Epic, my heel and forefoot on both feet were bright white, deeply creased, and painful. When I took my shoes off on the trail, I convinced myself they were full-scale huge blisters. But no, it was just maceration, or the colloquial version of "trench foot." After the skin dried, my feet swelled significantly.
Anyway, if anyone has some insight into this condition, I'd appreciate any tips or advice. Winter running is a strange animal.
It felt so warm in the sun, and I was still so wrecked, that I opted to lie down for a nap on the sand. I spread out my coat, sprawled out facing the sun, and dozed off. I woke up after what must not have been more than five or ten minutes, shivering and with numb fingers and toes. The beach scenery had lulled me into a sense of summertime comfort, but apparently below-freezing temperatures are not conducive to naps in the sand.
In all I rode for nearly three hours with the nap, but probably only covered twelve or thirteen miles. The tide had come up a lot for the return trip and I had to ride a lot more chunk closer to the bluffs. I cleared all of it — turns out sore feet are a powerful motivator for technical maneuvering. It was sublime.
I intended to get more work done while I was in Homer, but mostly I cruised the different cafes scattered throughout town, drank cup after cup of coffee, listened to K-Wave (best radio station ever) and ate gluten-free organic pumpkin muffins, kale scrambles, and vegan burritos. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the atmosphere in Homer — it's in Alaska, tiny, but with San Francisco sensibilities. Fun place.
On Tuesday I decided to try Homer's snowbiking opportunities. Since I had already run a hundred kilometers of trail on the east side of town, I decided to head up to Ohlson Mountain to explore some secondary snowmachine trails. It was a fun ride, but brutal. The trail carried me all the way down to the Anchor River — losing nearly a thousand feet in elevation — and then climbed as dramatically up the next ridge on a trail that was soft, steep, and so overgrown that both of my shoulders (and my face) were continuously catching tree branches. I think bicycles sit too high for the likes of that trail. But I didn't give up on it because, well, I'm not really sure why I didn't give up. The legs were so angry with me as I churned back up to Ohlson Mountain. My quads were searing with lactic acid, it still beat pushing on my hurty feet. I guess if you want to ride something flat in Homer, ride on the beach.