The First DNF is the Deepest
|September 25, 2013||Posted by Emily under Uncategorized|
The good thing about using longer races as training runs, is you can experiment with a lot of factors to help make sure nothing goes wrong on goal race day.
The bad thing about using longer races as training runs, is that shit can, and will, go wrong during these little experiments.
Sometimes it’s really small things, like remembering that there’s no need to wear a camelbak when there are aid stations every 4 miles that are perfectly equipped to refill your handheld water bottle.
Sometimes it’s bigger things, like playing with your race morning nutrition and irreparably fucking up your stomach.
Sometimes, it’s worth it to push through the issues and still get the miles in.
Sometimes, it’s not.
For me, one of those times was this Sunday. So I didn’t push through my issues and dropped out of the race at mile 24.
I Did Not Finish a race. My first ever DNF.
The girl who will (sometimes foolishly) push through absolutely anything, did not push.
I didn’t even have all that horrible of a day this Sunday. Nothing serious happened. I didn’t limp off course or even feel a slight twinge of pain while I was out there. My legs were not overly fatigued. I wasn’t violently ill. It just wasn’t my day.
When the race started on top of Mt Bachelor, a ski mountain in Bend, I felt great. The course was made up of gorgeous single-track trails and fire roads with A LOT of ups and downs and two major climbs. For the first time in a race, I felt really confident and strong on the descents. I was having an absolute blast exploring the forests one switchback at a time and kept thanking the mountain for giving me such great training for JFK.
Unfortunately, that feeling did not last. The first issue of the day happened around the first aid station. I couldn’t handle the thought of eating anything. I’d played with my race morning nutrition and my stomach wasn’t digging the idea of food. So I didn’t have any. Figuring the next aid station would be soon (I knew there were 5 total, but I hadn’t looked up their exact spots on the course, WHOOPS), I kept running without fuel.
By the time the second aid station came around, I’d been running for about 2.5 hours, and my last calories were over 5 hours ago. On a course with 5,000 feet of elevation change at a starting altitude of 6400 feet, I was bonking a little bit.
In addition to all of the fuel fun, it was snowing on top of Mt Bachelor. And not just a dusting of snow, but a blizzard of snow, sleet and wind. The snow was accumulating at a pretty impressive rate. Way too impressive of a rate for September, IMO.
When I passed the third aid station at mile 17, I started to think about dropping out. Between the low energy stores and the the fact that I couldn’t feel any of my fingers, I was no longer having an absolute blast.
As the miles ticked away, I leaned more and more toward dropping out.
The main reason I wanted to drop was because I had no reason to run 31 miles that day and thought the risk of doing it might be outweighing the reward. I wanted a long training run, but there was no need to make it exactly 31 miles long. If anything, it should have been shorter considering what my recent weekends have looked like for mileage. The only reason I’d decided on 31 miles is because I’ve been a little like a kid in a candy shop with Oregon races, signing up for anything and everything so I can play around on new trails and explore new places. The distances of these races have ended up dictating the length of my weekend long runs, mostly for good, but clearly I reached a bit of a breaking point on Sunday.
The deciding moment came after I hit the second major climb of the course. I broke into some serious hike/running when I hit this ascent. And by “hike/running”, I really mean hiking with miniscule amounts of anything faster than a painfully slow jog. Between slowing down so drastically and the blizzardy conditions, my muscles were getting colder and colder. I knew that the last part of the course was all downhill and no part of me thought it would be a good plan for my injury-prone body to bomb down a mountain with stiff quads. So when I reached the next aid station at Mile 24-25ish, I asked a volunteer if it would be logistically possible to drop from the race at that spot.
What happened next was not pretty. Asking to drop out of a race in front of spectators cheering in shitty conditions, and runners persevering through the tough day, and volunteers sticking out the gross storm, was one of the more miserable moments of my running career.
As much as I knew it was the right move. A smart move. The responsible move. The second that I stopped and asked for help, I broke down. I went from feeling proud of myself for making a good decision to a blubbering, sweaty mess as I choked out “how hard is it to get back to the finish from here?” while I watched everyone who wasn’t quitting run by me.
The very kind, super awesome volunteer managed to translate my pathetic whimpers and escorted me to warm truck. Once there, I had a good cry to another very kind, super awesome volunteer. I owe them both a lifetime of beer and gratitude for putting up with me that afternoon.
I was SO not expecting to have such a huge emotional meltdown just from dropping out of a race I was using for a training run. Racing frequently definitely has its pros and cons and realizing how attached I was to the need to finish illuminated one of the potential cons for me. I pride myself on being a tenacious athlete above all else. I may never be the most gifted runner to toe the line, but I’ll work just as hard or harder than anyone else racing the course. While this is mostly a good thing, it clearly can be a little problematic when I have a slightly irrational breakdown after ending a training run a tad bit early.
By the time I got down the mountain, I felt a lot better and was not regretting my decision at all (especially at the moment my car heater kicked in). There are plenty of times when I should and will persevere through a mild amount of issues to finish a race, but for now, I’ll save all that for November 23rd.