Sunday, April 13, 2008

Did Nothing Foolish: My First DNF

(photo by Aaron Schwartzbard)

It was bound to happen.

Six years of ultrarunning, and not one DNF. I was proud of that fact, but rarely spoke about it out loud for fear of jinxing myself. I had some close calls---The Ring in 2004 and MMT100 in 2005 are the two races where I remember wanting badly to drop because of low energy, but with the help of loyal friends Gary Knipling and Mike Broderick, I was able to finish both. Western States in 2006 was a potential DNF because of the record heat that year, but I came in under the wire with 45 minutes to spare, thanks to my great pacer Gretchen Garnett, who kicked my butt for the last 40 miles.

Up until last Tuesday, I had no reason to believe that I couldn't finish Bull Run Run 50 in under 9:00, my best time on that course. I had trained hard and smart and was well-rested. But in anticipation of the heat and humidity that was in the weather forecast, I spent too much time in the steam room at the gym on Monday, and became dehydrated. On Tuesday I went out for my usual easy run and felt a pull in my calf during the first 5 minutes of the run. I tried to run through it and it got progressively worse, so I ended up walking back to the gym, dejected and worried, but optimistic that with rest, I would be fine for race day on Saturday.

After 4 days of rest, ice, compression, elevation and Aleve, I felt fine walking around on Friday. At the start of the race on Saturday, I had all but forgotten about the calf, at least until the first half mile, when suddenly, I felt it tighten. "Oh, no" was all I could say to myself. I spent the next 20 miles debating whether I should keep going or drop out. It didn't get too much worse was THERE. I couldn't get into my race groove, and despite running under my splits from 2006 and feeling great otherwise, I could feel my achilles tighten as well as my hamstring. I knew it wasn't going to hold up for the entire 50 miles, so after some intense conversations with myself, I called it a day at mile 20.

As soon as I sat down and plopped a bag of ice under my calf at the Marina aid station, I knew I had made the right decision. I had a great time cheering on the other runners, meeting other crew members, and watching the aid station chaos (one thing that I noticed was how long most runners stay at the aid stations, even those without a seemed like 5-10 minutes for some folks!). After an hour of this frivolity, I walked the 4.5 miles back to the start/finish via the trail. It was really nice to take it slow, enjoy the bluebells along the trail, cheer on those in the back of the pack, and plan my rehab and recovery. Despite my disappointment, I was grateful for the time spent on the trail at BRR and for the fact that there will be another race to run...hopefully at Promise Land 50K in two weeks. When I got back to the start/finish, I spent the rest of the day cheering for the finishers and hanging out with my VHTRC friends Linda and Kerry:

(photo by Anstr Davidson)

Tonight, I got an email from a fellow runner whom I met at the Marina. He had noticed my bag of ice and heard me lamenting my first DNF to the aid station workers. In his email, he reminded me that DNF can also mean "Did Nothing Foolish", and wished me well.

Thanks, Devon. As hard as it was to admit that my body wasn't up to the task, I know I made the right choice. Sigh...another ultra lesson learned!


Bedrock said...

Sounds like you made the wise choice. Hope the calf heals up soon so that you can do well at Promise Land. Hope to see you at MMT - maybe I will be in a better mood this time.


ultrastevep said...

Hi Sophie....

Good to get that off your back, as you know i have absolutely "no" problem dropping if everything isn't going well. I like to save it for another day and it sounds like you did just that!

Good luck with the calf and the rest of your racing season,

ultrastevep said...

Oh and congrats on a great Master's win at PL50K!