I lined up for Run Rabbit Run 100 milers, trying to keep my expectations minimal and take the day as it came. I had just finished Leadville 100 four weeks earlier, and attempting another hundred miler this close to a recent finish was new territory for me. I spent hours reading research, articles, and blogs about rebounding for a second race, focusing on others’ experiences and personal tips from runners who have tackled this back to back racing with relative success. It was exciting to dip my toe into person uncharted territory.
My “training” in between was comfortable. I kept movement a part of most days, incorporating easy running, plenty of hiking, and some easy cross training. I focused on a healthy, recovery helpful, diet. I came in with a positive mindset, open to exploring this new unknown of racing.
The race took off with the 4 mile 3,500ft climb. I stayed conservative, hiking mid pack in the competitive field that Run Rabbit brings every year. I felt comfortable and positive. Then, right around mile 5 abnormal fatigue slammed my whole body. 5 miles. 101 to go (Run Rabbit kindly gives you an extra 6 bonus miles). Shit.
I slowed more, and coasted along, but no matter how slow I went, my heart rate kept going up. Flats were a couple minutes per mile slower than normal. I thought, maybe this is just my body getting shocked back into 100 miles. Then, around mile 19, suddenly I had about a 15 minute period where I felt absolutely great. “YES! I think I may be able to do this!” I thought. And then, just as quickly, the feeling vanished. Soon I was running downhills around a 12-14 min/mile pace, barely moving along. I was constantly dizzy. Any time I bent over and stood back up, I blacked out for a brief period. I fell about a dozen times from it all.
I was done at mile 54. Absolutely, completely, done. The days after the race, curled up in bed with every bone and muscle aching, made it apparent that I seemed to have had some sort of flu like illness that had fully set in on race day, and most likely my anemia (a hereditary trait that pops his head once in a while) was flaring up as well. It was the worst feeling race, and worst post race days I’ve ever felt.
54 miles was a lot for the condition I was in. I wanted to drop out at mile 48, but Peggy (my girlfriend) talked me through giving this race a chance and reminded me how much I wanted to get a finish at this race, after DNFing last year from a stomach bug and dehydration. She convinced me to give it until the next aid station. I’m glad she did. She got me to take those miles to consider what’s important to me in this sport, why I do this running, and why take on new challenges when what I’m already doing is ridiculous to many already. I’m glad I stumbled in darkness those last 6 miles to the next aid station, even though it was horrendously slow, every step aching.
I felt absolute acceptance, relief, and contentment dropping out. It was not my day.. I think a ‘back to back 100 milers’ attempt is still absolutely possible for me, but just wasn’t on that day. So if not regret, nor frustration, nor grand running lessons…what’s there to take away?
Those 6 dark miles gave me plenty to take away. DNFing is just a bump in the road. In time, it’ll be a blink of a memory. Success comes with failure, many times, more failures means more successes. And, in this niche extreme sport, what constitutes a success anyways? DNFing helped me refine that answer. A race is one day. We all have amazing days, and absolutely shitty ones. But, every day I wake up, and try to do the next right thing to help improve and move along this process. Every day, I succeed and fail at it. Every day, I try. This is what I think DNFing can bring to light. Races will come and go. Injuries, illness, life will slow things down. Speed will eventually fade. But, the striving never has to end. Running has helped me learn that for the rest of life. There is no finish with running. Only constant beginnings.
So, time to lace up, and bring on the next run.
~Get Out and Get After It. Happy Running Ya’ll~