Let me start by acknowledging some superb people who fought hard battles and ran incredible races yesterday
Some bad-ass ladies: Tara Berry, first place woman, FINALLY!, wearing a spectacular golden shirt, and smiling the whole time! Whoever the two girls were in 2nd and 3rd place going all out right at the finish- more dramatic and inspiring than any of the mens finishes! Gretchen- fantastic job on the 50k and thank you so much for the hug at Mountain Lake aid- you are always so selfless and kind. I hope we can run more races together in the future!
My Team7Hills teammates: Masazumi (4th), Korey (6th), John (7th), Adam (8th) and Phil (not far behind but I don’t remember his place!) — also Chris Barry for getting through a rough patch at the top of Constitution and making it to the finish alive, and Ian for making it up the hill with a shot IT band. You are all beasts!
Team Rainshadow & the volunteers: Matt, Kerri, and James– Neverending amounts of love and respect for you guys. Yesterday I was able to see so much more of the behind-the-scenes work that you do while people are out running and although you called it the “quieter time,” you were still working your butts off, just like always. Volunteers- Thank you for making these races run as smoothly as they do. Never worry about the few negative people that you encounter. There are hoards of people who appreciate every tough course and potato chip and high-five and pizza and beer that you offer.
Now for the not-so-fun stuff
In the last 24 hours, I’ve probably thought more about the 6ish miles I ran at Orcas than I ever did about the 100 miles of Cascade Crest, but reading about a DNF is never as exciting as reading about a full race, so I’ll try and keep my remarks on the subject as brief as the run itself. That being said, as it’s my first DNF, it’s brought up so many deeper thoughts about running and life in general for me that I’m sure this will actually turn into a cathartic stew of word-vomit.
– In retrospect, I shouldn’t have started. I knew I was injured. I didn’t want to be injured. I figured if I didn’t acknowledge the injury, it wouldn’t exist. I just wanted to try- I didn’t want to give up without giving it a go. I did better than usual by admitting I wasn’t in the best of health, but as my injury kept getting worse in the weeks leading up to the race, I didn’t really tell anyone, apart from Justin, hoping that I could wish it better.
– Even though I had it as part of my plan to drop if I had the tell-tale sharp-pain-in-the-butt (which kicked in as soon as I hit the road climb, and worsened on the slippery downhill), and even though I knew it was the best thing to do for the long term, sitting at lunch and thinking about everyone else racing was SO depressing.
– Running ultras is enjoyable for the struggle and the journey- it’s like going to a battle where your body and mind face off against the wild. I wasn’t prepared for the emptiness that comes with NOT completing that fight. This DNF, so early and so rational, was like a mediated negotiation. Smart, clean, but not primal or rewarding in any way.
– Despite the depression, the questioning, the overwhelming feeling that I was not doing what I’m supposed to do (run ultras, relatively fast and with a huge smile), the (very egotistical) thought that I was letting people down, I know I did the right thing. How do I know that? My hip hurt walking up a little hill in our neighborhood this morning. No bueno!
– This was an ugly and obvious sign that I need some actual rest. I can’t think of the last time I took more than 5 days off from running; my planned end-of-season recuperation in Australia was full of steep climbs, fast tempo runs, and long efforts, lax core work and minimal stretching- all things that have traditionally led to piriformis syndrome in my running past. My coach has prescribed 10 days of no running, which is already making me apprehensive, but it will be a good time to dial in some hip and core strengthening and flexibility exercises, go to yoga, and get a massage. Piriformis syndrome is something I’ve had several times, so I know how to go about fixing it and preventing it in the future. I’m confident I’ll be a stronger and smarter runner at Gorge 100k and other spring races with this experience behind me.
– A lovely lady named Emily that dropped up at Constitution and rode back with us put it perfectly: I could finish, but at what cost? What am I trying to prove, and to who? Could I have finished the race? Sure. But what would the cost have been? If my hip is irritated from 6 miles and 1500 ft of easy climbing, how bad would it have hurt after the whole race? Do I need to prove I can run a 50k? No. I’ve done that, several times. What do I really need today? I needed to not run 31 miles.
– Finally, this “failure” was a great lesson in several things that will lead to future successes: first and foremost, listening to my body is important; second, deriving a large amount of self-worth from running accomplishments is not healthy, as even I am not invincible; third, experiencing the emotional impact of dropping will certainly get me through low points in future races.
Conclusions: If you’re injured, rest. Don’t hurt yourself to accomplish nothing and destroy future goals. Focus on the long-term goals. Hopefully we all have years of running long and tough races ahead of us, and we can only do that with healthy, strong, respected bodies.