Thursday, August 05, 2010

Happy DNF

Simply put, I did not finish the 2010 Burning River 100 mile endurance run. My BHAG for the year was not achieved, the goal not met, but in all honesty it was the happiest DNF that I have ever had. My only other DNF was my first 50 miler at Dances with Dirt in Hell, Michigan when I got so lost (adding approximately 5 miles) before the 50k checkpoint that I was unhappy and stopped.

I knew going into Burning River that my goal was to simply keep moving forward. That motto, learned after my DNF @ DWD had proved successful along with the attitude that my running has to be fun.

Driving down the day before the race by myself, gave my mind plenty of opportunity to run through it's normal checklist of pre-race jitters: Why are you doing this? A hundred miles...how about just 50? Dude, you are gonna feel like road kill come Monday. I knew it was best to just let my mind run with the thoughts for the moment and after a quick nap and the arrival of my crew, I was good to go.

My crew, amazingly all listeners of the podcast, had volunteered their own time and money to travel from California and Alabama respectively to help me with this selfish journey. The pre race dinner centered around drop bags, nutrition, and the speech that come hell or high water that I am going to go through some bad patches, but you shove me out of the aid station were all gone over, but no one mentioned about this being fun.

Fun? Fun is subjective. For me, ultras are about spending the day away from the speed of everyday life and getting into a flow. You are reduced to the movement of your two feet and the span of the open road or trail. There are no other responsibilities other than to keep moving froward. After a period of time, and it varies on most runs, I normally slip into a rhythm and although the run might be hard, I am having fun.

Come race morning, I was feeling ready to go. The weather was going to be ideal (low 80's, next to no humidity, cloudy skies) and my buddy Kevin and I agreed to stick to a run 5 min/walk 5 min pattern for as long as we could maintain. Miles on the open road seemed to float by easily but by about mile 18 I was just there. I wasn't feeling great, I wasn't feeling bad, and I certainly wasn't into any flow. I had to start my running a bit earlier before the next interval because Kevin was running so strong, but no big deal.

Then it happened. Somewhere after the 33 mile mark, I had started to slow and told Kevin to go on, and I was alone for the first time in the day and started to evaluate. My ITB (nicknamed Irene) that had caused me to cut mileage for about 3 weeks? Not bad at all. In fact, it had warmed up nicely and was feeling good. Tammy the Hammy which had bothered me after Boston...not even there. Energy? not bad. Stomach? a bit full but just walk and it will feel better. Having fun? That's when it became real. I know ultras have highs and lows, and maybe I was at a low spot, but you know what, I wasn't having fun.

Being present in the moment, I told myself that I wasn't having fun that was gonna be it for the day. As fellow runners ran by and asked if I was ok, I told them that I was trying to reset my fun button. Most offered kind words of encouragement, but it has to come from within. I know I had people who had come a long way to help me out, but if I wasn't being honest with myself then surely they would be able to see that.

As I rolled into the 39.6 mile aid station, I told my crew that was it. I was done. I couldn't reset the fun button. Dutifully, they went thru all the things we had talked about in terms of not letting me sit to long, etc, but that was it. They went so far as to even call my wife who was in Chicago to try and get me back on the trail, saying I would regret it later, but I told her I would be ok with it. When that didn't work, they made me take my glasses off and look them in the eye and tell them I was done. So after 8 hours and 40 minutes, that was it, my day of selfish forward movement was over. A DNF in the books.

However, that was not the end of the day for me at Burning River. The crew dropped me off at the hotel for a hot shower, some food, and a short rest, and turned their attention to helping get my friend Kevin to the finish line. I have said in the past that this community of runners is nothing short of amazing, and that day proved it right there. After a brief respite, I was like brand new, and wanted back in the game to help my friend finish. I met the rest of the crew out at Happy Days and spent the next 45 miles helping out. My fun button had been reset and I was happy.

I hooted and hollered as I saw fellow runners come in and met Kevin at each aid station to help out with his needs. Seeing the race as a crew member was just as much fun and just as exhausting in some respects as running the race. The opportunity even presented itself for me to run the last 8 miles with Kevin to the finish which was pretty special.

Am I disappointed that I didn't reach my BHAG? Absolutely not.Ultras for me have always taught me a lesson about myself that I have been able to carry over to the real world. With last year's finish of the Burning River 100, it was that I can do so much more than I think I can. Don't ask me why I had to cover 100 miles to figure it out, but there it was. This year's Burning River taught me that if I am brutally honest with myself then I can be happy with the decision and have no regrets. Again, something that I was only able to answer out there on the trails. I was unhappy running, but happy helping a good friend finish his first 100 miler. I got a chance to meet some amazing people from across the country and hang out with them. A happy DNF.

16 comments:

Christine said...

WOW the fact you even started this journey is amazing to me. Getting past 26 miles takes everything I have. Congrats on knowing when to stop and being proud of your accomplishment. I am sure one day when your ready you will do it again.

thereafterish said...

I'm happy you were content with your decision. I still question why in the hell I want to run a marathon. I still don't know, but I will figure it out.

:) I had a good time with you all, for however short it was.

Gregg said...

That is pretty cool that even though you didn't finish you still were able to have some fun. I had a similar experience a few weeks ago at a cycling race in Columbus. I pulled out and then went to cheer for the rest of the afternoon having a ton of fun despite the suffering that I was doing in the race.

There's always another race.

BrennanAnnie said...

Thanks for sharing this. I have been there and done that but never as smart as you were. You made the right decision and that is probably the difference between a happy DNF and the one I had that took months to get over. As always, you are a total inspiration.

ultrarunnerbrianphilpot said...

Running ultra's is never easy! Training harder than you race makes racing a little better! But don't feel bad I DNF'd at 73 miles!

Ultradad said...

Mike, Best Damn Race Report (BDRR)Ever! I'm so glad you are in good spirits about it. Here's looking forward!

ColNeary said...

I'm confused. Is having fun in the moment really the point? Sorry I don't buy it. Something else is going on here. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing the DNF. Everybody has those. It's the "I wasn't having fun so I'm OK with quitting" line. I don't believe you. DNFs hurt. They should eat at your soul until you get a chance to redeem yourself. Be honest with yourself. Fix whatever went wrong and do it better next time, but don't be "OK" with it.

Brian Thomas said...

Really good post. It really spoke to my experience at BR in 2009 and subsequent DNF at Woodstock. At BR last year one of my pacers actually asked me if I wanted to quit since I looked like I was in so much pain. I said "Where would I rather be?" (Or at least that is my hazy, middle of the night, memory.) I was having fun despite the pain. At Woodstock, I went into it mentally exhausted and somewhere in the middle of the night decided I would rather be elsewhere (namely in a bed). Good decision and great job crewing Kevin to a strong finish!

Stuart said...

'If' you can reconcile it with yourself then the deed is done...

群育航學 said...

Every why has a wherefore.............................................................

Derek said...

I just recently started listening to your podcasts and I am ashamed to admit I have already listened to most. You seem like a good guy with a good attitude towards your running. I recently started training for a marathon(having been an on and off runner for years)and I am not sure I would have the same positive attitude after a DNF. Different personalities = different strengths and I am pretty sure you can consider your positivity a strength. If you choose to do another, come back stronger...if not, you have done more than most and have nothing to be ashamed of. Can't wait for the next cast.

kccat said...

Great post. It is amazing that you were able to pull the positives out of a DNF. Great job!

4464 said...

Pen and ink is wits plough...................................................................

Gee Gee said...

I have all the Trilogy episodes in ITunes - which ones were you looking for?

dirtdawg50k said...

Gee Gee -

A listener is actually looking for all of them. If you can send me an email to dirtdawg50k@aol.com I can provide more details.. Thanks!

Samantha said...

Great race report! I DNF'd a marathon once (March 2010). Felt bad about it for a little while, but a few months later I am certain I made the right decision. Sometimes, it's just not your day... And I'll never forget your tweet on that day sending me encouragement. So glad you found happiness so quickly!