This race was my first DNF, which should have been a DNS. Having done 5 ultras previously (in addition to 3 marathons), I was looking forward to it. I had heard this one was on a more difficult course, and the fact it’d be at night (on trails) would add a hint of unfamiliarity. However, I was up to the challenge. Yet I will say that I am a believer in paying attention to signs…
My husband, who is normally half a country away, is in training that is taking place 8 hours away from my current location, meaning we’re within decent driving distance on weekends. Yet this weekend, I begin a course that will last the duration of his training (5 weeks) that is 8 hours away from where he normally lives (haha). My point is that this past weekend was the only time we’d be able to see each other for a while. When I found out a few days ago that he’d be able to come visit for the weekend, I should have nixed the race to spend more time with him. However, I decided I’d try to spend time with him and race. The race start was at 7pm on Saturday with cut-off time of 7am Sunday, so we’d get to spend some time before the race and then a little time after the race (after we slept).
Saturday morning, when I woke up, my stomach didn’t feel right, which was sign number two that I probably shouldn’t do the race. However, I was determined to do it anyway and assumed I’d feel better later. I didn’t eat very much that day and just wasn’t hungry. I spent part of the afternoon with the hubby and then we both went to the race start.
97 people started the 60k, with about 150 doing the 30k (which started 15 minutes after the 60k). The course was on very rocky trails with lots of cacti; 60k was 6 loops and the 30k was 3. At the start it was 97 degrees. I started off toward the very back.
It didn’t take very long for the 30k runners to catch up and start passing me. One of the things I thought I’d like about the “short” loops was that there’d always be people around, making it difficult to get lost. However, I didn’t realize how much of the course would be single-track, meaning that I spent a significant amount of time walking in the brush/cacti to the side of the trail, trying to be a courteous trail runner when people came up behind me (which was all the time). This resulted in lots of minor scratches and several cactus pricks.
About two miles into the loop, my stomach still wasn’t feeling right and the heat was making me feel worse. A couple miles later, I decided that trying to push it to 6 loops (and up to 12 hours on my feet) would not be a smart move. And honestly, whether I finished 1 loop or 5 loops, it’d still be a DNF if I didn’t do all 6. I also realized it’d be really bad if I pushed it and finished, but messed myself up for a week of more, since I need to drive half way across the country for a course in a week (and I need to be physically fit/able when I get there). So I dropped after the first loop. (My husband, by the way, had been having significantly more fun than me as he was helping out at the start/finish area aid station.)
My husband and I went back to our hotel, got a decent night’s worth of sleep, and got to spend all of yesterday with him until late afternoon. I can’t say I was happy that I DNF’d, but in that situation, I think I did what was best for me. And I was also able to recoup some time with my husband that I risked losing due to my selfishness. (I’m not saying that everyone who races is selfish, but in my situation where my hubby and I are both in the military and get to see each other only every month or two if we’re lucky, it was selfish for me to try to do the race too.)
Once I got back to the hotel, I also made the discovery that I had a hot spot on one of my feet that I had been totally unaware of. Had I been out there much longer, that could have turned into a very nasty blister (which I would then have had to deal with at my course coming up). So I’m glad that I made the decision to not propagate the bad decision to start the race by choosing to finish at all costs.
I’d like to think that if I’d been feeling better that I’d have been able to complete the course, although I will say it was no joke. The finish results show this… Out of 97 starters in the 60k, only 50 completed it (and only 7 of the 15 women completed it).
The course was beautiful. Below are some photos I took along the way when it was still light, along with a photo that was snapped of my hubby and me just before the start There’s also a photo of me about half a mile from the end of the first loop; I felt worse than I look, if that says anything.
As I mentioned, I have mixed emotions about my DNF, but overall, given the situation, I am content with it.