Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cactus Rose DNF

This is the post I have not wanted to write and have put off writing until now.  How does one say "I failed...again"?

I did.  I DNF'd the Cactus Rose once again, and for now, I have to be okay with that.  This DNF makes for my 6th DNF.  Not a number I am proud of.  Not a number I want to share.  But it is what it is.

Saturday morning came early, 3:30 AM, and getting to the start line was non-problematic.  At 5:00 AM the GO was given and into the dark and hilly adventure we ran.

The temps were perfect.  44 at the start, high of about 65 for the day.  I ran a nice pace, comfortable for the long haul, and visited with many faces I have seen at other races.  At one point, I took a small fall on a straight and clear dirt path, quickly got up and kept on going, somewhat embarrassed that I tripped over nothing.

Just past mile 15, I had a nice tumble down one of the hills after slipping on some of the rolling rock.  I took a quick assessment of myself and did not note any injuries.  So I kept on.  I felt pretty good, the hills were becoming more steep and as expected at Cactus Rose, more treacherous.  The pace began to slow as I navigated the rolling declines and straight up inclines.  As I reached the summit of one of the hills, I noticed I had a significant amount of back pain and as I continued down the hill, my legs seemed to have pain radiating down the hamstrings and into the quads.  I took a few advil, but after several hours, I could no longer keep the pain under control.  Music didn't help.  Walking didn't help.  Sitting down and resting didn't help.  I felt dizzy and the pain was causing me to feel very nauseous.  I tried to throw up a few times, but I couldn't get anything to come up.

As I approached mile 30, I knew I was looking at the prospect of a 16 or 17 hour 50 miler.  I thought that I could live with that.  I continued to tell myself all of the reasons I needed to keep going and that I was through the worst of the climbing, so coming into Equestrian, mile 35.5, I decided to sit for a bit, get my head together, and then continue on.  I made it over to my drop bag and attempted to bend over open it.  I could barely move.  Sharp pain shot through my legs and brought me to tears.  I looked at my pace for the past 2 miles.  I was averaging 27:00/miles.  At that pace, or probably slower, the last 14 miles would take me about 6 1/2 hours to finish.  Common sense told me that continuing would be a very unwise choice.  I sat for a bit and had a chat with myself.  Could I be happy walking away from this race yet again?  Would I regret it?  Would I wake up the next day and wish I had suffered through the last 14 miles?  I decided I would be happy with what I had and though I was disappointed to not have a medal or a finish, I knew that I had given all that I could into my training and into this race and it was time to call it.  I could live with that.

As you can imagine, Sunday morning came and everything looked different.  It's always easy to second-guess ourselves after the fact.  The reality is, I could not safely continue that race.  My mind and heart wanted to, but it would have been irresponsible to do so.  Regardless, I wish I had.

I have battled many emotions this week.  Aside from the physical recovery, which coupled with the illness I had going into the race, has been more difficult than I expected.  My back seems fine, but my legs took a beating.  Today is the first day that I felt almost myself.  My legs are still sore, but I can navigate stairs again and don't mind walking to the mailbox.

Hearing the typical "you went much further than I ever could"  from others doesn't seem to make it any easier.  Probably because I trained so hard, so long, and it wasn't enough.  I know of others who say they didn't train as much as they should have, and seemed to have a great race.  While I know I had the unfortunate experience of falling, I still feel like with the training I put in, I should have been able to gut this one out.

Am I a true trail runner?  I can finish races at Huntsville, but elsewhere, my odds are not that good. 

I am taking some time off to heal.  Physically.  Mentally.  I need the break.  I am looking at what it is exactly I am trying to do out there anymore.  Do I want to put myself through this challenge again?  Do I want to race again?  Do I want to run just for the joy of it without a goal of a distance or time?

Running soothes my soul, racing is killing my love of running.  And each DNF steals a bit more of my confidence.  

I don't know where the journey will lead next.  I do know that my family has given up a lot of time with me for me to do this stuff and this stuff does not seem to be serving me well of late.  I will focus the next few weeks getting things back to normal around the home and learning to run for the love of the run once more. 


  1. I wish I had the words to take the sting away from an experience such as this. Trail, road, or even throwing a bike in there sometimes, you're still a RUNNER. In the end, you can't deny that.

    Big Hug, my friend.

  2. allow yourself the time to truly "feel" the all the emotion from the race. It can't be soothe away with rationale or kind words from friends. Give it some time and then you can properly reflect. .I think objective non-emotional analysis of the race will show .. you did the right thing.. Time will heal and deliberate reflection show you what lays ahead for you. .. Dinh from DM ( PS .. I hope I'm making sense with my words )

  3. Let's run RTW together! At conversational pace and catch up.

  4. Sorry to have to read this race recap :(

    If I understand it correctly, you basically talked yourself out of continuing?

  5. Thanks all! Yes, Holden, let's plan that! Kyle, I suppose, in a way, yes, I talked myself out of continuing. I believe the back pain and leg pain had the louder voice, however.

  6. I hate to hear this, K. I certainly can identify with the emotions though. Sometimes I think we have to visit these dark places to find out if our motives are solid (speaking from recent experience). If you truly love running, and it seems like you do, then let that be your guide. Hugs and all the support possible coming your way from the Duck Pond!

  7. You don't fail, you simply produce results. Learn from these.

    So the big question, is what did you learn?

  8. I am still working my way through the lessons of this race, Kyle. I am certain there are many. The first of which is, I have GOT to figure out my hydration and nutrition. I can't take anything other than water to drink, and it doesn't seem to be working well. I use S caps, but can't find the magic amount that my body requires.
    I also can't seem to eat enough calories every hour. 200 is NOT enough. This is did learn.
    I will not use a hydration vest anymore. I don't drink enough when I do. I need the reminder by way of a handheld.
    I will learn to not fall...LOL.

    1. Who says taking in anything but water is a bad thing? That's all I usually take in, and I just drink to thirst. During training I may mix some maltodextrin in there. During ultras I eat raisins, dried cherries, or bananas. Studies have shown those to be equally effective or better than usual sport drinks.

      I'm also curious why you take in S-Caps?

    2. I don't think taking in water only was bad. I can't take any maltodextrin. I use nuts and raisins, and other whole foods on the run. The S caps help me with runs over 2 hours to keep cramps at bay. The hot and humid climate I live in warrants the sodium intake.
      I am trying to find a liquid form of calories to take for my upcoming Ironman which will prove difficult to eat solids on the bike portion.
      I may end up using Brendan Brazier's products, or, knowing me, I will make my own.

  9. Just because we feel "right" after a fall, doesn't mean we are OK and I am guessing you know that. But the real thing here is the journey. For some it seems easy, but others are tested. Your trials and tribulations test your faith, but I am willing to bet you believe you can still do this and you will. And it will be sweet.

  10. Karen, you continue to inspire me and many others. You have had some huge goals and a few DNFs do not equal just means that you are continuing to challenge yourself. Maybe a little break from races coupled with some recreational running is in order? Remember why you love to run to begin with. You will get your confidence back, I am sure of it! Let me know if you want to meet up for a slow run and some girl talk sometime soon!