Sunday, September 7, 2008

A disappointing DNF at the Stevens Creek 50k

I didn't expect too much, but I at least expected to finish this 50k. I most certainly didn't finish, not even close. What went wrong?

Stevens Creek 50k - DNF (2:35:54; 10.9 miles; 2,200 ft elevation gain; 14:19 pace)

Can you tell how your day will go by how it began? I was sound asleep when I was jolted out of sleep. Literally. Strange sound waking me up. Huh? What's going on? Before I even figured out what was happening I had bolted out of my bed and was walking over to the alarm. When I got to the alarm (which is across the room because if it is above my head I will turn it off without even realizing it) I turned it off and sat there, staring at the mirror, wondering why my alarm was going off. Work? Was it morning or did I take a nap or something and it was afternoon? Then it donned on me. I have a 50k. I try to shake off the unsettling feeling of not knowing where I am or why I am there and get in the shower.

Soon enough I was on my way, noticing the temp was 70 degrees already at 7:45. Gonna be a hot one, but the 50k was in the mountains where it usually drops a good 10 to 15 degrees. I was happy. A half hour later I was starting to get hot and noticed that the outside temp had risen to 80 degrees when I arrived at the start! What the?!?! (a ranger told me later that in the Summer up where we were at is something called inverse layer, where the valley floor and the mountaintops reverse and the mountaintops are hotter. whoda thunk it?)

This was not a good start. Disoriented when I woke up, and it was already 80 degrees at 8:30 in the morning. The race started and not even 10 feet in and I already had a rock in my shoe and a thorn stabbed my big toe. I was not going to enjoy today.

After 4-5 miles I already knew I was going to drop, even though I was running a decent pace. I was struggling on the hills and the heat was very overpowering, reaching in to the mid 90s. Now I had to decide whether I wanted to stop at the 10.9 mile aid station or continue on and stop at the 19.3 mile aid station. We hit the longest uphill climb in the whole race, which is very bad timing for trying to decide how far to run. That being said, I stopped at the first aid station at mile 10.9.

What went wrong? First and foremost, I hadn't trained much in the last two months, only running a combined 60 miles, and hardly any of those where in the hills. I hadn't done a marathon or longer run since the beginning of June, so my legs were not in shape, not to mention there may be some residual damage left over from my pulled muscle. My legs were just so tired. I mean, walking the hills was making my legs very tired. I eventually gave up and virtually walked the whole last 3-4 miles. And to put this in to perspective, one of those miles came in at 30 minutes, a very slow uphill mile. Another reason why I walked so much was the heat was very overpowering. Not only had I not trained in the hills but I hadn't done any heat training, ever.

So this was a huge DNF for me. My first DNF came after I attempted the Quicksilver 50m, and stopped at the 50k finish. So that was a decent DNF, one I learned a ton from. This DNF just made me feel like I couldn't do anything right, that I had never ran trails and that I had never ran anything longer than a few miles. Very frustrating. Overall, though, it came down to a main factor of my training, with the heat only a contributing factor. I have no doubt that if I would have focused on my training than I would have finished this race. That is neither here nor there.

As a postscript, I stayed and volunteered, helping with the timing at the mile 19.3 aid station (which is also where the finish is), and was able to see all the runners come through. Amazingly, there were about 7-8 people who DNFed at the 10.9 aid station, and another 11 who dropped at the 19.3 aid station, making a total of at least 19 DNFs (there may be more who turned around and came back to the finish after they came through the 19.3 aid). There were 59 starters.

Postscript to the Postscript: Results just in: 36 finishers and 23 DNFs. Amazing drop out rate, so I don't feel so bad about my DNF. Plus there were runners that didn't finish until 9 hours and 27 minutes. Better luck next year for me, and you can bet I will be prepared then.

1 comment:

Bill Carter said...

Hi Brian

Some days we have it and others we just don't. That being said, you probably weren't in the best shape and it sounds like you caught a really rough weather day on a really tough course.

I don't know what will help you to get back in the groove, but something eventually will. Maybe it will be a big race that you have always wanted to do. Maybe you are going to decide you want to try to qualify for Boston. Whatever it is, you will figure it out and it will motivate you.

Best of luck my friend and don't be to hard on yourself.