Green Lakes Endurance Runs: DNF

I suppose some day I will get used to not finishing a race. I do not say that lightly, but it happens often in ultraraces. What many people do not understand is that the beautiful things shown on the internet are often a compilation of many fails, many loses, many DNFs.

Coming from the road, where people do not DNF as often (because you really don’t have to walk that far from the finish) it is very hard to get used to. During half marathons, there isn’t really enough time for too many things to go wrong that would prevent one from finishing.

In ultra races, that is simply something that happens often, actually it is expected. I recently heard about a 100 mile race down in New Mexico that had a 5 person expected finishing rate. Not 5%, 5 people.

Not finishing an ultra often times is not a test of will or wimping out, it is an injury or the physical inability to run. If you cannot run or move forward, it is wise to stop.

That long introduction is basically my way of saying I DNFed my race today. I participated in the GLER 50K and stopped after 3 loops of the 7.7 mile course. To sum it up, I am happy that I stopped (after everyone convinced me to stop) but feel guilty for feeling happy about that.

Shouldn’t I feel more remorseful? Granted, it took a lot of condoling to get me to pull the plug. I was ready to limp for as long as I could on the last loop. After trying to do so just to get across the timing chip, my father told me I should stop. The RD, when I came over to say I was dropping said “Yup, I pulled you 20 minutes ago. It isn’t worth it today for you.”

So there’s that. I DNFed and honestly, it sucks, but I feel less ashamed about it because I know it was right.

Ok, back to the course and the race.

The 7.7 mile loop is run 4 times around Green Lake State Park outside of Syracuse. The weather at the start was perfect. 48 degrees and clear skies. The race began at 7AM and Laurel Leone (a very fast road racer) and I led together for the first 1.5 loops. It was well marked and we were told to “keep the lake on the right.” Which I took very literally and actually missed a turn early, but straightened myself out pretty fast.

On the descend at about mile 5, I felt something in my gluteal and back muscle twinge. It wasn’t a pop or anything, and I was running 7 minute miles feeling great, so I figured it would work itself out like things do sometimes in ultras.

Long story short, it didn’t. It kept getting worse, so much so I almost dropped after loop 2. However, I thought it was my negative thinking about it, and decided to press on. Going up hill was fine, it was the going down where each step brought tears to my eyes. I had no idea what I did, but it was becoming evidently clear that not only should I slow down, I needed to stop.

I struggled to the last aid station on loop 3 and saw a familiar face, John Donaldson, who told me I looked kind of bad. Well, yes, I was crying and debating with myself whether to stop after loop 3, stop now or try to walk to last loop.

I hobbled the last three miles to the finish and saw my dad, who was immediately concerned. I was in tears because I wanted to keep going. I asked him if he would be willing to walk the last loop. He said he would, but shouldn’t I sit down or something? I was afraid if I sat down I wouldn’t get back up.

Someone gave me some kind of IcyHot to put on the pain, but I think in my mind, I knew if I couldn’t even walk up the hill to the aid station, I was done.

I tried so hard. But it was not my race to get injured on. I was basically pulled from the race. It hurts, I feel down, but it was a great long training run. I did not fall. I ran the downhills until I couldn’t.

I may have DNFed but I am far from finished.

Thank you to Red Newt Racing, Strong Hearts Vegan Power, On Running, Barney Butter and Rabbit for all your support.

Thank you Wekdeb, for getting me here and for our future adventures.

Did I Run Today, Strava?

I have a solid relationship with Strava. Strava is an app that tracks all logistics and data pertaining to my running. The only thing it does not record is how I felt during the activity. That, I either log on a shared Google sheet or just talk to my coach about it.

This morning, I got up and headed out the door for my long run of 17 miles. I have not run that long since Escarpment, but I wasn’t too concerned about being able to cover the distance. It was an easier run with the goal of taking in some nutrition and water to practice.

I’ve felt some doubt since Escarpment. On paper, my training looks legit and I am on track. I have been figuring out my niggles and hopefully I am over that part for now. Getting up each morning with the confidence that I will not be plagued by injury is such a blessing. I often forget, when I am discouraged or simply tired, of how lucky I am right now. I get up knowing I will put one foot in front of the other.

However, lingering doubt remains in my mind for reasons I cannot explain. I’m tired, yes, but I’ve lived that way before. I sleep well most nights, I get up feeling relatively rested, and really my life is good. Running simply just isn’t the high life right now.

I’m not saying I am burned out, I know what that feels like. I think I am happy in other areas of my life and that is overshadowing running. I am not using running to feel a sense of purpose or happiness. My life is full in other ways. Because I am not using running to get a high or numb out, I feel more things when I am out there.

I wonder why this easy run doesn’t feel like Christmas (um…hills are hard no matter how slow you go)

I wonder why sometimes I feel like I am going backward, when really I could slow down more.

I actually look forward to other parts of my day, so sometimes I am glad when my run is done so that I can see my friends or get to work.

I am living a full life, and I love that. Running just simply is a focus that rather than being everything, is simply a part of everything. Right now, I am feeling everything, but also feel nothing. I feel the steps on the ground, the stiff legs, the lactic acid, but I also let runs go by and don’t think about them.

This morning, I ran 17 miles. That is a lot for me. 17 miles and 2 hours of my life. I remember feeling the uncomfort in my legs, mostly due to yesterday’s workout, and wondering if I would eventually get into the zone.

Well, I think I did, but it took 8 miles and a salted watermelon Clif chomp to get me there. The second half of my run felt easier and I got into some sort of rhythm.

However, I barely remember this run. It was an out and back route, mostly covered by trees and foggy. Not too much to look at. Actually, the only thing I can remember was all the deer and a huge bee hive bigger than my torso. The running, I don’t remember the things I looked at, but I remember how my legs felt. No it wasn’t easy or blissful like I imagined, as I imagine everytime my schedule says “easy” or “recovery”. I forget that that means I am taking it slowly because my legs did some work the day before.

My legs haven’t forgotten the work I’ve done even if my mind has.

I started this article talking about Strava. Say what you want about all the negative stuff that happens there. The comparisons, the KOMs, FKTs, and such. But looking at my Strava reminds me what I did this morning, and yesterday morning, and the day before. Because when my mind chooses to forget or manage the discomfort, my watch keeps track.

I am not on Strava to look at anyone else’s data but my own. I don’t need to copy the workout’s of elites (hello injuries) because I trust my plan and my process.

I am on Strava for runs like today. For days when I wonder why my legs just want a break or feel stiff. I look at MY data on MY profile and remind myself how far I’ve come.

So did my run happen? Yes it did. Strava said so.

Unapologetically Myself

The other night I was telling my roommate about working for my mom and how much I enjoy the time we’ve been spending together. She stood open mouthed, because she knows how difficult our relationship had been. I met Lesley through running and those types of conversations would come up.

Most times I would brush them off by saying, “Yeah, I don’t really talk to them much…” but eventually she got the story out of me. She agreed that it probably wasn’t the best idea to regularly see my family members, as it was toxic for me.

Recently, as I’ve mentioned, the relationships within my family, at least for me, have improved considerably. I now work for my mom and go to their house on a consistent basis. It is a cliche, but if you had told me this would happen a few years ago, I would have gotten mad and said NEVER. I would not have laughed, I would have gotten angry. It was that bad.

My roommate asked me what had changed. After giving her the surface level reasons:

“They are starting to understand me”

“I’m not angry anymore”

I thought about it on a more deeper level.

I decided to be unapologetically myself. I stopped seeing my hobbies and lifestyle as something I had to put a disclaimer on or defend. Those things simply are me and they come with the package. Making that mental shift for me released any pressure I had felt when being around my family. I used to think I had to have a reason I went on a run or a reason I was eating vegan cheese.

Of course, I had those, but I stopped needed to say them at every instance. I just did it. It became my normal. I accepted it as normal, finally, and now my family does too.

In years past, if my dad for example asked why I did a race or something, I would go into some long answer trying to explain every detail. Now, I simply say that it’s fun and I enjoy it.

When asked about why I eat the vegan chicken salad instead of regular, I just say I want to or I like it.

I wondered why I felt I had to explain every choice I made. The emotional, physical or spiritual significance when a simple “I like it.” is sufficient.

Sometimes I do expound upon my running adventures and, because it’s normal for me, it has become normal for my parents as well. Just yesterday, I sent my mom a picture of my finish line photo from Escarpment and she texted back:

“U don’t look too beat up yet.”

This was the picture as I held back tears and contemplated existence. She gets it, even if she would not want to do it.

We talk about food, weight (yes, even those issues) and basically most things. I feel so fortunate to have made it to this point with her and my dad. All I needed to do was normalize myself, feel confident in my choices, and things would start to fall into place. It’s not perfect, but really, imperfection makes life more interesting.

Bumps In the Road

Sometimes, I do everything right and still hit bumps in the road. I have been trying to be smart this training cycle. I gained weight and have kept it on. I foam roll. I do mobility work. I stop runs short to have more time for stretching or form drills. I bike instead of run longer miles. I eat more than enough. I have taken steps to de-stress my life. I prioritize relationships over working out.

I am happy with everything and what is happening in my life.

Yet, I hit a snare a few weeks ago after 0SPF. I mentioned this in my Escarpment race recap. I hadn’t run for the two weeks leading up to the race. My foot simply hurt. I don’t know what I did, I did not go to a doctor. I took the advice of my coach and did what I normally do when I feel niggles, I took off.

This sucked. I was finally back in my city. The town I love and where I learned to run. Yet, I was stuck on the elliptical for two weeks trying to maintain some semblance of cardio and making sure I didn’t do anything worse so I had to DNS Escarpment.

I was being overly safe and still hit a snare.

Sometimes I think, because I am running smarter than I used to, that everything will be sunshine and rainbows forever. That is simply not the case. I could step off a curb wrong and twist my ankle. I could eat expired food (like yesterday) and get a stomach ache. Just because I’ve worked on certain areas and fixed things holding me back does not make me super human.

Sure, I’ve come a long way. I no longer feel like I am about to break. I do not have the stress I had this past winter. I have a team of people I let in to help me run smart and healthfully. I spend time with loved ones and friends simply because I want to, not because I feel I have to.

This does not mean I don’t have to struggle to run my best. Figuring out life issues does make my body less susceptible to burn out, but I still break sometimes.

That’s ok. I am still a human. I still live a full life when I am not running. It was the things outside my running that have blossomed, so even though I may need to take weeks off, I don’t feel as empty anymore.

Hitting rough patches is part of training. In order to appreciate the good, I am someone that needs to go through the bad.

See you out there! (finally!!)

Men Who “Get It”

I’ll be honest, I don’t meet many men who really understand the female body and psyche. I get it, it’s hard and most men (my father included) either believe women are just small men or are too fragile to work hard.

Things are improving, which has given me both hope and healing.

The first guy who “got it” for me was Ian Golden, my sometimes coach but mostly “advisor”(?) from Red Newt Racing. The way he knows what I can handle and saw things in me I could never dream of is just one of the ways he gets it. He knows my stresses, always says the right thing (even if it sucks, it’s true) and though it may hurt in the moment, it makes me better.

The second guy who got it was David Roche. I shared emails with him and he convinced me not to injure myself by running a race just to prove myself. He understands the female body and his training philosophy is just great. Always eat more than enough. Take things easy, build up slow and then get it done. His wife Megan’s success is just an indicator of his running knowledge. I am fortunate to be part of his SWAP group even though I am not his athlete. Each week he congratulates each athlete for their races, writes articles with great advice and is just overall excited about life and running. I want to get drink with that guy! Soon perhaps?

The final guy who just gets it is Jonathan Levitt from Inside Tracker. I met him through SWAP and blogging and through his help, I’ve changed my nutrition and recovered from extreme fatigue. We’ve discussed training, trails, food and just loving running out of the context of Inside Tracker and I consider him a friend. He is one of the brain children of the hashtag #restdaybrags which I love. During my period off, it was nice to have companionship as he just had a race at Boston. We healed together and he encouraged me to trust in the process.

We need more men like these guys. We need men who get it. It is so important for the progression of female running.

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This is obviously just my experience and other men do get it. I can’t not mention Weldon, he knows how awesome he is.

Tell me some of yours.

Who are other men who get it?