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.

13 thoughts on “Green Lakes Endurance Runs: DNF”

  1. Wow Ellie, I’m so thankful you stopped; you are not only a strong but a wise athlete. God gives us those signals so we’ll stop and take care of our bodies, and I think it’s great that you did!

  2. Great re-cap and it’s much better to listen to your body instead of pushing too far. It’s amazing that you can even participate in ultras and be able to know and listen to yourself! You’re right, more DHF’s will happen as you push for bigger goals and that’s part of the journey.

  3. I’m sorry you didn’t get to finish, Ellie. I know that’s just tough mentally and physically. I’m glad you took care of yourself, though. Love the picture at the end!

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