Monday, February 9, 2009

DNF at the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Race - 2/7/09

I absolutely hate not finishing a race! I pulled myself from the RR100 at mile 72 at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning at the Dam Road Aid Station. I had to "run" 8 miles in 2.5 hours to make the 6:00 a.m. cut-off to start the last 20 mile loop. Most people can walk 4 miles an hour. How easy it sounds now! But, at the time, I knew I couldn't do it . . . on trails, in the dark, tired, 72 miles on my feet, and getting slower. I was moving about 3 to 3.5 miles an hour. I kept checking my watch, trying to do math on the run. Maybe, I kept telling myself. Run a little more, walk a little less, but my running pace was as slow as my walking pace. Frustration and reality set in, and I started crying, using my outside voice. If anyone was near me in the woods, they would have thought I was in pain, that I had tripped and fallen on one of those darn roots, or was dying. It hurts my heart so much to give up, to quit. I've finished four 100 Mile races, 2 of them were at the RR100, so I know how to finish these races. But I couldn't make up time that I had been losing all day since the first 20 mile loop. I could not make myself go any faster than I was going. And I tried. I tried so, so very hard.

It's just a race. That's what a fellow runner told me afterwards. She had also DNF'd due to stomach problems from the heat. In my mind, she had a legitimate reason for not finishing. I, on the other hand, did not have a good reason for quitting. It was hot, reaching a high of 78, one of the volunteers said. Although I don't like extreme temperatures, I handled the heat pretty well. I had no stomach issues and no blister problems, the 2 most common reasons I heard from others who also did not finish. I ate and drank well, moving efficiently through the aid stations. I was just slow on the run, which has always been a problem for me. I need to lose weight. I need to do speed work and strength training. I need to run more trails during the week. I need to eat better. I need to get more sleep. I need to race less. I need to re-evaluate what I'm doing wrong and capitalize on the few things that I'm doing right. I need to stop crying, stop wallowing in my sadness, stop feeling sorry for myself. Only a fool continues to do the same things over and over and expects a different outcome (or something to that effect).

I have to disagree with my running buddy, however. For me, it's not just a race. It's part of my life. It's a challenge, an experience. I feel awesome when I overcome something that's difficult. It's like figuring out the solution to a problem, working a 1000 piece puzzle for countless hours, and ending up with a beautiful picture. If it was just a race, I would not care how I did. In fact, I probably wouldn't race. It's expensive, time-consuming, self-absorbed, and unpredictable. DNFs are expensive a$$ training runs! I could run day in and day out for free and never race, but that would be easy. My running is only important to me, totally selfish, and I realize that. It has no impact on the world. But without the racing aspect, socializing with other runners, running in beautiful places that I probably would otherwise never experience, and testing myself, my running would not hold the special place in my heart that it does.

Mentally, DNF's are difficult for me. I don't handle them well. I cry as if I've lost my best friend. I am upset, angry with myself. It screws up the little confidence that I do have. It takes away from one of the things in my life that I love. I have no husband, no kids of my own, and no pets or plants to take care of. I do have my family and friends that I'm grateful for. I have a job that allows me to attend my races, both financially and timewise. I have a decent home and a car that has way too many miles on it from travelling to races but still drives like new. My health is not the greatest, but I'm still blessed with more than I deserve. And believe me, I thank my higher power for allowing me to be able to do what I can do.

But I'm greedy. I want my running to go well all of the time. And that's a flaw in my character. Being a runner defines who I am and if it's not perfect in my eyes, then I feel inadequate, unworthy, less than human. I feel that there's no meaning to my life. It's aweful. Running . . . my love, my obsession, my addiction is about as bad as drugs, alcohol, and fine men. But if I give up what makes me feel good sometimes and bad at other times, then what do I do? What if running is taken away from me? Could I "live" without it? The thought makes me queasy to my stomach.

My momma, who is not a runner, sent an e-mail to me this morning, asking how my trip was this weekend. I e-mailed her back, telling her about my DNF. And do you know what she replied? "72 miles is a finisher to me. Go girl go!!! Love ya too!!" My momma, bless her heart, sees something that I'll probably never be able to see. Maybe she saw it as just a race, just as my running buddy did. Maybe she feels that nothing has changed. I'm still her daughter, and she still loves me. After such a disappointing weekend, my momma, in very simple terms, gave me something I needed and something to hold close to my heart. She didn't tell me to suck it up and stop whining. She didn't tell me that there will be other races. She didn't tell me how happy I should be to be able to run 72 miles. She just let me know that everything is okay. I love her for that.

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