Monday, November 17, 2014

Tunnel Hill 50 Miler... First DNF!

Back in March I did my first 50 miler.... it didn't go according to plan. I try really hard to never say never, but I was close to saying it on that one. Then this fall I was grateful I didn't. I had gotten my gut issues in check and I was feeling pretty confident. Confident enough to sign up for another 50 miler! Especially when one that fit my bill appeared. It was flat, less than 4 hour drive, and a bit more scenic than the never ending hallway in Kansas. So, I signed up!

My goal was, no stress. Train in a way that's fun. Just because the course is flat doesn't mean that all the training runs have to be on flat boring stuff. And I had a nice summer of running.

Then I rolled my ankle and landed in a walking boot for a week. But when my ankle felt ok, I figured... why not give the race a try? What's the worst that could happen?

Well, fall is tricky in Indiana. It could be 80 degrees or it could be sub zero. My race weekend got the arctic blast. I prefer cooler temps, so this wasn't a terrible thing. But it's been so warm here I wasn't quite sure what to even wear!

On race day my husband would be meeting me at a few spots along the way with a friend, so it was a nice way to break up the race. Race day morning came and I was off! The sun was out and the trail was beautiful. I tried to take it easy and settle my head into what was about to happen. I couldn't think about 50 to go. I was just thinking aid station to aid station. And before the first aid station.... I rolled my bad ankle. Yep. Flat trail, not much crap on it.... this girl rolls an ankle. I think it was on one of these stupid thingies. I hate them.
It hurt and it scared my quite a bit. But I could still run on it, so I figured I'd take it one aid station at a time. No need to panic just yet. My plantar fasciitis in that foot was also flaring up. Ive dealt with Plantar Fasciitis for so long, it has become a very familiar pain. Like a crappy annoying cousin. I knew that as long as it didn't get worse... I would be fine. And sometimes it even gets better! So again, back to one aid station at a time.

The miles started to roll by and I was happy with how great my guts felt, how strong my legs were and that the sun was shining. Before we hit 10 miles I even got to pass by a goat farm! My husband has an off and on dream of us owning goats. We don't even manage our dogs well, so this isn't really an option. But I definitely yelped out GOATS when I saw them and thought about how I'm going to brag to him about the goats when I see him.

The first turn around was at a lovely nature center thingy that had indoor toilets! This is a huge luxury in a race and I took full advantage. After the pit stop I made sure they caught my number and headed out to see my husband for the first time at mile 16ish. I was losing interest in the race a nit, kind of blah, when I ran into a fella that I knew through friends but had never actually met in person.I ran up to him, introduced myself and then we immediately hugged each other. It was just the pick me up I needed to get my head in the right place and get things moving.

 A few miles later, I got to see my husband! He helped me refill my hydration pack. He seemed like he was having a decent day and I was feeling ok, so I didn't mention the ankle roll and I was off again. I would see him in ten more miles.

The break with my husband had slowed down my blistering pace (kidding, I've never had a blistering pace), so I did some walking. While walking I tried not to think too much about how far I had to go and how long it would take me, so I put on my ipod and started running. The running wasn't fast, but it calmed me down. With my nerves settled, I enjoyed a few nice miles of run/walking. Then my foot started to hurt.

The plantar facitiis pain had eased up but never really gone away, but this new pain was on the top of my foot. So I had the equivalent of a sandwich of pain on my left foot. I stopped and loosened my laces, assuming that would help. Top of the foot pain is not a new thing for me. In fact, I started lacing my shoes like this a while ago to help.

It flares up occasionally, but typically loosening my shoelaces does the trick. So, with my loosened laces I was off again. Running still felt great on my legs, but the looser shoelaces weren't helping the pain. Every time my foot came down it hurt. I was getting pissed off, then upset, then frustrated. Then I said to myself, "this sucks, what can you do to change it?"

I stopped again... I loosened more ...I rearranged the laces stop again.... puffed the tongue of the shoe up so that it was barely touching the top of my foot... still no help. I did some deep breathing, certain that I could breathe away the pain. I re laced my shoe again, no help. I even untied the shoe completely and tried to figure out if I could walk with it like that. No luck. And then I thought...

Is DNFing a thing that I do?

When I did my first 50 miler I definitely fantasized about DNFing, because I wanted to be done. But in reality, my body felt ok-ish even if my guts hated me. I knew I wouldn't DNF that race. But that was then. On the day of the Tunnel Hill 50 miler I was limping down a trail with an unlaced shoe wincing every time my foot hit the ground.... at mile 22... This was a new thing.

And I'm not a good walker. To say I'm a casual walker is a huge understatement. I'm a 22-23 minute mile walker. I stroll. Add an occasional limp? Definitely not zoom.

So I got kind of sad, there wasn't anyone around me at the time, which was probably a good thing. Those strangers can be so darn uplifting and encouraging and frankly, I needed to have a conversation with myself that I hadn't ever considered having before:

I'll just commit to the next aid station (that's a thing I've heard people say in this type of situation). But the aid stations were 5 miles apart. It's not like could make up my mind every two miles or so.

Is this an injury? Or is this a reason to be done with this race early? Sheesh... that was a tough one. It hurt, but running hurts. But I was unlacing my shoes and considering hobbling 26 miles on unlaced shoes... I mean, that's not a normal hurt? Is it? Is a 50 mile race worth it if you end up in the ER? Is that an overly dramatic sentence?And then an important question

Am I really prepared to walk/limp for 26 miles?

Oof. That sounded terrible.

I texted my husband and said that my foot hurts, grab some of the old Asics out of the trunk of my car for when I see you. Was it really going to help? I don't know. But it was the last shot I had.

I then had some lovely people stop and chat as they sped along the trail. One girl encouraged me to try some ibuprofen and see if that helps (masking pain in a situation like a 50 mile race has never seemed like a good idea for me). Then there was this lovely couple that walked with me for a bit. They were saying we could all take a break at the 26 mile aid station and then go back out. I mean we had 30 HOURS to finish the race, what's the hurry. But as they sped away at a comfortable walk for them, I knew what my answer was.

The answer was, it just wasn't my day. It sucks, but that's just what it is. Because the thing is, I LOVE running. And I love races. But I'm not going to let some macho BS attitude make me finish a race crippled and miserable and hating running. Where would that leave me?

So, I texted my husband and said that I didn't think new shoes were going to help. And then I hobbled along. I did try to run a few more times juuuuuust to make sure. But it wasn't working.

When I finally got to my husband he had that terrified locked up look he gets when he doesn't know what to say or how to act. I told him it was ok, he didn't need to be scared. Then I said:

I think I'm done, is that lame?

Everyone agreed that if it's not working, then it's not working. So I was done. And that's that.

Did I question my decision? Yeah, quite a bit. Until I realized that it hurt too much to wear a sock or have a bedsheet resting on my foot the entire night after I got back to the hotel room. And that was ending at 26 miles. Just think of how much worse it could have been.

It sucks that it didn't work out. My guts felt great, my legs felt great, my brain was behaving for the most part. But, running is supposed to be fun. Sure, it's not always rainbows and unicorns. And part of the reason I like distance running is because you do have find the new levels of "working through" stuff. But if it HURTS and it SUCKS, being intelligent enough to call it is important too. I guess I can do smart stuff every now and then. I feel like I got to see another part of being a long distance runner. The part where you love running enough to know that being able to run is more important than one race.

What's next? I dunno? The good thing is, I don't hate running. And my foot is already feeling oodles better.

Another 50 miler? Tunnel Hill next year? We'll see. I mean... I didn't even get to run through the tunnel. But right now, I'm just happy to be training for nothing and running. That sounds lovely.


  1. That's a total bummer that you had to DNF when 95% of everything was feeling totally on track. Really glad to hear that the foot is already feeling better though! I can definitely see you doing this race again next year as a redemption run to show that foot who's boss :)