Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Dreaded DNF

     Long time no see, VeGAL.  Wasn't feeling inspired there for a while. Still not too enthusiastic at the moment but starting to turn the corner.  Rather than write about a fantastic race event, where everything seemed to go just right, I've decided to share a bad, if not deeply sad moment in time with my readers to let 'yall know that not every race goes as planned...not even close!!! From elite athletes to the novice participant, a DNF, aka Did Not Finish, can strike at any time!  It's something we fear, an occurrence we dread, and most definitely try to avoid at all costs!  But should it happen, go with it, deal with it and be done with it!!! I am struggling to take my own advice so please bear with me as I take this cathartic journey in accepting my first DNF which took place down in the Florida Keys last Saturday at the Keys100 50k race.
     As many of you know, I ran the Keys 50-miler last year, and things went better than planned!!!  In fact, my finishing time far exceeded my expectations due to the unseasonable cool front that blew in the day before, leaving the air a little cooler and dryer.  Don't get me wrong, it was very tough but looking back, especially today, I would do it all over again.  In fact, I had wanted to do the Keys 100-miler in the forseeable future but due to time constraints as well as my running partner's busy work schedule, I thought it best to delay it for a few years.  So when I casually mentioned to my partner that the race had added a 50k event, he was all over it and signed us up straight away.  I was less than excited to learn that the race was to start at 1 pm, the hottest time of the day, in the middle of May, not less.  Realizing that that cool front last year was a freak thing, I was pretty damn sure it wouldn't happen again. And...indeed it didn't!!!
     Thinking that doing a race in Key West would be a nice little excursion, an excuse to get away, my partner insisted we go but in all honesty, I truly believe he was looking to prove something to himself, perhaps some redemption from a previous 50k race that turned out to be very physically challenging to him as he suffered extreme nausea.  I totally get that...we all want that second (or third ) chance, especialy ultra runners who by our very nature, tend to be a "bit" OCD, haha.  So I obliged him and off we went to conquer the Keys, minus any miraculous cool front. Tried as I might to be optimistic, I remained apprehensive about the 50k, right up until we toed the line. From the start, the heat was oppressive, where I could hardly catch my breath.  It's as if the gates of hell opened up and said "come on in?" And to make matterts worse, a side cramp kicked in to boot, ugh.  My partner, on the other hand, was ready and eager to beat the odds!  In fact, I could barely keep up with him!  So we forged ahead, trying to stay cool and steady.  Nutritionally speaking, I stayed true to my vegan regimen, although not all my fuel would be considered "healthy"...Vega Sport Pre-workout drink, Salt Stick caps, Fuel 100 Electro-bites, Drip Drop powder, pretzels, Fritos and ginger ale...not too much at one time.  I always say, "less is more."  My partner, who vowed not to overload on sugar this time as it apprears to be his nauseau trigger, ended up overdosing on Drip Drop, not realizing it contained high amounts of sugar, unbeknownst to him.  In addition, he took in 1 1/2 Hammer Gels (without me looking) and I remember cramming ginger ale down his throat, and the combo ultimately created this sugary tornado that just sat in his belly, wreaking havoc on his system...once again!  Not even Baby's famous coffee could do the trick!
     Rather than bore you with the details of our dramatic 6-hour trek down US1 in the blistering heat and unrelenting sun, I will skip to the part where we came to our decision at mile 25 of 31.07 to throw in the towel.  I will say that along the way, it was very traumtic for me, watching him struggle to walk, nevermind run.  I almost resented him for holding us back. It looked as though at any moment, he could pass out.  That said, when we approached the race marshall who had no ice, but only warm water and Mountain Dew, with a mile to go to reach the ice station, my partner dropped out.  I actually thought he was gonna drop dead.  He insisted I keep going the 6 more miles needed to finish (together, it would've taken us at least another 2 hours) and truth be told, I considered it.  I tought we had come way too far to quit now and I didn't want to face an imminent DNF.  I wanted to cross the finish line and get my medal! How selfish of me, right?  But then seeing him start to hurl then spread himself out on the concrete. my heart sank with fear which was quickly replaced with love.  It was in that instant that (as I approach mid-life in a few years) I grew up a lot!!!  So we carefully placed my partner in the passenger seat with the air conditioning on him full blast. Not exactly in the mood for celebrating, I asked to be dropped off at the hotel, but my partner agreed with the race marshal that we should go back to the finish line and enjoy a cold beer.
     As we took our walk of shame and dropped our timing chips in the bucket, we were mindful not to go anywhere near the finish mat. I watched in dismay as my fellow 50k peeps, along with some 50-milers and relay runners crossed the line and got their medals.  Just then, I decided to drown in my sorrows with the light and watery beer offerings and stuff my face with the veggie burgers, only to find out after one bite that they were Morningstar...NOT vegan!   I began to sob inconsolably. A dear friend of ours, who just happened to win the 100-mile relay event with his team and set a new course record, caught me crying like a baby, rolled his eyes and handed us an IPA to share.  Whether is was vegan or not...who the hell cares!!!  
     We eventually made it back to our hotel and I was completely spent both physically as well as emotionally.  I just wanted to curl up in bed and go to sleep and put an end to the miserable day once and for all.  I stopped taking anymore photos for the rest of our trip as my spirits remained rather low.  My partner insisted we go out for dinner on famous Duval St. that night since we were still in fabulous Key West. quickly my partner recovered!!!  I regrouped and we found Willy T's, where they offered a b vegan burger and fries.  Perhaps it was me but I didn't find my beloved post-race reward staple very rewarding at all.  I would've much preferred a huge bucket of Five Guys french fries (nearby) in bed with a good movie. Oh well.  It seems I wasn't exactly getting what I wanted that weekend. No biggie.  What was big was seeing our sweet and passionate ultra running friend DB, the oldest runner in the race, 2 miles before he completed the 100-miler 32 1/2 hours later! What an inspiration, a true hero! 

    Well, as I near the end of this blog, I can say with all honesty that I accept my DNF as a right of passage and I wear it with pride, like a badge of honor, better than any race hardware (NOT!). Gives me an idea of how some 100-mile runners feel after they are forced to drop out of a race by either missing their cut off time or from sheer exhaustion/fatigue.  No applause, no medal/buckle, no praise from their running club, even though they have probably run 70-80 miles that day, more than most in a month!  Both my partner and I retraced our steps to see what we (he) could've done differently and for starters, we would NEVER choose a 50k race that starts at 1 pm in the deadly heat!  As far as nutrition, I think my partner has it all figured out (hopefully).  So we will forge ahead, thinking of our next distance race and how great it will be, no matter what, as long as we are together.  Oops, I more picture that I couldn't help taking as we pulled away from a famous local key lime pie shop parking lot...
I'm sure they weren't as slow as us at the race :)))

Gotta Run!  VeGAL Andee