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I recently read a Runner’s World article by Lauren Fleshman titled, “How to Injure Yourself Like a Pro,” where she comically spelled out all the bad training and racing habits that led her to injuries, burnout, and unsuccessful racing. I thought about the article today as I tried to sift through my thoughts in regards to yesterday’s DNF at the Gorge Waterfalls 100k. While I can’t reveal all my secrets to calling it quits after 41 miles, here are a few key ingredients to include in your next recipe for a DNF.
Sign up on a Whim:
The day after a sub-par performance at a 50k race, the smartest thing to do the next day is to sign up for a redemption race that’s not only two weeks later, but also double the distance and over double the elevation gain. Forget resting, re-evaluating the training, or taking the time to build a well-thought out racing season; just sign up for everything on a whim the day after a crappy performance. Make sure the upcoming course is even harder than the one you just failed at, in both technicality of trails and elevation gain.
Don’t eat for the first 3 hours:
Concentrate so hard on not falling during the first 3 hours of darkness in the race, only to realize you have barely taken a sip of water, much less a gel. This will totally deplete your system, especially if you throw in a 1500 foot climb to start the day, and you can work to fill that empty tank all day. Once you start feeling nauseous, one gel every 2 hours is sure to keep those energy levels on the border of completely bonking. Also, don’t forget to fall in a creek during those dark hours, and definitely take a wrong turn for a few minutes until you end up running into someone’s tent, the first sign that you’re way off course.
Scope out the Aid Station for other Quitters:
Get to mile 41 and assess your ability to get a quick ride back to the finish, where you know you have a fresh change of clothes, a car to nap in, and plenty of food and drink just waiting to be consumed. Do a quick glance around the aid station for other fallen soldiers and if it looks like a crew is surrounding them, definitely take advantage of it. Don’t even let yourself admit that you could keep going, that you could walk it in and at least finish the race, however shitty your ultrasignup ranking will be for the race and however mentally lonely those last 6-7 hours might be.
Think about all the hard stuff yet to come:
That 1500 foot climb to start the day? Followed by some rocky sections alongside a cliff with steep drop-offs? Yeah, think of that the entire time you run the rest of the course, especially when you’re struggling on just the rollers. Think about how miserably slow you’ll be in those last few miles and let it eat away at your motivation like a caterpillar chewing on a leaf. It’s a slow process but eventually the motivation will run out and you’ll find it nearly impossible to convince yourself to sign up for 21 more miles when 41 miles has taken far too long.
These, along with a few other secret ingredients, were what led to my DNF at my first shot at a 100k yesterday. I felt good for about 5 of the 41 miles, I had difficulty eating (yet again), and overall, I just wasn’t in a good enough mental place to convince myself to sign up for the last 21 miles. I simply didn’t want to suffer through 6-7 more hours when nearly all of the first 9 hours left me feeling deflated. It’s time to re-evaluate a lot of my choices in both training and racing, so I’ll likely be in a bit of hibernation for a while as I lick my wounds and test out some recipes for success.