DNF in South Dakota…Ramblings of Unrecovery

DNF in South Dakota…Ramblings of Unrecovery

I have wanted to run Black Hills 100 for a couple of years, so I planned it this year thinking I would have enough time to recover after the 24-Hour World Championship, with the caveat that I would run it for fun. I would go out alone, without crew and just enjoy the day. That didn’t happen.

I had a badly strained my calf from the World Championship. I took 3 weeks completely off. I came back to an easy week of 43 miles. It went well, so the following week, I upped my mileage to 53 including 2 hard speed workouts and a 20 mile trail run. I hadn’t done speed work or trails forever. Needless to say, that week didn’t go well. I hit my speed days ok, but it took me 5 hours to go 20 miles in the woods on Saturday…the last 5-8 miles was interspersed with a lot of walking. I felt dead. I surmised that I had just done too much that week. (Hello???, Maybe you aren’t recovered?…Nope! I was sure I was ok because I took a whole 3 weeks off). Obviously I don’t have a coach…what idiot would write a plan for 2 speed workouts and 20 miles on trails my 2nd week back after a hard effort? So, I backed off my plan the following week. Instead of upping my mileage to 65, I did 53 again all at easy effort. It went well. Great, I am back I thought…lets do 67 miles next week, including a 28 miler on the roads Saturday (because I had a 100 miler coming up soon). Needless to say, I had a great run until 21 miles and then ended up walking, blubbering, and calling my husband to come rescue me. I got in 25 miles and took Sunday off…result 53 miles again.

After 4 weeks, I finally believed what everyone else was saying…maybe you aren’t recovered yet. I had just kept thinking 3 weeks of sitting around eating…I should be good. The problem was I wasn’t just sitting around. I was way behind with work and life stuff (track meets for 2 kids, daughter graduating high school, helping with college stuff for her, conference calls, work and work reports, blah blah blah) after being gone in Italy for 2 weeks and it took me almost a month to catch back up. Catching back up included less than normal sleep. So, I was tired from a hard effort at Worlds and tired from a lot of life stresses and lack of sleep. Crap, what should I do? I went to the doctor and had labs run, including checking for anemia (I take iron due to a history of anemia). Labs basically normal. Good I thought. I just need sleep and to monitor my heart rate. I bought a fitbit and tracked my sleep. I hadn’t been sleeping well. I could fall asleep, but couldn’t stay asleep…I woke up frequently and was very restless. I read Ian Torrence’s recent write-up about stopping caffeine at 1-2pm and getting to bed earlier…I did that and it helped. I set a 9pm bedtime for myself, generally getting to bed by 9:30…I started feeling better.

Okay, 4 weeks of crappy training down, 4 weeks until the 100 miler. Now what? I had to get more than 53 miles in (I know rest is better, but I just couldn’t imagine not getting in something more solid…still STUPID). So, I ran 6 days instead of 5 and spaced my mileage out, not doing more than 15 on any given day, running easy. It worked. I was feeling better. The next week I had a marathon scheduled with a friend in Utah. I ran it hard but not all out. In retrospect, I ran too hard. I had fun and felt fine doing it, but it was STUPID to do when I had a 100 miler 2 weeks later. The following week, I backed my mileage down and ran a 10K easy (but harder than I should have) with our local running group. Now, add a 100 miler and what do you have? Answer: Recipe for disaster.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Mount Rushmore

Needles Highway


I went to South Dakota Wednesday after a long week of work (I had crammed 4 days of patients into 3 days). I tried to sleep in Thursday, but my Eastern time zone internal clock woke up at 5:30am, after getting in late Wednesday. I enjoyed Thursday, driving to Mount Rushmore, along Needles Highway, and searching for buffalo in Custer State Park before heading to Sturgis for packet pick-up.

I found out at packet pick-up the river crossings were raging due to flood warnings. I was told they weren’t more than mid-thigh on me, but would be swift. Places on the course would be muddy. I wasn’t worried. I thought it would be fun. Per advice of a friend, I would channel my inner piggy and enjoy it. I had a great attitude about the race, feeling like it wouldn’t be my best, but I would just run it for fun.

Ready or NOT!

SD 100 course

SD 100 Course

Fast forward to race day: I started out as always, but felt like I couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t I catch my breath? I slowed my pace. Still breathing hard. Uggh. The first hills came…I walked them trying to slow my beating heart down. It didn’t help. I just kept slowing myself down. I got ice for my bandana at the first aid station…maybe I was just hot. By 10 miles in, my legs felt dead. I could not run a little f’ing hill. I was walking many runnable sections because I just couldn’t get my stupid legs to go. I felt fine on flats and downs, but couldn’t go on the hills. I tried to tell myself to enjoy the day. Stop and take pictures. Don’t worry about placement. Enjoy running in the woods. I enjoy running in the woods, right? Today, I was not. By 15 miles in I had already fallen twice HARD and was not having fun. I tried my ipod. My music always cheers me up and gets me going. That worked for about 4 miles. Maybe my pack was weighing me down, I’ll grab my handheld out of the next drop bag. Nope, dead legs are dead legs and they weren’t getting better. I know that sometimes you just have to stick with a low-point to get over it. I decided I would at least get to the turnaround at 50 miles. I trudged on falling again, and again, and again…always landing on the same place on my right hand, continuing to take more chunks out of it.

A river crossing

Dalton Lake

Legs post falls

Muddy ATV sections weren’t as bad as I thought and the course was hard, but definitely runnable. But, I just couldn’t go. I kept hoping I would get bit by a rattle snake or a mountain lion so I would have a reason to quit. My nutrition was flawless and my belly felt fine. I just couldn’t go….ugggh!!  I made it to 50, turned around and walked up what I knew would be the worst climb on the way back. My legs wouldn’t go. I tried to push on my knees as I stepped. I ended up foraging for sticks and used them to get my ass up the hill. I came to a road at 53 miles and knew if I continued that I would end up injuring myself worse than I already had and digging myself into a bigger hole than I was already living in. I want to run Spartathalon competitively in September. I was looking at the big picture. I had time to slog it out, but at what price. What was the point? I decided to live to fight another day.

Since the race, I have been feeling like a slacker. I have been reading about all the people who endured Western States even thought it wasn’t their day. Maybe I should have continued. I don’t know. I don’t DNF regularly. I have been depressed, crying, moody, angry, and about every gambit of emotions one can have. I have been told by many that it was the right decision and I need to think about OTS (Over Training Syndrome); not to let one bad race define me; etc.  I felt like I was on top of the world after the World Championship less than 2 months ago and now feel like the biggest failure in the world. It is frustrating because last year I ran 4-100 milers (3 of which were PR’s), including a brief American Trail Record at Tunnel Hill, a 48-Hour AR and WR on the indoor track at the Dome, and a PR in a 24-Hour race besides some marathons and a 50 miler. Last year was awesome, but also probably helped me dig my hole. I felt tired in January and had to back off. It worked. The World Championship was successful. It’s time to do it again…back off and recover.

I always push myself, which is why I know I have been successful in the past. But, I couldn’t get my body to cooperate in South Dakota. I wanted to…my body just wouldn’t do it. I am struggling mentally right now, which is why I haven’t gotten my race report written as soon as I would have hoped. I don’t know what my plan is at the moment. All I know, is that I need to rest. So, that is what I plan to do. I will make sure that I am recovered so that I can complete the way I want to at Spartathalon in September. I want a lifetime of ultra running, not a couple of years, so I will focus on recovery right now. From here on out, I need to set a realistic amount of races. I am not happy just completing something. I want to run my best. Any advice is gladly welcomed 🙂