Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The DNF Monkey

     I met the DNF monkey and he detached himself from my back at the Squamish 50 miler in beautiful British Columbia Canada.
     Gary Robbins invited me to the Squamish 50 mile a long time ago. I had been to Squamish in 1991 for a last minute Christmas get away with Jane, my wife. Squamish has grown up, then again, so have I. I am not sure why I decided to run a race so close to Hardrock finishing and Wasatch starting but I wanted to support Gary and see the course. I felt quite smug when I dropped down from the 50 miler to the 50k. "Ho Ho, I'll be done in less time and have less stress on my body!" Smugness oozing from my very being.
     I carpooled and roomed with my buddy Dan Sears and we had a great time venturing north to Canadaland. We checked in to the race, had dinner, settled into our dorm room and prepared for the race. The morning dawned cloudy and humid. At the start I ran into my friend Nick Triolo from Portland (a very stout runner) and my odds of winning dimmed a notch. The race started and I shot to the front wearing my new Seven Hills Running Shop jersey, Scott Kinabalus and a sweet pair of Julbo running glasses. After about two miles, I was passed by Nick and another guy, then another guy, then another guy. I settled in and began the climb up the first major climb which became more and more major as the kilometers clicked on. I was hot and not feeling good. I was passed by the first and second place women and fell in with them. We caught Nick who was looking, well, a bit like me. (not good), We ran the first major descent together fast, too fast. We flew down the mountain. Me in my Kinabalus, Nick in his road flats. It was brutal. Nick passed me and disappeared down the trail. I slowed and decided to run steady. Finally an aid station appeared but had limited food, I needed calories but settled for a few cookies. On I ran up, down, up never ending trails. I was passed again. I was still really hot and definitely not feeling like it was my day. I decided to slow it down and run steady which I did until the half way point where the big aid station had watermelon and a lot of water but a surprising lack of real food. I made due with watermelon and more cookies but felt really lousy. I decided my race was over and it was now a training run. I ran on and was met with more relentless trail and heat. There was a big loop through the forest and I run/walked as best I could. I got passed by another friend, David Papinau from B.C. and watched him go. I felt worse and worse until I looked up and saw Nick! He was also feeling horrible. I said, "man I feel pukey." He said, "So do I." I said, "I feel REAL pukey!" He said, "Me too." I said, "Yaaaaaaaarrrrpphhhh! See you later." Then proceeded to puke air and noise for the next 10 minutes. I sounded like a sasquatch giving birth. I may have frightened a few runners and a few sasquatch. I pulled myself together and walked. I tried to drink water and failed. I started to cramp. No water= no salt pills = cramping. I stumbled to the aid station at mile 20... yes 20... so lame. I held a piece of watermelon and stared at it for about 20 minutes. I still had most my water from the last aid station and I couldn't do a thing with any of it. I watched runners come and go through the aid station, still racing and having fun and I caught a ride to the finish and shook hands with the DNF monkey. I still don't regret it. I really though my first DNF would be more of an emotional blow but it wasn't. I wanted out, I got out. I had a new window on DNFs I've watched. I feel more free to race to potential than before. The race was hard, wicked hard. Nick toughed it out and suffered greatly. I was proud of him and the other runners who made it. Including Dan Sears. The 50 milers were even more impressive. Gary put on a stellar race and the scene in Squamish was really great. I failed at the race but the lessons I learned were invaluable.
     Recovery has been an exercise in putting what is best for my body in front of what is best for my ego. I've been limiting my mileage and upping my fuel. I've been sleeping in a borrowed altitude tent in anticipation for the air above Salt Lake City. I've been training in Hoka Stinson Trail shoes and loving them. I feel like my let down in Squamish has allowed me a new view on tapering and training for the next "A" race of my year. I am laser focused on the Wasatch Front 100. I am studying and plotting and planning and ready to spring.

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