Monday, January 19, 2009

Ghost Town 38.5: A DNF Report.

These aren't pictures from the race. There aren't any, I don't think. I just was looking at these pictures today as a reminder of what I've done.

Yesterday began inauspiciously when I stood up in the Porta John and heard a soft thud as my only asthma inhaler landed in the chemical toilet.
I turned around and looked, well, down - I could see it clearly, and it was within reach.

What would you do?

And what do you think I did?

Soooo....the other thing that was weighing on me, so to speak was the day before when I stepped, fully hydrated, onto an impedance scale for the beginning of the 10-week "The Challenge" program.

Weight:178 (clothed)..........BFI: 41%

I calculated that (.41 * 175 = a LOT of extra weight to haul up and down those hills) and that's a lot of fat that I don't need given that I'm neither living on the south pole NOR facing famine. So, I have a job ahead of me.

So, the start of the Ghost Town 38.5. The start, which was 25 or so degrees, depending on who you talked to, and 6 am, so it was dark. The first 12 miles were okay. I knew by mile 3 that I wasn't going to be running, but that okay: Even walking I kept a sub-15 minute pace. I was feeling pretty good, thinking, "I can totally do this." My IT Band didn't seem to mind the terrain too much...but I at a disadvantage. Not only have I not really been able to run in nearly 3 months, but was base I have is one that is for hauling 155 pounds or me around, not 175 pounds.

And Then. I hit The Spur, the first really steep uphill and downhills on the course. The way up was short and very steep, but covered with sharp, loose rocks (Baboo says it's like trying to walk on marbles), and when I came down - that's when it happened: my IT Band said, "Nope, no way, not here, I"m not havin' it." When I came out of the Spur I muttered to Baboo, who was corner-marshaling, "I'm in a lot of pain right now."

Prior to that the former last person passed me, a super nice lady who stopped and walked with me for a while, offering me some homeopathic remedy for pain. I'm not a huge homeopathy fan, but what the hell, I'll try anything at this point.
So I said, sure, and as they were dissolving under my tounge she said suddenly, "oh wait--you aren't a vegetarian, are you?"


"Uh, they have bulls' testacles in them."

Chew on THAT.

Anyway, Homeopathy notwithstanding, the pain would get so intense that it would bring tears to my eyes. But only on the steep downhills, you know? So when I came out of the spur around 15 miles, and by mile 16, I was still hoping that I could do this. All I had to do was get through the next 8 miles, and I'd be back on road that I could continue to walk.

I had a thought, which I'll share at the end of this, but the end result was that even though I was crying from the pain and pissed off, by mile 18, I'd set a new goal.

See, by then, I knew I couldn't finish. I knew that as bad as the terrain was, the return was going to be worse (I found out later that this section of the road is, essentially, a stream bed) that had climbed steeply uphill would have to be returned going downhill and I FURTHER knew that as much pain as I was in now, I just wouldn't be able to take it.

I can push past pain, and I can push past tired, but bundle them together, and they wear me down. By mile 18 my pace had climbed to 19 minutes per mile, and I wanted to get to the turn around before the cutoff time. I didn't want to be pulled. I wanted it to be my decison to sit down.

So I did. Followed by Sheriff's posse on horseback, I finally hobbled, dead last, into station 4 at the turn around, and asked if I'd made it. It's a small race, and mine was the only drop bag left so they called out my name when I rounded the corner into the station. "You made it!" they said. I'd cleared the cutoff time by 5 minutes.

I said, "Good! I quit."

They were expecting that, because apparently the posse had radiod ahead with things like, "she's doing okay on the uphills and the flats but when she gets to those downhills she starts limping really bad." I wanted to get to mile 20 because it was a nice round number, and because I wanted to pick up my drop back, and because I wanted to leave, not be pulled. So, I did. I left.

I was driven back in what can only be described as the most terrifying pickup ride I've ever had in my life, and then I stopped and picked up my other drop bag, and met Sweet Baboo at mile 12, who felt bad and thus was very, very nice to me. I should have taken full advantage of that as in, you know what would make me feel really good right now? lots of new clothes but by the time I saw him I'd had the time to reflect on everything, and I was disappointed and discouraged, but feeling a bit better.

At first I was telling him, and DP, "Maybe I'm not supposed to be a runner. Maybe it's just not my thing," and they were all, "Oh, pish, posh" and had many other encouraging words and advice for me. Baboo, especially, had a lot to say to me given that he had similar experiences in the past.

So, I've had a night to sleep on it and here's what I've come up with:

1. I went 20 miles. 20 rocky, mostly uphill miles, climbing from altitude of 5000 up to about 7000 feet. Not only that, but in the last 12 months I've completed 5 marathons, 2 trail ultras, and an Ironman. So, it's not like I'm a slacker or anything.

2. I'm starting The Challenge New Mexico, which is a 10-week program designed to lower your body-fat ratio and build lean muscle. You will see a marked difference in my attempt at the 50-mile Rocky Racoon next month. Yes, you read right. I'm still going.

3. Nothing hurts, other than my IT Band. My feet don't hurt, my calves don't hurt, and my thighs don't hurt, despite hauling me up and down a very challenging course over 20 miles.

4. The race director told me I would be considered an "alumnus" anyway, and would get early registration for coming back next year, if I wanted. (I do. I've never DNF'd on a race that I could finish.)

5. Let's face it. When you attempt to do extraordinary things, sometimes you will fail. Sometimes, though, you succeed; it's for those moments of success that you keep going. When you fail, well, you learn from that, and you go on to attempt other, extraordinary things.



  1. What a great race report! I love your last line. So very well said.

    It is why I, and I suspect so many others, read and find inspiration in your blog. You are willing to risk failure to do the extraordinary. It wouldn't be very extraordinary if we knew 100% before starting that we could do it, now would it?

    Next up Rocky Raccoon!

  2. You did 20 miles and all that pain? Listen that is a respect worthy finish and I love that you did it on your terms. I look forward to hearing how you do in "The Challenge". Have you considered A.R.T. to treat the IT band? I have a chiro who does it and he worked wonders on my back before IMAZ. Email me if you want his name (he is on the westside).My insurance covered him..
    Take care and rest..

  3. Wow. You are amazing. It is about having the guts to try something you think you can't do and then try again. 5 marathons,2 ultras and one ironman in one year is phenomenal. Serious kudos to you.

  4. Extraordinary things indeed!!!

  5. A good job with the race, in a difficult situation, and a good decision when and how to stop - you're going to do great with it next year! Yes, extraordinary things...

  6. I have never left a comment on your blog before, but I am follower! I was even cheering you on an IMCDA as a spectator (I live in SEA and was there to also support our Tri Club). You are an inspiration - you can do this - you 'do' do this and you do it well!

  7. But what about the inhaler? :) Dropping things in the porta-pottie is the stuff nightmares are made of.

    Great job on a tough day. 20 miles is lots even without pain. Good report on a DNF.

    I love potato chips.

  8. Yes, extraordinary things and stretch goals.

  9. You did a great job getting to mile 20. I've run in that area and I know how tough it is. Get that IT band healed up and rock the Rocky Raccoon run!

  10. I hope you did not get short of breath on this adventure.....speechless.

    And the DNF? You're still one brave tough broad and worthy of some serious applause in my book, finish or not.

  11. 20 miles is fantastic and a lot more than 99.99% of the population did that day. Good luck with the challenge - it sounds hard core!

  12. Good for you. What are you doing for the IT Band? After my 3 month hiatus of no running from the ITB issues, I'm pretty good at stretching and trying not to over train.

  13. Hey...that's Tucson! (Or Oro valley to be more specific!)
    And hey...get healthy...get healed and then come back stronger!

    Good for you for covering 20...that's a LONG way!

  14. I would love to assure you, encourage you or just plain listen.

    But I can't stop laughing from "Oh, pish posh". I realize that I don't know baboo or dp but the visual in my head of them saying that (i realize you may have been ad libbing a bit) has me rolling on the floor.

  15. 20 miles is nothing to sneeze at! When you add in the terrain and the pain--you are amazing.

  16. Great report. Your insight was phenomenal. It is hard to decide when to walk away but sometimes we must make that choice.

    PS I don't think anyone could ever call you a slacker!

  17. Go girl!

    You know what the deeper significance of this is?

    Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    It's another day, another event, and you went 20 miles over tough terrain on food on a difficult day.

    That's no small accomplishment. And you're going to do it again, on other days, in other circumstances, because that's just how you roll.

  18. Impedance scales are notoriously wonky. Unless you've gained 401 pounds since the most recent pictures of you I've seen here, you're not 40% bf. No way. If the number is important to you, or messing with your head, get a professional bf reading, or a bodpod measurement. If it's just an starting point to help you observe your trends, obviously, no worries. But 40? Nut uh.

  19. Thanks for a great report. It pains me to hear about athletes giving their all only to have a joint or other body part cause enough grief to force them to stop. But it does indeed happen. Those of us that go out there to push our physical and mental limits run into that from time to time. As lame as it may seem, it's a sign that we are trying to do something more with ourselves. Pushing our comfort levels in an attempt to achieve something bigger.
    I won't say "good luck" for Rocky Raccoon because luck doesn't play a big part. Instead, I say go kick some ass out there!

  20. "Not only that, but in the last 12 months I've completed 5 marathons, 2 trail ultras, and an Ironman. So, it's not like I'm a slacker or anything."

    Word, sistah! WORD.

    Not a slacker - a fighter. A fighter with an ITB issue. ITB issues demand R&R so make sure you get some.

    I am also skeptical of the 41% number. I measured my fat on a hand held impedence device and it came up at 33%. I doubt that very much. That having been said, not eating junk is a great idea and will reap its own rewards.

  21. Bulls' testicles? Blech!!!

    It is good to hear that you ended the race on your terms. I'm amazed that you ran that far, on that course, in such pain. Point number five? I love it, you said it so well.


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