Wednesday, September 7, 2016

On Mud and Failure

 I came into this one with confidence. A 4.25 mile loop that I'd have to finish in under an hour up to 15 times. I knew I could pound out an easy 10 min/mile pace and finish each loop with over 15 minutes of rest before the next loop. I knew I could run the 63 mile total distance in way under 15 hours because I'd run my first 100k in just over 12 hours. It would be hard but I would beat this 15 hour race called Painful Elimination.

And then, it rained. It rained off and on all week long, it rained most of the night before the race, and it rained for the first few hours of the day. So a nice mix of prairie and single-track trail turned into a muddy trudge. With 100 runners traipsing over wet grass and mud, the trail got worse and worse and worse.

Long story short; I failed. After 7 loops/hours and 29.75 miles, I bowed out.

As Katie and I drove together the almost 3 hours to Bloomington, IL the day before the race, there was one thing I knew for sure... I wouldn't quit. If I didn't make it back in under an hour at some point, I could accept that. But I definitely would not stop running by choice. But quitting is exactly what I ended up doing.

This run feels like a major failure for me. The excuses are there. The mud was bad. By the 7th loop 100 runners had dwindled to 13. In fact, the winner only made it 11 loops and only 3 people ran 10 loops. Many that finished 12 loops in better conditions the year before were out long before me.

But this is ultrarunning. There are no excuses. Whether it's muddy trails at Painful Elimination, muddy B roads at the Booneville Backroads Ultra, or freezing temps at the Hawkeye 50k; my job is to push through. The whole point of ultrarunning is to push myself farther than I thought I could go.

So mark this down as my first DNF. I'm glad to have at least gotten an ultra distance out of it, and received the finishing award for 7 loops. (They had awards for 7, 12, and 15 loops.) But I've got a bad taste in my mouth from this one.

The Good:

  • My body and feet felt great. I definitely felt the exhaustion of running 7 hours with the extra effort it takes to take every step in mud. But no injuries or issues came from this one. Nutrition was fine, thanks to Tailwind. My feet were perfect in my Vibram FiveFingers Trek Ascents. They handled the mud better than most, and didn't get overly heavy or loaded with mud. No blisters, no lost toenails, no issues.
  • I was on the front end. I ran with the group at the front of the pack all day. I even finished some loops first. (Though slowing down may have helped me last longer.) Staying up front kept me from getting caught behind slower people in the mud during the single-track sections.
  • I learned that single-track trails are my jam. I'd feel heavy and tired while running through the prairie sections; sometimes getting left behind by the frontrunners. But once we got into the real trails, I always caught up. On my VFF's I was nimble and quick, and felt great moving through the trails.
The Bad:
  • DNF (Did Not Finish) I will be back next year. I'd sign up today if I could.
  • Quitting: I didn't time out like I'd figured may happen; I gave up. Not good. 
With my Heartland 100 Mile race coming up on October 8th, this didn't give me confidence. Thankfully, I also have the Pleasant Creek Trail 45k coming up in September to get my swagger back. Hopefully it goes well.

This race is a reminder that failure happens. Conditions in this life often don't go the way we plan. But most importantly, when we fail, there's another race; another chance to go again. I'm reminded that God has given us the ultimate do-over by offering us Jesus. In Him I always have another race, thankfully, cause I fail in life a lot more than in races. 

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