109 Days to Go - Top Ten things I learned from a DNF at the Greenland 50k

Well, where do we begin with this race report? 

In some ways I am a bottom line sort of guy.  It was a DNF for me.  Period.  No ultra finish, no nothing.  I almost resist saying anything more than that for fear of it sounding like an excuse.  However I guess the additional detail is part of actually giving a race report.  Thus here goes some excessive verbiage constituting a 2010 Greenland 50k race report.

The first thing that happened on this very interesting day was that I woke up and it was nice outside!  It had just snowed the previous night and a couple times during the week, and with the forecast calling for rain and snow, I was prepared for the worst.   I think I brought enough different clothes and shoe combinations to run everything from Badwater to that ultra in Alaska where you have to pull your own sled.  Anyway it was clear and cool, and I immediately ran into my friends from over at Happy Trails.  They are such amazingly nice people!  It was a pleasure to finally meet Mrs. HT and chat a bit and get a picture in (of course!)  They both had amazing races with Mr. HT putting in a blazing 2:10 for the 25k and Mrs. HT right behind him snagging a third place AG.  As my seven year old would say,  "That is smoking with gas!" (it means really fast!)

First Lap - My race?  Well as I mentioned I was trying to finish in six-ish hours.  This would allow me to finish in time to make it back for the chil-runs' soccer games.  This meant I was trying to do around 12:00 minute miles for the whole thing.  Oh by the way THAT WAS AN UTTERLY RIDICULOUS GOAL.  :)  I did the first lap in just under ninety minutes which was faster than the pace I needed.  I was also pushing hard the whole way to make it in that time, and about half-way through the second lap, the wheels were coming off in a hurry.

Other race reports by uber, experienced, ultra, trail runners describe the Greenland course as "easy" and "no hills" and the trail was "in great shape".  To my thinking the course was "intense" and had "some epic climbs" and with the initial warm weather was "one gigantic swamp".  Of course I'm guilty of a little bit of hyperbole.  That said however, I'm not sure if you are aware of this but, running on trails is different than running on a treadmill.  Strange.  Go figure.   Of course I kid a bit, but it was challenging for me and led to a few different "lessons" I will mention.

Second Lap - The second lap took 1:46 and I pretty much knew at that point that there would be no six hour finish and nothing close to it.  This was tough to take mentally.  At one point after starting the third lap, I stopped, turned around and started walking back, stopped again, had an audible conversation with myself, and continued the third lap.  It was hard continuing knowing that if I was going to keep my soccer coaching commitment that I would not be able to start the fourth lap and thus not finish.  But ultimately, I continued on with what I could do.

Third Lap - The third lap was pretty much a disaster.  The aid stations were out of Gu by the time I came by on the second lap.  This was not good.  I was planning on using GUs for almost all of my calories.  There were some other foods, but I didn't wan't the sugar of M&Ms and eating pretzels just resulted in a big wad of white flour in my mouth.  Washing that down with warm, melon-flavored Heed was not a pleasant experience by the time the third lap was underway.  Thus considering I estimate I expended 9-10,000 calories in the three laps, and had consumed less than 1,000 I wasn't feeling too energetic.  I was doing Endurolytes at a two/hour pace and that seemed fine, but there was some cramping on the third lap so I was probably a bit dehydrated.  More lessons.

The other fun that started kicking in on the second lap and was consistent on the third lap was an excruciating shooting pain in my foot when I was running.  I believe this was from P.F. Kang the Conqueror (plantar fasciatis) acting up but it made it a bit of a challenge to keep running.

The other interesting part was the mental challenge.  Let me tell ya (stated in a Southern accent) that was the toughest part.  I went through some pretty rough, dark places mentally.  At some points I was writing in my mind the email I was going to send to all my potential Leadville pacers telling them to cease and desist any training they were doing because I was quitting running immediately.  In fact several times I decided and verbally announced I would never run again.  Ever.  It is a bit strange, but I look back on that now and I say to myself, "I want to face that again!"  Why would someone want that?  I don't know, but I'm kind of yearning for that challenge (anyone know of any trail 50ks close by in the next week or so?).  Being at that point of questioning everything, doubting, hope passing, dejection, for some reason I want to face that mental challenge again, and do a little better.  Make myself a little tougher?

Ok gotta wind this meandering diatribe up.  The third lap lasted 2:15.  The excessive mud that seemed like it was everywhere for the first two laps started to dry out a little bit on the third lap as the weather got cold, and windy, and at one point started to snow.  I finished three laps in 5:31.  That is the longest amount of time I have ever "run", and I believe I covered just over 23 miles.  I did not walk through the finish chute and that was pretty tough.  But, Lord willing, maybe I'll get to toe the line again in the future.  Do I get to count any miles for the three hours of soccer ref'ing and coaching that followed?  :)

It took me about a day to get to the point of thinking maybe I should try running again, ever.  By Sunday, as I was sitting in church listening to a sermon, I was already plotting which race I was going to sign up for to try and "redeem" myself.  At this point I'm just trying to focus on the good ol' lessons learned.  As teh wifey pointed out, this is all one big experiment.  I don't know what is going to happen in the future, but I'm going to switch on the bunsen burner and keep burning things, (and hopefully I learn from all of my mistakes.)  Thus without further adieu my Top Ten Lessons Learned from the 2010 Greenland 50k.  Many of them are common sense things, things I already knew in my mind, that anyone would know, that my coach teh wifey has reiterated a thousand times, that you find regularly in fortune cookies, but sometimes you have to learn them the hard way...

  1. Trail running is different than road running, treadmill running, or any other form of "normal" running.  Is this course entirely uphill?  Oh no, there are the quad-busting downhills as well...
  2. I may have to eat more than four Gu's to keep myself running for five and a half hours or more.
  3. Melon flavored Heed, warmed in a hand-held bottle makes me want to puke after a couple of hours.
  4. Normally inspirational music like "Pump up the Jam", (stop snickering) has no effect after four hours of slogging through mud.  Other than to make me so upset at whoever created that musical abomination, that I imagine tracking them down and, uh, sharing my feelings.
  5. There is no mud, wind, switchback, or rocky trail setting on my treadmill.  Too bad, otherwise the mill might be a good way to prepare for trail running.
  6. I may, in my more lucid moments recognize that I have little to no chance to finish something crazy like Leadville, but it doesn't mean I won't try, I think.
  7. Having a plan only means that you have something to change when every assumption you made is blown out of the water.
  8. I may feel bad at times, bad stomach, exhaustion, abhorrence for mud etc., but those times will pass.  As will, hopefully, the desire to curl up on the side of the trail and die.
  9. Ultras are cool.  In what other race can you feel like a failure when you only make it 23 miles?  I like facing down those demons.  At least I do later, you know, after the race is over.
  10. I love running on trails and seeing the wonders of God's creation!

Thanks for all the encouragement.  See you on the trails.  Or at the Godfather's pizza buffet...either way.


Linnea said…
It makes no sense. I read about your incredibly difficult run, your disappointments, your dark mental battles and fear, and all it does is make me want to go out and run. By the way, I am TOTALLY planning costumes for Leadville. They are going to blow your face off, because you don't need your face to run right? Every 9 miles baby.
Linnea said…
Oh! My mid race long run snack is officially vitamin gummies. The kid kind so I can eat 10 of them instead of 2. I got ones with zinc and echinaccea when I was sick and they were awesome. I would totally run an extra mile if I got another vitamin gummy. Hahaha. (Do NOT ask a doctor about this plan.)
HappyTrails said…
Mr Ace - Where to start? I am glad you are not giving up on running. I feel bad that the smiling, jovial guy we chatted with pre-race had to struggle so much on course. Greenland is not easy, so don't beat yourself up on that. It is not what you are accustomed to running, so maybe you change up your terrain diet a bit. I am proud of you for finishing the third lap - you will appreciate that on your next super long run. Also, you ran 23 freaking miles on conditions you don't normally run - 6 more than I have ever run at one time - so I think you did great. Chin up pal, you have some racing to get ready for!!!
Ace said…
Thanks for the encouragement guys. Its time to go for a run!
Chris said…
sorry to hear it didn't go as planned, but you did run 23 miles on trails which is no easy feat. Glad to hear that you are getting back out there. If every run was easy, there would be nothing to celebrate when you finish Leadville!!!
Vava said…
Sorry to hear about your DNF. At least it wasn't a DNS! And keep on truckin'.
try running said…
This is making great drama for the Streakrun: Leadville or Bust documentary...
We just need to get that Hollywood ending where you come cartwheeling across the finish line at Leadville.

Regardless of the DNF, good work. This is serious running. This aint no 5k walk/run fundraiser training.
Man, that is a pretty tough pill to swollow.

I DO like your 10 things at the bottom. Trails are def a different beast. But, that is why you run practice races before the real deal, right??
Unknown said…
Bottom line: stuff happens and we start all over, trying again and again because we just DO! The giving up running part is interesting, I just read a few tri reports from this weekend and every runner said that. I think that's normal when you're in the "Squeeze."
Get tough, just like you said and look for the next one. Ave is a survivor and nothing is out of the question, even Leadville. Eat some more pizza and then hit the trails again, you can!
Popsie said…
Popsie just read the blog .... I could feel the pain...the agony...the disappointment....and the building of determination. Your a "Winner" in my mind already.

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