Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My First DNF

So, as I mentioned a few posts ago, my boys had campouts over the weekend a couple of weeks ago, so they left me to my own devices for about 24 hours, which is more than enough time for me to get into trouble on my own. I did have a good day sketched out, and started it off with a nice little trail run, meant only as about a little shakeout to enjoy the trails at River Legacy. Except that I got lost. On a looped trail. Because I'm just like that.

What happened is that I got turned around and found a little dirt road leading off the path. I wasn't sure where it led, to I decided to follow it and find out. So in a way, my detour was kinda-sorta planned. Sure it was... In any case, what ended up happening is that it actually led me out of the park and back to the major road that runs south of the park, only about a mile and half west of there... It was a nice little adventure, except that I ended up having to run about two and a half miles on concrete sidewalks in my trail shoes, which are really not all that comfortable for non-trail running. Plus, I hadn't left the house until after 9:30, since I had to try to locate AWOL sleeping bags and camping supplies for certain Scouts were not, ahem, prepared... So while it was cool enough in the trails under cover of the trees, on the sidewalks it was close to hot. But, the extra mileage was fine because I made up some of the miles I had missed earlier in the week.

After Tyler, I took a day off on Monday, then got back out on Tuesday for a little 4+ mile run around the park near my house, just to test my left knee and make sure that all the tweakiness was gone. It was, so I felt good about that, but when Wednesday's run came around, I was still very physically tired from the weekend's efforts. I planned to run later in the evening, after my husband and son came home from hockey, but when they returned, the desire to sit and actually talk to my husband and veg on the couch was pretty strong. And for the first time in my 15 weeks of training so far, I willingly and intentionally skipped a training run (I did miss on a couple of weeks ago because of work, but that was out of my control and I made up mileage that week). I was just tired. And I was OK with it, especially considering the knee probably could use the rest, and that if not for that issue and the hills in Tyler that will not be as much of a challenge in NYC,  i really feel that I am well-prepared thus far.  But, skipping that run on Wednesday meant that my total miles for the week were down by the time the weekend rolled around. And that kinda freaked me out. I really want to be sure I don't shortchange my training this cycle, so I did have some concerns about losing miles this week, even though intellectually and emotionally I knew I was doing the right thing by cutting that one workout. So I was OK with going out longer than I expected on Saturday morning.

I puttered around the rest of the day, until it was time to meet up friends for the Chupacabra 10K out at Lake Grapevine. We had planned to meet for dinner first, then head out for the run. We had a lovely time and chatted about Chicago (Suann and Marci had just finished the week before) and Tyler, and got Greg & Fiona all excited for their first full in December at White Rock.

Marci caught a chupa!! 
Before we knew it, it was time to head out to the race start. By now, it was very dark. There were about 100 or so people milling around, all with headlamps on and waiting for instructions.  We may have laughed a little bit during the pre-race speech, as we were greeted by the ambulance and warnings about how the trail might be slightly uneven.  I believe the tweet that was sent out at that time was something like "We are so screwed." A couple of minutes later, after a very dark group shot of us, we were off.  We knew Greg was going to take off fast, because he's a beast like that, but Marci and Suann had said they were going to just walk. Well, they lied!! Once we got past the first dirt road section into the single-track, they took off pretty quickly, too. But I knew that I had to be careful. There was just too much at stake for me to fall or turn an ankle or do anything to jeopardize my big race which was just three weeks out.  So I literally moved to the side of the trail and let everyone pass me. EVERYONE. I didn't care if I was DFL, I just didn't want to get hurt.

Pretty soon, everyone was way in front of me and the little bobbing headlights drew far enough away that I was out there completely on my own. In a few minutes (about 15 by my watch), I saw the Mile 1 marker, and was pretty impressed with my time, considering I was doing not much more than a quick hike. By now, I really had to pay attention to the little glow sticks hanging from the trees and make sure that I was on the right track. It was very quiet and spooky in a Blair Witch kind of way.  I could still hear runners ahead of me (or maybe next to me -hard to tell the way the trail loops and turns) laughing and talking, and now and then I'd hear "Rock!" or "Root!" or "Drop!" as runners warned each other about the hazards on the track. Soon enough I came to a road and the first water stop.  At this point, I was pretty sure I was the last one out there, as I hadn't heard anyone behind me for a while. My second mile was about 17 minutes and change, a little longer than the first since it was entirely on the trail and didn't have that first fast dirt road section.

Somewhere about halfway through mile 3, my headlamp started to fade on me. I had stopped to get fresh batteries on the way to dinner, knowing that I hadn't used the headlamp but once or twice since El Scorcho
back in July. But, being me, I grabbed the wrong size and didn't realize it until right before start time. So I had to make do. If I'd been able to keep up with Marci & Suann, I think I might have been OK, but they were moving too fast for my comfort out there - I fall regularly on the trails in the daylight!  As the batteries died a slow & painful death, my light got dimmer & dimmer, to where it made it tough on my depth perception. It was bright enough to see that there was a rock, or a root, or a hole or a drop, but not bright enough to see how high up off the ground it was, or how steep the descent was.  So I found myself slowing down more and more just to be sure I had good footing.  About this time, i came across a couple of girls who had slowed to a walk in front of me.  Turns out they had signed up for this as their first 10K!  They didn't know at the time it was a trail run, so not only were they not very experienced runners, but they had never been on a trail before! Wow - what an introduction!!  They let me tag along with them for a bit and share their light as we worked our way to the next water stop.

By the time we reached it, a little bit past mile 3, I had decided that I was done. The lamp was all but dead, and it was just too dark to continue without it. Add to that the fact that I had a 22-mile long run schedule the next day and I was ready to give it up for the greater good. There were Marines (in full dress blues - swoon!) manning the water stop, so I was able to chat with them and hang out until everyone was through that part of the course. Turned out that I was not the last one through - there were another two groups of abut 5-6 runners each that came by about 20-25 minutes after I did. As much as I would have loved to keep going, it just didn't make any sense to, and it was just too risky. Besides, I already had my prize for the night - the BEST race shirt ever! Who could resist this piece of awesomeness?

BEST race shirt ever!
So, there you go. My first DNF. I didn't feel bad about it. I had signed up for this run knowing that it would be a crazy thing to do so close to NYC. But I couldn't resist the Chupa. And I ended up having a great time with some very cool people at dinner before and I had a great experience on the trail in the dark.  I know for sure that I am looking forward to going out there again, during the day time!!

Big-time congrats to Suann, Greg and Marci, who completely rocked this race.  Marci & Suann were a week removed from Chicago and turned in times that would be enviable on pavement, and Greg, well, Greg is just one degree removed from being Chupa-beastly himself, so you know he did awesome (I think he ended up coming in 12th overall for men). Definitely this is a race I'll do again, and next time, I'll be sure to not have an "A" race scheduled so soon afterward and will be sure to get the right size batteries!!

Hunting Chupacabra!!

1 comment:

Matt said...

I didn't know this race existed. Looks like fun. A good story, even if it was DNF. You'll just have to try it again next year... :)