Thursday, April 29, 2010

Zane Grey 50 - the anatomy of a DNF

What happened?

Well, the race started fine and I had no problems leading up to the 8 mile aid station, and everything seemed to be fine at the 17 mile aid station. The course was tough, but I was getting through the miles ahead of the cut-offs.

Then about mile 21 - I noticed I had slowed down quite considerably. Next aid station was at 25 miles, and looking at the time, I had an hour to make it. The course at this point was such that I still couldn't pick up the pace. Over the next 20 minutes or so, I had only made it one more mile, I realized that I would miss the cut off at 25. Disappointed and angry with myself at first, but over the next few minutes I became at peace with it. C'est la vie. The course had one more suprise for me though. The next aid station wasn't at 25 miles, it was at 23.xx miles. I made it there with 8 minutes to spare. It was a weird feeling. 5 minutes earlier I was ready to get a ride home. And here I was at the aid station with time to spare. Well, despite feeling pretty crappy - I wasn't going to voluntarily quit! I left after downing a pint of OJ and eating some M&M's.

A mile later, I was beginning to regret not dropping. My hamstrings were cramping on every uphill, and I was physically and mentally beat. Totally and utterly fatigued. I could go back - but then I worried that the volunteers would have packed up and gone (I was one of the last through). (I have since learned that the aid station volunteers won't leave until they have word that all runners are accounteed for at the next aid station, which is a neat touch and good to know). I sat on the ground for 10 minutes trying to get a mild recovery, and decided that I would just plod on the next 9 miles and drop at 33.

Even though I had decided to stop at 33, every now and then, I would change my mind and try to move a little quicker. But then the next hill strewn with those red boulders would loom, and any enthusiasm I had built up, would get beat down again. My hamstrings continued to cramp on the uphills. Then at about 30 miles, I came across the ham radio crew, and that's where I stopped. Sat with those wonderful folks for an hour or so, rehydrated (I'm beginning to think that I didn't drink enough), and then we hiked out another 3 miles or so (oddly enough, I felt very rejuvenated after an hour's rest!) - where I was given a ride to the finish.

So there you have it. My first DNF.

What will I do differently next year?
  • Gear - I don't think anything will change, I was happy with what I wore and carried.
  • Get better conditioned - I need to make up time in the first 17 miles of the race to give a better cushion ahead of the cut offs. Oh oh, that means speedwork!
  • Work on rocky trails - I need to build up confidence, especially on downhills
  • Arrive at altitude at least 24 hours earlier
  • I think I will need to drink more. I didn't feel that thirsty during the race, but once I had stopped, I drank probably close to half a gallon over the next hour or so.
  • Fuel - going to have to think that one through, and experiment over the next year.
  • Company - would be great to have a friend to run with the whole race (working on that already!!), if not, I can have a pacer at 33 miles - I think knowing that someone would have been waiting for me may have mentally made a difference. So, plan A - talk someone into entering the race, plan B - talk someone into being a pacer from mile 33.
  • If I can, try to hike the whole trail - take two or three days to do it, and camping overnight (or do some kind of rental-car-shuffle to stay in town). Maybe get involved with the trail marking?

Despite the toughness of the trail, there were plenty of stunning views (yep, that is snow!)

But of course - if you spent your time looking at the stunning views, you would lose your footing or trip on a piece trail like this!


  1. Hi, Jimbo!
    Came across your blog while Googling "Enoree Passage 40M". I have enjoyed catching up with your adventures!

    Enoree Passage 40M will be my first Ultra, and strangely enough, I also (kinda) DNF'd on 4/25. Nothing like what you went through, tho:)

    Hope tomeet you this Sunday. Good luck to you!


  2. Howdy,

    Thanks for dropping by :) (I am always still amazed that people actually read this thing - but very pleased none the less - welcome!).

    I'm looking forward to the run - much closer to my comfort zone than Arizona. I should be easy to spot - I will be the bald guy pretty close to the back :) Please say hi if you spot me!