A summer of DNFs

Haven’t written a lot lately – mostly because races haven’t gone to plan. After starting off the year relatively well with four 100 mile finishes in a row, I’ve DNFed three races in a row. Here is a quick summary along with some thoughts on future races.

  • Bighorn 100mi – This one was a bit of a shocker. The race starts at 11a in the mid-day heat and sun. Last year, I had made it out to the 50mile turnaround and dropped. I really wanted a finish this year. I probably pushed a bit too hard at the start and between the elevation and heat, found myself passed out on the first climb at mile 8. I can’t say for certain what the issue was but it took nearly an hour before I could walk/hike and by that time, I was behind the cutoffs. My race was essentially over before it started.
  • Angeles Crest 100mi – After my experience at Bighorn, I committed to racing smarter and starting out slower. A came into AC well trained and tapered and ready to redeem my performance at Bighorn. My race was going well in the early miles but a stupid mis-step on the descent off of Baden-Powell (the high point of the race) left me with a bloodied knee and bruised hip. I kept moving after getting some basic first-aid and thought that I could work/limp through the race. The hip hurt and I was forced to hike a bit more than I would have liked but I kept making the cutoffs and eventually made it to the mile 52 aid-station where my friend Betty was ready to pace me. My leg kept getting worse and worse and I kept getting slower and slower. Eventually, my hiking pace was reduced to a crawl. Betty and I made it to the mile 75 aid station within a couple minutes of the cutoff but I was hiking 30min miles and the race was over. In general, though I was frustrated that I didn’t finish, I felt that I handled the heat and climbs well and was hopeful that I could recover in time for Leadville and salvage the summer.
  • Leadville 100mi – With three weeks of recovery after AC, Leadville was tight but I was happy that my hip seemed to recover before the race. I traveled up with my family to Leadville the monday before the race to attempt to acclimate to the 10,000ft elevation. The time to acclimate just wasn’t sufficient. I started the race and ran to a conservative plan but the effort level seemed hard – even on the flats. While I was only a couple minutes behind my pace goals at the mile 13.5 and 24.5 aid stations, my breathing was labored. Around mile 30, I was coughing and noticed that I was choking up blood with nearly every cough. Any running – even on flats seemed to push me to the redline. I pulled into the Twin Lakes aid station (39.5) having been coughing up blood for about three hours and completely gutted. My legs felt fine but I couldn’t generate any power. Kelly asked the medics to take a look and they noticed that my first blood-oxygen levels were low. I was chatting with Kelly about if I should proceed or not when the medics/race officials came back and informed me that they were cutting me from the race. That the next section which would go up/over Hope Pass would likely make my poor condition even worse and didn’t want a bad day to turn into a search/rescue situation. I was disappointed and upset but knew they were making the right decision.

So I’m zero for three at mountain hundreds this summer. I’ve never been elite and never will but I’ve generally finished races and at least managed mid-pack performances. Not this summer. I’m trying to figure out where to go next but I have some random thoughts:

  • Unless you are a very strong runner or immune to the effect of altitude, significant altitude acclimatization (tent or travel) is required to run in the mountains above 8,000ft
  • Running in the midwest where we lack both altitude and mountains/hills makes for a recipe for disaster when it comes to running ultras in the mountains
  • I love running in the mountains…but seem to be better at running in the flats/hills
  • I’m absolutely lucky to have the support that I do. My family and friends who have paced/crewed me through the summer have been supportive even when my races have gone to hell
  • Even though I haven’t finished the last couple races, I’ve had incredible experiences traveling and vacationing and would rather have attempted the race and failed than not having tried in the first place.

So its back to the drawing board for now. I have Javelina on my calendar for later in the year and I’m trying to decide if i’m retired or not. As far as 2016 goes, I know that I want to attempt some more mountain races but I need to figure out how to change up my training. As I finalize my plans, I will post and share but I’m still undecided.

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