I’m going about this post kind of backwards, but it will make sense when I explain why. I sit here in a very uncomfortable chair trying to shake off day 2 of a 50K hangover, the most delightful one I’ve ever had the pleasure and pain of tolerating. Did I say pain? This one is all it’s cracked up to be and more. It chews up runners and spits them out. I sat down 5 minutes ago with the intent to write my Mountain Mist 50K report for 2016 but that requires the back story of why it was, and is, such a monumental race for me. If we’re friends In real life as they say, you know all of this already. If you don’t know me or if you ran Mist and thought what’s with that goofy poster? Well… this just turned into a 2-parter, I guess you could say, and we’ll call this Part 1.
Last year’s Mist was my first (and only, to date) DNF. I assume nothing in life so in case you don’t know, that’s runner speak for DID NOT FINISH. Typing those words is enough to make any runner cringe much less thinking of having to drop. Withdraw. Or worse……. quit. I hate “the Q word”. It is a part of running so if you do this enough it’s probably hiding in your deck of cards somewhere, as much as I hate to tell you that. It’s one small element of the various risks involved in our beloved sport.
What I’m about to type was actually written a year ago, January 2015, when I was only thinking about starting a blog. I was writing this particular entry more for therapy than to share. I worked through my disappointment in myself on paper. Maybe it will help someone else struggling with the mental pain of WHY DID I WORK SO HARD to come this far and FAIL! My disappointment isn’t from a lack of physical training, which can be a common cause for a DNF if you sign up for something and don’t train properly, but for me it’s because sometimes in life we (I) do stupid absent minded things. Like get lost in the woods on a course you’ve run 50 times, a section of trail that’s about a mile from your childhood home in the woods you grew up playing in and around. Absent minded things like only looking at your feet and not taking a sharp right turn but keeping straight, running right under the do not come down this trail you dumbass bright neon pink tape. Yep, I was so amped up and feeling so great that I inadvertently took a big fat shortcut. Upon reaching aid station #4 and realizing that I never hit aid station #3, I’d cut a 5 mile chunk from the course. My 50k dreams just turned into an unintentional marathon nightmare. I was so distraught I couldn’t even reason with myself enough to try to backtrack and find where I went wrong for fear of getting even more lost. Dumbest reason ever to DNF.
As if that weren’t enough, the real kick in the teeth was the fact that it was the 4th and final component of the Grand Slam Series. In order to be a certified Slammer, you must complete a total of three local trail 50ks and one road marathon within a span of about 10 weeks. They save the best for last, you guessed it, Mist. I shorted myself exactly 5 miles from a full Slam of 119. No fuzzy soft gorgeous blue North Face Slammer embroidered jacket for me.
But! I did learn a lot about myself and despite feeling even worse mentally than I ever have physically (well almost, I’m debating that at this moment…) I can say with certainty that it made me a better runner. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it possibly made me a better person having learned so much about myself. I had to stare at that piece of humble pie. And then I had to eat it. I don’t like pie but it had to happen.
I didn’t edit the following, it came straight out of my brain and out through my hand, likely why quietly sobbing and clutching a bottle of merlot, so it may be a little choppy. Now on with it:
Things I Learned From My 1st DNF:
1- If you run enough races, especially with a desire to compete in Ultras, all good runners get one eventually.
2- It’s better to have to DNF because of an accident like getting off course than it is to have to drop because of an injury or medical emergency. Thankful for that.
3- No matter the race distance, train hard but always do “the first half” in one shot and “the second half”in one shot. Pieces are fine but you have to at least do them in order once.
4- I have functioning legs. I have many more races in me and I will complete Mountain Mist in 2016 with a fire lit under my ass.
5- You can train as hard as you can and to the best of your ability. You can put 500 hours of hard work and dedication into something but sometimes, race day has other plans for you and there’s nothing you can do to change that.
6- What’s done is done. It’s in the past. This is one of life’s hardest lessons in general, it doesn’t just pertain to running.
7- Life isn’t fair and crying doesn’t fix anything. You can cry and feel sorry for yourself or you can put on your big girl panties and do the right thing. You can pack up and go home defeated or you can stay and celebrate the victories of your friends who worked just as hard as you did and fully deserve all the applause.
8- I run trails to enjoy nature. Monte Sano doesn’t care if I’m lost, how fast or how slow I’m going, whether I’m in a race or just out for a joy ride. It’s going to be amazing scenery either way. The mountain doesn’t care. It just is.
9- Everyone needs a slice of humble pie, just in general. Don’t get too comfortable on home turf. You can’t have a season of back-to-back PRs* and do it again the following season. Some days the force is with you, some days it isn’t.
10- You can feel absolutely amazing for 20 miles and still have to take a DNF for whatever reason. Suddenly, as a defense mechanism I suppose, when your emotions become so occupied with one specific thought, your body doesn’t seem to “hurt” as bad as it seemed to minutes ago.
11- DNF is really hard to write. It is also beside your name on internet race results for all eternity.
12- Get pissed. Get sad. Reflect. What did you learn from it? And lastly, who cares. I’m getting married in 3 months and my (future) husband wants me to keep doing what I do. He never asks me to not go run and hasn’t guilt tripped me once about being selfish with my time, ever.
So that’s where my handwriting ends. I must have gotten interrupted because I know I had more to say. I still have a lot more to say about all of this mess but the fact remains that I accidentally taught myself a very valuable lesson that day. Looking back, I actually wouldn’t change a thing. And just so you know, no I didn’t q-word when I realized it was game over for me. I could’ve sulked at the aid station, gotten a ride to my car and hauled tail home before everyone saw my tears (oh and they did!) but I decided the most appealing choice was to go ahead and finish the course since I knew the rest of the way. When I reached the finish line I went straight to the first person I saw with a clipboard to make sure they knew not to count me as a finisher. Then I watched as most of my fellow Grand Slammers cross the finish line. My empty heart was filling back up as I tried to soak in as much of their happiness and sense of self-accomplishment that I could, knowing that I too would have a Mountain Mist finish one day.
A lot of good laughs have come from it. I’m sure you figured out that my nickname and the namesake of this blog spawned from the incident as have a multitude of other jokes which I am more than fine with. It’s become a theme as you will see. Ya’ll, I expect to be joked on!!! If I can make a fellow runner laugh or share some wisdom, I’m happy to do so because what my friends have shared with me on the trails makes me a better runner and in turn, having them in my life makes me a better person. I’m willing to soak up as much as they’re willing to share with me.
*As for point #2, I don’t know that I agree with myself. Injuries are a giant ongoing suckfest and they hurt but so does being a moron. I don’t know which is worse. I can see where I was going with that thought though.
*PRs- personal records. Again, I assume nothing. I’d like to assume you know all runner jargon since you are reading a running blog but I want to be audience friendly to runners and non-runners alike. Ya dig?