I know I wrote about DNF’ing 24 Hours of Shale Hell back in 2014, it wasn’t a true DNF in the sense that there was no set distance to finish. It was simply a do what you could in 24 hours.
After this weekend (December 3) at TARC Fells Ultra, I have my first real and true DNF. I did not finish. My goal was 32 miles within the cutoff. I managed 8. It hurt. It hurt physically but that was nothing compared to the heartache and blow to my ego and confidence. *** This is where I make note that it has taken me almost a month to write because it hurt to put it out there!
The weather was beautiful.The sun was shining, the air was crisp and perfect for running. Many friends were in attendance, hugs were given, I was updated on what I missed at the RD’s briefing. And we were off! Nicole, Chris, and I were planning to all stay together at the start.
They were both counting on me as I was the driving force behind both of them signing up. They asked what way we should go, and before I could give my opinion, Lisa came screaming by with a huge smile and said, “Go to the left” and disappeared up the hill. I hugged Sean who was volunteering that day and soon followed her up the hill at a much slower pace.
It didn’t take long for my legs to get that uncomfortable feeling, tight and twangy, I remembered I hadn’t taken my sports legs yet and took them. As we traversed up and over the hills, the rocks, around the trees, it didn’t take us very long to miss a turn. We noticed it quickly and got back on track, coming to the next challenging intersection and another couple who had missed that turn and were on their way back. More up and down, my legs never warming up, never loosening up. We were passed by many people, high-fiving friends as their ran past (Brandon would go on to take 2nd overall in the 40-miler! Check out his recap.), and mentally I was in a great place. The course is beautiful, the weather was a tad chilly but it was otherwise a gorgeous day, and my company couldn’t be better.
Our pace was slow, slower than I would have liked, and I knew it was because of me. At one point, I made sure they knew that if they felt like I was too slow, they should continue on. Everything in my calves was getting tighter. We rounded the corner and knew we were less than a half a mile from the aid station. In we came with the plan of bathrooms, Nicole was going to check her feet, we would refill, grab a bite, and get back out as soon as possible. The second I stopped moving, my legs got hard. Pretty sure this was when I first referred to myself as a hot mess express! I tried to stretch, Sean asked if I needed anything and eventually I caved to a bit of rolling and massage that caused me to scream/laugh, I am not entirely sure which. Nicole and Chris were ready, so I got up and walked to the gate with them.
We rounded the corner and started to jog, a yeti right in front of us! I was excited, I wanted to get a photo for my friend Heather. I was maybe 4-5steps into a jog when both calves seized up, almost dropping me to the ground and a scream (I am sure this time) escaped. Nicole looked at me, pointed, and said go back. I promised her I would, the yeti checked in on me, and I hobbled back to the aid station.
I informed Sean that the hot mess express was back, what happened, and that I needed to sit and stretch and roll. I wasn’t ready to give up but I was also pretty sure that going back out was not smart. If I went back out with my calves as tight as they were (it’s not normal to have golf balls and baseballs in there) I was risking tearing something. Not long after, I was sitting in my car with the heat blasting. Knowing that I was done was heartbreaking. Knowing that I have the distance in me but that it wasn’t happening today hurt almost as much as my legs had hurt.
I decided that I would continue to hang out, to cheer on runners, to wait for my friends to come in and head back out. To make sure they were doing okay. To assist them in any way I could. I had great conversations with the volunteers, who all rocked, chatted with the RD, and waited. Eventually, Chris came in, was feeling good, and headed back out in the hopes of making the final cutoff (he did not and had he not stuck with Nicole and me, I am confident he would have made the cutoff, here’s to next year Chris). Nicole came in a little later, her body telling her she was done.
Together we turned in our timing chips and were officially official DNF’s. Hugs and words of encouragement were shared before Nicole took off to go get warm.
I finally took off to get warm and to put some real food in my belly and to lick my wounds. TARC knows how to put on a great event and I will be back and I will succeed.