Processing Bryce – my 1st DNF

Here it is, 3 weeks after Bryce, and I’m still trying to process my 1st ever DNF in an ultra endurance event (running, adventure racing, rogaining, paddling, biking).   Did I make the right call to pull the plug?  Could I have finished?  What’s next?

I didn’t write much of a race report, just posted pictures and  copied what I wrote to Facebook.   There’s not much more to say — the GI went south, and I was very uncomfortable.   Vomit or diarrhea probably would have been easier to deal with.  But instead, my GI shut down.  It felt like I had to make a BM, but that wouldn’t happen, even though I tried a few times.  What may have been worse is that it felt like I constantly had to pee – urgently.  But then I’d try to go and not much would come out.  After that, I’d be fine for a few minutes, and then the feeling would come back.  Stopping every 5 minutes was getting old…

But let’s back up for a minute…  Here’s the Strava race analysis:

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 10.33.09 AM.png

Those really long mile splits are when I sat at the mile 51 and 62 aid stations contemplating dropping.

Does this show I went out too fast?   I did not wear an HRM, but went by feel.  And it felt easy and light in the beginning.  I’ve been running a long time and think I have a pretty good Perceived Exertion, but could I have been off?   Altitude and the excitement of starting the race can throw PE…

I felt really good the 1st 4+ hours, but then going into mile 28 I ran out of water — as did about 10 people around me!  We had been told it was 9 miles from the previous AS, but the GPS showed more like 11.  Due to the distance, whether it was 9 or 11, I drank heavily (water and coconut water) before heading out of the AS at mile 19, but it wasn’t enough, and I ran out with at least 2 more miles to go.  Could that early dehydration have contributed to the later GI issues?

Kelly was amazed at the number of used gel packs I pulled out of my pockets at mile 51…  vFuels are always something I can get down, no matter how I feel.  Due to the heat and amount of water I was drinking, other foods I had brought with me (Epic Bars, Peanut Butter balls, bonk breakers), and had trained with, were difficult to get down.  All of those seemed to require more water in those conditions than I had with me.  That meant I went to the gels, which I can always get down.  (But those also require water so the stomach will properly empty.)   Perhaps I should have spent more time in the aid stations using their water to get more real food down…

Mentally… Was I just not in to it?  This one is complicated…  The weeks prior to Bryce, I was really looking forward to some unstructured training.  Or not training at all.  Just mountain biking for fun, hiking, lifting, and some running.  Even with Hinson in September, I had planned to chill for a bit.  At Leadville I had written in bold marker on my arm “FINISH,” and I had never even thought about that for Bryce.  Of course I would finish, unless I was injured.  (Or had another form of medical?)

That leads to — Was I over confident?  I’ve had a good year with two top 10 finishes in ultra’s and even took the Tough as Trails Ultra category series win…  But I know these are local races, not big ultra’s, and they were also 50k and 40 milers — not 100’s!  So there should have been no over confidence.  Similar to that, Were my expectations too high?  After solid finishes earlier this year, I thought maybe I could pull off a 24 hour Bryce.  I looked at last year’s times and saw that 24 hours would have been top 10, and looked at ultra signup’s predictions for me (26 and change), but still thought 24-25 hours would be realistic.  And once the wheels came off, and I realized I’d be looking at 27 – 28 hours or more, was that too much to handle? Especially with the discomfort I was in…

I used to scoff a bit at elites who would stop running on a bad day.  I understood their reasons — they have more races to do (it’s a business to them…), so why beat yourself up so much that you can’t race well a month or two later?    But then I saw these two stories from Western States:

Jim Walmsley after running off course at WS100 while being on course record pace:

When Walmsley was finally discovered, two miles off course, he was not in good shape. The race’s medical staff offered him a ride back in the truck. “It was so hard not getting into the truck. But I knew my crew was waiting for me, and I knew I could finish,” he says. At that point, Walmsley shifted his perspective. “I went from trying to break a record and win the race to just trying to finish. I mean I’m out there for the same experience as everyone else—to suffer and embrace the challenge.”

Sage Canaday on finishing WS100:

In short, the race was my worst ultra race performance in my career. I laid down on the trail in a dead stop half a dozen times, puked just as many times, and dry heaved about 100 times.  At the mile 78 aid station I sat down in a chair for about 25-minutes. My stomach really got the best of me in the second half of the race and unfortunately it lead to a rather disastrous positive split.

Those guys toughed it out!  Kudos to them!   Granted, they were both much further along than I was — Jim at mile 93 and Sage at 78…

My friend Ben gutted out Pinhoti last year when we ran there together crewless — but in that case if you stopped at an aid station, you may sit there for hours and hours before getting a ride in.  So why not keep moving?  In this case, I had an easy ride with my family and friends back to the cabin, where I could shower and get a good night’s rest.  Additionally, Kelly was running the half marathon and Ben the 50k in the morning, so by stopping, I’d be able to enjoy the day with them rather than being a zombie and/or in bed all day.  At least, those are the games my mind was playing!

In the end, I have no regrets about stopping, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.  The next day waiting for Kelly and Ben to come in, watching some 100 milers come in to the finish and see their joy — I knew that could have been me — but at what cost?  I had an amazing rest of the vacation — I recovered so quickly from my 100k, and it likely would not have been as pretty if I had pushed through.

But now I do need to think about whats next.   Should I shoot for another WS100 qualifier this fall?  (Probably!)  Will I be back to Bryce?  (Definitely, it’s only a question of when — the sooner the better in my mind!)  Beyond the GI issues, I know my weaknesses, and will work on them…  I still need/want more leg strength for the big power hike climbs, I want/need a stronger core, I don’t have much of a top end (the HR range between max aerobic and falling apart is too small), I should be able to run 5-6% grade hills for 4, 5, or 6 miles while staying aerobic…

I plan on coming back stronger than ever — now where can I watch Rocky II?

UPDATE:  I realized I should have written something about recovery.   After I showered and went to bed, I got about 6 – 7 hours of sleep, woke up, and the GI was fine.  I had very minor soreness and residual fatigue the next couple days – probably a little less than after the Mountains to Sea 50k in April and Uhwarrie in February.   I had run 62 miles and climbed 10,000′, and felt just minor soreness!  Granted, I did walk a fair amount of that 62 miles, but probably still ran at least 40-45 of it!  So that shows I had the fitness…  I was able to do Angles Landing, a 6 mile 1500’s climb/descent 3 days later and not feel a thing.

5 thoughts on “Processing Bryce – my 1st DNF

  1. Good analysis. I guess yes, on the dehydration.

    I have contemplated the overconfidence issue as well (for me, not for you). I have wondered if I foray back into the 100 distance if I am having a bad go early if that would set me up mentally to check out …

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