Respect. Seven simple letters that speak volumes. I didn't have enough of it for the MMT course - going into the race under trained. If you have looked at the results from Massanutten, you know that either I was confused and thought it was a 40 mile race or the race did not go as planned. Either way, I suffered my first DNF ever this weekend at my favorite race. What happened? It is pretty simple, the heat wore my under trained body out. I had hoped to get my third MMT buckle, but that will have to wait until next year.
I went into the race under trained but felt that mentally I could get there. There is a saying in ultrarunning: "Ultrarunning is 90% mental, the other half is physical". When it came to the "second half" I was waaaay short. I still had a great time up at the race and chalk this up as a great learning experience. The first DNF was bound to happen eventually and in some ways, I am glad to have the first one over with. Here is the brief (remember I only did ~40 miles) story.
I started out running fine but noticed it was very humid. Many of us remarked before the start how much warmer it felt compared to previous years. I got up the road and up to Buzzards Rock with no issues. I was drinking often and hitting a gel every 30 minutes. I was soaked to the bone in sweat due to the humidity. I came into the first aid station feeling good and kept on truckin' after refilling my bottles. Felt good all the way to Veach Gap, where I stopped for a pancake and sausage and again refilled the bottles. I also drank two cups of water here.
The section to Milford Gap was uneventful and I tried to take it really easy since there was plenty of time. Plus there was a 4 mile road section coming up where I could make up time if I needed to. I was taking an S! Cap every 45 minutes or so and things were going well. On the way to Habron Gap, I was running good and having lots of fun. I had to stop and pee a couple of times which was a good sign in terms of hydration. I did get passed by some folks but I was still moving along at a good pace. I was very focused on running my own race.
When I got to the road section to Habron Gap, I turned on the Ipod and cruised along the road. I ran the early couple of miles a little too hard and had to back off some towards the end because I ran out of water. Still, I got into Habron Gap later than I wanted but was not concerned. I sat and rested for a few minutes and then got moving. I drank a Boost, restocked on gels and S! Caps, downed a couple of cups of water and headed to Camp Roosevelt.
I deliberately took it very easy on the climb here trying to not wear myself out. Was moving along okay when WHAM!, the heat just zapped me. I had to stop and rest a few times but still was able to keep moving. When I would run, I started to get dizzy - not lightheaded but room-spinning dizzy. When this would happen, I stopped and rested. I have had heat exhaustion before, and knew this was an early sign. I normally do okay in the heat and humidity but being under trained, I obviously was more vulnerable. Lots of folks went by and all asked how I was doing. Eventually, I came around a bit and started to move pretty well. I was able to run some downhill sections pretty well but then the dizziness came back. Also, I started to shiver some (think teeth chattering). This was a BIG concern, since it was likely close to 80 degrees. From there, I basically "death marched" to Camp Roosevelt where I hoped to recover.
The volunteers were great, stuffing my bandanna with ice and making sure I had plenty of fluids. I picked up an extra bottle at Habron Gap and drank all three on the way to Camp Roosevelt. In fact, I was empty for the last 15 minutes or so. I stayed at Camp Roosevelt for about 30 minutes, then refilled and decided I would see how I felt at Gap Creek. I was worried that if the dizziness didn't go away, my race was done. I started out to Gap Creek and soon a wonderful thunderstorm started - it felt fantastic and really cooled me off. I actually made decent time on the climb up and then started to run down at a good clip. But, the dizziness was there still. I had to stop and get it under control. I was continuing to eat and drink, and take S! Caps regularly.
To add to the frustration, I slipped and somehow wrenched my back. Now not only did I get dizzy when I ran, but my back seized up as well. Finally I got to the aid station around 4:00 p.m.! I was almost at the next aid station at this time last year. I had an hour to get things under control and get moving. I stretched the back, lied down, sat up, did everything but just couldn't get it right. So, I dropped out when the 5:00 p.m. cutoff came. I hated to do it but it was definitely the right decision. If I had continued, maybe I would have finished or maybe I would have gotten hurt much worse. Who knows. I am actually proud that I was smart enough to pull the plug. Folks often say DNF is an acronym for "Did Nothing Foolish" and well as "Did Not Finish".
I learned that a course like Massanutten deserves much more respect than to go into it under trained. That is a lesson that I will not soon forget. Congratulations to everyone who started, especially the finishers. Massanutten is a tough race and finishing it is quite an accomplishment.