Monday, May 18, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the key to DNFing MMT...

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.


David Powell said...

Injury due to fall--sometimes just a charlyhorse cramp that goes away after 10 minutes or so,then O.K. but if pain persists after 10 minutes there is probably a problem that could continue and get worse-very bad
Gels,caps etc.-some of these have a sickening amount of salt-we are warned to take salt but I wonder if that might have accounted for the dizziness-I remember the old Exceed which I mixed to taste and drank by the quart-seemed to take care of any salt requirement. Also on a hot day I sometimes needed water by the quart,not the cup before I could think about eating/drinking anything else-

Rick Gray said...

Bedford, You and I dropped the same place at Gap I. I was on a downhill spiral in my energy level due to nauseousness. The heat just zapped me. I was very nauseouseous and unable to keep anything down and knew the finish would not be reached. You are correct in regards to respect. Undertraining had a big part to my demise and I will not forget either. Rest up and I will see you soon. Rick

Bedrock said...

Thanks for the comments folks.

Rick, I hated to see that you had dropped when I surrendered. Hope to see you soon. I will keep going back to Massanutten as long as I can.

David, thanks for the points. I am not sure what the issue was but felt that I was okay from an eating/drinking/electrolyte stand point. I do agree that often we take in too much salt because we are "told to". Obvioously something was off though.

Sophie Speidel said...


Thanks for sharing. The first DNF is really painful and lingers in the head with doubts and questions, but in a week or three you will be feeling good after your 40 mile training run and ready to take on more mileage and another race!

Take care of the back, and recover well. See you out there next year!

Mike Mason said...

Bedford - I dropped out at Gap (2) last year. It comes and goes, and you will come back stronger. The MMT 40 is a fine training run!

Denise Davis said...

A DNF stinks, but if you are stupidly stubborn (like me) and push it too far, you end up not getting to run at ALL for several months. I know that doesn't make a DNF feel any better, but you do get to tackle the next race on your calendar!

Bedrock said...

Thanks for the encouragement Sophie, Mike and Denise. As I said, in some ways getting the first DNF "out of the way" is liberating. With all the job crap over with and now the DNF, I am very motivated to train very hard for the next one.

Mike, you had one heck of a redemption run after last year's DNF. Maybe I will follow suit next year.

susandonnelly said...

I was one of the runners who asked if you were ok. Glad to see you made it to Camp Rosie, and even pushed on. It's definitely a course to respect. Give it a shot again next year!

Bedrock said...

Thanks Susan. I remember you asking and appreciate it. You also helped me some my first yeat at MMT (2007) when I ran out of water on Kerns. I will defintely be back next year. I love that race!