Friday, July 1, 2011

Black Hills 100 - DNF

It was about 7:30pm. I was sitting on a log beside the trail about 60 miles into the inaugural Black Hills 100 race with my friend and pacer, Luke. I don't really know how to put into words what was going through my head. I’d never experienced anything like this before in my life. I was going to have to quit a race. I'd never quit a race before. I figured that eventually something like this would happen, but I’d always imagined that the cause would be a broken bone or at least involve an IV or a brown-out dream of some sort. And I surely didn't think I'd be the one that would make the decision; I was going to be forced to quit, if it ever came to that. To make things even more confusing, I was actually winning the race.

I sat on that log trying to figure out what I could do to turn this thing around. It was a 100M race, afterall. A racer is bound to hit a low point somewhere along the way. The problem was that this low was now going on 4 hours, and I had tried every trick I know to make it go away. I just simply knew that I wasn't going to get any better. I could go on and on and speculate where I went wrong, but it would take pages, and the correct reason may not even be in there. Instead I'm going to try and sum it up in a quick paragraph.

I went into this race with the goal of trying to win it, and try I did. Obviously, I tried a bit too hard. It was hot. The course was much more difficult than I’d anticipated. I refused to make concessions and adjustments to my race plan, and, ultimately, it resulted in my inability to continue.

Could I have possibly still finished the race? I don't know. At the time I had 20 hours to cover 35 miles, but I didn’t want to be out there 20 more hours. I wanted to take a nap. I wanted to sit on that log. I felt guilty and selfish. Luke was here to run 50 Miles and enjoy the trail. Instead, he was babysitting my pouting, lazy a$$. I had family all over SW South Dakota cheering me on, waiting for me to come running by, to finish. Hell, my divorced parents were 4 miles down the trail both waiting to see me. They’d put their differences aside, and both put in a lot of effort to be there, to support me, to crew me. I really felt like I was letting a lot of people down. The thing is, it didn’t matter how guilty I felt. I wasn’t going to finish this race. My body wasn’t going to let me. My body was done. I was spent.

Perhaps there was a 2 MPH suffer-fest left in me, but no one had signed up for a 30 hour endeavor. Luke surely didn’t come up here with me to go on a 20 hour hike. I’m sure my dad wasn’t in the mood to sleep in the back of his truck and sit around in the dark all night. It felt almost more selfish to try to finish.

Whether or not it was the right decision, my decision was final. I was going to do my best to hike those 4 miles to the next aid station and drop out of this race. Luke and I got up. I ceremoniously handed him my water bottles. Illegal muling; I was no longer competing in the race. I was hiking to a place where I could get a ride home.

The race had been a blast. The course was remote, rugged, and HOT. The scenery was beautiful. The people were amazing and supportive. I had started off at a great pace, and foolishly held my arbitrary time goals for the first 7 hours of the race. Around that time the impact of my stubbornness was starting to emerge. I figured it would pass. I did my best to put on a smile and act like everything was great. Sometimes pretending that you feel great is enough to actually make you feel great. Not this time, though. Coming into the 50M turnaround I was a mess. Luckily, it appeared everyone else was too. The race leader had just experienced a setback due to getting off course for a good 15 minutes or so. He left the turnaround about 8 minutes before me. My wise nephew told me “If you leave now you can catch him”. Everybody laughed, but it was good advice. I got up and went after it, with Luke by my side. Luke’s presence was a nice boost. Fifteen minutes later, we were in 1st place as the leader had decided to call it a day. That gave me another boost. I thought I’d gotten past the low point. In reality, these were just temporary fixes to my larger problem. Two hours later I was sitting on that dang log.

Luke and I were treated to this wonderful sunrise while driving to the race start
A minute before the start

Running into the 1st aid station of the day. It's already heating up.

Coming into Pilot's Knob (one of the best AS names around) the 1st time around

Coming into Box Elder Creek around mile 35

Getting close to the turnaround

Picking up Luke

At the turn-around. Trying to imagine how and the hell I'm going to do all of that course again

Somewhere around mile 57, I think. I'm pretending to look strong.

At Pilot's Knob the 2nd time

My Step-dad says this picture reminds him of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

It’s 6 days later now. I’ve thought a lot about my race, while drinking a lot of beer and eating a lot of ice cream (DNFing is a lot like being a teenage girl getting dumped, I guess). I have no regrets. I still like trail running. I still like ultra running. I explored the limits of my abilities and found out a couple things about myself along the way. I learned a few things about racing strategy, too. The BH100 is a tough, but amazing race. I really think and hope it has a bright future. I want redemption. Next time I will just have to run a slightly smarter race.

The summer is still young. I am really looking forward to enjoying it to its fullest. I have a lot of big plans in the upcoming months, and not all of them involve running! There will be fishing, floating down a river, and hiking lots of mountains. There will, of course, be running, too. I’m headed to AK for a 2 week running vacation in a month. As I read somewhere recently (I forgot where, so sorry for the lack of credit), DNFing a 100 mile race is a 1st world problem. I am healthy, I live in a beautiful place, and I have lots of friends to go explore the Rocky Mountains with every weekend. Life could be a whole lot worse.


  1. Was bummed to hear about it, but glad you're OK. You've got the perspective though, plenty of AWESOME high country exploring to do!

  2. Like we talked about before, you should probably just quit running.

    Easy Antero hike on Sunday if you're interested.

    You still need aid station help?

  3. PG-Thanks. You should be apart of some of those high country adventures.

    Brownie-I've essentially put ultras on hold for the time being, gonna stick to fun short races for a while. I could definitely still use a hand at the AS.Camping in WY this weekend. Any good breweries between here and Lander?

  4. Lan Diego is kick ass. Make sure to eat at Gannett Grill and Lander Brewing:

  5. Silver lining - 2 great quotes -
    "DNFing is a lot like being a teenage girl getting dumped"
    "DNFing a 100 mile race is a 1st world problem"

  6. Nice job on the running you did, and the race report. Obviously, you had some lessons to learn out there, or a crappy day to get out of the way, so count that race as a minor victory. Now that you've got that out of the way, you should be ready to finish the next one. Nice perspective with the "first world problem" comment as well. I've yet to go more that 26.2, so being able to "only" go 60-some miles sounds like a great problem to have to me! Hope you meet your goals on the next one.

  7. ryan -- the DNF is as much a part of this great sport as releasing your bowels behind a tree in the woods.

    i love ultrarunning because you can't learn it from a book, you can't watch a film and expect to be the next jurek -- you have to live it, make the mistakes, learn the lessons, and apply newfound wisdom to the next race.

    can't wait to hook up with you for a run in the near future -- rest up and take care

    -brendan t

  8. You are phenomenal! Should be so proud of yourself with all you're doing ... and all you're attempting to do. keep it up! jsut found you....

  9. Just saw your result at Crow Pass. Congrats dude! That is a solid time! Super fast time figuring you have never been on the course. I used to live 40 yards from the finish line until a year ago.

    Pretty sweet race huh?!


  10. Thanks Evan. That race is amazing. I'm working on writing some details about it. It's definitely a course that makes you want to go back and run it over and over again.