I DNF’ed out of the SOB 50K this weekend. (DNF is Did Not Finish)
Normally dropping out of a race or somehow ‘falling short’ would send me into a bit of a funk. Not this time. Which was an unintended win given the crappy situation…. One of the things I’ve been working on is setting different goals around running so that this hobby/sport/activity I love stays part of the joy and doesn’t verge back into not-healthy, burned-out, punishment to keep my weight in check. I’ve DONE a lot of work around this and finally, finally love running again for it’s purest sense of simply moving my body and earning a sweat. I’m intentionally setting goals to support that direction. Not big sweeping goals anymore like ‘MUST. FINISH. RACE.’ more like ‘Keep a smile on your face, drink plenty of water, give this your best effort and thank all the volunteers.’ While I DNF’ed the distance, I did in fact nail my race specific goals in very short order.
I was excited for this race. SUPER excited to see my beloved trail family, spend time on world-class trails and have long-awaited catch-up conversations. And hugs. ALL THE HUGS. I was going to get to car camp for two days with a bunch of other runners; but specifically with my friends Jamie and Melissa. Jamie and I met on these trails, at this race almost eight years ago at a moment of struggle for both of us. Instant kinship. And we’ve grown our friendship since then. So this weekend/race/trails – the whole package is simply a sentimental favorite.
And 50K – this would be my longest distance in almost a year! I’ve been training and rebuilding my fitness and endurance. I was eager to see what my feet, legs and body could do.
I have written recently about starting back on Metformin/Glucophage to help my body with insulin regulation and insulin resistance. (Blog here.) It’s a medicine that is working really well for me in keeping my glucose lower and stable. One of the well documented and oft-lamented side effects of this drug is the ‘glucotrots’. Call it gastric distress, urgency, explosive diarrhea, the screaming shits — whatever you want to call it, it’s not a ton of fun. And it’s pretty common from all of the anecdotal data I’ve collected over the years. I suffer with the side effects for sure; but have gotten cagey and smart about timing things so it’s more annoying than anything. Most of the time. Many of the people I know on this med, do get used to it and learn to heed the bodies early warning signs. A few near-misses, or all-out misses, and you learn to pay attention to what your gut is telling you… Given how good the drug works to keep things stable and keep me healthy; for me the trade-off is worth it.
I’m new enough back onto this med and I’m brand new to RUNNING with this med on board. I wasn’t entirely sure how the med/running/poop combo would play out. In the back of my mind I knew I needed to be thinking about it. I mean, I know the day to day routine. I also know I am NOT afraid to poop in woods. I’m actually pretty talented at it given I have SO MUCH FREAKING PRACTICE over the years. But for a long distance race; I just didn’t know what the right thing was. I made my very best guess of withholding the drug for a day (not taking the morning of the race) thinking it would give my belly a break…
Whoa. NOT THE RIGHT CHOICE.
I don’t know what really happened or if it was simply a combo of factors. I don’t know if it was the heat, the stress/excitement, super low humidity, the disrupted sleep from car camping, the meds…. I do KNOW I was mentally excited, calm, well hydrated, and focused on staying in my routine for food. I follow the adage/warning/sage-advice of ‘nothing new on race day’. I mean, minus the med-juggling; I was ridiculously routine leading into this race. I got up race morning, had coffee and even got the coveted pre-race poop out of the way before I even pinned on my bib. ALL GOOD TO GO.
So I thought.
As with most lessons learned and interesting stories… Obviously something, somewhere went a wee bit sideways.
The 50K race started at 7 AM. I went slow at the back just to ease my nerves. The pressure I feel for people to pass me on tight single track – or worse make me feel like I need to speed up – is one of my least favorite things about racing. Luckily, it’s something I have pretty good ability to control; so I took control. I let them all get in front of me while we were running on some road prior to the single track. Turns out that was smart for a whole bunch of reasons.
About 1 mile in… YEAH… one freaking mile in…my belly does this ‘flop’. It’s alarmingly familiar and entirely unwelcome; It’s the glucotrot warning that my belly is getting upset and I should maybe/sorta/consider finding a bathroom in the next 2-3 minutes. 1 mile. Sheesh. And for those who know me… Yes I was mentally chuckling and thinking ‘are you shitting me?’.
I’ll spare you details; suffice it to say I ultimately squatted 4 times in 4 miles. This was going be a LOOOONNNNNGGGG 50K with that ratio. (50K is 31 miles…)
I got to the very first aid station and handed over my bib. I decided a few things during the four times I was digging catholes, hiding from other racers and contemplating my life choices….
- If I stopped now, loaded up my hydration pack with water and hiked it back in I could spare ANYONE else the issue of having to help get me back to my camping site. I was still close in at this point; it was hike-able. AND less people/race traffic so finding a spot to squat would be WAY LESS stressful.
- The goal for this race was to have fun. This situation was annoying and bothersome in the moment and it was 100% headed for dehydration/NO FUN in very short order. I could absolutely stop this potential dumpster fire before it became a warning label.
- It was HOT and I was already sweating heavily 3-4 miles in. Abnormal sweat volume for me given the effort I was putting forth. Between rampant diarrhea and heavy sweating there was NO POSSIBLE way for me to put in enough fluids to keep my system from crashing. My system in fact already firing off some pretty convincing warning shots.
So all by myself, with no input from anyone else and no second guessing; I made the choice to drop, hike back and begin to seek the humor in the crappy situation.
I should have had 9-10 hours on the trails, in the woods, earning my shower and being in the mountains; I got 2 hours instead.
But here’s the win in all of this; I’m not always smart when I’m determined. Stubbornness overrides smart decision making – it’s a family trait. This time I’m super proud that I could see that this just wasn’t the day to run long and made a not-fun decision with a happy heart and a clear mind. Some of it was experience. Some of it was simply respect for the volunteers who would be stuck helping me if I forced my way forward. But a large portion of it was making the decision based on the bigger goal of keeping running joyful and making sure I stay healthy enough to enjoy it.
I get back to the camping/start area and run into one of the Race Directors, and a friend, Rob Cain. When he sees me, he kind of waves his arms around and says ‘Betsy – what happened what are you doing back here so soon?” and I reply ‘Rob! My legs are good, my heart was willing, my mind was excited… And my butthole is EXHAUSTED.’ And we both laughed heartily. I’m still laughing truth be told.
I mean – it’s funny. It just is.
And it is the first time I can legit say I had a really crappy race and mean it.
(Ok my punny friends… I’m sure I missed a pile of great poop puns… Please share. 🙂 )