Over the years of Trail Running, I’ve DNS’d (Did Not Start) and DNF’d (Did Not Finish) my fair share of races. Generally, illness or injury makes a DNS a pretty clear- cut choice. But knowing when to quit during a race you have already started can be a more difficult decision.
I hadn’t been this excited for a race in a while. After 6 months of running shorter distances due to recovering from a hamstring injury, I was signed up to race the longest event I had done since Mesquite Canyon. And despite a crazy busy week at work and construction in my house as new floors were installed and everything in our bedrooms and closets had to be removed and then replaced, I still felt terrific at the start of this race. I felt relatively rested, well-hydrated, and properly fueled. I believe that I had done everything I should and could have before the start.
But, within the first two miles of this 14+ mile race, I just wasn’t feeling right. I’d made the decision to wear a hydration pack because it was going to be a hot day, and the aid stations were 6 miles apart. But as the race began to climb up hills that I should have easily been able to handle, I found my breathing to become more and more labored. My hydration vest felt like it was suffocating me. I started to loosen the straps, undo the straps, anything to make me more comfortable. Maybe I need more fuel- so I took another gel, and then another. Maybe I needed more water- so I drank more and more water. How about some pickle juice? Okay. Maybe I need another few puffs on my inhaler- nothing was working.
So I started walking the inclines, to see if I could get a handle on my lungs. But even the walking breaks weren’t helping a situation that was getting worse. My legs were dead and my head was fuzzy. For a point-to-point course, the last thing I wanted was to be in serious trouble miles from an aid station or my car. A quick glance at my heart rate monitor showed that even while walking, my heart rate was too high. My body was just working too hard.
And that’s when I made the decision to call the race. I knew that the 6-mile aid station was less than a mile ahead. Though I would have to figure out how to get back to my car, it was the smart thing to do. It was the healthy thing to do.
As much as I love trail running and I love racing, there is no race, no matter how big or how much preparation has gone into it, that is worth risking our health or jeopardizing our life. And I’ve seen it, I’m sure most of us have seen it. People out on the trail in races that kept pushing and pushing until their life was in danger…Let me tell you this- It’s just not worth it.
Have I been to the ER after a race? Yep. Have I raced while injured? Repeatedly. But, I’m trying to get better about knowing my body’s limitations and listening to it when it tells me to stop. And it is so hard to do when you have planned for, trained for, built up to that special race. But, there will always be another race. There will always be another special event. There won’t always be another YOU.
I don’t know that I will ever figure out what went wrong during the race. My suspicion is that a week of inhaling dust due to the construction, and a high allergy count on an already tired and stressed body that had been battling the fibromyalgia all week, was just too much. But sometimes you don’t figure out what went wrong- and that’s okay. You just show up at the next race ready to tackle the challenges as they come.
So my friends, I will see you on the trails again soon. I’ve got more races to look forward to and more single-track to explore. Have fun and stay safe!
***Special thanks to all of my wonderful sponsors: Aravaipa Running, for putting on a great race; Squirrel’s Nut Butter, for keeping me chafe free; and SolRx Sunscreen, for protecting my skin in the brutal sun while I train. And thank you always to my husband, son, and parents, for being a constant support.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free or at a discount. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”