DNF – Those pesky letters in that order that runners hate. They stand for Did Not Finish and that is a runner’s worst nightmare. So how come my first DNF didn’t hurt. It didn’t fill me with anger, hate and frustration. Instead it was… easy.
I sat with Andrew and Will in the sun on a picnic table watching half marathoners finish and 50k runners begin their two blue nordic loops which is just over 9 miles each. I was supposed to begin those miles but as I approached the start/finish area I found Andrew and told him that I needed to drop. I’m sure spectators were confused if they overheard. I barely looked like I broke a sweat and I wasn’t in any visible pain, so why was I giving up?
2 hours earlier I was feeling amazing on those trails. My ankle hadn’t made a peep all morning until mile 8 when a misstep forced a roll on that same ankle. Was I running too fast? too carelessly? Oddly enough, I still wasn’t angry. Maybe I had already accepted that this was going to happen today so the weight of it didn’t feel so devastating. It was a perfect day to be running those trails. I hadn’t run in two weeks, I was like an addict looking for a quick fix and that’s what 13 miles got me.
Will had surprised me when I saw him just before the first aid station. Honestly I didn’t recognize him right away. As I got closer, I realized it was him. We had started our Ice Age training together in January until a hip injury sidelined him. He didn’t even tell me he’d be out there. It was a great surprise. He ended up catching me at every road crossing and even some points on the trail. I was glad for the support but part of me felt a little guilty. Going into this race, I already knew that there was a good chance I wouldn’t finish. When I saw him on the trail the last time a few miles before the start/finish, I told him I needed to drop.
After I officially dropped, Will, Andrew and I hung out near the finish line and watched runners come through. Will loved the logistics of the race and was excited to see who was where and how the race was shaping up between runners. He loved the competition. We found our way to a picnic table where we could still see the start/finish line. The sun felt amazing on my skin. It felt amazing to be there even though I wasn’t in the race like I wanted to be. I actually felt like all those runners were missing out by being alone on those trails. I know firsthand how lonely the miles can be especially when you find yourself at a mental low.
I was happy and lucky to be there with my friends enjoying the sun and race day energy. I spent some time on the trails, had a little bit of fun and even had some energy left over for the rest of the day. I felt like I had barely started running, which was true, I didn’t even make it half way. Somehow, I was able to find acceptance and peace in my decision before I even hand to make it. Maybe it’s an age thing, at 30 I’ve finally realized that life doesn’t always go according to plan, in my case, it seems to never go according to MY plan. So many people plan their lives so meticulously only to find themselves devastated and picking up the pieces when things go wrong.
In the last 2 years especially, I’ve learned that no matter how much we plan, train, visualize and hope for something to happen we are at the mercy of the universe. The only control we have in this messy life, is our own action paired with learning how to let go of expectations. If we don’t, we’ll surely drive ourselves crazy. It may have taken a whole 30 years to figure this out but I feel like I get a little better at it every single day.
I’m stuck in an interesting place as we get closer and closer to June. Four weeks ago, my training was going well, I was feeling confident and I was right on schedule so I signed up for the Kettle 100. One week later I rolled my ankle on the trails. Two weeks later I was still fighting swelling. Three weeks later there is still slight swelling and in two weeks, I’ll hopefully start my goal race for the year.
Just when I thought the Kettle 100 would be mine this year, ONE misstep changed EVERYTHING. Kettle has been my evasive unicorn but nonetheless, my plan is to show up, do the work and struggle through it, because it WILL BE A STRUGGLE.
My brain keeps going back and forth, one day I feel confident, the next I’m overwhelmed by the thought of 100 miles. But really, is a person EVER ready to run 100 miles? I may be a little under-trained, ok, REALLY under-trained but if I am healthy enough on race day to START, then START I will do.