Monday. There was a time when I honestly believed I would never DNF (did not finish) a race. It was a matter of pride — carry on and finish no matter what. Of course I care about my individual performance but usually a good performance is merely crossing the finish line. I think that’s why a lot of Back of Packers push when they shouldn’t. It’s a fuzzier area for us. It’s always slow, it is usually uncomfortable — it’s just shades of discomfort.
I DNF’d my race yesterday at Hook Mountain. Bottom line is I am not feeling well. I can’t explain exactly what is wrong I just know something is not right. Haven’t felt well since Wednesday and it just wasn’t bad enough or specific enough for me to realize it. Afterall, I felt terrible on Thursday morning, not able to eat breakfast and had my best ride of the season at bike practice. So I figured, just go out and see what you can do. You are stronger than you think. (Ha!)
Thursday, Friday and Saturday I kept trying to nap all day. Exhausted but not able to really rest. I’d go to sleep for an hour and wake up more tired than before. I wasn’t working out. I rode on Thursday morning. I did play one hour of tennis for the first time in a couple of months on both Friday and Saturday. (I didn’t want to play but the club called a begged both times so I went begrudgingly). Both days I played chicken tennis. I eeked out wins that should have been easy walk-overs. Pushing the ball instead of hitting it. Just getting it back into play hoping the other person would make a mistake before I did. Was not playing my game (which is on the aggressive hit-hard-and-risk-the-miss side). I wouldn’t call them workouts as much as being a human placeholder for a tennis opponent. I had no zip, no pep but I could function — just not well.
Things that were suspicious in retrospect. I wasn’t as nervous about Hook Mountain as I usually am. I figured I would get through it somehow. That’s not like me. Usually I toss and turn and moan and groan about Hook Mountain. I was very lackadaisical about it. I thought I was just suffering from been-there-done-that syndrome. My packing preparation was — bring your running shoes. Uusally I lay out every little thing I think I may need from chapstick to a hairbrush and enough gels and powders for the whole team. Pre-calories, post-calories, emergency calories — I didn’t care about any of it. I rolled my eyes and threw in a pair of socks at the last minute so I didn’t have to run in my cycling knee highs. But I didn’t care. Good enough — just go do it.
The oversleeping race morning and need for constant naps the days before should have been a hint but instead I thought that I should be plenty rested and have no excuse. I slept a lot and couldn’t get enough rest. Still don’t feel rested.
The big ding, ding, ding was I couldn’t eat breakfast race morning. That’s NOT me. I usually can eat seventeen breakfasts before 10 a.m. I’m pretty sure I invented breakfast in a previous life. I’m a morning eater. I don’t really care about anything past 1 p.m. but from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. is my eating time. I couldn’t bring myself to eat so I threw a banana in my bag and jumped on my bike. I wasn’t nauseous — I was just desireless.
My ride up to Rockland was slow and painful. I had overslept so I didn’t actually leave my apartment until 5:45. (Another missed sign). By the time I got to the race parking lot it was 8 a.m. I was riding 14 mph in a 19 mph zone and I felt like I was riding through jello. Some of the A riders passed by in a paceline and the normal me would have tried to jump on just to see how long I could hang. I couldn’ t have cared less. I had to work really hard to get to Rockland and that wasn’t supposed to be a hard ride. I had no zip.
I managed to choke down a banana before I started the race and I did drink one whole bottle of sports drink (200 calories) on my ride up. (Well aware that was not enough but I still wasn’t remotely hungry).
I still wasn’t nervous. Bad sign. I just figured I would muddle through somehow. Another race, another bib. Not my usual attitude of planning it out, visualizing the course, giving myself a lot of can-do talk.
First mile I was shocked that I was keeping up with so many people. Second mile same thing, why am I not running alone? Didn’t make sense. Then they split the people off half marathon to the left and I guess the 5K people straight. Now it was just me and about five other people and I was keeping up with them up until the firehouse.
I was holding a 12:30 pace and killing myself to do it. This was not like NYC half where I kept waiting for the piano to hit and continually surprised that I was surviving. Yesterday I was aware of every single step I was taking and forcing myself to keep going. I told myself I could walk when I hit the hilly area. Honestly didn’t feel that terrible when I was walking and then when I picked it back up I thought I was okay. I was aware of some slight tugging on my knees but I’ve run through MUCH worse than that. I was carrying my own water bottle with sports drink and I was drinking it and I had two gels. They didn’t help. I know I’ve felt worse in other races.
I made it down Suicide Hill and about 1/2 mile maybe a little more out onto the flat and all of a sudden I just stopped. I was about 6.5 to 7 miles into the race (according to their map). There was no mental discussion. No, c’mon just keep going. I was done. No second thought. All I wanted more than anything in the world was to be at home in bed under the covers. I unpinned my race number and put it in my pocket and turned around and started walking back. I was running one second and the next second I was turned around and walking. I paused for a second to stretch my legs and felt how tight everything was. My hamstrings were shrunk and pulling my quads were tight, my chest was tight — hard to breath. But all that I could have muscled through had I had any energy. Systemically I was wiped out. I just needed to be out of there. Away from all of this. Suddenly I hated all of this. There was nothing fun in this. No adventure. No sport. My brain was shut down.
One part of my brain knew I should feel ashamed and hate the fact that I was a quitter. The other part of my brain couldn’t have cared less and just wanted out of there as fast as I could.
I think the biggest shock that came to me is when I realized I couldn’t ride my bike home. I was nauseous and exhausted and there was something else wrong I just couldn’t put my finger on it other than I was weak. Thank God my friends Rob and Anne had driven there supposedly to ride home with me but they had their car and they drove me home. That’s the part where I knew I was sick (I know, duh, THAT’S when I knew I was sick?) I always figure I could ride no matter what. But I knew I couldn’t even ride.
When I got home I had to crawl under the electric blanket. I still couldn’t eat. Now I knew I was sick. I tried to think of my favorite foods — something to eat to help replenish and restore. Nope, couldn’t think of eating anything. After about an hour I managed to make some tea and toast. That’s all I could muster. I tried to sleep but I didn’t feel right. Something not right and not able to put my finger on it. It wasn’t from the race. It had been there all week. A weakness. Something deep down inside just doesn’t feel right.
While I was shivering under the covers the tire on my bike exploded. If that had happened on the road I would have shot myself.
I managed to eat a cup of some plain brown rice and chickpeas before finally throwing in the towel and going to bed.
Slept 8 hours and I still don’t feel okay. Something is wrong I just don’t know what. I’m going to take a week off from training. I need to sleep. I leave on Friday for Florida and I have St. Anthony’s race on Sunday. I would like to feel better by then. I’m not interested in another DNF though honestly it is very difficult right now for me to muster up even a smidge of care or concern about a race. Any race.
A week ago I felt on top of the world. Now I feel like something someone scraps off the bottom of their shoe.
I guess my big question that still remains is should I have just not gone to the race? When do you know that it is better to just stay home? Or do you always just go out there and see how it goes? Is it better to race and fail or just not race in the first place?
Going back to bed.
DNF #1 – Lake Placid Ironman
DNF #2 – Van Cortland 15k in the rain and mud and after a huge brick the day before
DNF #3 – 4 Miler in Central Park after Marathon des Sables and the start of not feeling well
DNF #4 — Hook Mountain 2010.