2019 Cuyamaca 100K: My First DNF

One of several Cuyamaca Loop 2 parting gifts, acquired while frantically trying to make up time. This toenail is probably a goner.
While like everyone else I am guilty of mostly posting the highs, this is probably the quickest race-to-post turn around time and it’s for a low.

I have run probably close to 100 races from 5Ks to 100Ks. Never have I not finished.* I knew that streak was going to end at some point. It was yesterday.

* ok, when I was 16 years old I bailed on a Father’s Day 10K in Fairhaven, MA in the summer heat with my friend but I am only counting adulthood races 

Why did I DNF?

It wasn’t because I couldn’t physically continue. In fact, I had a lot left in the tank ready to unleash. The short of it: I made a series of errors that left me in a lose-lose situation.

Laura (the 1st place woman), Nick (my other half), Me, Erin (who sadly also missed the same turn I did)

I got to the starting line in arguably the best shape of my life. I spent loop 1 (50K of the 100K), ping-ponging between 1st and 3rd place and feeling generally awesome. I was crushing the day. Small blister forming on my right foot at mile 20? No problem, slap a bandaid on it and go. Getting warm? Load me up with ice, no problem. My heart rate was low (150s) and by noon it was around 80F without a cloud in the sky. I got onto loop 2 and while I‌ knew it would feel crappy,‌ I didn’t actually feel bad. I was cruising to get loop 2 done in about 2:45 after a 5:50 loop 1.

And then I‌ screwed up.

I must have not had my head up or something, but I‌ missed a turn. I realized it about .8 miles in that something wasn’t right. There were no flags. So I turned around and ran into another runner who was convinced it was right. I tried to pull out my phone and see but no service. I‌ ran a little ways with him and decided, no this isn't right and we turned around. Another guy comes down and seems to think it’s right. Now I‌ have two people telling me they think it’s right. My gut is telling me it’s wrong. But after 40 miles, you aren’t thinking quite right. I ran down a bit more with them and the 2nd guys agrees: this doesn't feel right. We turn back. We find a 3rd runner (Colton) who I‌ train with and we both agree, this doesn’t look familiar. As we trudge back up, guess what? A 4th runner. So, while misery loves company, I‌ was angry with myself for (a) the initial mistake, (b) not trusting my gut and doubling down on the mistake because I got swayed by other foggy-headed runners. At that point I was +3 miles and my 2nd place had vanished just like that. I resolved to continue out of anger and adrenaline. But I was on an emotional knife's edge where one more setback was going to be disastrous.

Well, as it turns out, it was not that clearly marked for loop 2 return to Camp for a foggy headed runner with 47 miles on her legs and an agitated headspace. Having been burned by not following the blue ribbons before, I religiously followed the blue ribbons (loop 2) straight when the turn off said “loop 1 return” and no blue ribbons. Well, that was again wrong and I started to do another loop 2 from hell. When the woman behind me told me she was on mile 33.5‌ (I had 48.5), that was it. I was done. I walked back to Camp Cuyamaca, in tears, talking to myself about giving zero fucks (when in reality lots of fucks were given).

My options at that point?

1. Run 68 miles and get maybe a 13.5 hour finish (when I was on pace for a 12 hour finish at 50 miles). Wreck my body completely and be sorely disappointed about a result that didn’t match my effort.

2. Throw in the towel at 49.3 miles (an extra 5 in loop 2) when I was actually not in any pain and physically fine... and be sorely disappointed about the result.

Ultimately #2 won. I didn’t need a Western States ticket (I‌ have one from Black Canyon), and I‌ have CIM‌ in December where I‌ am hoping to get my 2021 BQ‌ out of the way for #6. Running 68 miles was going to risk recovery and probably put me out of commission for 3 weeks.

24 hours post race, I’m only a little bit sore. And that’s because I ran 80K at 100K effort level. 110K at 100K effort level? I would have been physically and emotionally wrecked.

There was no good option. Just a Least Worst Option. I‌ had to make the best decision considering my future races, even if it meant walking back to Camp with my tail between my legs, licking my wounds.

The bright spots of the day were watching my training partners have kickass races. It's hard not to smile and feel the contagious happiness. Bittersweet yes, but with the bitter there is always the sweet.


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