DNF – DID NOT FINISH
These are the words no one wants on their running CV; regretfully I collected my first at Hardmoors 60 this year. I am tempted to say first and last however suspect that might be somewhat foolish.
I thought rather than add to the race reports already done I would write a little about making that DNF decision and my feelings since. Readers please don’t worry, or indeed stop reading, this shouldn’t be a write up of my own personal ‘pity party’, hopefully just a little introspection published which read or unread will provide a little catharsis to me.
Going from couch potato and obesity priority lane pass-holder to completing 10 events at marathon distance or longer including 4 Ultras in 2 ½ years had provided plenty of DNF opportunities, not one of which settled more than fleetingly in my mind.
What then happened at HM 60? First some moments I lived to regret:
To all and sundry that asked, “not worried about completing, feel robust, have got the miles in my legs just might be a bit slow”.
Showboating for the cameraman with a little leap and an air born click of my heels, telling myself then, I’ll look pretty damn stupid if I don’t finish now.
Did I show the race its proper due respect? No, no I did not, essentially I turned up to what was planned as the last Ultra of my year under trained, I had plenty of miles in my legs but was not sharp by any standards, with my pace and the duration at which I could run comfortably diminishing by the day.
To the decision then, having started in good company alongside ‘completer’ Phil Turton, I settled into a comfortable early pace nicely lodged in the first third of the field, a conservative start, in good company the first 14 miles passed quickly enough. At 15 miles a feeling I have had seemingly throughout the year set in and my hamstrings tightened and I slowed, the ascents were almost pushing me backwards, not a sharp pain but a dull and very debilitating ache was radiating down the back of my thighs.
I say a pain I have had all year, I don’t recall when it started to affect me just that I had carried it long enough to almost accept it as the norm and attribute it not to injury but lack of training volume and intensity.
Putting a brave face on the situation, I parried Phil’s enquiries as to my wellbeing with the universal words of denial “fine”, “good”, “I’ll settle in soon”, Phil having seen me this way at Coniston Trail Marathon and battle on through accepted them and in good spirits adjusted his pace.
My condition worsened over the next 5 miles to the point the pain was scorching and my running was reduced to the shuffling I saw from most competitors from Scarborough onwards, it was no longer fair to Phil to keep him at my shuffle and I encouraged him on, he gallantly put up a small fight however seemed to know there would be no phoenix from the flames moment this time and moved on with a little trepidation (we had shared the recce duties, leaving Phil 20 or so miles to work out on his own, before hitting the section he had scouted) and some, despite his best efforts to conceal it, visible relief to be moving at his own pace for perhaps the first time in the event.
I shuffled on to the point at which you join the road into Runswick Bay and the next checkpoint, here at the end of the trail I sat, for some reason wanting to get my head straight before heading down to the checkpoint.
It was here sat on the grass directing runners along the road that I surprised myself, shocked would perhaps be a better choice of words, there was no contest in my mind no alternate strategies such as resting, dropping a pain killer, seeing it to the next checkpoint, I settled on a DNF, almost with a smile on my face not in relief at the days exertions being over but simply and purely because clarity finally struck I was blaming myself for a lack of training volume and intensity where the issue was injury that made training volume and intensity almost impossible; it was here I accepted using Anadin Extra to complete any run over 14 miles in training was indeed folly.
I am cross that it took a race as tough as Hardmoors to reach what should have been an obvious conclusion, I carried the same injury through a 40 miler, a tough trail marathon and even a 24 hour event this year compromising my performance in each.
What then do I conclude from the experience?
Hopefully it has taught me to listen to my body a little more and to treat each race with respect, I knew enough about Hardmoors to know it would seek out any weakness and shine a light on it, the decision should have been made in training not 20 miles into a race.
Certainly to deal with injury issues as they occur and not give in to the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
That whilst I am comfortable with the decision I made and certainly will not be haunted by it, there is a t-shirt missing, a facebook post not made, a distance and time not recorded all replaced with the wrong type of tale to retell.
Will I have another DNF, who knows, will I accept a DNF as a result of ignoring injury issues with the same calm, I will not, that will not be happening and if it does then there is an open invitation to all comers to kick my sorry arse.
One question it raises which awaits answer is, did I act sensibly with a degree of self-assurance to DNF so quickly and with seemingly such little thought or have I revealed, in doing so, a character flaw that will come back in future races to haunt me?
Time then to get fixed, strive to be leaner, fitter, stronger quicker and come back to the Hardmoors series next year ….. well not quite I am a dumb runner after all, I’ll suspend disbelief a little further and take a trot out at Snowdonia Marathon at the end of October first, as it’s my last outing of the year … …
I probably ought to add a little detail to that statement; I have identified the injury as most likely to be a form of sciatica opposed to muscle or tendon damage and will only start the race if I feel I can get around the course, enjoy the scenery and post a result that I’ll feel comfortable sharing, I will otherwise just go to support my pals and kick off rehabilitation with my favourite medicine a mild oral analgesic taken regularly and often, the preferred delivery mechanism being dark in colour with a nice creamy white frosting on top.