Thursday, March 28, 2013

The First "DNF"


The First “DNF”

I started doing endurance races (for real, I had done a few road races before that) in 1992.  As of this writing I had completed over 200 road running races, duathlons, triathlons, off road running races and Ultra Marathons.

Without a single DNF (Did Not Finish). 


To give you an idea of how seriously I take finishing what I started, let me tell you about a duathlon I did in South Florida in the early 90’s.  In shorter races (bike leg under 15 miles), I started taking all of my flat-tire fixing stuff off my bike to “save weight”. 

This really is crazy to me now, as I know this made absolutely no difference in the speed of my bike leg, and I was not competing to win anything except perhaps my age group -- and that was only if no one else showed up.

Anyway, this one race the bike leg was only 10 miles so I took everything off (including my water bottle cages – who needs water in a 25-30 minute bike leg and that was at least 1oz of weight)!

Finished the first run, hopped on the bike and got about 1 mile into the race and, bam, flat tire!

For any “normal” person, this would have been his first DNF.  Walk the bike back to transition, have a beer and call it a day.


Not this guy.

I ran back to transition with my bike (bare feet as it really sucks to run in bike cleats), got to my transition area and realized I didn’t have anything there to fix the tire either.



Not this guy.

I realized I had a spare wheel in my car (why, who knows) so I grabbed my car keys, ran to my car (parked about ½ mile away), got the wheel and ran back.  Changed the tire and headed out on the bike, about 30 minutes behind the last place person.

The winners were already done and having a beer when I re-started the bike ride.

Ended up passing about 5 people on the second run, so I was not last and…..


Crazy, right? 

Amazingly, through God’s grace, over the next 20 years, and all the crazy races I did, I never did not finish one!

Now, before you think I am some super-human (which I am decidedly not) or incredibly lucky (again, not) realize that I did have a lot of “DNS’s” – Did Not Starts.  Due to injury, other commitments, etc. 

So, if I actually started every race I signed up for, even when injured seriously (I raced injured a lot) I am sure there would be a few DNF’s on my resume.

So, on to 3/23/2013.

After Pinhoti and then dealing with the death of my mother-in-law my training was sporadic at best.

When I finally returned to training and started to up my miles, I developed a pretty serious case of Plantar Fasciitis

Now, I have had this before, many times, and just stretched, iced and medicated my way through it.

This time I even took a whole week off running!

It just would not go away.

However, I had a really cool 20 mile night run I had signed up for so nothing was going to stop me.

Remember, my plans vs. God’s plans?

The week of the race I ran very little, iced every day and was actually feeling a lot better some Saturday (race started 8pm Saturday night).

On the way there I did not talk about the injury to the 3 guys I was traveling with (“don’t give it energy” is my mantra about sickness and injuries) and I had confidence that once the endorphins settled in I could run through anything.

Race starts and right away I could tell something was wrong.  It hurt right away. A lot.  Also my right knee started to hurt in the first mile – probably because the foot injury was on my left and I was favoring the other side to take pressure off and reduce pain.

Also, and this was much more telling, I was just not into the race mentally and spiritually.  In hindsight, this probably weighed more heavily in my decision to DNF than the pain.

Now, this has happened many, many times before (the initial pain and not wanting to run) and I have kept running until the feeling went away.

Not this time. 

It got worse.

At one point, around mile 5, I started to feel a bit better for a mile or so, and I picked up my pace a bit thinking the worst was over.

Then I run down an unexpected hill (remember, it is pitch dark and all you can see is the little circle of light in front of your headlamp) which has a small, muddy creek crossing at the bottom.

Did I mention it had rained all day, and would start again at 10pm this night?

I hit the bottom of the hill full speed and land with all my weight on the knee that is already bothering me. 

I felt it “go loose”, which has only happened to me one time before in a tough 50 miler, and had to walk a bit until it felt normal again.

Ok, so here is the deal:

  1. I am 6 miles into a 20 mile race
  2. My left foot (actually both feet as my 14 year old Achilles pain in my right foot is aching also) is killing me
  3. My right knee is in pain and feels very week
  4. I am pretty down spiritually and mentally

And, the kicker, this race is not just 20 miles – it is 2 laps of 10 miles.  Yes, I get to see the finish ½ way through.   

Not a good combination.

So I gut it out for about 2 more miles and then start to pray.  I talk to God and tell him how I am feeling and ask his permission (I know, sounds strange) to not finish. 

An incredible sense of peace, no guilt, no worries comes over me.

I realize that my 20 year streak is about to be over.

And I am completely, totally OK with it (at least at mile 8 out in the woods – of course there came moments of 2nd guessing later). 

It is actually a HUGE struggle just to finish the 10 miles.  I feel tired and severe pain.  I am also at a lower point mentally and spiritually than I have was at some points in ultras I have run!

I run up to the finish and I see a friend who is the RD of the race, Jason G and he says “Rami, 10 or 20 miles”.  I say: “Signed for 20, but now it is 10”.

There it is. 

I know you can say (and many people did this night), it wasn’t a DNF, I just dropped down to a shorter distance race.

But for me, that is a DNF – just like pulling off the side of the road and getting a ride home at mile 13.1 of a marathon.  Yes, you completed a ½ marathon but your goal was a marathon.  So, DNF!

It ended up being a really fun night, 3 of us did 10 miler and one friend – the incredible, freaky Tim M. who can race so hungover he cannot see straight and with virtually no training – finished the 20 miles at about midnight.

In pouring rain, lightning and temperatures dropping.

After this race, I decided to give my injury the tender-loving care it really needs and take 2 full weeks off running.

I am at peace.  It is all God’s plan.

However, I am not going to make a habit of it.

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