Saturday, April 16, 2011

My first D.N.F. – Wickedly Fast Half Marathon…

Where to start? Well, I suppose this blog is useless if I sugar coat things rather than put down how I really feel. So here it goes. This morning was the first time I’ve ever dropped out of a race. I don’t know what hurt more, my foot or my pride. Here’s my full report.
As you’ve been reading, I’ve been struggling for a few weeks now with a foot injury and thus a lack of consistent running. Yesterday afternoon and when I got up this morning my foot felt great; almost back to normal. As for the weather, it was not so great. It was 38 degrees (dropped to 37 degrees) with a 22 mph NNW wind and a 26 degree wind-chill. Ouch! I got to the start line at about 6:30 with a scheduled 7:00 start time. I found the 1:55 pacer that I hoped to manage staying with and we tried to stay warm. The race got started right at 7:00 as scheduled. Cold weather tends to make breathing tough for me, not quite asthma, but similar. So, it was cold (which I hate), it was windy (which I hate), I couldn’t breathe evenly, and I had to consider the possibility of my foot starting to hurt. I was determined to fight through all of these factors and make it through.

It took me about ¾ of a mile to get left in the dust by my 1:55 pace group, then at about mile 2 I got smoked by the 2:00 pace group. Yep, you guessed it, my foot was getting sore, and getting worse quickly. I got to the 3 mile aid station and it was being manned by my fellow members of the Olathe Running Club. I had high hopes that seeing them there would help give me a boost and help me get over the annoyance my foot was becoming. It didn’t, my foot was moving quickly from an annoyance to pain. Then I got what felt like a huge slap in the face. Right around the 3.5 mile point I was passed by the 2:05 pace group, yep, the group that was running a pace that I ran in my first half in November were blowing right past me. I thought, okay, pain or no pain, I’m going to try to stay close to them so I could at least salvage some pride out of this run. Well, that lasted about a quarter mile, my foot just couldn’t move that fast. It was really starting to hurt. At about 4.5 miles I was starting to walk/jog trying to just finish. I no longer held hope of a decent time; I just wanted to get through it. The pain kept getting worse and worse. By 4.75 miles I had the 5 mile aid station in sight and was badly limping. I stopped at the aid station and sat down to massage my foot a little. That’s helped since the injury so I hoped that would loosen it up enough to let me finish with a walk/jog. I got up, walked to get a cup of water and that was it. I just couldn’t do anything but limp. I stopped and asked the course official how I could get back to the start since this was the first time I had ever dropped out of an event. I felt ashamed asking him such a question. He was extremely kind. He told me they had buses that would come and pick me up. He opened the back door of his SUV to offer me a place to sit down and take the weight off my foot and he called in to let the bus know he had a runner that needed a ride. To be honest, I wanted to cry as he made the call. Was this really happening to me? Could I really not push on through this? I just ran a full marathon; could I really drop out at only 5 miles? I knew it wasn’t worth risking serious injury just to push through, but the shame of sitting there as runners kept going by was overwhelming.

The bus arrived and I hobbled my way onto it. We had to turn around in a parking lot because the road just ahead was blocked for the course. As we headed back past the station they picked me up at they got a call that another runner was there needing pickup. A lady got on that was clearly in as much pain as me or more. She was limping badly and crying. She sat down on the seat opposite me and asked what was wrong that I had to drop out. I told her about the last three weeks dealing with my foot and that this was my first time ever dropping out of an event. I told her that I was incredibly disappointed, but I felt it was not worth risking the long term for one race. She said it was her first time having to drop out of a race as well. Just about a week ago she had strained a quad and that had begun to cause serious pain in her knee, hip, back, etc as she attempted to compensate. She said she was so ashamed and upset about dropping out that she just couldn’t take it. We both knew dropping out was the right thing to do, but it is so painful, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

So what do I have left after this race? Honestly, I have nothing but disappointment and self-doubt. I know that I will get past this once I can get back to running without pain, but right now it’s hard. It’s tough to feel confident in myself after dropping out with 8 miles to go. I will try to get in to see my doctor again on Monday. I need to find out why this foot is still such a big problem three weeks after the injury. I need an explanation of why I had to drop out of this race.  Once I know what is going on and what to do about it I will be able to move on, but right now all I have is doubt. I know every athlete goes through this at some point. The elite runners miss or drop out of races due to injury. Michael Jordan missed games or could finish game because he was hurt. This is my first real injury since I started running, and I know it won’t be my last. But I do hope this is the last race I have to DNF, I never want to feel like this again. And again I will say, I'd like to punch the idiot that named this the "Wickedly Fast" Half Marathon in the face. That's just begging for bad luck, and I had plenty of that.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Bryan,

    I just attempted to run my third half marathon (I'm not quite a marathoner like yourself), and I had to drop out at 3 miles because of a knee injury I incurred in the "taper off" part of my running program. I am so disappointed and embarrassed of myself, because I keep having to explain to people how and why I dropped out. I know it was the right choice, and I guess the main positive is that I can learn from it and try to avoid these injuries in the future by training differently.

    I googled "I did not finish a half marathon" and your blog came up, and it has made be feel a little better. I will get back into it, stronger than ever!

    Thanks!
    Margaret

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    1. Best of luck with your recovery. Take it slow, let it heal properly. There is life after DNF; in fact, most of my best running has been since this DNF. Try to stay positive, know that you did the right thing and move forward. It's better to drop out of 1 race than to allow it to become a life altering injury.

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