Weymouth Woods 100k
Southern Pines, NC
Place: 67 out of 77 - DNF after 7 laps/31.85 miles
When it comes to ultrarunning, you read about successes, failures, hardships, good days, bad days, just about everything. Being a new ultrarunner, I've been successful in all my races. Maybe occasionally I've had the thought that I may never have a DNF. If you train right, and prepare yourself for the task at hand, why should you ever DNF a race?
Well, it happened. And I'm not ashamed of it. I'm actually glad I got it out of the way. It's really not that big of a deal. Of course you don't want to make it a habit. But hey, you live to run another day. And that's what it's about.
I read an blog post by Geoff Roes a while back and it was in reference to a race in which he DNF'd. Many people were questioning him and his decision to drop, myself included. Geoff is one of the best ultrarunners in the sport, so he knows what he's doing. He races at a high level, something that the majority of us will never do. So when he got to a point and knew that he wasn't going to win the race, or likely even place in the top three, he dropped. He could have finished the race, but that wasn't his goal (while for most of us, it is). He wanted to win. When it was evident that wasn't going to happen, he stopped and called it a day. He was quoted saying something to the point of, why continue racing and risking injuring myself, when I can stop now, recover quickly, and get back out there training for the next race. When I read that, it made sense to me. Yes, he could have finished. But he would have spent more time on his feet than he had planned, and what if something did happened and he did get injured? Dropping was the best decision.
I'll never win a race. Heck I'll probably never come in the top 10 (unless there are like 12 runners in the race). But remembering this story about Geoff came into play at the Weymouth Woods 100k.
--Leading up to the Race--
Back in December, I injured myself. Probably running down Pilot Mountain too fast and too hard. And something happened. I didn't know it at the time. I ran the next three days in a row and this pain in my left tibia seemed to get worse. I decided to take a few days off. And being the 'internet doctor' I am, I quickly began searching for a diagnosis for my problem. At first I thought it was a stress fracture, but later I re-diagnosed it as a 'stress reaction', which is the pre-cursor to a stress fracture. I didn't need crutches or a boot or anything. Instead, rest was the prescription. I didn't go to a doctor because I knew that's what they'd say.
Fast forward to January, I finally am able to get back to running. I knew I still had a decent base. Mentally I thought I could finish the 100k. But all in all, it was 15 hours or bust. Weymouth Woods is a qualifying race for the Western States 100. That's what drew me to it in the first place. But you have to run it under 15 hours to qualify. So that was my goal. I went into the race with the mindset of 'if it looks like I can do it under 15 hours, I'll go for it....but if something doesn't feel right, or I can't make that cutoff, I'll drop and save myself for another day'. I did NOT want to re-injure my leg. Especially since I did what I'm sure plenty of other stubborn long distance runners have done: Register for a race while you're injured! Yep, I got picked in the lottery and registered for the Massanutten 100 miler in May. So I just needed to get in a good long run, and continue to work my way back, with this ultimate goal in mind.
Since I had sort of 'planned' to DNF, I told Summer not to worry about coming to see me. While it's always great to have her and Gemma there supporting me, it wasn't worth it. So I headed out super early and drove 2 hours to Southern Pines, NC. This race was sure to be flatter than UROC.
The race consists of 14 loops on a 4.47 mile course. This would be my first time on a loop course so it was new to me. Even though I knew a DNF was a good possibility, A) I missed the withdrawal date to get my money back, B) I figured I'd get in a good long run and the shirt I paid for, and C) I wanted to see the course in case I wanted to come back in the future.
We all gathered inside a building to hear the pre-race briefing. Nothing out of the ordinary. However, as I was putting on my gaiters, the plastic piece that goes under my shoe snapped. I quickly wondered if that was foreshadowing as to how my day would go.
We headed to the start line and gathered around. It was in the low 30's but the sun was rising and forecast showed it would be a great day for running. I knew I wanted to do each lap a little under an hour and that I would slow down later so they would all even out. Mentally I thought I could do this. 14 laps. Do as many as I can in just under an hour. Then have a little 'time in the bank' toward the latter stages of the race and hope that I can get in under 15 hours. NOTE: You Cannot Bank Time In A Race. I knew this, but I was going to give it everything I had.
The first lap was a little slow at first just because of the conga line of runners that had to thin out. The race was capped at 75 runners though which appeals to me as I enjoy smaller races. The trail was great. Plenty of roots sticking up everywhere that would surely cause runners some problems when the sun went down. I chatted with a few folks but soon settled into my thing: running alone. I do it all the time. I'm used to it. So that's what I do.
When I finished the first loop, I stopped at the long line of aid. There was a guy grilling all kinds of stuff. I grabbed some grilled cheese quarters, gummy bears, and headed off for loop two. Slowly, I was learning the course. Figuring out where I should run and where I should walk. Nothing interesting on this loop, as was the case on most. Once I completed it, I went back for some more grilled cheese but there was none. I grabbed a piece of cheese quesadilla instead. It didn't taste good. I had some sort of minor cold in my head/chest and eating this quesadilla just felt so dry in my mouth, even when I drank water. I did not enjoy it. I choked most of it down and threw away the rest. I was taking a gel at the half way point of each loop as well but I wanted to eat solid foods as much as I could.
Somewhere on loop three, towards the end, I felt something like a stick hitting my leg. I looked down and realized the plastic/rubber string on my other gaiter was broken. Great. I could tell it wasn't my day. Almost a half marathon into this race and my legs were dead. Each lap got harder and harder, even though I was keeping up my pace of a lap per hour. I tried not to think about the big picture. Just one lap at a time.
The sun was up and it was warm now. I had shed the gloves, long sleeve shirt, and winter hat and was down to my traditional shorts, tshirt, and visor. Lap four, five, and six all passed. I was eating, but mentally I was going downhill. Seven was half way. So I convinced myself to at least get half way. At least if I dropped after that, I could be satisfied with a good long run.
Lap seven concluded and I stopped at my cooler and sat down in a chair. I called Summer and told her what was up. I had high hopes. Why wouldn't I? But reality is, I hadn't done a long run since November. I only ran 68 miles in December. I was undertrained. My base got me through a 50k, and I was happy with that. It was about the big picture. I could have finished. I had stopped after 31.85 miles which I covered in 6 hours and 38 minutes. I had over 13 hours to finish the second half of the race. But that wasn't my goal. I had 8 hours to finish that second half in order to get the Western States qualification. I knew that wasn't in the cards. I didn't want to risk getting injured again. I had too much on my schedule in front of me. So I dropped.
The Race Director, Marie Lewis, was great. She tried to talk me out of it, but I told her I had bigger eggs in my basket and I couldn't risk messing things up. Another runner was sitting nearby and had ice on her knee. I began to tell her and another gentleman sitting beside her that I was dropping as I didn't want to injure my leg again since I was ultimately training for Massanutten 100. The gentleman sitting there then said something to the point of "Oh you're doing Massanutten? [yes] That's the only race that ever made me cry". So at least that's encouraging for what's in store for me come May 18-19.
In the end, I had a great time at this race. It's low key, and that's how I like it. I will definitely keep this one on my radar for future years and look forward to going back and getting my revenge when I am healthy.