Monday, June 27, 2011

The Four Steps To My WS DNF

I spent some time (and certainly I wasn't the only one) on my flight back to Alaska today thinking about why things may have gone as poorly for me this past weekend as they did. Of course I have no way of knowing for certain so this is all just a guessing game. But here are my guesses:

I think the most prominent factor is that I simply had a bad day. This isn't the first time I've had a race that started out feeling bad and just got worse as I pushed along. It was in fact the 4th in the 40 or so races I've run in the past 5 years. We all have days when we just don't have it. The reason we try to sleep a lot, eat well, and rest before a race is that we try to minimize this chance of having one of these days on race day. And minimize we can, but eliminate we can not. Anyone who runs enough races will have a bad day on race day sooner or later.

The next most likely factor is that the head/chest cold that I had the week before the race was still lingering enough to slow me down. I thought I had kicked it a full week before the race but then on Monday of race week it came back pretty hard for one day. The rest of the week I felt better and better each day, but certainly I was still congested on Saturday. I've done 5 or 6 races in the past few years in which I was just getting over a cold in the days leading up to the race. A few times I've been able to get through this without it having too much of an effect (NF Endurance Challenge 2009 and Run Rabbit Run 2010) and a few other times (Miwok 2009 and Bandera this year) it's had a definite negative effect on my performance. I do think this illness had an effect on me this past weekend, but it certainly wasn't the entire problem, and probably wouldn't have been insurmountable had it been the only problem.

In reading this it might sound like I get sick all the time, but I feel like I get sick about the same as most people (usually 2 or 3 colds a year), I just happen to race about once every 4 or 5 weeks so pretty much anytime I get a cold it is still lingering a little bit by the time I do my next race.

I think another reason why it might seem like I get sick all the time to folks who follow my racing is because I'm entirely open and honest to people who ask me how I'm feeling about a race. If I say I've been sick that means I've been sick. If I say I've been feeling really good that means I've been feeling really good. If I've been feeling like crap and someone asks me how I'm feeling I will tell them that I've been feeling like crap. If I'm feeling like crap during a race and another runner asks me how I'm feeling I will tell them that I'm feeling like crap. I'm not interested in playing mind games and trying to hide what I'm feeling. If this openness sometimes works to the advantage of other runners by boosting their confidence (as I think it probably did for Dave during Bandera when I told him how bad I was feeling) than so be it. To me competition is about the collective experience much more than it is about trying to win at all costs. If I tell someone I'm feeling horrible and they gain some energy/confidence from that knowledge then I think that's awesome for them. If I'm able to turn things around and feel better later on then we get a snowball effect going on and can push collectively well beyond what anyone of us could of as individuals. A desire to win is one of the reasons I love to compete with other runners, but it is certainly not the main reason. Winning is instead just really sweet "icing on the cake" of the competitive experience. Anyhow, I'm off on a long tangent here. The point is I was recovering from a cold this week and that certainly didn't help much with my performance ability on Saturday.

The third factor that may have been involved in this race is that I was perhaps overtrained/undertapered. My training/taper was in fact not much different with this race than it has been for most of the races I've done in the past few years. I ran a total of 19 miles in the 5 days before this race. I ran a total of 96 miles in the two weeks before the race. If anything these numbers are a bit lower than my typical lead up to a big race. In terms of the longer picture I have run almost exactly the same total mileage, time, and elevation to date this year as I did to this point last year. I have also raced almost exactly the same mileage as last year (260 to date this year and 230 to this point last year). I am however open to the possibility that I have been overtraining a bit and that I need a bit of a break (and I plan to monitor this very closely in the next few weeks). I have had a lot of runs in the past month in which I have felt kind of crappy like I did this past weekend. This isn't unusual though. I often feel kind of weak during my lead up to big races and then when I cut back the mileage for a couple weeks before the race I come around nicely by race day. I didn't do much (in terms of rest) while my body was not feeling very good for the past 4 or 5 weeks because I figured that it would just come around nicely with my taper before the race (as it's usually done in the past).

The thing that was different this time around though, and the reason why I might have overtrained a little bit, is that typically when I don't feel well I unconsciously take time off because it's not that enjoyable to run several days in a row not feeling well. This past several weeks though I've been enjoying my running (even when not feeling well) so much that I've just been running through a lot of physically mediocre days and not even really noticing how I'm feeling physically.

The 4th, and final factor that may have played a role in all of this is that my body may not have had enough time to adjust to the style of running that I do here in Juneau after spending 8 months in Colorado. I have no doubt that my body responds very well to the type of running (extremely steep and slow going) I do here, but it may be that I need another few weeks before I will have fully readjusted to this.

In all likelihood I think what hit me on Saturday was a combination of all of these things. Any one (or maybe two of them) would have been possible to overcome, but the combination of all 4 of these things was just too much. The good thing is that two of these things are already gone (the bad day and the cold); another one will automatically be addressed with the rest which I need to recover from the 56 miles I ran Saturday (and some careful monitoring of my body once I do start running again); and the last one will simply work itself out with time as I readjust more and more to running these incredible trails here in Juneau. In other words I fully plan/expect to be in the best shape of my life in 2 months for UTMB, and despite things not going so well this weekend I feel like I'm in perfect position to move in that direction with a ton of momentum and determination.


Paul said...

Such is life!

On to the next race!...8)

(I'd be thrilled to run 55 miles)

R. Logan Brooks said...

Nicely said. On a side note, your record of 8 straight 100 mile wins or whatever ridiculous amount it was unreal. Take care man.

Dahiya said...
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Dahiya said...

Hey Geoff,
In your pre-WS interview with irunfar, you mentioned about cold & timetrail kinda uphill climbs in Alaska & I thought in my head.... whooops, but are a super-duper ultra athlete & you know your body well, So never mind about WS-2011 outcome.
You still rock, keep up that passion for mountains, nature and running...I hope many people like me respect you for that. You indeed inspire a lot of people.

Train hard again for UTMB (of course you know what kind of training!) AND very imp...Stay away from Evil people...hahaha j/k
The world doesn't end here!
Best wishes

sharmanian said...

After your comeback last year I half expected you to shoot past in one of those canyons then chase down the win, but you'll be back to give them hell in Chamonix. Rest well.

GZ said...

Sh*t happens. If it didn't then this would be too easy and we'd probably not do it. And, fwiw, I find there are more lessons we learn in failure than success.

Onward, upward.

mi55ter said...

Whoa, that "Yo, feet" blog entry looked a bit like stalking. Maybe it'd be healthier for that person to run his own trails and let others run theirs.
I like the way you're handling this year's WS. Your analysis sounds healthy. Now, on to the next one!

sado said...

Geoff, I truly admire your honesty. Best wishes.

JR said...

hey Geoff,
no matter what your results the other day, you and your fellow runners are truely inspiring in a world of drugged up and over paid athletes. You guys do this stuff b/c it is what you like to do which makes it all the more interesting for all of us. Go gettem at UTMB!

Derrick said...

Interesting to read your thoughts on the race. Didn't sound ideal going into the race, but you always hope for the best. In many ways I expect that you'll run that much better in UTMB now than if you'd had a good race at WS.

Was great/classy to see you and the exchange in the video before Kilian hit the track.

Charlie said...

Geoff, you are an awesome runner with an impressive record of wins. I think you will do well at UTMB. Thanks for being such an inspiration.

lafritse said...

Hey Geoff,

I'm really sorry you DNF this race. I hope you'll be 100% at the end of august for UTMB.
I just wanted to ask you a question. I red something quite interesting in the link you gave us at the beginning of this article. The author mentionned your lack of focus on this year's WS100 to explain your failure.

What's your opinion about this analyze? More generally, do you think it's not possible to combine the real running pleasure (pleasure you took the last monthes) with a strong racing motivation?
Is it compulsory to be really focused to win the kind of race?

Thanks in advance for your answer and sorry for my english, I'm french and it's hard!!!

Best of luck for your season.

eric said...

i wonder if the constant altitude of boulder comes into play... with the switch to juneau just before the run, your body could have been slightly confused. not that i really know what i'm talking about, just talked to some people who have moved there about how long it takes to adjust.

the thing that's remarkable to me is that, feeling badly, you still managed to run over 2 marathons. i mean, 55 miles of running is pretty ridiculous on it's own...

hopefully, you got a chance to enjoy some scenery and at least could enjoy being in such a lively environment.

The Sean said...

drop in the bucket... rest up and move on!!

Unknown said...

I've just recently started reading your blog, Geoff, as I've started trying to make a return to ultras after a 10 yr layoff. Your approach is an inspiration and reminds me why I missed this sport so much. So thanks for that.
You went out at WS and gave it what you had on that day. Who can ask for more??

Devon said...

I came into states last year with the edges of a lingering cold and thought that I was recovered enough that it wouldn't effect me, but the factors at play in a mountain 100 seem to be too much for a weakened immune system. Couple that with a bit of overtraining/undertapering and there is no way around what happened. When I saw you come in to Michigan Bluff, I completely sympathized. I did the death march out of the canyons as well.

From the Fall of '09 until this past winter, I had four big races affected by illness and I was wondering what the heck, how can I be missing so many races due to illness, I don't feel like I get sick that often. As you pointed out, 4 races out of 40 is not a high number, but some how statistics don't remove the frustration by it. I finally got a flu shot, take regular wellness supplements and haven't missed a race because of sickness since. I highly recommend a flu shot.

Recover well. Take good care of yourself. I look forward to seeing you rock UTMB later this summer.

Brandon said...

I am beginning to think that 100 mile performance is directly related to beer consumption...I mean look at AJW.

It may be helpful to analyze your consumption statistics as you approach UTMB.



Alfonso Lopez said...

Hello Geoff, I follow your blog for three years, and really are an inspiration to continue progressing as runner .. I write from Spain, I'm happy for the victory of Kilian but I'd like you won the UTMB and later UROC .. I faced the cold western has been key to undermine your whole body .. you are an example in victory and in defeat

Martin Philip said...

Hang in there Geoff. I say congratulations to you for keeping it in perspective and being such a classy, humble presence.
Best of luck in realizing your dreams at the UTMB, or, better yet, enjoy the mountains and let the rest of the chips fall where they may.
Be well,

Kris said...

I think you do get sick alot. 2-3 times a year is alot. I get sick once per year or sometimes every 2 years. Getting sick that many times per year isn't normal. You should check into that. I expect you to win UTMB.

Tiffany Guerra said...

Hi Geoff,
Sorry you were not feeling well during Western States... I was pullin' for ya! But yeah, stuff happens. Always will.

Reading the Yo, Feet! blog was interesting... I hope you don't pay heed to such analyses, as after all you are the one who knows better than anyone what you need, what motivates you, etc... and it sounds like you are pretty in touch with that (or at least thinking deeply about it)!

Keeping running strong, Geoff. Hope you are feeling better and best of luck at UTMB.

Eric B said...

UTMB, 26 August, 2011.

Geoff said...

I thought a bit about this and I don't think it's a one or the other kind of thing. I think you can have the super relaxed/low focus approach and still compete at your top level on race day. this is after all pretty much what i've done for the past two years. I did have a ton of focus on WS last year and have had a ton of focus on a few races I've done in the past two years, but for most of them I have been every bit as relaxed and low-key as I was for WS this year. Mountain Masochist in '09 and Chuckanut this year might be the two best races I've had in terms of pure physical performance and both of those were about as unfocused or an approach as i've had to any races.

yeah, i would love to get sick less than I do but i've always gotten head colds about this much. most people i know get a cold a couple times (at least) a year. consider yourself lucky that you don't.

Will Cooper said...

Geoff you're making a great contribution to the sport just by your willingness to put everything out there in the open, good or bad. thanks for sharing your experiences with such honesty. But don't settle for getting sick that often...your body is telling you something.

Unknown said...


Probably just wasn't your day this weekend but you probably showed more of what kind of person you are by not finishing, than winning the race. By sticking around and cheering on the other runners showed what kind of charachter you possess. Knowing how disappointed you must have been and then sticking around to cheer on other runners shows alot of grace and class. I met you before the race and asked for a picture to be taken with you. And you couldnt have been more gracious. Lots of people were clamoring for your attention and you couldn't have been more patient or gracious. It is certainly appreciated by us back of the packers. Rest up, be well and through adversity comes strength. Good luck at UTMB

Lundo said...


Thanks for the thoughtful and honest post.

All you can do is prepare yourself as best as you know how, race hard, and look back and try to sort out what worked and what didn't. You do all of those things as good as anyone.

Anyone who races understands that bad days happen. Enjoy your recovery and best of luck with the rest of your year.

b.t.w., I wish I only got sick 2-3 times per year!

Unknown said...

Geoff, you are still a class act regardless of what happened at the race this year. We've all had our issues in races 50 Miles and beyond. Sure, we'd like to turn back the clock, sitting around thinking about what could have been. You will bounce back no doubt about that. As you know, the immune system gets obliterated during these type of events. And when you're running at or near max level like most guys at the front, you are always living on the edge. Good luck during this recovery phase.

Börkur said...

I was going to tell you to read Devon's blog from WS 2010 but she has already given you the short story. I had similar problems last year, was a little sick the week leading up to last years race and was worst the night before (but still "just" a cold I thought). Was feeling good when I woke up and the first few miles but then everything went the wrong way, my legs were totally ruined after 25 miles and I DNF'd at ALT, and my legs ain't no toothpicks :). I was shivering constantly for four days after the race, never experienced that before and don't want to.

Beforehand I didn't realize that simple cold could ruin a race, maybe a little short on breath but that the whole body just stopped functioning was totally unexpected.

Wyatt Hornsby said...


Please take 30 seconds to view this video:

Pulling for you, bro!


Erik Sagerdahl said...

Thanks for sharing all of this...I was eagerly wanting to know what you thought caused your tough day...I am getting ready for my first 50m (Headlands 50). I was thinking of running my legs into the ground and then resting 3 days prior. After reading your blog, maybe being healthy and getting some quality runs and rest is a better idea. It is such a ballance between resting and running and timing is so key. Also, it takes months/years to improve (talking about myself)...I can only do so much in 2 weeks. Thanks for your insight.

Tina said...

Geoff - Good honest analysis! It certainly makes sense to me. (I commented on your June 26th post, which for the most part fits here, too).

I'm new to ultras, so I really appreciate reading about your conclusions on both the great days as well as the "bad" days in both training as well as races.

As for prevention of colds, I find that taking echinacea at the very earliest onset (or when around people who have a cold or flu) boosts the immune system so I don't get sick. This in combination with increased fluids, fruits and vegetables, has successfully knocked the average of 3 to 4 colds per year down to one or less. If you're interested in learning more, you can easily google this herb. Probably best to stay away from formulas that contain goldenseal since it's hard on the kidneys.
I hope my little blurb is helpful info for you. ;)

Best to you.

Kris said...

Maybe I'm too patriotic but please win UTMB! And next year if you run WS 100 we want the cougar back in the USA! :)

runingfool said...

I met you at the airport on Monday and my heart goes out to you. Wishing you all the best.


Michelle said...

don't know for sure if this is significant, but I started taking a chewable vitamin c every morning a few years ago, and have gotten far fewer colds. maybe I get one a year. might be a harmless thing to try (we do share some of the same genes after all)

Bill said...

I guess you can sum it up like a friend of mine (who is from China and speaks somewhat broken English) said when I asked her how her race went. "IT WAS SUCK!" My new favorite expression for bad runs.

Anonymous said...

It was great to see you at WS, Geoff! I'm sorry the race didn't go well but really glad to hear that you're feeling good about UTMB!!!!

Obviously, I'm the last person who should be giving you advice on ultras ;) but this is what helps me: In your post you mentioned that you like to tell it like it is about how your feeling because of the mind game factor. I have a different technique that helps me a lot. When you vocalize that you're not feeling well to others, you are, in effect, telling yourself that you don't feel well. By not playing mind games with others your are playing mind games with yourself. In races, the worse it gets, the more I force myself to smile. Our brains default to learned response patterns (neurons that fire together wire together) and habits are formed. Eventually, the challenge of feeling like crap is something you look forward to and enjoy (which I'm sure you already do!). This is why/how I usually seem so happy while I'm on the course for such a long time! Maybe it's silly, but I really think that this is my one secret to ultras and the only reason I'm able to finish the ones I actually finish! I'm not sure if any of this will help or not but it is what works for me!

Another bit of advice would be to have someone else monitor your blog and delete comments by Cloud (before you can read them) until he/she gets bored and goes away. I get the occasional negative comment with Running Stupid and even though I try to not let them get to me, I know they do.

Hope your recovery is quick and you can get back out there and do what you love to do!!!!

All Day!

David Criswell said...

Geoff, thanks for your candor. I'm just venturing into the ultra scene and it is great to read about candid and authentic experiences.

It sounds like you keep close track of your mileage and elevation, time, etc. Are there particular tools you prefer to track your training. For example, do you use a GPS device, use a particular tool to log everything, etc?

Cheers and best to you in the next one!

Pepére said...

Hi Geoff, sorry that things didn't go your way this year at WS.

In addition to the factors you mentioned in your post, do you think heat could have played a role too? I remember thinking before the race that you might lack acclimatization to the WS temperature since for the last few months you lived and trained in wintry conditions. I live in Montreal and can testify that when it comes to runnning, even a sunny day at 20˚C (68˚F) isn't necessarily easy to handle in the Spring after 3 months below or near the freezing point. But again, sometimes I get the feeling that you ultrarunners come from another planet and have your own separate genetic code...

Enjoy your recovery, and best of luck for UTMB!

bmundy said...
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bmundy said...

Geoff, I agree. All body/race feedback is good. You will be so motivated by this that you will DESTROY UTMB, not in a negative way but it will be a very triumphant experience to be running so well in two months.

PS: run where you love to run. If it's Alaska, it's Alaska.

PPS: thanks for autographing my hat on the Bridge while waiting for Ellie. I know I came off as goofy, but I thought you showed great humility and honesty when I asked you how it was out there today.


Burt said...


Some days you just don't have it. Of course there may be reasons and lessons to be learned, but as you said so well, controlling all of the factors all of the time is next to impossible.

I do have one question: Do you think orgainizing and participating in the Alaskan Running Camp in early June contributed in any way to you feeling lousy on race day?

All the best at UTMB?

twardzik said...

Roes... you dont owe us crap man. you are a stud and seem to be a cool dude. your post seems to be explanations when we dont deserve them. screw what people think and say about WS. Ultras are crazy and you happen to be one of the best on the planet. I'm a fan of ultras and yourself and always will be - i just dont like when people micro-analyze. run. be happy. do your thing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Geoff, thanks for your honesty. It is inspiring to here. I am learning ultra running by experience. There are races this year I feel like crap and others great. For various reasons and challenges I have learned from every one of those experiences. No matter what, I still enjoy the essence of running and community, which is far more important than the time goals. Keep it up and good luck for your upcoming races.

saschasdad said...

Reading that last sentence was very awe-inspiring, Geoff. I love it!

Kris said...
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Kris said...

Check out the link about Killian. Article says Killian is considered by most the world's greatest trail runner. My question is who is "most." I would put Krupicka, Roes, Jurek and of course the great Matt Carpenter in front of Killian anytime!

Kangsan said...

Well, you're still the best of the best, Geoff. You'll get 'er next time.

I know many folks who hope you give the AC100 a try some year while you are still in your prime.

No matter who runs it, no one can break the 22 year old record Jim O'Brien set on a course that was 2 miles longer than the current one. But you can.

Take care.

cul8r said...

Keep it up Mister. One bad race. oh well. You are a huge motivator to the majority of trail runners out doing what we love. Good luck on your training.

brendaontheRun said...

It is what it is on race day ... you have a fabulous attitude and will always be a great ambassador for ultra running whether or not you come in first, second or DNF.

The Happy Meals said...
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