Monday, January 10, 2011

Bandera DNF

Well, certainly things didn't go as planned this weekend at Bandera, and I ended up dropping out at the halfway point. I'm still not sure exactly what was going on, but pretty much everything felt "off" right from the start. I've kind of known for awhile that I need a bit a break from racing. I think this past weekend certainly confirmed that. I've done 10 races in 10 months and for the next couple months I'm going to give myself a bit of a break. Probably won't race again until late March and will take the rest of this month off from any kind of focused training.

Anyhow, back to Saturday. I had a nasty head cold last week, but by race day I thought it was more or less gone. And then I slept better on Friday night than I ever have the night before a race. 7:30 am when we started I thought I had everything in line to have a good solid run.

And then we started and within minutes I felt really crappy. My stomach was off, my legs were off, my lungs felt really stressed, and the pace felt way too fast. I should have slowed down right then. Dave James took the pace out really fast, but instead of slowing down I thought I could just push along and get warmed up and start feeling better. This has after all worked for me numerous times in the past when I haven't felt that good at the start of a race.

Not this time though. I felt crappy and kept feeling worse. Eventually I knew I needed to slow down, but by that point we had covered about 15 miles and the damage was done to me. I was in this "No Man's Lan" where I felt like all I could do was hold on and hope for a miracle. Of course slowing down then would have still been wise, but at the time it felt very much like I had already done enough damage by going out too hard (for what my body had on that day) that I may as well just stick with it and see what happened.

And so this is what I did. Dave James, Dave Mackey, and I were running this entire stretch together. I had a few moments where I felt good for a minute or two, but overall it was just bad and getting worse. The most tangible problem was that my stomach wasn't taking in calories. I would eat a gel and it would take 45 minutes or more for my stomach to settle and absorb the calories. By mile 25 I knew I was in serious trouble and I finally slowed way down and let Mackey run out ahead.

Usually when I feel really crappy in a race it's still really fun, and I relish the challenge of trying to manage things back to a point of being able to race again. It never felt this way on Saturday though. The crappy feeling just didn't feel fun at all and the slower I went the worse I felt. By mile 28 I hadn't eaten anything in over an hour and my stomach was feeling even worse. I had only had 300 calories all race and so I slowed even more.

I can't really explain what makes me choose to stop in a moment like this as opposed to pushing on and trying to find a way to turn things around. It's just not a tangible thing that can be explained, but for me in the moment I just know when to stop and I know when to go. My body, my mind, and every other part me was telling me it would be better to stop in this race.

When I struggled for almost 30 miles in the middle of Western States last year, not once did the slightest thought of stopping creep in. And so on Saturday I stopped at the 50k aid station.

As soon as I dropped I walked to my tent and just laid on the ground for an hour. Finally after that I was able to stomach a little water (first water in about 2 hours). About 3 hours after stopping I was finally able to eat some food. Within 6 hours of stopping I felt great, and having dropped out felt really silly. But at the time, and right now, I know that it was the right thing to do. This just wasn't my day. That happens every now and then. The last time this happened for me was Miwok in 2009. I came back a few months later from that race a significantly stronger runner than I was previously. That's what my plan is this time around too.

In the end Mackey had a super solid race and finished in 8:17, taking more than an hour off the previous course record. This was the biggest reason I was bummed to have not had more in me on this day. It would have been fun to battle it out to the end with Dave. Hopefully I get that chance again soon before Dave is retired and in a nursing home. Dave James also had a great run, finishing less than 20 minutes behind Mackey, and also way under the previous course record. Two more great runners with a shot at Western States if they choose to take it.


  1. Geoff, sorry that your body wasn't cooperating. Would love to have seen what you could have done in our neck of the woods. It seems like the technical nature of the course would have suited your strengths. Enjoy the break away from racing.

  2. It is good you realized it early in the race and decided not to keep pushing the envelope! You didn't quit, your body quit on you. You will come back stronger with the mental/physical break. 10 races/10 months and you competed at the top in all of them. That says something about the kind of runner you are and will be in the future.

  3. nursing home. good stuff.

    enjoy the rest!

  4. Geoff, you are such an amazing athlete, and guy!! Your body is silently thanking you right now for the break you will be giving it. In my opinion there is not a single athlete that is better than you right now in this sport. Rest, and mentally get it back. Don't get to concerned if it takes longer than you want. Enjoy because you give 110% when you are hittin it, and it's rare we ever rest the way we should. A forced rest & break is good for the soul sometimes. Helps us figure shit out ya know? Godspeed to you my dear, and see you at Miwok as I will be helping Tia all weekend!!

  5. Sorry to hear about the DNF, but after the cold you may have been a bit run down (no pun intended...). You did the right thing on the day by stopping and I'm sure your body was happier for it!
    All the best for 2011 :-)

  6. As I said before amazing year Geoff, so your body needs to rest for a while.
    It´s always hard to stop training and/or racing, but necessary...
    Don´t mind, you´ll be back even stronger, specially in your mind, and hunger...

    All the best for this year, enjoy your rest.



  7. You are human Geoff and taking a break sounds like a great plan, come the summer there is no doubt that you will be nailing races left, right and centre. Enjoy a wee break and wishing you all the best for the season ahead.

  8. Good to hear it wasn't anything major, was a bit worried there for a while not hearing anything out of the race. Time for some fun running, perhaps I'll see you this weekend if not some other time.

  9. Nursing home?? I think the correct term is "assisted living", Geoff.

  10. Geoff:
    I'm sorry that your body didn't give you the chance to race the way you wanted!
    I do think it was cool how you stuck around the aid stations to help, and ran a little with Dave later on.
    I hope the break will get you ready to race the way you want to! Good luck!

  11. Yes, I agree it was cool that you stayed around and helped and ran with Dave but what more would I expect from such a classy guy that I am so proud to call my son. You are an amazing runner and an even more amazing human. You are always there to give support to all the others and you are so humble. Give your body a well-deserved rest and you'll be ready to run 100% in a few weeks.


  12. It was good meeting you at the race. A DNF is never a fun experience, I've had more than I'd like. You showed the wisdom to listen to your body. I appreciate you sharing your experience on the blog. It helps some us pardon ourselves to know even great runners have days that the body won't perform as desired. Hope to see you at another starting line in the future.


  13. Nobody likes to drop out, but sometimes it's the best choice. Better that you dropped early than try to push to the finish and really mess yourself up. Rest up and we'll see you out there. Best regards

  14. Do you think the stomach issue was nerves or wrong food combinations? Would be curious to know what you ate in the 24hrs leading up to the race start.

  15. C.J., I don't think I did anything different than normal leading up to this one. the one thing different was that i got the best night of sleep i've ever gotten the night before a race... but it seems like that should be a good thing. food was pretty typical - large pasta dinner the night before and ~600 calories in the AM before the race. i guess one never knows though.

  16. hope you had a good time in costa rica Geoff! one of my favorite countries out there!