Seas Too Far To Reach (a TNF DNF)

I tried to stretch my season into one last race at The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships in San Francisco this weekend.  Unfortunately, it proved to be a bit too much for my body, and I ended up with a DNF.  I'm not too upset, as I knew the odds were stacked against me, and it was a fun weekend seeing everyone at this season-ending event.  The JFK 50 was the focus of my fall, and TNF was just an add on.  I'd be a lot more bummed if TNF had been the focus.

I knew I was reaching by choosing to run JFK and TNF two weeks apart, especially at the end of a long year.  This would be my sixth 50 miler of the year, and my sixteenth race of the year.  Immediately after JFK, I came down with a cold, which I had for about a week.  It was finally clearing up earlier this week, when I was immediately saddled with the flu (or something similar) on Tuesday.  I changed my flight from Wednesday to Friday, thinking I would likely bail on the race, yet holding out hope.  Come Thursday morning however, I felt halfway decent on my run, so I thought what the heck, I'll go give it a shot.  

After 17 hours in transit on Friday, I passed out on the top bunk in our Team Salomon digs aboard a Sausalito houseboat.  Eight hours later, I was on the starting line of the race, ready to throw down.  I was determined to keep the effort totally within myself for the first 18 miles, after the biggest climb of the day, where I would then hopefully open it up on the rolling out and back section.  I stuck to this plan for the first 9 miles or so, but then somehow ended up getting sucked into a stronger effort than I wanted to run as we hit the singletrack to Muir Beach.  

I soon reined in my effort as we hit the big climb to Cardiac, but the damage was done.  The climb took quite a bit out of me.  Instead of being ready to roll at 18, my body was shot.  I think there was quite a bit of lingering fatigue from two weeks of illness (along with JFK still in the legs), and my body probably would have shut down on me anyway at some point.  I just speeded that process along with some racing stubbornness.  In a matter of a few short miles, I was truly drained, having trouble even jogging along the gently rolling hillside toward McKennon Gulch.  My core temperature dropped a lot, as my body was no longer allowing me to put forth an effort that would generate heat.  Totally spent and mentally fatigued from a long season of racing, I decided to drop there.  

The other major hiccup in my race—and a very stupid mistake at that—was not having a proper headlamp for the first two hours of darkness.  (As an aside, there is absolutely no reason for this race to start pre-dawn.  It should start at 7 a.m., not 5 a.m.)  I rarely have to run in the dark, and I've only got a cheap headlamp that I bought years ago for camping.  I failed to replace the batteries, and the light was woefully insufficient.  I could see well enough not to fall, but I couldn't see subtle dips in the trail, which led to many an unexpected and jarring step when my foot landed at a different place than anticipated.  This is an easy fix, and a dumb mistake to have made in the first place.  I just need to get a high quality headlamp!

Despite a disappointing race, it was a fun-filled weekend with my Salomon teammates and other friends from the trail.  My buddy Chris Vargo absolutely tore it up with a break-out third place finish.  It also helped to teach me my own limits.  Similar to my experience at the UROC 100k, I'm learning what I can and cannot do.  UROC indicated to me that I probably cannot compete well at races above 10,000' of elevation unless I actually live and train that high for a month or more.  This race showed how tough it is to run two 50 milers in a two week span.  Not impossible, but very tough to pull off.  I probably won't try the JFK-TNF double again, which means I won't be racing TNF next year as I plan to return to JFK.  Though who knows, maybe I'll come for the 50k instead!  

For now, it's time for a much-needed break.  I don't plan on running a step for the next two weeks before I begin a slow buildup to legitimately high mileage.  I never really got there this year, as I was racing too dang much.  But I know there's a lot of potential untapped for me in spending weeks on end well above 100 miles per week.  It's a stimulus I've toyed with in the past, but never truly capitalized on due to school and work commitments.  I'm happy with my year and more excited for what the next year holds.