Sunday, May 17, 2009

DNF at 84.1 Miles

I'll just give the facts about the DNF on this post and tell more about the run later.

I'll jump into this report at 75.9 miles. I had run over Short Mountain in good shape, hopefully on my way to my goal of 28 hour finish. Coming out of the woods and onto a minor gravel road, I started looking for Edenberg Gap Aid Station. Usually an aid station is a noisy lit up place. I ran all the way down the road searching left and right with my flashlight and never saw or heard anything. It was after dark, raining and very foggy at the time. I got to the stop sign at the end of the road and shone my light up and down the highway. I saw two reflective markers hanging on the left hand side of the road across the street from the stop sign, and nothing else. 2 markers together are supposed to mean turn that direction, but I didn't see any more markers down the road and I didn't remember running on the highway last year. Then I shone my light across the road and saw a trail of markers leading back into the woods. So I followed it, up and up. I was climbing another mountain.

I saw a woman I thought was Donna Utakis heading down the trail about a mile in and asked about the aid station, she told me to turn around because I had missed it. I assumed she was walking back to drop from the race, but I see they have a finish time next to her name, so it couldn't have been her. Anyway I ran back down the rocky trail at full speed because I was impatient and annoyed. I stubbed my left foot coming down and threw my right foot out in front of me to try to avoid falling forward. My right leg jammed the ground hard with the knee locked and all the impact went into my right hip. I got to the road and for some reason that only someone who has run 78 miles over mountains could understand, I turned down the highway and ran about a mile or more looking for the aid station. This was down a steep hill on pavement and it really caused me some problems with the hip I had just jammed. At the bottom of the hill, I knew I was wrong. So I turned around and marched back up that same hill. I had spent well over an hour (I would guess it was getting close to 2 hours) looking for the aid station at this point.

As I neared the top of the hill on my way back, I saw two headlamps entering the trail I had first gone down after missing the aid station, but my hip and general fatigue wouldn't allow me to run fast enough up the hill to ask them where the station was. So I yelled out with all my might, "Hey, you two runners, STOP!" And they did, thank God. They waited for me. They knew I was the "girl who missed the aid station" because there was talk at the aid station about going to look for me. The woman runner (who apparently was not Donna) had been back to Edinberg and didn't understand why they hadn't seen me yet which was causing some concern.

The two men directed me back to the station, which was basically, right on the corner near the stop sign off the road a bit on a little dirt drive. There were no glow sticks or reflective markers marking the way in and I assume the runners were entering from some other place and exiting where the men directed me to go in. I still couldn't see the aid station from the road through the fog. Cars had parked between the station and the road and were blocking any lights from showing. Also it was extremely quiet there! Like I said, I think the runners must have turned off somewhere else. I'll have to figure that one out.

Also I want to note, one of the runners with the headlamps said he missed the same staion a few years back and ran down the highway looking in the same direction I did. I believe him because he added, "it was a hell of a hill to climb back up when I found out I was wrong. I also met an aid station worker at Woodstock Tower who said he made the same mistake last year but didn't go all the way to the bottom of the hill. I add this information so I won't seem like a total moron.

I checked in to Edinberg Gap. One of the volunteers was just heading out to hunt for me as I came in. After checking in I headed back up the trail toward Woodstock tower, the same trail I had first taken when I missed the station. My heart wasn't in it, my hip hurt, and I wasn't going to finish in 28 hours. My hip reduced me to a walk and my crushed spirit reduced me to a crawl. I'll admit it, I was moping. I got to Woodstock Tower eventually and told them I quit. I blamed my hip, which probably would have made me walk most of the remaining miles, but really I think it was more the disappointment of having a good run turn bad from such a stupid mistake. The hip hurts, like a bad bruise, but I could have pushed on if my spirit was willing.

So that is my sad story. It makes me sound kind of stupid, but don't throw stones unless you haven't done something stupid in the dark after running over 80 miles on rough trails through the mountains. On a lighter note, so you will understand how my mind works after running for so long, just before this unfortuante event I was wondering why my handheld light wasn't shining where I pointed it, and then realized I had the handheld pointing at the ground and was trying to shine my water bottle down the trail. Maybe a pacer wouldn't be a bad idea next time.


  1. Oh Laurel, I am so bummed for you! I was thinking about you out there while I was doing my long run here on Sat morning. Very sorry to hear what happened; my biggest fear in races is always getting lost. Sure hope the hip injury doesn't turn out to be too bad, and chalk it up to a great 80+ mile training run. On to Vermont.
    - paul

  2. Throw stones?? You just RAN 80+ friggin miles in one day. Finish or no finish what you did is absolutely amazing in my book. This mortal runner respectfully bows down to you on this day. I still say "nice job, Laurel!"

  3. Laurel, sorry to hear it didn't work out as you hoped. I can understand how getting lost in the middle of the night after so many mile could take the wind out of your sails. Don't be hard on yourself for getting off course. I do it all the time, in daylight, after 8 miles, not 80!

    I still say, Well done Laurel!!

  4. Laurel, I don't care what you think, I think it's amazing how far you can push yourself. Some times things just happen. Smile and look ahead.

  5. Hey Laurel, It's Amy...I'm sorry it didn't go as you hoped it would. I was bummed out when I saw that you had dropped out, just because I know you worked so hard for this and had a goal that you were going for. But you should be proud of everything you accomplished before and during this run. You're pretty amazing and I totally admire you!!!!!! For real!

  6. Laurel,

    Every run and every race is an more and no less. You gear your training toward the experience you expect but you never know what you are going to get back.

    I think if your goal was merely to finish a 100 miler than the decision to stop would surely be very disapointing.

    In your case it was a time goal and after 84 miles you surely have the right to weigh all aspects, options and outcomes to decide what is best for you.

    Though I can not give quality advice as I have never run 50 miles never mind 84, I think once you realized the 28 hour window was gone, and you were hurting, what would you have gained to continue? I think it took a lot of guts to decide to stop. It was your first step toward your next race.

    On the other hand, it seems the real culprit was your emotions as you seemed to allow them to affect your decisions.

    Perhaps the learning experience here is how you handle a similar situation if it arrises again. I assume you had options at the time that might have helped you overcome the problem and still stay on course for the 28 hour window.

    Knowing and understanding that, only comes from experiencing them first hand. You now can critique your yourself and guaranty a better result the next time.

    All that being said, I can now show the empathy and let you know I "felt" the dissapointment as I read your entry and wished things had gone better for you.......but 84 miles....christ that is a huge training run!

    I agree with the others here, you are an amazing runner and I can only hope to become half as good as you someday.

  7. Laurel, I was following the race online over the weekend and was disappointed to see that you DNF'd. But, given your performance at the race last year and the issues you had with the course and your hip this year, it sounds like you made the right choice. Your race last year set a high bar and once you couldn't make your time goal, your long term health needs to be a priority.

    Enjoy some recovery time. I doubt that I'll see you on the Pineland Farms course next weekend.

  8. Laurel, great run no matter what the outcome. Take care of your body so you can run again and stronger. The spirit is resilient; you will return stronger, more determined. Even though I have never run as far as you (M.O.G. "Mother of God), I can totally see how you would point a very similarly shaped water container like a flashlight. I'd do that walking from one room in my home to another! Heal well and keep the bigger picture in front.

  9. When I first saw your DNF, I let out a loud groan. I felt really bad for you, and I was worried that something bad had happened. But, hey, you took a wrong turn. No big deal. Those things happen.

    Don't forget: You ran 80 miles over uber-hard terrain. That's awesome!

  10. Thanks for all the kind comments. Sunday morning I was saying "I'm going to quit running and take up knitting" Today I found myself recruiting a pacer for Vermont 100. I guess I haven't sworn off running after all.

    The comment about my emotions getting in the way was dead on. After I realized I had missed the aid station, I didn't stay calm. Instead I ran full speed aimlessly through the night. This, after being so careful about pacing myself all day long. I wore myself out mentally and physically and I injured myself.

    As much as I love running alone, especially at night, I have decided to use a pacer next 100 to help me think clearly when I get exhausted. I do this a little grudgingly, but I realize that things would have gone very differently if there had been someone with me on the trail Saturday night.

  11. Bummer to hear the news, Laurel. Really wish things could have gone better. It happens to the best of us. I hope you get sweet revenge soon. Rest that hip up.