May 302010

by Danielle Triffitt

DNF. I do not like these three letters. And I really do not like that they are now next to my name when it comes to this year’s Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 50k. I was intending to cross the finish line in triumph, not come riding up to it on one of those golf carts that zoom around the course that pick up injured runners, and I especially did not intend to finish feeling depleted, sad and upset and only having run 22 of the 31 miles. But such things happen in life, and Sunday just wasn’t my day.

But before I say anymore, I have to say a HUGE thank you to my parents, who not only came over to our place at 6:30am to watch Sam so we could go to Pineland together, but who also came with her to the race, hugged me when I came walking in from the sideline and told me they were proud of me not matter what, and who helped immensely by keeping Sam entertained and fed while Ryan and I both sat in our tent, trying to feel human again. We could not have done it without them! Also, a big thank you to Erik and Ian, and all the volunteers, for putting on such a great race! As always, things were well-run, fun and we all enjoyed the festive race atmosphere.
The morning started out with me wondering where in the world I was going to pump before the race. The YMCA was closed, which I hadn’t anticipated and I needed an electrical outlet for the pump. I was getting a bit frantic, as I already knew I’d be going a long time without nursing/pumping and had expected to be able to pump right before the race. Jim realized I was getting upset, and told me he’d get me what I needed. What a great guy, and a nice friend! He walked over to Erik and told him I needed a private place with an outlet. Erik looked at us like we were crazy (private? you mean now? and here?), but told us I could use the outlet over by the refrigerator. There were people everywhere, but Jim set up the chair for me, and Ryan took over, covering me with a towel while I pumped. I’m sure we got some funny looks, but it worked, so whatever!
After that and a quick run to the port-a-potties, it was race time!

Me, cheery at the start, before it all went bad
I lined up near Four and George, with Ann a little further back in the queue. A few quick words from Ian and Erik, and we were off! I knew I was likely to go out a bit too fast, so I tried to reign it in and just be comfortable. I was feeling good, and settled in next to a nice guy, Brian, from the Boston area. Soon after, Nate joined us and the three of us ran together, walking the hills and making our way along the course. The day had started out nice and overcast, but after an hour of running, the clouds burned off and the sun came out. It started to get warm, especially in the fields.
I stuck to my fueling plan pretty well for the first miles, but as I hit the aid station before the return up the Campus loop, when I tried to eat the PB&J sandwich I had in my fuel belt, it just wouldn’t go down. Still, I felt good as I worked my way up to the Grove. It was nice to come through and see all our Trail Monster friends who were there cheering, and waiting to run the 25k. I crossed the road to Oak Hill, and stopped at the port-a-potty in the hopes that that would relieve the bit of unease I was beginning to feel in my stomach. I drank a cup of Gatorade while I waited. As I headed back out, Nate caught up with me. The trails along Oak Hill was quiet, and Nate and I ran along together, alternatively talking and just quietly running next to each other. I definitely walked a bit more on this stretch, and couldn’t stomach the fig newtons I was carrying. I also didn’t drink much.
I came back to the Grove and stopped at our tent to pick up new bottles and some more food. I knew I didn’t want to take the figs or PB&J, as neither of those had sat well on the first loop, so I threw a few GUs in my belt along with two new bottles. I noticed the clock reading 2:34 as I headed out, and I knew I had been slowly but surely slowing from the start. But still, I hoped I could pull off a decent time if the second loop went OK. Well, that obviously didn’t happen. I started to feel even more unease in my stomach, and I just didn’t feel like eating or drinking anything. I plodded along, alone, through the fields and into the woods. I noticed I wasn’t really sweating. Then around 18 miles, my quads seized up. I’ve never had this happen before. It was upsetting, to say the least. I stopped to shake them out, and then was able to keep moving. But the cramps kept returning. Ugh!
I mostly walked the fields after the aid station, but everyone around me was doing the same. I walked more going up the hills in the Hemlock section. I was feeling a bit faint. But I kept going. Finally, after walking through the fields off Hemlock and seeing a bit of shade ahead under the threes along the dirt road, I just decided I really needed to sit down. I put my head down on the ground. Two runners behind me stopped to make sure I was OK, and one guy poured some of his water on my back. The woman said she would send someone back to check on me. I sent them off on their way with thanks, wanting them to continue on with their own race. After a few minutes of laying there, I decided I could get up and try to walk. I walked through the woods and along the road until I reached the point where the race course went left through more fields. I stopped. I looked left at the course. And right, at the Yurt aid station, just 100 feet away. I hated to do it more than I can even say, but I knew the thing to do was to turn right and go to the aid station. Sometimes doing the smart thing just sucks.
When I pulled up to the aid station, I told them that someone had probably checked in to tell them about me, sitting back there along the side of the trail. They had already sent someone out there to look for me, but said it wasn’t a problem as they were patrolling the course regardless. They sat me down in the shade, and I was able to drink some water and eat a few orange slices. Then I had to decide whether I wanted a ride back to the Grove. I had to say I was done. D*&#. I really didn’t want to do that. But I did.
I was feeling pretty low as the cart pulled into the Grove. I couldn’t believe that I had dropped out. I really thought I could do it. I saw Ryan, hunched over after his 25k finish, surrounded by my parents pushing Sam, and Kristen and Morgan. I had to walk up to them and tell them I was done, that I hadn’t made it. And I had to keep telling all our friends throughout the afternoon. It sucked. Everyone was supportive and really nice about it. Still, I couldn’t help wondering if I had made the right decision. Sure, when I got back to the tent, I sat down and was shivering and could still barely eat and drink. My quads kept cramping. But who cares, I should be good at suffering! Should I have kept going? I’m 99% sure I did the right thing. But that 1% has been nagging at me. I hate to quit! Yes, I realize I have a 7.5 month old baby who does not sleep through the night. Yes, I am still breastfeeding. Yes, I haven’t had all the time in the world to devote to training. Yes, it was hot out there. Yes, the Pineland course is tough, and it’s the first time I was trying to run a 50k. Yes, in the end I still ran 22 miles in 4 hours and that is nothing to scoff at. Yes, I will definitely chalk this race up to experience and learn from it. But, that still doesn’t mean that I’m not disappointed in myself.
However, in the end, I gave it my best shot. I got out there and ran. It just wasn’t my day. There will be other races. And I’ll finish a 50k. You can bet on that.
And on a happier note, congrats to all my Trail Monster friends who had great races out there this weekend! Woohoo! 🙂 And to Ryan, who is a bit disappointed in his race, I’m still proud of you!
As recovery, today we met up with Mom, Dad and Morgan at Wolfe’s Neck State Park for a walk. It was gorgeous down at the coast, and nice to move my legs and get the blood flowing. And as Ryan said to me on the ride home, Sam loves me no matter what, if I finished, if I didn’t. Yes, it would have been more impressive if I had finished. But it doesn’t really matter. And what is better than that? 🙂
Ryan and Sam down by the water (notice Ryan’s lovely facial hair!)

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