Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pulling out early

Nothing prepares you for a Half-Marathon like 9 flights, 4 hotel rooms, conference room chairs, bad food, restless sleep, jet lag, 25 minutes to empty and refill your suitcase, and a 2.5 hour drive to yet another hotel room.

Wait... did I say half-marathon? I meant half-marathon epic failure.

Yep, I pulled a DNF (Did Not Finish) last weekend.

Worse... I pulled a rare DNMITM2 (Did Not Make It To Mile 2).

I'd entered Sunburst 1/2 marathon in South Bend weeks ago, while still riding my Big Sur high, with the best intentions. Ok, maybe not the best intentions. The best intentions would be to train hard and prepare well for the race. The intention I had was to score a medal. That's more like a mediocre intention.

What I hadn't intended was to have two solid weeks of West Coast business travel leading up to the race.

Still, I gave it a go.

I stretched. I moaned. I stretched some more. I made my way to the start and took off at the gun, feeling optimistic. Well, I kept telling myself I was feeling optimistic. Deep down, I don't think I believed myself.

The easiest mile of any distance race is the first mile. If you're struggling that first mile, you can't expect it to get any better. You can hope, but it's just not going to happen. For me, the first mile was a tale of ever tightening hips and lower back. All of that well-meaning stretching was being undone. Rapidly. Then, the course turned away from downtown. From that point, every step took me further from the start, and my car. It was decision time, and the only reasonable decision was to step off the course. I'd gone 1.6 miles.

I jogged back to the start and, miraculously, found the bag I'd left at gear check, not yet tossed into whatever van was going to take it to the finish. That little bag held my wallet and my phone, which itself held directions to the hotel.

By the time I walked the two blocks to my car, I'd already picked up a slight limp, my right hip completely stiffened up. After 3 miles of running, I was in worse shape than I was after my marathon.

Every DNF sucks... wasted money, wasted time, general self-loathing. I hated that I couldn't finish, even though I knew that if I'd continued, I'd surely have wound up injured. Making a tough choice is rarely easy, even when you know it's the right choice. Choosing to quit needs to be a very tough choice, else it becomes too easy to throw in the towel at the first hint of self-doubt. You've gotta be tough, but, you gotta be smart, and if quitting is the right thing to do, you can't let your ego, or insatiable taste for medals, cause you to make a stupid decision.

I'll take my next race more seriously.

Ok, my next race will the the Tap N Run, which is by definition not to be taken seriously. But the one after that, totally serious.

And, I will stretch more between flights. Promise.

The moderately bright spot in this tale is that the medal that I coveted, and didn't earn, turned out to be pretty lame.

Good running,