Doyle's Emerald Necklace

Doyle's Emerald Necklace

Saturday, October 10, 2015

VT50 DNF

Finally getting to my VT50 post, and it's not because I'm all depressed and didn't want to write it. It was simply due to laziness AND the fact that sitting in front of my computer actually is painful due to my injury. Haha. :) I will have to write this in spurts because I can only sit here for a short time.

I had wanted to do the VT50 last year, but decided against it, and I was glad I did. They ended up with temps close to 90 degrees, so I didn't regret missing it. Plus, I was doing the 100 Acre Challenge obstacle course race... which I proceeded to DNF, due to going off course. Two DNFs in the same weekend, a year apart. I'm starting to notice a trend. Haha. This year, John wanted to do the kids' race again at the 100 Acre Challenge, so Saturday morning we drove over for that. It was kind of cool that I was there to spectate John's race for once. It was a beautiful morning, and John had a blast doing the race.



Reaching out for the hand slap
Neither of us had eaten anything, so I took John to breakfast at the Sunrise Shack (best breakfast in the MWV).

After breakfast, I took John to his grandparents' house, so that he could spend the night with them. This was one race that I couldn't bring John to, so I had to set this up months in advance, just like VCM. When we got there, I found out it was just going to be John with his grandfather for the night. I was happy to see this because I don't think they've ever really been able to spend time together as just the two of them. I felt a huge relief, and the mom guilt subsided; I knew he was in good hands and would have fun. They would end up having a great weekend, going to the movies and Uberblast, where John schooled Grampy at laser tag.

I went home to take the dogs up Heavenly Hill quickly before I left. I had everything packed, so I loaded it in the car and made the long drive over to Windsor, VT. I wasn't really nervous, but I have never run 50 miles, and I had pretty much destroyed myself during the week with the lack of sleep. I wasn't worried about the slight pain in the left glute. I knew I would probably feel it during the race, but I figured it would be nothing more than slightly annoying. I thought I would only DNF if I just got too tired or didn't fuel properly. I didn't have any clue that the left glute pain would end up being the kicker. I was blindsided by it.

Once I got to the race site, I checked-in, grabbed my bib and shirt and then set my tent up in the camping area in a field by the parking lot.
My tent from my 1998 AT thru-hike. Love this thing.
As soon as I set up the tent, I hopped right back in my car and headed to the Harpoon Brewery for dinner. I swear it was liking walking into fucking Cheers. Wow. I met 8 people there and was never without conversation at the bar. By the time I left, the bartender knew my name, and my new insta-friend on the stool next to me and I were hugging goodbye. Damn, what a friendly place. Haha. Dinner was good, too. I just got a burger with poutine and two beers. When I got back to the campsite, I put the things I would need in the morning in my tent and then went to bed. I think I fell asleep around 9:30ish. The alarm was set for 4:30am.

When the alarm went off, I woke right up, got dressed and then walked up to my car. It was pretty chilly at 37 degrees, but I was loving it since it meant perfect race temps for the day. I made coffee on my stove by my car and packed up my running pack with the things I would need for the run. I threw in a few Accel gels, Nuun in my water, some S Caps and my phone. My watch only holds a charge for 4.5 hours now, so I was going to start off using my Strava app on the phone until it died, and then switch to my watch after that. It's the only way for me to record a really long run. I would start off in a light jacket and gloves due to the chilly temp. Before I knew it, it was time for the pre-race meeting and 50-miler check-in. The meeting was pointless and seemed more directed at all of the bikers who would start in waves before us. I was freezing standing around and finally jogged back to my car to warm up a little bit since I had some time. I felt really good and was ready to get started. I ran back down to the start and lined up. I talked to a few people I knew, and then the race was off.

I started off at a very comfortable pace. Four women went off ahead of me, Kelsey Allen, Kehr Davis and two women I didn't know. The race started with a downhill on the paved road. I immediately felt discomfort in my left glute; this surprised me, but it was minimal, so I wasn't worried. By mile 3, I was in pain. Mile 3!!!!!! I knew right away something was wrong. This was bad. But I still felt really good otherwise. The course was SO BEAUTIFUL, and it was so runnable!!! I didn't need to walk except 3 times for very short distances, probably less than a 100 yards total, until I dropped. I loved, loved, loved this course. The perfect weather and the perfect course were factors in why I kept going through the pain. And the pain just kept getting worse and worse. By the mile 12 aid station, I had been in excruciating pain for probably 7 miles; from mile 3 to about mile 5, the pain went from bad to almost unbearable. I should have dropped there, but I was in complete denial and kept going. I was in 3rd for the women here. How could I drop? But I had that sinking feeling early on that I wouldn't finish the race. The pain would eventually get to the point where I could barely run downhill, but my stubbornness kept me going. I found that I had much less pain on the uphills and could still run them strong, but the downhills were so, so painful. Sharp stabbing pain. Wincing in pain and catching my breath. Some steps almost brought tears to my eyes, but I still just kept going. I wanted to be alone at this point and finally dropped the guy who was running RIGHT behind me from the start, passing me for a few minutes on the downs and then slowing on the ups so that I would pass him again. There was just no reason for someone to be running my exact same pace in a 50 that he had to be right on my heels all the way to mile 14. I was so relieved to drop him finally. I got passed back by the woman in 4th shortly before the mile 18 aid station; she would end up being the women's winner. She was running with someone else and they were talking the entire time, so I was relieved to have them move on ahead. I was in too much pain to listen to chatter. At the mile 18 aid station, I caught up with Kehr Davis, who was in 3rd. She had slowed quite a bit. I should have dropped at this point, too, but the fact that I had caught up with her made me want to go on. So stupid. I was in so much pain. From the mile 18 aid station, the course climbed up to a beautiful viewpoint in a field. I actually snapped a few photos as I ran.

It was too beautiful to quit!

Dork
The downhill after this was super painful and Kehr pulled ahead, but on the next uphill, I caught right back up with her again. Unfortunately, a really, really long downhill was next, and I lost her as I hobbled down the hill. This is where a group of super annoying bikers kept passing me at insane speeds and whooping obnoxiously. They would stop to walk; I'd pass them. Then once again, passing me on the downs while yelling. I had no tolerance. I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other and dealing with the pain that the constant noise and fear for my life got old REALLY fast. When I got to the mile 22 aid station, I saw those guys had stopped so I grabbed a salted potato and quickly got the hell out of there. This was a long climb out of there which brought a huge relief pain-wise and knowing those bikers wouldn't catch back up to me. I actually enjoyed chatting briefly with the next group of bikers I caught up with. They were cool.

The long uphill eventually ended and another painful downhill ensued. I told myself to just make it to the mile 26 aid station. I convinced myself that I could keep going. I don't know why. I didn't want to quit; I just didn't. I felt SO GOOD otherwise. I had been fueling well. But the pain was just getting worse and worse. Any downhill was almost a crawling pace at this point. But, still, I pushed on past the mile 26 aid station. It was uphill, so no problem. One of the people I met at Harpoon caught up to me, and we talked for a bit, but he was moving right along and finally pushed on ahead.

I continued on, finally almost completely alone for the next 4 miles. A relay runner passed me, but that was it. I have to admit that it was really nice to be by myself for my last 4 miles. It really helped me to talk sense into myself, since I was able to be inside my head without other distractions. I really needed to drop at the next aid station. I had to. The pain was excruciating. I had to remind myself that I had two really important races in the next two weeks that I "had" to do for two separate Series wins. Bretton Woods for the Mountain Series and Great Island 5K for the Seacoast Series. I realized that these two races were actually much more important to me than finishing the VT50. I knew that if I attempted to finish, I would be severely injured. Winning the Mountain Series was SO important to me this year.

As I approached mile 30, I started to hear the sounds from the aid station. I had so many mixed feelings. I passed a race photographer and attempted to smile, but you can see that it was with extreme effort. It was difficult to smile through the pain and knowing that I was about to drop from the race. I don't usually "steal" race pics, but I screenshot two of them just for this blog post.

Attempting to smile while also wincing in pain

Smile looks real, but it was so fake. My form is horrible because I could barely run.
Right after the photographer, the trail looped back left and down to the 30 mile aid station that was filled with people. I saw Phil Erwin there with his daughter right away as I approached. I was pretty upset and told him what was going on. He was pretty helpful because I was starting to convince myself to go on! One of the volunteers at the aid station could tell something was wrong, and he initially thought that I wasn't fueling properly. I told him that I had been and felt great with that, but it was the awful pain I was in that was affecting me. He said, "If it's the kind of pain that will be gone tomorrow, go on. If it's the type of pain you know won't go away for awhile, stop." Still being as stubborn as I am, I told Phil I was going to keep going on. He wished me luck, but I could tell by the look on his face that he thought I might be making the wrong decision. But I had just learned I was only 3 minutes back from Kehr and only 10 minutes off the first two women. What if? (Yeah, what if I were stupid? haha). I grabbed a fig newton and left the aid station.
Photo that Phil took as I left the mile 30 aid station.
I ran across the field, but when I got to the woods line, I just stopped and stared into the woods. I told myself that going on would be one of the dumbest things I could do. I couldn't even imagine going another 20 miles in the pain I was in. That was the reality. Had it been 5 miles more, then yes. I would have done it, but 20? No way. I said to myself, "Leslie, you have to stop." I took one last look at the woods, then turned around and walked back to the aid station while eating the fig newton. I walked right up to the guy in charge and told him I was dropping. It was SO hard to do, but as soon as I did it, I felt SO MUCH relief, and I was actually smiling for real. To end the pain I was in just brought me to a strange happy place. I knew I had made the right decision, and I felt zero regret. I found Phil again and sat down on the grass. It felt so good. Phil was so kind, offering me a chair and to stretch me out, but I told him I just needed to sit there in the grass. He told me he would drive me back to the start after our friend, Scott, came through. It was so weird to go from how I felt just before dropping into this weird giddiness.
I asked Phil to take a DNF photo for me. This smile is REAL.
After sitting for awhile, I got up so we could wish Scott well when he came through. I could barely walk. It hurt so badly. I couldn't believe I contemplated going on. But I had felt so DAMN good otherwise. I had no doubt in my mind that I had another 20 miles in me. But it wasn't happening this time around. I will just have to go back next year for redemption. I ended up with 30.5 miles in 5:24:12 and 5,603ft of elevation gain. It was obviously much slower than I had anticipated, and you can see my splits get significantly slower and slower from mile 23 on as the pain got worse and worse. I wasn't even tired when I stopped and felt like I hadn't even run (effort-wise), so I know I would have done a lot better than I did had I not been injured.

After Scott left the aid station, Phil drove me back to my car. I thanked him for everything and he left to hit the 47 mile aid station. I hobbled in extreme pain to my tent, took it down and packed up the car. I changed clothes, then drove my car closer to the finish line so that I wouldn't have to walk as far. I grabbed lunch and then left for home. I expected the drive to be tough since I drive a standard and of course my injury was to my left side where the clutch is, but I was surprised to not be in any pain during the drive.

During the drive, I kept thinking about what I was in store for. All the naysayers with the "I told you so's" and the ones behind my back, "I knew she would get injured." And, yeah, it happened, but the thing is, even I thought it would end up coming to this, but not this particular injury. This injury caught me by surprise big time. I don't even know what's wrong exactly, but it's bad. That being said, my only regret is not dropping sooner from the VT50. My ONLY regret. I don't regret one other fucking thing that I've done in the last year. Not one. I would go back and do it all over again. I wanted to push myself to my limits, and I've had a great year! Knowing that is what has kept me positive the last two weeks since this happened. I just switched gears, getting in the pool to swim and just doing what I can. How can I complain? I just can't. Yeah, it's the worst time of year to be injured since the Fall is the best time to run. I'm having to skip races I had planned, but none of them are high priority to me. I still have to do a 5K for the Seacoast Series, but I've pushed it back to Great Bay instead of Great Island. The two half marathons? Nah. I'll just volunteer. I still want to be out there, even if I can't run. I would like to run the two races I had planned for November, Roaring Falls Trail Race and Lil Rhody Runaround, but I'll have to just wait and see. I know I'm losing my fitness, but I will get it back quickly when it's time. I have Boston to train for and snowshoe racing season. I want to be able to do both of those healthy, even if I'm not back to 100% on the speed. Things to look forward to.

That night, John and I sat on the deck and watched the lunar eclipse. It was awesome. Made a great end to my day.

4 comments:

  1. Running 30 miles with the pain you were feeling is totally bad-ass. You've had an awesome year. You deserve all success you've achieved. You've worked hard. You've earned it. And the naysayers can go F themselves.

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  2. Haha. Thanks, Mike. Probably more stupid than bad ass, but I'll take the compliment. :)

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  3. Sorry for your injury. That stinks but you absolutely have the right attitude! As far as the naysayers, what other people think of you is none of your business whatsoever. Who cares?

    And, Li'l Rhody Runaround? Do it! It is great fun. You won't regret it. Hope you can join us.

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  4. Thanks, Muddy. Just hopping I can jog Lil Rhody. :)

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