Processing a DNF

April 5, 2017 /
Updated Mar 2, 2020

After running one successful 50 mile I did something crazy, yet predictable. I signed up for a 100 mile race. I picked Burning River 100 because it was close to Columbus. My free time was spent researching the ins and outs of running a 100 mile. What to eat, training mileage, how to pick a crew, heat training, night runs - the list goes on.

Burning River Running
Mile 30ish at Burning River

My training plan was executed flawlessly. I got all of my required miles in and some extra too. There was no point during my training where I felt that I had injuries or out of the ordinary aches or pains. My peak weekend was Dawg Gone Long Run. The race was a 50 mile, 4 weeks out from Burning River 100 and I PRed. I was feeling invincible.

Several weeks went by…and my mental state started to fall apart. Although my mileage had been dropping significantly, I got to the BR100 starting line mentally exhausted and tired of running. This race had been looming over me for months. As it drew closer my anxieties and fears started to weigh heavier. When I finally toed up, I was already over it.

During the race I made several nutrition mistakes that I never would have made on prior training runs. Stupid. I was too busy doubting myself and letting my mind wander. "How would I finish this thing?" "I can barely manage on 7 hours of sleep there's no way I can stay up all night." "What if someone kidnaps me in the middle of the night?" "I'm going to miss cutoffs." "100 milers probably just aren't my thing anyways." Seriously…I was hardly enjoying the race. I dropped at mile 52.

My 3rd 50 mile finish (if you want to call it that), and I was in the worst mental and physical shape I had ever been in. I had severe tunnel vision and was light headed. I tried to play catch up with nutrition but eventually called it quits.

Burning River
DNF Walk of Shame

My crew was made up of my boyfriend who drove all the way from Wisconsin and three friends from college. Two of them flew out from California and one flew all the way out from Arizona. I felt like I wasted their time. Prior to the race I had even written up a snarky Crew Instruction Guide that revolved around them not letting me drop no matter what. I felt guilty and like a poser for attempting something I wasn't ready for. I tried not to appear down the rest of the trip because I didn't want to further ruin their trip. My thoughts revolved around how it all went wrong and why I even thought I had a chance.

Several months went by and I tried to process my DNF. This consisted mostly of me trying to forget anything had happened. I felt like a failure and had zero motivation to run. After work each day I didn't move from the couch and found a new hobby of getting free products in exchange for honest reviews on Amazon.

I was already signed up for additional races but was dragging myself to the start line. A month went by and I begged my boyfriend James to sign up for a trail marathon the day before the race because I didn't want to run by myself and thought I might have a break down. He complied even though the whole thing was a pretty obnoxious move on my part. I ran a miserable 50k a week later. I didn't want to blog about my races. Basically, I tried to block all things running out of my mind.

Sometime around this time Amazon changed their Terms of Service so you could no longer review free products. I found myself once again without an enjoyable hobby. I tried dog training but my dog sleeps too much for that to be a full time hobby. I didn't have cable.

Then in October I had to back to back half marathons, followed by back to back 50ks on my schedule. Somewhere along the way I started having fun again. I ran the Queen Bee half in Cincinnati because one of my co-workers won a free entry and decided they didn't want to run. I ran perfect negative splits and hit my goal of 1:50 to the second at 1:50:00. The next weekend I signed up for the Columbus half and had some fun there as well. After finishing I ran along side the full marathon course, catching friends in their last few miles. I finished the day with 18 miles. Then I had back to back 50ks with Stone Steps and Broken Toe.

Stone Steps was not a good race for me as I was having lingering sharp pains in my hip. I wanted to drop at mile 20 but the race director told me no and suggested I take some pain killers. I had so many words for him and considered just walking to my car. Instead, I ran away cursing him under my breath. When I finished he asked me if I was glad that I did and I shrugged. I still didn't really care about my running at this point.

The next weekend was Broken Toe 50k and I ran 2.5 out of 3 loops with another runner who had done Stone Steps the week before. He has a popular YouTube channel that can be seen here. That was fun.

Next up was Bill's Bad Ass 50k in November. The conditions were awful with rain, hail, and snow throughout the day. I also forgot to pack a rain jacket and borrowed a measily windbreaker from my mom the morning of. I was soaked for 7 hours straight. For some reason this race was a turning point for me. Despite the miserable weather, tough course, and my car battery dying 2.5 hours from home, I was no longer feeling stuck on my DNF.

I actually started talking to people about my DNF. After 4 months of reflection I contributed my DNF to me not being mentally prepared to race. Shit happens.

My life is not defined by my failures. Running was not the be all and end all of my life. I came out stronger. It was time to move on.

I forgave myself.