Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Thursday, January 13, 2011

DNFs- A Reflection

Did Not Finish. Words a runner never wants to speak, but if you do enough long events, it's bound to happen... or you do finish and die doing so... In all of the races I've done over the years, I don't think I have what would be considered a lot of DNFs- 5 including 3 times going home after 17 hours in 24 hour races. They weigh heavily on me though. I wrote them down this week and thought about each one of them. Some I'm OK with dropping out of. Others, I regret. I should've known better than to even try Frosty 50 last weekend after severe problems the week before.

Someone told me recently that they think my injuries motivate me as a runner. I'm not certain what that means. I don't even feel like I have many injuries, but I do have this thing & that thing pop up in races... stomach, chafe, knee, ankle, dehydration, etc. etc. It would be easy to see these things as excuses. Maybe they are. It is getting more and more apparent that for every 2 bad races I have, it seems there's only 1 good one. Funny part is almost every single one of my long training runs is good. Most fun I've had, and the strongest I've felt in the past 3 months were two 40 mile solo runs in the mountains.

I've spent the past 2 weeks just kind of busted up. Left ankle. Right achilles. Right knee. Left foot... The 74 miles on New Year's really took their toll a lot more than I expected them to. I blame the asphalt, but of course, knew and accepted the challenge coming into it. Anyway, several people (mostly non-runners) have told me in the past 2 weeks, "You're not 18 (or 22, or...) anymore. You can't run like this. You have to back off, rest, and scale back the miles." They didn't mean now because I'm hurt, but in the future. I disagree. When I was 18 I had given up on running. Retired after 10 years and maybe 150 races. Burned out. By the time I was in my early 20s, I had gained a lot of weight, was cycling a good deal, but was no runner, for sure. So when people say "You're not 24 anymore." I think, "Thank goodness." I've been getting a lot of, "You can't keep doing this to your body" comments lately. Makes me feel like I'm headed to the old folks home.

In my recent frustration because of the last 2 races, I realized I am a better runner at 37 than I was at 7 (when I started training for my first 10K), 17 (high school XC/track runner), or 27 (running marathons and doing triathlons). A recent 5K time trial and intervals have proven that I'm as fast as I ever have been as an adult and I certainly couldn't run the miles I do now back then. So I'm very happy with where my running is right now, just very unhappy with the way the last two races went.

I took a 3 year break from road races (going to mix things up this year a little though) because I put too much pressure on myself. I felt like uncertain trail miles have a built in excuse in some ways, "Dude, it was really hard. Of course I was slow." Your time at a trail 50K which may not even be accurately measured matters a whole lot less than it does at the Myrtle Beach Marathon. The goal in ultras for me was always to have fun and finish feeling good, but really push myself. Lately, I've found myself putting more pressure on myself in ultras. And with ultras, the mind really has to be right. If I have a bad attitude running a 5K, so be it. I don't mean to belittle the mental aspect of shorter distances, and as a coach, I certainly understand how important the mind is. But if you're running 24 hours, 100 miles, 50K... there is so much room for real physical problems to arise, but also mental weakness. If you run all day and all night, you (at least I do) hear a million times, "UGH! This is so painful and so draining. Why don't you just quit so I can curl up somewhere and sleep?"

This sounds like a letter of resignation, but it isn't. I think it's important to address the physical and mental hurdles I've had lately in order to move past them. ...and I'm ready to move on. I have been doing a lot to try to heal up physically the last 2 weeks and have done a lot of thinking about how I can improve mentally.


Jason said...

Wise words for sure. I think the mental aspect of ultra running is nearly as important at the physical. It is more improtant once you're in the middle of an event.

Thanks for sharing this.

warrior said...

But havent you had a swaggger of good training lately. Its not mental weakness coach. When your hurt your hurt. You are the toughest person i know. You push your team to do things other coaches think is too extreme. You pushed youre running to the edge over and over again. You dont end up in the hospital or getting IVs at the end of races if your mentally weak coach. You dont run 100 miles on the appalacjian trail with a broken rib if your mentally weak coach. You are an inspiration to so many.people. injuries hurt. People have bad races. If 99.9999% of the people in the world tried doing any of the runs you do they would DNF.

You ssay youve been running good before getting hurt. Now heal up an go show the warrior spirit!!!!

Id rather not say who this is but you got a preetty good idea spenceee.;)