Wednesday, September 26, 2012

U (do not) ROC if you plan to DNF

I plan to do something at UROC (Ultra Race of Champions) this year that will have AJW scratching his head and probably looking down on me for years to come.  I plan to DNF (Did Not Finish) in the 100k.  You (and definitely he) may not agree with my reasoning but I have to do what makes the most sense for me and only be a quasi off the couch guy instead of going whole hog.  How do I know this bothers AJW (or others)?  For me, this all started last year in many ways.

Last year was the inaugural running of this new championship race (UROC = Ultra Race of Champions) and I drove up from Charlotte as a spectator because some high school XC buddies (Geoff & Justin) both planned to run the race.  Geoff's parents, who I always thought of as second set of parents, would be there as well so it was a great chance to catch up with everyone.  Geoff and the Roes' were staying in a large condo with a lot of the elite ultrarunners and industry types (TrailRunner Magazine & iRunFar) and I was lucky enough to secure a couch as my place to crash the night before the race.  

Some of the most fun I have had was hanging out late that night chatting with random top ultra runners, industry 'big wigs' (TrailRunner Mag & iRunFar) and the Roes'.  As elites slowly turned in for the night to get sleep before their big race the group whittled down to just a few of us (among them AJW, Bryon Powell of iRunFar and Benj and others from Trailrunner Magazine).  The discussion (sometimes debate) ran the standard gamut of ultra running topics from UROY (Ultra Runner Of the Year) selection processes and that years favorites, Western States and ultra history in general, 'big' money in ultras and of course DNFs among other topics.  AJW is of the (old school ?) thought that one should never DNF.  Run through whatever it is that might cause you to DNF and get to the finish line... no excuses!  Since I like to see both sides of the coin, I had some counter arguments how sometimes a DNF can be the smart move both physically and potentially financially (as some of the DNFs we talked about revolved around runners who are trying to make their living running races).  The discussion continued late into the night (past 2am) until the only one left was Bryon Powell working even later into the night as usual.  AJW (we're definitely blaming this on his voluminous laugh/voice) even got mentioned in Devon Crosby Helm's blog for keeping her up a bit later than she'd have liked the night before the race.  I feel sorry for being a part of it but the fact that she ran great helped ease the guilt.

The race started among a fog/mist that we wouldn't escape all day.  I took lots of pictures, followed the action on the race course (partly along the almost magical Blue Ridge Parkway) with Bryon Powell & the Roes' and checked in with Justin from time to time who was making a valiant attempt at a technical/rocky/mountainous 100k for a flatlander Floridian.  Near the end of the race, minutes after Wardian makes a wrong turn (that's a whole other story you can read about in the later mentioned TrailRunner article), a lot of us were hanging out at the Slacks Overlook parking lot and the discussion once again turned to DNF'ing.  I was quoted in TrailRunner Magazine's multi-page UROC arcticle (December 2011 issue, page 48) when I told AJW  "its better to DNF than DNS" (meaning its better to start and make an effort but not finish than to never have started and tried in the first place).  This of course was meant in the 'off the couch' spirit of getting out there and trying something and even if you fail at least you tried, and not directed at him for being smart and not running due to PF issues he had been battling.

Justin had to drop out himself, but only after running around a marathon on some gnarly trails.  In Justin's defense, there were only 79 finishers of the 170+ starters from the 100k race.  Geoff goes on to win, and I walked away with a great time and lots of photos and memories.

For those that know me I take lots of pictures but am far from a professional.  If anything I think its more luck since I go for the take 100 pictures for that 1 'good' one method.  Sort of a bird shot photography if you will.  I posted the handful of decent pictures on facebook and decided to send the race director (Gill) a message letting him know he could used them if he wanted for the race website/facebook/whatever as long as he gave me photo credit (all the while giving the disclaimer that I'm far from a professional).  Evidently I was 'professional' enough because over the course of the year I started seeing my pictures being used on facebook, email blasts about the race, the race website, in a couple different magazines and other places online.  Gill later thanked me for the pictures and said I could get a free entry into any of the races in the 2012 UROC (100k, 50k, or 1/2 marathon).  I put it on my calendar and told him I would let them know which distance down the road.  I was undecided between the 100k or 50k until I got lucky and my registration went through for the quickly filling Mountain Masochist 50 mile race (MMTR50).  This helped me decide on the 50k since it could be a good training run just 5 weeks out from MMTR.

Now why plan to DNF?  My 'training' (or lack thereof) pretty much explains all... In true 'off the couch' fashion the highest mileage training week I had this year (since Uwharrie 40 miler in early February) is a 29 mile week a couple weeks ago that was inflated drastically by a 24 mile long run at Crowder's Mountain.  In fact, my highest mileage months for the year, since February, are barely over 40.  Through a friend I found out that somehow my name was on the 100k list and I may be an off the couch guy but I guess I'm also getting smarter in my old age because even I know that a 100k might not be the best plan 5 weeks out from MMTR.  I thought about dropping down to the 50k (the half is never an option in my mind) but the 50k is really 33 miles and I know I can't trust myself to just use this as a training run as planned and not be stupid and race it.  I also knew that 33 miles (with a great deal of elevation gain) is probably a bit more than I should run regardless of pace.

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) also plays a big role.  I had a great deal of fun spectating last year and if I'm out taking my time on the 50k I'm not going to have the chance to get back out on the course to watch the end of the 100k unfold.   I'm also planning to lend my car to Bryon Powell during the race to help with online coverage and it should work out well that I can jump in with him when I drop.  I'd like to think i'll be able to provide some support for iRunFar like last year as they cover the race as well.  And of course if I'm out on the course for the final few hours of the race there's a shot I can get some more pictures of the runners, the course, the views or whatever.

So there you have it... a bit of reflection on my current running shape (or lack thereof) coupled with many other factors leads me to the conclusion that planning to DNF seems to be make sense.  By running the 100k I'll be able to take it easy and have the option of running anything from ~25mi (or less if something comes up) to 30 if I'm feeling great.  After all, If this race wasn't happening I would be hoping to get in a 25 mile training run so this is essentially what i'm doing (but with fully stocked aid station support).  I'll be the first to admit that I generally wouldn't think this is a good idea but for me all of the factors seem to fall into place and I feel like this is the smartest decision for me at this time.  If this was a race that filled and I was taking someone's spot or if this somehow hurt anyone or the race I wouldn't be doing this.

Now for the run/race itself... my goals are simple: try to get in over 20 miles without getting injured and have fun.  I won't have a finishing time, a belt buckle, finisher's medal or probably anything tangible to show for my marathon (or more) length run but as long as those goals are accomplished I'll end very happy... with apologies to AJW of course (who hopefully can run this year himself).

No comments:

Post a Comment