My First DNF – Or Was It?

The Run

The i2P Run is a celebration of trail running and intended to highlight some of the amazing trails in Gatineau Park. The distances range from 10K – 100K so as to encourage a wide range of trail runners, it’s not a competition against others but instead against yourself! It is also a fundraiser for i2P (Impossible to Possible) with all proceeds from the run going to support this amazing non-profit organization.

My big training run was the Bad Beaver Ultra (BBU Recap) making my original plan for the i2P Run to volunteer. I asked my coach (Ray) a few weeks back if I should volunteer or run one of the races. His immediate response was to register for the 100K! I texted back a huge LOL and his response was “no I’m serious”. I then ignored him for a bit 🙂 This seemed insane to me. When I connected with Ray on the phone, he explained how the 50K night would be amazing night training for the Grand to Grand Ultra. He believed I could do the 100K but said lets focus on the 50K night and whatever happens the next day we can decide as we go.

So with just a week before my first stage race (BBU), I found myself now signed up for my first 100K! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, right?

Fast forward 3 weeks, and with the experience of BBU now available to me I was not really nervous about attempting the 100K. I actually felt strong mentally and physically leading up to it. Last week I was experiencing a little bit of tight muscles, more noticeably my right quad, and my right arch continues to need attention but overall feeling very good.

The Night Run (50K)

Participants of the 100K met at Breton Beach at Lac Phillipe in Gatineau Park as this would be the finish line (and most check points). Participants were encouraged to drive and park there as it was a perfect option to go back to the car to rest and/or refuel, again allowing you to carry very little.

From there we were transported to Cafe Les Saisons in Chelsea where the owner graciously allowed the i2P Run Organizers to host a private dinner for the runners. After dinner Ray Zahab, John Zahab and Mike Stashin shared some amazing tips. There was then time to get our things organized, chat with some new and old friends and then walk over to the Chelsea Visitor Centre for the start of the race.

I believe my lessons started with dinner.  As with BBU, dinner was provided,  more than likely you will be eating foods you do not normally eat. There was a note sent out to us that dinner was casual and if you wanted to bring your own food that was certainly an option. I didn’t worry about it and honestly only one person did bring her own food. I’ve never had an issue with food or hydration (until BBU). BUT then again, I’ve never ran these kind of distances before. Even with my training runs my longest are usually 25-35km back to back runs, with my longest being just under 45km.

my view as we headed out

my view as we headed out

We started at approximately 9:45pm from the Visitor Centre, up trail #1 (3+km climb), a loop around trail #6, down #30 to catch #8 and make our way up King Mountain. Lots and lots of stairs, no doubt contributing to my quad issue. We then began to make our way back to trail #1 and this is where my stomach issues started again. Gassy, bloaty and a wee bit nauseous.  By the time we hit the first check point I felt like throwing up. It took everything inside me not to call it quit right there, but I didn’t. Of course, I did not let the amazing volunteers know I was considering calling it!

From there we made our way to Wolf Trail and headed down. This is when the knee pain started. Pretty mild at first, but the stomach issue was getting much better. I was now only drinking water and eating a few pretzels and crackers. Obviously this is not going to sustain me but it’s what I had to do. I also had a ginger-chew which is a bit like a treat and seems to calm my stomach. We caught trail #1 again and continued down to Meech Lake Parking Lot for another check point. This is when it was confirmed that a trail runner was missing. She was not from Ottawa and had somehow gotten turned around. Short story is she was found, she was fine and I was crazy impressed at how well she handled it all!! She caught up to me (and passed me) just after trail #36 that was very dark and lonely to run in the middle of the night. It is a beautiful trail that I love to run on during the day, if I had company I might have enjoyed it more through the night.

I continued making my way back to Breton Beach going through Lac Phillip camp grounds. I am not sure how long I ran with the knee pain but it continued to get worse, especially all the downhills. I’m guessing at least 15km’s or so till I finally made it in. I had 1.5hrs. to rest, recovery and get ready to head out for the 2nd 50K.

The Morning Run (50K)

When Ray heard my knee was giving me some pain his response was, “okay then were good. You did what we wanted, you got the night run in.”  I of course, had not even considered not continuing. I immediately suggested that I’d go out for the next 23k and if I limped in we’d call it. I argued that he knew me and that I recover quickly and I could do this. He agreed 🙂

85km Lake Superior Gate to Gate Girls (top photo Lake Superior, bottom photo i2P run photo bombed by Ray

My running sisters! 85km Lake Superior Gate to Gate Girls (top photo Lake Superior, bottom photo i2P run photo bombed by Ray

So at 8am it was back out to do the next stage, 23km. We headed out onto trail #55 with a smallish climb and then at about 1km we hit a downhill. I immediately felt shooting pain in the knee, I had to stop and walk down. If I was smart I would have turned around right then, but I’m more stubborn then smart. I could manage the straights and the inclines but had to walk almost all of the downhills. I finally hit the 12.5km turn-around. My sweet dear friend was there for the check point. I should have stayed with her and hopped in the van to go back to the finish, but instead we ate some grapes and I told her not to tell Ray 🙂 Again, stubborn!

So now I had to make it back to Breton Beach. At this point I was at the back of the pack. There were 4 walkers behind me and that was enough motivation to keep moving forward. I could not let them get ahead of me. I was now practicing mental toughness and doing everything I could to rid myself of the pain I was feeling (still mainly on the downhills). I started singing out loud for every step, and it worked. I was mastering the pain, I was pushing through and I could now start to run more downhills.

At this point I ran in to Steve and Sylvie and admitted to feeling the pain. They both told me firmly that I had to call it. It wasn’t worth it and I knew they were right. This wasn’t my goal race, I had to be in good form for G2G just one month away. BUT did I mention I’m stubborn?

I was still contemplating doing the next loop of 12.5km as it is more technical which I love but it would also allow me to complete 85km. With 8km’s to go I knew I had to call it when I got in. I finally shed a tear or two accepting that the right thing to do was call it. BUT I still had 8km’s to get back to the beach. I used that time to work on my mental toughness and pushed hard to run without pain! I was lying to myself and it was working. I knew that when I arrived at the beach I couldn’t look at my watch or talk to anyone before finding Ray and telling him I had to call it – I needed the accountability to not let me go on. In the meantime, I came upon 3 separate runners at 3 different times. With each one my goal was to run enough to pass them and keep them behind me. Just a little win for me at the end.

Here is what I’m walking away with:

  • I ran a night run even though I was scared/nervous to do this alone (yay me)
  • Every run gives me an opportunity to learn and develop as a runner
  • I am mentally tough (yes, and stubborn but I can push past hard)
  • I have amazing and wonderful friends that celebrate effort as much as completion
  • I get so much enjoyment at seeing others achieve their goals
  • If you don’t go through the hard stuff, then you miss out on the lessons
  • I’ve come a long way! I only started running trails 2 years ago. My very first trail run was the i2P 23km run. I only seriously considered doing Ultra running less than a year ago.

So as my husbands said to me, “Did you DNF or did you run an extra 23km?” The goal was the 50k night run, I just wanted to do it all 🙂

Have you experienced a DNF before? What was your experience?

 

4 thoughts on “My First DNF – Or Was It?

  1. Yes I have! A DNF does not define anything about us. As we push our boundaries further and further, sometimes they push back before breaking and letting us go even further.

  2. I wouldn’t call it a DNF! I ran the 50k in the day and I was in awe of those of you who had done it at night. I really don’t think I could have done that distance starting so late at night, much less added another run in the morning on no sleep! You should be very pleased with your accomplishment!

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