F you Daily Mile!

I arrived home Sunday night to find this in my inbox

Well, F you Daily Mile! and No, I did not have fun in Pine Mountain! 

Let’s rewind a few weeks….On 11/13 I went to Pine Mountain with a few of the GFA crew to do an official training run with Sarah Tynes (race director extraordinaire) and a few of the GUTS crew. We ran the first (and last) part of the course. The weather was beautiful and I stopped to take a bunch of pictures along the way.

Me, Peggy and Cherie

We did 19 miles and got a nice feel for the first and final part of the course.

The following weekend we returned with a few more of the GFA group to preview the middle portion of the course. This part of the race took us through the tornado ravaged portion of FDR state park. It is amazing the amount of destruction that took place. We nicknamed it the Zombie Forest. Peggy and I skipped the last 3 miles but felt like I at least knew what to expect on race day.

Peggy, Faraz, Erica, Mike, Julie, John and me

Tornado damage

Twisted tree in the zombie forest

My impressions: While Stump Jump had more climbing and elevation changes, Pine Mtn definitely seemed harder. Lots more roots, rocks, and tons of leaves. It’s a mentally taxing course. You have to be constantly vigilant at all times to stay on your feet. My parents paid a lot of money for braces when I was a kid so I try to keep all my teeth in my head. I also have an aversion to broken bones. These things tend to make me a little more cautious on these types of trails which translates into running even slower than my usual snail-like pace. I was beginning to really worry about that 10.5 hr cut off. 

The following week I did a couple of short runs and generally took it easy. I pushed my usually spin class to Tue morning and should have been wary when Coach Tony did not spin himself because he was recovering from a cold. Uh oh! Peggy had also been sick at the beginning of the week and I was hoping she would be better by race day. Thursday afternoon around lunch time I got really cold and could not stay warm. Double Uh oh! Really?? This cannot be happening!! I immediately started chugging emergen-C, cold -eez and anything I thought would help. Nose started running and I still could still not stay warm. Friday morning I woke up feeling like death warmed over. Every muscle ached and my head felt like it was full of fuzz. We are short at work right now so I had no choice but to drag my ass in and get through the day. It was a busy one but I made it until the end of the day. I came home, drugged myself up and went to bed hoping for the best. Saturday morning I felt a bit better and I decided to just go and start the race and see what happened. I trained too much to not give it a try. 

We headed down to Pine Mtn and I passed out in the car. Probably, not a good sign. We checked into the hotel and all I wanted to do was take a nap – again, not a good sign. We then headed to packet pick up and met up with Peggy, Erica and Julie. It was Peggy’s birthday so we all went to dinner and Faraz met us at the restaurant. It was a nice evening, I wasn’t feeling too bad and was cautiously optimistic. 

I got a good nights sleep and then it was race morning. John left early to help with the race and I hitched a ride with Peggy to the start. The weather was very mild and I was worried that I had overdressed. I did not bring anything for  super warm weather and was concerned when everyone was wearing shorts and short sleeved shirts. I was in tights with a long sleeve shirt and light jacket. 

We lined up at the start line and we were off. I felt decent the first couple of miles and while I didn’t feel great I didn’t stress about it since I never feel good at the beginning of any run. I chugged along for about 3 miles and soon realized I was never going to feel better that this was a good as it was going to get. Uh oh – 37 miles more to go. Not good! Ok, I told myself to shut up and keep moving, which I did. I saw some friendly faces along the way, at each of the aid stations, and tried to keep upright and moving. I was glad I was a bit overdressed since I often got hot only to minutes later be cold when a breeze rolled through. 

At this point running was not much of an option. It was going to be a long day. I knew I was not going to make the time cutoff at my pace but decided I would keep going until I was told to stop. I did not feel “sick” but I just could not run. I tried to figure out if I did not want to run or could not run? Was I being a baby and giving myself an excuse to fail? Was this just a bad patch and I would feel better later? Lots of mental boxing was going on at this time. I tried to run as much as I could but my heart rate just seemed overly high and there was nothing in the tank. Around this time the front runners started passing me on the way back to the finish. I saw some people I recognized, and tried to smile and keep chugging along. 

I plugged along through the zombie forest and on to the next aid station where I saw some more friendly faces but I know I was not very pleasant as I strolled on through to my final fate. I knew my day was ending at the TV tower and I was resigned. I would at least get to see the part of the trail I missed. This part of the trail was very pretty as it wound around the streams and rocks and bamboo forest. It was not very conducive to running so it’s good that I was just walking. I did attempt a little jog right before this but it did not last long. Finally, I made it to the TV tower and I was way past the first cutoff. I could finally stop. As luck would have it John was there and we waited for the final guy behind me to catch up. 

John had some more duties to perform so I hitched a ride back to the start. Peggy had met a similar fate and was waiting there too. I got changed into some warm clothes, had some food and beer and watched the rest of the runners make their way to the finish line.

I was in decent spirits at this point. I think I was just happy to stop running/walking. I was enjoying the company and nice weather. Peggy and I joked about making T-shirts that said “I made it to the TV tower!!” Soon Sandy bounded out of the woods and then Erica, Faraz and Julie came across the finish line together. 

The energizer bunny

Erica, Faraz and Julie – their first ultras!!

I was happy to be there for their finish but then I was ready to go home. Time for a shower, more food and sleep. On the way home, John got a call that they were giving out finishers fleeces to the volunteers – and that just bothered me. I didn’t get one because I did not finish the race but John gets one for volunteering? That just did not sit right. I started to get a little upset but kept it in check. I then get home and what is waiting for me in my inbox? That little delightful email from dailymile – “Well F you dailymile” I blurted out loud. Not fair!!! I was soooo freakin’ frustrated! I actually trained for this race, unlike any other ultra I have ever done, only to be done in by a stupid cold! Grr!!!

So, I have had a little time to digest all this and I wonder again if I should be attempting any of these things. I know my DNF was due to sickness this time but out of 6 races this year, 2 have ended in a DNF and during 2 of those races I was sick. Not good stats. I can attribute the sickness to lack of sleep, stress and borderline overtraining. I have been sick more this year than I have been in the past 5 years. It’s clear I need a new plan. 

Is endurance racing (of any kind) part of this new plan? Not sure. I enjoy the trail races more than the tri’s if I am being perfectly honest. They are more relaxed and friendly and there is no chance of drowning or falling into traffic on a bike. Problem is that I am slow and most of these long races have cutoffs that people like me can’t make on a good day. Better runners than me had DNFs next to their names on Sunday or just made the 10.5 hour cutoff with not much cushion. It was truly humbling. 

Can I get faster? Sure. But the way to do it is not to keep running long and slow. It’s time to make some changes. For right now though I am taking the week off, getting some sleep and trying to get my head on straight. 

Will I be back to fight Pine Mountain again next year? I want to say yes but I don’t know quite yet. The GUTS group, as always, put on a great race and had fantastic volunteers! But this is a very tough race and I need to do a LOT of training and improvement before I will consider myself worthy. 

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