Monday, November 8, 2010

Pinhoti 100 DNF (Did Not Finish)

Sometimes races don't go your way.  Sometimes you don't go the race's way.

For me, running is all about having fun.  I have learned to embrace suffering after covering certain distances and in some sick & twisted way that is fun too.  The Pinhoti 100 was going to be a special race for me.  100 miles on mostly single track rugged trail across Alabama.  While it was still a great weekend, I was pulled off the course by the sweeps for missing the cutoff time at 35.5 miles due to taking a wrong turn.

I will elaborate on my details later, but I wanted to touch on the bright highlights of the event first.

As in any ultra marathon one runner is only one part of a very big picture.  I have never taken the opportunity to watch an ultra from a the perspective of a non-runner.  I'm overwhelmed in the amount of work time & work that volunteers, personal crews, and total strangers take to help runners achieve their goals and keep them moving.  These are total unselfish people who sincerely want to see a runner complete their race.

After my race ended I had the privilege to hang out with Vic, Phil, and Christian for the remainder of the weekend.  Vic & Phil were crewing my buddy Weezy in his first 100.  These guys were awesome to watch as they drove through the night taking care of him and other runners at various aid stations.  Sean O. was also on the scene with an entourage of helpers who distributed food & love to runners along the way.

The highlight of the weekend was seeing my buddy Wayne (Weezy) cross that finish line to complete his first 100 mile race.  He fought hard through the cold night and toughed it out.  I'm so proud of the guy.

Here he is running to the finish...

I have many mixed emotions as I think about the darker side of the DNF (did not finish).  I took a wrong turn on a somewhat poorly marked section of the trail and went at least 4 miles off course before realizing my mistake and making my way back.  I didn't go the race's way.  This cost me about 2 hours of precious time and as a result I was instructed by the sweepers to drop from the race at the next aid station.

After finding my way back to the trail from going off course I saw that the trail was marked, but I had somehow missed the turn.  This was my own fault and I should have been paying better attention.

As one of the kind aid station volunteers drove me to meet up with the rest of Wayne's crew I was telling myself that I was finished with ultras for good.  I felt defeated and like I had let down a lot of people - mainly myself.   Would I have finished if this had not happened?  I really don't think so.  It hurts to say that to, but I just didn't have any strong drive or motivation after the first five miles of the race.

It was great to still have Weezy and other friends out on the course because it gave me something positive to focus on instead of the DNF.  Several of my friends finished their first 100 miler and it was awesome to be able to experience that.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the excitement and take a long drive back home to Spartanburg and begin to sort things out in my mind.

I'm not looking for sympathy or pats on the back - I'm just being real here.  I have a whole world of joy to be thankful for and running is just a small layer of icing on a huge cake of blessing that is my life. 

I feel disconnected from ultra running right now.  I think that is normal after your first official DNF in a race.  At this point I'm going to take some time off to rest and get back to the type of running that I enjoy.

It will be fun to run with my wife Beth this weekend at her 1st trail half marathon close to home.  At least I'm not too beat up to go out and enjoy it.


  1. Saw some great pics on FB. That's so cool that you were able to cheer on Wayne! I certainly understand the feelings of disappointment. This whole year has been a DNS :( but I think it has helped me keep running in perspective. It's a great part of my life, but not my whole life. And I'm sure our families and friends appreciate that we're able to balance it all. Good luck to your wife on her half! Hope ya'll have fun together!!

  2. Don't stop, we need you out there!

  3. DNFs suck. I have two categories of DNFs. A regular DNF when you just can't finish for a variety of reasons. And a DNFBWT (did not finish but wanted to), where you are pulled. That one hurts the most. Take a little while and just run for fun. Everything will come back around.

  4. Hi Frank, we met briefly at the boogie races last summer. Sorry to hear about your DNF. I wanted to send you a link to an easier 100M if you were interested in trying again.

    The race is a 5.25 loop through the bartram forest. The loop isn't scenic but compared to other 100s it has mild hills, not so technical trails, toilets that flush, and (I'm guessing) good food.

    There is also a marathon/50K at that same park 2 weeks prior.

    Good luck on your next race.

    Deborah Botkin

  5. Jason, I would have loved to have run those last 35 miles of Pinhoti with you and I know that you would have ripped up some good miles with a second wind. You're a strong runner and you're one of my running heroes. That's the truth. I can relate to how you're feeling right now, because I experienced my first DNF a month ago by being pulled from the course at North Face 50 Mile. The exhaustion from these events can compound into burnout all too easily.
    I'm glad that you're okay and I'm glad that your phone was getting some signals out there on the Pinhoti trail!
    Maybe we can get together and run soon. I'll be at Pine Mountain 40 again this year. If you want to get together and run on some trails for a good training run, let me know.
    Take care, don't ever doubt yourself, and be glad that your presence was appreciated by many of us at Pinhoti. It was great to see you out of the blue at Mile 85!
    (Now, I'm always one to look for silver lining in the clouds. If you hadn't been pulled from the course, I might not have ended up pacing a pretty blonde girl for five miles of the course later on that night.)

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  7. I understand. I DNFBWT at the Leadville Marathon this year. One comment a friend made to me that helped some: 'Any DNF is better then a DNS!'

    Take a little time, dust yourself off and then get back out there kickin' butt and having fun!

  8. I feel disconnected from the "world of running" a lot. What a cool thing to ever know what it's like to be connected to at all? I will always feel more connected to Cobras, cigarettes, and payday than any sort of running. On the bright side, I feel VERY close to Forest Gump..."You just stepped in a big pile of dog SH"......"IT Happens".

  9. Hey Jason, it was great to see you and Beth today at Croft. Beautiful day for a race! I know that once you put some time between you and Pinhoti it will start to hurt less and less. You are a strong ultra runner and have many more races in your future. Hope to see you on the trails again soon. Maybe you should come do a test run at Bartram on the 27th. It's a very nice course and the main aid station is incredible. I'm hoping they have grilled cheese samiches again!

  10. Hey, Big E
    I think it's pretty cool you got a new perspective on ultra's from your experience at Pinhoti.

    Nothing like getting over your last race by scheduling your next race...

    See ya at Bartram Forest, buddy! (We''l be the wigged fools who look like they're having waaaaay too much fun!)

  11. Hey Jason, thanks for being real. I hope to meet you at Weymouth, as I attempt my 1st 100K. I hope to learn from your DNF as much as I have learned by reading your reports of other events. We always need to be making adjustments and to keep learning. You are blessed. You have what it takes. Keep moving forward.

    Bob Sites