I have a 100 this weekend. I know I never wrote about the one I did in November. I have a story to share, but I’ll get around to it. Anyway, about this race, I am a little sketched out because it’s a full on pavement course. I’m confident I can handle it for the most part, but man I know it’s going to hurt. BAD. I hate pavement. But I wanted to challenge myself, so here I am. And I am determined not to make the same mistakes I’ve made over and over again in the past!
Ahh, DNF’s. DID NOT FINISH.
You see guys, the truth is this: I know how to DNF. I’m freakin’ good at it.
Whether I find myself wrapped in a sleeping bag, sobbing on a dirty bathroom floor 80 miles in, or passed out in an ambulance carting me to a comfy bed in the ICU…
…or on crutches for weeks with a major injury…
I’ve even just dropped what I was doing and walked away a few times. I have the utmost success at DNF’ing! So, how do I do it? How am I so epically awesome at failing? It’s taken a long time, guys. Nothing great is ever easy. If you want to suck too, simply read on for my sage advice for failing ultras!
1.) Cockily call your own predicted time or win- This used to be my pitfall. Even if I was just talking to friends or family, I was pretty bad about assuming my performances were a given. And I would feel like such a prick when I sucked and didn’t even finish! In ultarunning, especially 100 or other long distances, nothing is a given. I suppose that applies to life too, but let’s not get too philosophical here. The key is simply to stay grounded and humble so you don’t look like a total douche regardless of the outcome. Always remember that there is someone out there bigger, better, faster, stronger, smarter, better prepared and a lot better looking than you, too. So keep that in mind before you announce to Facebook that you are going to take home The Golden Trophy, or before you act like a scumbag when you pass somebody. Because when you do, it will likely come back and chomp you in the butt. That whole “pride comes before the fall” thing is some legit life stuff. So just stay humble, and keep your mouth shut, and you should be able to avoid this one.
2.) Be Unprepared- Go into something without a real care, and guess what you’ll likely get–results that reflect that. You can wing a marathon if you’re gritty enough. Shoot I’d even say you could wing a 50. But anything over that requires a bit more planning. Yes, there are some anomalies who just tackle a 100 like it’s nothing and finish it in first place, but these are rarities we will no longer speak of. If you’re going to hit up a 100, have the decency and respect for the distance, and for everyone around you to do the following: put in some serious training, bring your fuel, bring your gear, bring a light so you’re not stuck out in the woods alone crying in the dark..not that that’s ever happened to me or anything.
3.) Wear a new model of shoes- a nice effective method of sabotage for your race would be to run in some shoes you’ve never had before! No matter how promising they may seem, it’s just not a good idea. Look–I know you may score some good luck, and have that strange mid race, sensually orgasmic experience with a pair of Hokas that people so often speak of, but probably not. More likely, you will end up crying at an aid station early on from engaging muscles you’ve never used before. Or limping it in with ginormous blisters that make your stubborn death march pure misery. New shoes make your legs work in different ways than you are used to. A simple change in drop or stability can cause some serious pain in all areas of the legs. And if you’re anything like me, that pain will guarantee you end up crying like a momma’s boy, taking depressing selfies of your suckage like the one below, and kicking yourself for not just wearing your dang training shoes.
What a geek. This leads me to my next point..
4.) Think blisters are painful and worth stopping over- I get so many people emailing me or tweeting me about how to prevent blisters so they “can finally finish a 100”. Man. Just. No… I cannot respond with words here, just a picture of Lane Vogel’s feet after Badwater. I would show you Beth McCurdy’s but they make me vomit. Anyway, you get the point.
5.) Get competitive in the first half- One quick way to sabotage your own race–and I do mean quick– is to get a little hasty in that first half. If your name is Jon or Geoff or Anton or Ellie or Dakota or whoever, just go away and read an elite blog of life. Or eat some ice cream to celebrate yourself being generally great at things. Because the rest of us, when we try to be fast and awesome, just end up being really freaking stupid. For instance, if you are running with the lead pack for 10 miles and, you know, casually shootin’ the breeze with a 2:35 marathoner, and you’re –you know– a 4:35 marathoner, you’re not racing. You’re being a moron. And you will crap out in about 10 more miles with a new marathon PR, a busted ego, and a successful fail. You will have shamed yourself and your entire extended family. The best way to prevent such a terrible occurrence would be to hold back for the first chunk of miles, and allow your body to ease into the race. You may still quit, but at least you weren’t an overzealous jackass while doing so. (Again, not speaking from experience or anything….)
6.) Expect it not to hurt- the best way to get 70+ miles in to a 100 and to stop there? Have a false expectation on the amount of pain you’re going to feel. You NEED to expect a serious amount of pain. Scratch that- you need to expect Hell unleashing its fury on not only your legs, but every last bone, joint, and muscle in your tired decrepit body. Accept that the pain is going to suck really really bad, and that you will have to suffer through it for an extended amount of time. I have experienced natural childbirth. I think that it’s easier. —the child birth that is. So expect it, and when you feel it, don’t be shocked. It is supposed to feel that bad!
7.) Get smart mid race- probably the worst thing that can happen to you in an ultra is you realize how freaking stupid it all is. Don’t let THIS happen to you at all during your event: “Hold on…You mean to tell me [myself] that I’m not only completely destroying my muscles, my joints, my endocrine system, my brain, and my appearance, but I’m doing this for fun?? Not even for money? For a dang belt buckle I will look at once a year and never wear? And when I tell people they will either think I am lying or stupid? And my family is home cuddling in front of a fire watching a movie while I am rotting in this miserable shell of existence?!” …It’s all true. Ultrarunning IS really really stupid. The truth hurts, right? Well not if you refuse to believe it! Maybe don’t think about it until AFTER the race? Whatever. Just remember that YOU are the Lone Ultra Ranger, here to save the world. Things just flow a bit more smoothly that way. (P.S. While it may be stupid, it’s still crazy good fun, and good for bragging rights!)
Lastly, remember that if you quit, so what, you quit. Nobody truly gives a crap. You don’t have to write an emotional Facebook explanation to your friends and family and sponsors explaining why you sucked. They don’t need to know. Just wallow in your own sorrow for awhile, then live to get hungry and fight again with a vengeance!
So… there you have it! Tools to creating a strong DNF. ...and here’s hoping I don’t utilize every last one of them this weekend. Leave your own tips below if you have any. Happy 2014, guys! Make it a good one. ~Ash