7 Ways To Secure A Good DNF

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!


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.

Blisters, while painful, are superficial. You aren’t doing any serious bodily damage here. They will happen, and are never worth stopping over.

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

53 Replies to “7 Ways To Secure A Good DNF”

  1. My best advice is to have your nutrition nailed down b4 race day and stick 2 it! Seen lot o good folks go down that way.

  2. Oh my gosh Ash; I love this post! I’ve never DNF’d cause I’ve only run 1 marathon thus far – believe it or not, but I really would like to work up to an ultra someday. Regardless of that; your wisdom sounds timeless. The best of luck to you this weekend! I can’t wait to hear all about it.

  3. Ashley, this was a great read! 🙂 2013 introduced me to my first ultra (El Sendero 60k) and for the most part, I fell into one of your categories…. I have never “trained” outside of my normal fun runs. In just a few months I will be journeying out on my first 50mi (Hells Hills 50mi) and beginning the training for my first 100 as soon as I find one for me! 😀

    Thanks for sharing.. awesome!

  4. Great post filled with so much wisdom and solid advice–thanks for sharing! I’m only running my first full marathon in a couple weeks, but the crazier part of me definitely wants to run a trail ultra someday (probably more so than finishing just the full I’m about to do)…I’ll definitely have to look to his post for some smarts if that day ever comes!

  5. what a great post – I’m 4 months out to my first 24hour race so this advice is well timed as I start serious prep. I might have some stuff to work on!
    thanks and run well this weekend

  6. Funny stuff as usual, but there’s some real sound advice hidden in there. New Hokas, why not? New nutrition, what could that possibly hurt????

    Good luck this weekend!

  7. Great words of wisdom with my first 100 miler only 2 weeks away. I just wanted you to know that the picture of you laying on the bathroom floor at 80 miles (and leading) has been one of the major influences in my journey to the century mark (honestly). Anything with the potential to be that bad has to have the potential to be that good (my dualism theory as it relates to running). Time to embrace the suck. Enjoy that 100 miles of pavement! P.S. I’m so happy your doing hundreds again!


    1. Hi Steve!!! I did not realize you had a 100 coming up! So cool. Haha that bathroom pic inspires me to NEVER do that again LOL! BUT yes the love/hate pain relationship and emotions experienced throughout create such an incredible WORTHWHILE journey!!! Good luck!!!!!! Will be following your pics for sure!:)

  8. I absolutely loved reading this, and yes…..I am still psyched to run 100 miles. All of your advice is very very true. I can’t say how many times I’ve actually done each one. I’ve been fortunate to complete my first 100k with a big ol smile on my face, but we will see how it goes for 100…..could be a totally different story 😉
    Thanks for the inspiration, and when I run 100, I will think of what you wrote

    1. Hi Jandy! Thanks for the comment! You learn best by trying…and in my case, failing a few times! But my loss is hopefully your gain:) Good luck in chasing that 100. It’s such a fun goal. Enjoy!

  9. Did all of those except #4 on my last 100 and the race doc at mile 40 sent me to the ER for Rhabdomyolysis. When asked what went wrong, I just reply with “I’m an idiot.” Yet, I was one of the first to register for the 2014 Leadville 100 Mile Run again.

  10. Ya know, as an ultra runner I’m trying really hard to find something to like about you but you are just pretentious as hell. Cuter than a speckled puppy but the worst damn writer on earth. And honestly, if you weren’t cute, you wouldn’t get a damn soul on your blog. The hot ones always have a heightened sense of how important they are. Ugh.

    1. Why say anything at all? Why even read it? There are lots of other people who enjoy what she has to say. Why can’t you just disagree in silence like a normal civilized person. Doesn’t it occur to you that your words may actually hurt the person you’re directing them towards?

      1. Thanks, Jeff! You know, Person didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I just thought it was funny that someone would take the time to write such a stupid comment– and on a Saturday night too! Thanks for your sweet response and for taking the time to come to my defense. Have a great week!

    2. So, unnamed “person,” I couldn’t disagree with you more. I find Ashley to be an extremely insightful and engaging writer, and a very honest, open person with no pretensions whatsoever. Her stories are told from the heart, hold nothing back, and reveal her true personality and what she really experiences in life, on the trail, and in races. She’s quite the opposite of most running bloggers who pound their chests while boring us to death with “and then I ate a Gu and peed at mile 37” details. I know for a fact that Ashley’s story, and her stories, have inspired many people to get out there and move forward in life. I say “bravo” to her, and I thought that long before I became her friend.

      Yes, Ashley is cute and beautiful and photogenic, but what of it? She’s beautiful all the way through and that is what counts. Ugly goes all the way to the bone, as you have revealed with your hateful comment.

    3. Personally I enjoy this blog. Yeah, Ashley is gorgeous. So what? So is anyone with heart. Anyone with intensity.
      I lost my colon in June. Just finished 12 rounds, six months of chemo. Had very few side effects, never got sick. Was back up and running daily double digits 39 days after they pulled a five foot long organ from my body.
      Life is way too short and beautiful to spend one single moment bitching about something. If you don’t like something, don’t look at it. Move on.
      I love anyone who runs. I love anyone who pushes themselves to the point of collapse. I love anyone full of the animal.
      I’ve had three brain surgeries, colon removal, chemo, struck by lightning and survived a divorce. The animal carried me through. Anyone else who possesses such is part of my tribe. Call me or mine anything you like. But please cross your legs first, your panties are showing.

  11. I’d add that if you’ve spent he night before being sick, don’t get up I the morning and think “I’m sure I’ll be fine, it’s probably nothing, and it’s a 100 so I’ll be going slow anyway”. Best DNF ever:-)

    Good luck with the race, and “when I tell people they will either think I’m lying or stupid” is about the truest thing anyone ever wrote about ultras!

  12. Ash~ I think PERSON commented on the

    wrong blog! I have followed you for two years now, and I have never thought any of your musings to be “pretentious”. In fact, in the above post you make light of your own past decisions and mistakes. That in itself shows how grounded you are. I think “person” is nothing more than a spineless wannabe who is jealous of your achievements and ability to share with the world. They also lack grammar skills which is quite hilarious in their attempt to dis your writing ability. Maybe it is someone you have offended in the past! Either way, know that the majority loves you and has your beautiful back. Hugs, lovey! XX

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! I really did have a hard time understanding” pretentious” –as I often talk about being a crappy runner, living in a tiny house in a shotty town, and having zero dollars to my name. I never act like I’m more than that. LOLL so I thought they were grasping for that one, but whatever. haha. Have a great week!

  13. I think you have to have something wrong with you to think that abusing yourself to the point that your feet look like that is acceptable behavior, let alone trying to shame others for (wisely) stopping optional activities when it gets that painful and damaging.

    1. Hey “Max”,
      I think you must have something wrong with you if you have nothing better to do than sit around and criticize some else’s blog? Get out of momma’s basement and go for a run.

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