Months of training and preparation all came to a head at 11:30PM on Friday, April 28th. I stepped out into the darkness with the ambition to run 100 miles. What follows are the up and downs and the reasoning behind my ultimate decision to DNF (DID NOT FINISH) a little over halfway through and all the lessons learned along the way.
Photo: Brandon Nabozny
11:30PM-2:00AM- Leaving from Picketpost Trailhead I was attempting to hold back a whirlpool of emotions. Fear, excitement, determination, stubbornness, and doubt. The first 10 miles went by smooth. I was holding back properly and running at my desired pace. I tried to refrain from getting too confident as the I clicked off the miles. Things were going well both physically and mentally.
2:00AM-5:30AM- After logging some more miles through the rolling hills I began to hit some of the small climbs along the route. Throughout the night I had been startled by multiple birds suddenly taking flight beside the trail; multiple eyes that turned out to be cattle and two deer. As I ran through one of the canyons I noticed a highly reflective set of green eyes, 150ft away. The eyes were large and focused on me. I bumped up the power of my headlamp and attempted to illuminate the creature (photo: Brandon Nabozny). As I stood there for five minutes I was able to make out the silhouette of a cat. One of my biggest concerns for the first night was a mountain lion encounter. Although I wasn't 100 percent certain at the time, I assumed it was. I continued down the trail at a faster pace, periodically stopping to shine a light behind me to ensure I wasn't being stalked. This continued for the next 10 miles as I climbed over the hills and then began my descent to the Gila River. After reaching the river I was happy to be done with the steep descent. Right around mile 20 I began to experience severe tightening of my right hamstring. I stopped to stretch it out often but the muscle continued to tighten. Around mile 25 I began having to walk significantly more. I continued to push on through the darkness, hoping that the morning light would help revive me mentally and physically. As the sky lightened I began to feel better mentally, but physically I was still struggling to run.
Photo: Rachel Landua
5:30AM-9:30AM- As I continued along the Gila River I alternated between running and hiking, while trying to stay on pace. Eventually I reached the bridge Kelvin that was suppose to signify 32 miles, but actually was 35. With the realization that I still had 3 miles to the my support crew I sluggishly climbed up the hills. Throughout this time my leg had continued to be tight. I had reached another dark patch just before meeting them, but was able to work myself out of it. I was in high spirits as I refueled and attempted to loosen my hamstring. After a leisurely 30 or so minutes I headed back out onto the trail.
Photo: Brandon Nabozny
9:30-12:30PM- I hit the trail with a rough gate and managed to squeeze out a mile of running? After that I was stuck to a state of walking. A few hills later I hit another dark patch starting at 45 miles. My leg was continuing to give me grief, and forcing me to walk. At mile 47 I came to the conclusion that if it didn't loosen up by mile 51, I was going to quit. I wanted to ensure that I was not quitting because I was tired or in a dark place; but rather that I physically was unable to continue. According to the mile stats I was going to be meeting the support crew at mile 51. Unfortunately that was not accurate and the three mile difference did not come easy. Finally at mile 53 I reached the crew and relayed the news to them about my pending DNF. Like a great crew they attempted to talk me out of it, hoping that I was going to be able to continue. So after 13 hours and 53 miles I tossed in the towel and accepted my physical defeat.
Photo: Scott Thornhill
Even though I was unable to complete my goal, and have to swallow my first official DNF pill; I learned so much about the ability of my mind and the limitations of my body. I also learned how important it is to accept failure and use it as a learning lesson.
On to the next one.