TARC 50 Miler DNF

DID NOT FINISH, I guess is always better than a did not start.

Sadly the 2013 training season peak race will end with a DNF.  I don’t have a lot of regrets for my training going into the race.  I don’t know if much could have prepared for the two weeks of pouring rain that the course took.  My mind just could not handle the mud, swamps and darkness that the 50 miles held.  Emotionally, I hold on to some regret, but logically, I know I walked off the field with no injuries, no physical strains and am back on the road and trails the next day.

To summarize.

164 Registered for the 50 miler

66 Finished the 50 miler

41 Finished the 50 miler in under 12 hours

About 40 or so of the registered runners didn’t even start

190 Registered for the 100 miler

65 Finished the 100 miler

So my DNF was in very good company.  A lot of amazing, strong runners, that I admire and look up to ended up DNFing the course.  I have to keep reminding myself that because otherwise the guilt and wounded pride starts breaking me down.

The TARC 50/100 miler was not designed to be a challenging course.  I believe that it was designed to be very friendly towards those going for their first 50 miler or 100 miler.  And Bob Crowley & Josh Katzman along with the countless volunteer helper did any amazing job.

I took Friday off and spent half the day napping and sleeping and grazing.  I met Tony around 5 and we drove to Weston to get there at 6.  After getting my number, time chip and debating back and forth whether to use my Camelpak or my handheld, the prerace meeting started.  I don’t know how, but maybe the excitement, the great company and everything else made the hour fly by because before I knew it, it was 7 PM, the race was starting and I forgot to grab my gaiters!

Photo by Michel Caren of the start
Photo by Michel Caren of the start

There are three aid stations that you pass by multiple times.

4.5 Miles – First loop went great.  I had an 11 minute going pace which was my target for the first 25 miles.  There were a few puddles of mud, a few streams to cross but for the most part it was very runnable.  I felt great.  As I passed by the station that Tony was volunteering at, I kissed him and ran off still in high spirits.

The next 5 miles got worse.  The puddles got bigger and deeper.  There was a flowing river with rocks we forded through.  And it started to get dark.

Next 5.3 miles were in darkness and got muddier and worse, but by mile 15, I still felt okay.  However, I could see my pace quickly dropping as the swamp and pools of water got deeper and longer.

Somewhere around mile 19, I questioned whether I could make the 12 hour cut-off.

By mile 22, I knew I would not make it.  At mile 23, I was still planning on running the 4.5 mile loop to get to 30 miles or so for the night.  Even though I wasn’t going to make the 12 hour cut-off and such, I still wanted to end the night on an ultra.

Mile 24, 25 were mud, water, slippery socks, mud that tried to pull your shoes off and was barely runnable to me.  It was in those two miles, that solidified my decision.  I was walking off the course as soon as I get to 25 mile to complete my one loop.  I had this awful feeling that if I kept going, I would have injured myself.  Mentally, the mud had broken me.

No me but someone took this of how deep the water was
No me but someone took this of how deep the water was

Tarc 50 MudThis is a photo of the course during the day after more water had dried up.  I was running this in the dark, dead of night.

I reached the 25 mile aid station around 6 hour mark.  I learned later that I was the 73rd runner in the 50 miler to reach it.  I wasn’t the last one, or the only one not making the cut, I was middle of the pack.  I knew there was no way I would finish 25 more miles in 6 hours.  I learned way later that they extended the time cut-off from 12 to 15 hours.  I’ve spent way too much time wondering if I should have went on if I knew I had more hours.  The 6 hours that I ran on did not seem tedious and long, they actually flew by but maybe that;s my selective memory.  Maybe I would have kept going if I knew I had 9 hours and not 6 hours to finish the second 25 miles of the course but to be honest I was not having fun.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my fellow trail runners, the volunteers and aid stations were amazing.  I really REALLY wanted to keep running just so I could stop by and hang out at the aid stations.  Everyone was so amazing.

However, I was not prepared for the 25 muddy miles in the dark

1. I learned that my flashlight was not as bright as it seemed before
2. I learned that my headlamp is brighter about 10 miles later after using a useless flashlight but I could not figure out a way to hold it.  Having it on my head did not work.
3. I only had one pair out of the three pairs of shoes that I brought that would work in the mud.  After 25 miles, I needed either a hose or a new pair of shoes to get rid of the 10 pounds of mud I was carrying.
4. Running on mud and water makes you legs shaky. My hips hurt and I felt that if I kept going, I would either fall or twist my ankle in the mud.  I got really scared for my safety.
5. I was having a lot of difficulties on the two-way parts of the trail that were single track. It felt like everyone’s headlamp’s were brighter than mine and aiming straight for my eyes.
6. Running through the night wasn’t too bad. On the part of the trail that was runnable, I learned to trust my footing and my lighting. I actually did not get sleepy at all, and when I got home, I could barely fall asleep for an hour or so at 3AM

I have regrets for not going past my limits and succumbing to the weakness of my mind but I’m also grateful that I left the course with no injuries beyond my pride and was able to run the next day.

I thought about signing up for another 50 miler this summer but honestly, I don’t want to run double 20 milers on the weekends while the weather is hitting 90s.  I loved it in the winter, but summers are for biking, swimming and lazy days on a meadow.  Besides I have my first triathlon in a month and I start my training today! However, I will be back, probably not the fall since I work 6 days a week, but next Spring you’ll see me.  Maybe for TARC 2014 and maybe for much more!  Tony even said he won’t be too mean to me if I train for a 100 miler!

15 thoughts on “TARC 50 Miler DNF”

  1. You’re amazing Liana. Great job going as far as you did. Mud and deep water in the middle of the night?! That’s hardcore. I (just like everyone else who reads your blog) know you are capable of 50 and 100 miles. This just wasn’t the one. Enjoy you’re summer!

  2. Liana I think that you should be very proud of yourself and I think that you are incredible. I don’t think that you succumbed to any weakness. It looked like a brutal course out there. To run though all that mud in the dark is way brave. I would have been petrified of falling and hurting myself.

    I am in awe of you and your talent. You have a bright running future in front of you no matter what distance you want to run.

  3. One doesn’t simply walk into Mordor, but you ran through it. This sounds like a the Spartan death race without the barbed wire and stuff. Either way, you won because you survived to tell and share the tale. 20 milers in the summer should be illegal.

  4. WOW! What an event! A 50 mile mud run sounds pretty miserable…not gonna lie. This is good to read, though. You never know what’s gonna happen in a race that long. Even with perfect training. Even with perfect weather. I’ve thought about doing a 50 miler someday and I just don’t know how I’d handle DNFing my first one because there’s a good chance I would. So thanks for sharing!

    1. I think you should go for it! I don’t regret trying, and even if I did DNF, I gained a lot of great running experience while training for it that will only help add on in my future.

  5. hell no you should not have been running through that in the dark. Your DNF should be classified as something else… like a NWIHITS (no way in hell is this safe). I thought my 50 mile run in mud was dangerous? Yours takes the cake.

    You should never EVER regret calling it a day. It was the best thing for you and I’m surprised that the run still happened. Hold your head up.

  6. Why exclude the 50 milers who finished more than 12 hours from your stats? The cut-off was extended to 15 hours.

    1. I did include the them in the total of 66 who finished the 50 miler.

      The cut-off wasn’t extended until more than midway through the race because at the 6 hour mark when I gave my chip, I was still under the impression we only had 12 hours.

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