My First DNF

14 Dec

This post was supposed to be a race report on the Sugar Land 30K, which took place on December 12th.  In a way, it is a race report, I suppose, but not the kind I’d prefer to write about.

After a minor disaster at the start line where I missed the starting gun while in the port-a-potty, I finally did catch up to the pack, passed all the walkers and settled into a nice rhythm and pace.  I was running about 11:00 miles, which was slower than I wanted, but I also knew I had a long way to go and that I’d likely speed up as the race progressed, so I didn’t worry too much about it.  After all, my primary goal was just to finish.  The course is horribly dull — 3 miles out, then 3 loops of 4 miles each, then 3 miles back. 

Around 9.5 miles in (almost halfway into my second loop), I had to stop to use the facilities again.  When I returned to the race course, the first step I landed on my right foot resulted in sharp pain on the outside of my right knee.  I stepped out of the way of the runners to rub it and stretch, then started up again.  It was still painful, but I was hopeful I could run through it and the pain would subside.  Over the next 2 miles, however, the pain did not go away.  I had to stop several times.  At 11.5 miles, I realized that I would not be able to complete the race. 

We were on a residential street, so I moved off of the narrow race course on to the sidewalk.  About a quarter-mile later, some wonderful spectators offered me a ride to the finish line, about 4 miles away.  I accepted without hesitation!

I had hoped to get there in time to see Hubby finish, but he ran a great time (a PR of 2:42) and so I missed him.

But as I stood there watching strangers and even some friends and acquaintances finish the race with arms raised high and big smiles on their faces, the disappointment of my first ever DNF settled in.  The most frustrating thing was that, at the point where I stopped, I had been running for 2 hours.  I was feeling strong, and with just over 10K left, I was beginning to feel confident about a good finish.

I have often said that long-distance running is at least 80% mental and that if your mind can persevere over your body, you can succeed.  In this instance, my body won.  I know I did the right thing by stopping when I did to avoid further injury.  But it doesn’t lessen the disappointment.  I ran into my friend Claudia at the finish line.  She could see in my face how unhappy I was and, like any good friend, she didn’t need to say anything.  She just hugged me and let me cry.

Post-script:  My orthopedist believes I have an acute case of IT band syndrome.  He said it’s definitely odd that it happened so suddenly, but that his physical examination didn’t lead him to believe I had torn any of the soft tissue, which is great news.  He put me on Celebrex, advised me to ice the area and rest this week, probably skipping my scheduled 12-mile long run on Saturday.  It will be difficult to rest with the marathon only 7 weeks away, but I know I need rest so I can heal.

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