So it's been a week since I attempted the NorthFace GoreTex Endurance Challenge 50 mile race...I had spent months training, putting in a max of 100 miles a week and averaging 70 miles for most of the training. I had hydrated, dialed in my nutrition and was excited to jump into my first 50 mile race. Two days prior to the race I began to get worried, I had to take a day off from work to take care of my wife and two of our children who had come down with the stomach flu. Sanitizing properly and making sure I had rest and extra vitamin C, I seemingly avoided infection...or so I thought. race day came, My friend and former athlete Carl picked me up at 2:15am and we made the trip to Sausalito. Riding the rented school buses meant to shuttle us to the start, we were both in good spirits, joking about past races and sharing about our training, we were ready to go. Standing in the cold air and finishing the last bit of our pre-race snacks, we were ready to go. The famous Ultra-athlete Dean Karnazes started us off and away we went in the cold dark of the early morning. Uphill in the dark wasn't bad, downhill was a little uneasy, but manageable, and I was feeling good.
As the race wore on, I tried to be aware of how much water I was taking in, and how often I should eat, but then there was this nagging feeling I should have gone to the bathroom one last time before starting. After stopping at every aid station to go to the bathroom and feeling a little more sore all over than I should have, I started to get worried. By mile 15 I was feeling like trash, I decided I would make it to the next aid station and see how I felt...In the next 10 miles I quickly realized that it was game over...I was heading downhill, literally and figuratively, as I made my way down the grueling steps from Cardiac to Stinson I fought off dizziness, nausea, aching muscles, and a huge sense of defeat that I had never felt in a race before. I was done, and not happy about it.
I made it to the Stinson aid station at mile 27.5 feeling defeated and relieved that I was at a place I could stop. Carl's parents who were crewing for us had been waiting there for me, tracking me online through the aid stations, they had realized that I was having trouble as they saw my times drop. They were so gracious and very happily offered me a ride back to civilization and out of the race.
I was crushed, I had never DNF'ed before, and let me tell you, it's lame! All the months of prep both physically and mentally I felt were totally wasted. But something amazing happened that helped me cope a little better. As I raced myself through sickness that morning, there was another racer who was right around me throughout the portion of the race I completed. She would destroy me on the downhills, flying past me as I plodded down, but then on the uphill I would slowly catch up and pass, only to be passed on the next downhill! We continued like this until the descent into Stinson where I finally was able to pass her on the downhill; unfortunately by that time it was clear we were both struggling. We made it into the Stinson aid station around the same tie, both feeling defeated. After some time in the porta-potty, I let the race official at the aid station know I was stepping out of the race, I looked over and saw the young lady sitting in a chair, tears running down her face as she too was coming to the realization that we were not finishing the race. I walked over to the other racer, I put my hand out and said, "I'm done too." She stood up and held me and cried. I held onto her and simply stood there letting her cry and letting the emotions flood through me as well. As terrible as I felt I realized I wasn't the only one, and decided it was better to step out of this learning, and seeing all the training for what it was: making me stronger, not merely a waste, but the race was not the end, it was simply a continuation of the journey that had taken me there to begin with. All the training, all the work, it was just as important as the race...