Did Not Start

There’s a trilogy of three letter acronyms in endurance sports: DLF, DNF, and DNS. They stand for “dead last finish”, “did not finish”, and “did not start”, respectively. There’s a simple relationship among these conditions expressed as follows: DLF > DNF >> DNS. It means “dead last finish” is greater than “did not finish” which greatly trumps “did not start”. Although I came close to DLF/DNF at Pikes Peak, this weekend I experienced my first of any of these. I achieved the dubious distinction of DNS’ing my first 50-mile ultra-marathon.

Maybe it’s for the best? A mild case of IT Band Syndrome disrupted my training for this race. But given my rather sour (understatement) mood the past couple days, I better understand why DNF greatly trumps DNS.

The Rocky Raccoon 100/50-mile took place this past Saturday, February 5th. The Friday before marked the fourth straight day of being iced in. I imagine it’s never happened since automobiles began traversing concrete in North Texas that ice covered the roads four entire consecutive days. One thing I already knew but I was reminded of, is that I’m not cut out to be a stay at home dad. I love my kids, but I’m just not equipped to take care of children, especially toddlers, all day long, day in day out. As Friday approached I was anxious, stressed, and going stir crazy.

After much indecision, I departed for the journey from Plano to Huntsville around 10:30 Friday morning. The roads were still treacherous rendering my average speed under 30 MPH. Two hours later I was devastated the roads hadn’t improved. What would normally have taken just over an hour to drive had taken more than two. I was worried I would have to drive back on the same road conditions. Every 30 minutes the nightmare continued Southward, I might have to do it for another 30 minutes on the way back. I already felt guilty for leaving my wife and kids stuck (abandoned?) at home. The thought of driving back on the slick roads after running 50 miles exhausted me. I decided to turn around and head home.

Ironically, not long after I turned around the roads improved dramatically. I think it was just a matter of time of day. Later in the day more cars had chopped up the ice and snow. The sun was also peaking out and the ice was melting. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have had to drive back on bad roads, and the roads South probably would have improved if I pressed on.

A very thoughtful sign a twitter friend, @milanorunner (Fawn), made for me that didn't get used.

I really wish I could live life without regrets. Most of the time I successfully avoid worrying about things I can’t change. I have a feeling I won’t be able to shake this one until I conquer the 50-mile distance. Certainly it’s made me question why I run. Do I run to escape? Do I run to redeem myself? Do I run to prove something to others? Or to myself? I know unequivocally these aren’t my primary goals. I am very intentional about enjoying the act of running and not making it a means to an end. I never want to spoil the satisfaction and pleasure that comes from being in the moment when I run. And I know I haven’t slipped from these priorities. But what I haven’t admitted to myself is how much these personal distance records mean to me. They are rites of passage into a community I deeply admire, that of ultra-runners.

It’s tough to be an adult and reconcile our hearts with what we tell our kids: that they can be anything they want. There are many things in life at this point I could never likely become, for instance an astronaut or a professional mountain climber. But one thing I desperately want to become is a 50-mile and 100-mile ultra-runner. Someday.

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  • http://twitter.com/milanorunner Fawn Simpson

    You did what was right for you and your family this weekend. You are a husband and dad first. You will run your first 50 miles soon. Lots of chances in this state. You are an amazing human being with a great family and the run will happen. We missed you and I would love to have been there for you to help you celebrate. You are more amazing by doing the right thing than by doing the run. I’m proud of you and don’t ever forget you are an amazing runner!

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Thanks, Fawn. I missed seeing you for sure. I can’t believe you made that sign for me. You are so kind. Since I didn’t have the mileage base I wanted, I’m not going to sign up for a follow-on race right away. I’m going to hit the reset button and see where I land in a few months.

  • Kelly Garman

    This was a very heartfelt post, Matt. And I hurt that you didn’t get to race over the weekend. But I agree with Fawn, YOU ARE AN AMAZING RUNNER; someone a great many people respect and admire….and I look forward to seeing what that ‘reset’ does for your spirit.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your kind words, Kelly. As always your friendship in this journey continues to be a blessing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.brunone Peter Brunone

    That’s hard stuff, but I know you; you don’t live just for yourself.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been dealing with most of those same questions lately — albeit at much lower distance levels :) I’ve been in and out of IT band trouble and sickness for several weeks now, and it feels like I’m never going to be able to get back out there without pain. I just want to run… and that’s a pretty cool thing for me to be able to say. If it weren’t for encouragers like you, I might not be saying it at all.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been battling your own running demons. This is a particularly difficult time of year to really stick with it. You are to be commended for giving it a go. It’s always encouraging to hear you yourself have encouraged others. I’m glad to be a part of your running journey. Which reminds me. We may need to get together a crew of coworkers to run the Dash Down Greenville 5K, March 12th….

  • http://findingmyhappypace.com/ Steena

    Sorry to hear the weather took your first 50 mile ultra. To look on the bright side, you were ON YOUR WAY to run a 50 miler ultra, something that most would never consider. You’re healthy and strong enough to do it, after the ITB scare. You got home safe in once piece, and you’ll be able to run the next 50!

  • Anonymous

    Sometimes its harder than it should be to look on the bright side. Excellent advice.

  • Anonymous

    I’m now registered for Hell’s Hills 50 mile on April 2. http://www.tejastrails.com/HellsHills.html