Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

DNF=Do Nothing Foolish: Black Warrior 50K 02.19.11

Me and Woody before the start of the Black Warrior 50K
I already wasn't feeling all that hot when the lights went out to go to sleep, but through out the night, I kept getting up and going to the bathroom. More than once, the thought went through my head, "How the hell am I going to run 31 miles tomorrow, if I keep feeling like this?" I don't know, maybe it was self-defeating from that moment on, but there was a part of me that was stubborn enough to line up at the start no matter what. With family life, the opportunity to get away for a weekend to run a race is precious indeed, so I didn't want to miss the opportunity. Not to mention, I love this shit! I love the atmosphere pre-race. I love the excitement of the start. I love the thrill of getting through the crowd and finding the pecking order on the trail. On and on, I love it all.

Next morning, the alarm goes off and Woody and I get ready to go and pack up our stuff. We grab some of the free hotel breakfast (I had some cereal and barely any of it), get the car and hit the road on the way to Brushy Lake National Park near Moulton, Alabama for the Black Warrior 50K. Within an hour, we were there picking up our numbers and going through the typical pre-race rituals.

My stomach was killing me and I was filling weak. I wanted to blame it on the previous night's dinner at Ruby Tuesday's (yeah, there's not much in Cullman, AL), but I knew I had caught something viral and it decided to rear its ugly head this weekend of all weekends.

Woody was looking sharp and he was doing a little sandbagging. "I don't know. I don't really feel fit for this race. I think I might just go out hard and see how it goes." Well, he would do alright in the end.

We headed to the start which was at on a concrete bridge that was where the park road asphalt ended and a gravel road started going up an incline. We were to head up the gravel road on that uphill.

Phillip Parker near finish of the 1992 Western States 100
The race director yelled out some last minute instructions and some one took a minute to let us know about Phillip Parker. Phillip Parker is a local ultra-running legend and he passed away last year. There was a great memorial of sorts back at the starting area with a bunch of news clippings of his accomplishments over 30 years of running including a really cool photo of him near the finish at Western States 100 back in 1992. The race was run in his honor this year. A prayer was said.

I gave Woody a pat on the back as he headed for the front. Soon we were off and up the hill. Right away, I was feeling a rumbling in my stomach. I tried to ignore it and did a few surges up the hill just to test how I was feeling and it wasn't good. People around me were going through the normal shifting of position since we had more than two miles before hitting the actual single track trail.

I was really looking forward to this race. I'd run 50K's in Alabama before but this was a different part of the state. This park is known for its horse back riding trails with most of it single track and some double track. Past participants have always made mention of the mud and the many small creek crossings. There's rolling hills but no major climbs and not much as far as technical rooty or rocky terrain. I would later learn that the mud was pretty vicious. Woody apparently had one of his shoes sucked right off his foot. He noticed it about three strides later and had to go back and scoop his shoe out. Anyway, it sounded like a fun course that allowed for some speed.

As we neared the trail, I started to shake my head and I knew that if I continued I would be in trouble. Sure, I could pull off on the trail and take care of business, but dehydration was a concern. I toyed with the thought of changing to the 25K. Surely, I could run for a little over two hours and be OK. But somewhere on the third mile after only being on the actual trail for less than 10 minutes, I knew I had to call it a day. DNF. Yes, that's the dreaded "Did Not Finish", but in this case I thought it was "Do Nothing Foolish".  I could continue, but this wasn't even challenging in that I'll-stick-it-out-even-if-my-collar-bone-is-broken kind of heroism. I stepped aside and let everyone behind me go by.

Woody finishing strong!
It took a few minutes until the trail was clear and I started walking back. The sweepers came up and they were kind enough to stop and make sure I was alright. I just let them know that I'd be OK and that I was going to walk back on my own. Back at the gravel road, I did happen to catch a ride with one of the volunteers returning from one of the other aid stations. And once back at the parking area, I let the finish line folks know that #26 was done. That way, they didn't have to keep track of me. I grabbed some water, took care of business and immediately felt better, but I knew I still made the right choice. I found a spot near the finish where I could enjoy the sunshine and waited for the finishers to arrive.

The 25K winner came in at a blazing 1:44 finishing time and he looked like he could have run another 25K. Turns out that was what he had initially planned to do, but he had run the Mercedes Marathon the week before and changed his mind after feeling out his legs on the course. Most of the rest of the 25K participants finished before the 50K winner showed at just under four hours. Amazing, I can't imagine running a 50K in less than four hours! Not long afterwards, local Alabama ultra-legend Dwayne Satterfield came in for second. Then third place came in. I had looked down for a moment when I heard, "Here comes another one!" I looked up and it was Woody coming around the bend towards the finish! Holy crap! I almost didn't get my camera up in time to snap a shot. He finished fourth in under 4:30. I was so happy for him. Very cool!

When Woody came in, we got him something to eat and then he cleaned up. He had a nasty blister that had rubbed raw on his achilles from his shoe. He picked up his tech finisher shirt and we said good-bye to a few people and headed out. Good day for Woody, not so hot day for me. Yeah, I DNF'd, but I did nothing foolish.