Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Dark Side of Ultrarunning

I was bummed to get the message late last night (early this morning) that my buddy Kevin dropped out of Rocky Raccoon 100. He made to mile 89.

He said his legs were trashed at 80, and tried to walk the last 20 but was getting too cold.

What most non ultra-heads will have a hard time grasping is, why didn't he keep going just to finish? He even had at least 14 hours to do so? "Gee... I would have just found a way to finish" (not my voice, the voice of the critics)

Here I will take the liberty of guessing what was in his head and why (KG, feel free to set me straight).

When you are done, you are done. PERIOD. And it is not like being done in a Marathon. One gets to the point in a marathon where they can't run anymore, but they want to. Then, they run/walk. Do that for 8-10 hours, and you won't care anymore. And if you have done it before, you won't want to do it again. You get to a point in some ultras where.... aside from all of the hard work and sacrifice you have put in.... you just don't care anymore. It is really hard to convince people of that. I think at its core, it is a survival instinct.

Also, when you can't walk anymore, it really kills your mindset as a runner. Yes, you can take a 5 hour nap, wake up, and probably finish under the cut with no problem, but that is not the race you want to run.

There is "Just Finishing, and there is JUST FINISHING". There is a big difference.

The longest 11 miles are the last 11 in a race like that. Once your plan and goal is toast and out of reach, it is hard to give a crap to stay on the course.

Kudos to you for nailing first 80 in 14 hours, and first 50 in under 8!

People also may say "he went out too fast". Well, there is only so much you can slow a racer down. Time on the feet works against you if you slow down too much. It is a delicate balance.

So Kevin now joins us, the elites, who have at least one DNF under their belt. It's about time!

By the way... I like your style of going for it. I had a feeling you wouldn't be able to go out easy.


Karen Gall kicked some butt out there with 27:44 I think. Great job Karen. There is someone who runs with a purpose and literally runs for her life. I bet she is a lot more competitive than the leads on. :)

Wayne Nelson PR'd his 50M with a 12:26. Great job Wayne. 2nd 50?

Not a bad showing for MN.


Next week - Run Toto Run

Helen, Joe, Tony and a bunch of others are going to go show the Trail Nerds how its done.

I look forward to those results (Nic...... you aint' got a chance).


Mike said...

Good post.

chris mcpeake said...

awesome post

nwgdc said...

I know. this weekend is gonna hurt. If the money weren't already spent, I'd be a scratch.
Great post on this subject, too. There's definitely a difference between dropping in anything under 50 miles and dropping in a 100. Running Times this month has some interesting thoughts on the topic regarding Matt Carpenter and Leadville, apparently (I haven't read it myself yet).

brothergrub said...

Thanks for this post Matt - That really picked me up!

SteveQ said...

Yeah, I know the difference between finished and FINISHED. My two finished hundos were worse than most people could imagine, but at Superior, continuing meant dying. Literally. Period.

It's what you do after you find your limit that counts. When you DNFed at Kettle, you came back with a vengeance!

R Carter said...

Matt, your entry ended up linked to on

Great, great!

I haven't yet had to drop in a 100, but when that time comes, I'm going to have your thoughts in mind.

Helen said...

Great post Matt! There is so much that goes through one's mind when the race isn't going to plan - and the longer the race, the tougher those internal conversations.

Great job Kevin - from what I know of Rocky your approach was spot on. On another day it would have resulted in an awesome PR.

Fantastic job by Karen & Wayne also.

Let's hope we can represent MN equally well in Kansas. Not hoping for the same result for WI... well, not quite :)

Steve said...

DNFing is somewhat of a rite of passage for ultrarunners. Almost everyone has experienced one at some point in time. How you react to one can make a long-term impact. It can shake your confidence or it can spur you on to greater determination. Better to DNF than DNS. My bro knew he wasn't in the best shape for this race, but he bucked up like a man and took his lumps. He's a better man for it and I know he'll come back strong. Great post, Matt!

Wayne said...

Thanks, Matt. Yes, the 50M count is now 1 DNF and 2 finishes.

Good post. I saw Kevin a few times and cheered by telling him that you said "Hi" and "Get the lead out". Kevin mentioned about mile 60 (I think) that he was in trouble… so from there he still did a marathon+. Good job, Kevin.