DONKEYS AND FUDGE
Okay, I’m not really talking about Donkeys and Fudge.
Or Donkey Punches.
Instead I am going to talk about DNFs. (GET IT? HUH?)
Specifically, my DNF.
My first DNF in 15 years!
I dropped out of exactly 4 races in high school.
All of which happened under similar circumstances: I freaked out about something, hyperventilated, and collapsed in a heap too dazed to walk. I’d whine to my coaches about not knowing what happened. I’d throw something. Maybe scream and or cry. But basically, it was teen girl histrionics combined with, well, anxiety and mild respiratory distress. I’d get a lecture that varied from stern to forgiving, I’d get angry and I’d eventually move on. But I always associated the whole experience with drama and failure, largely because as a histrionic teenage girl…I lacked the good sense to just accept that this shit just happens sometimes and made it all out to be a much bigger deal than it actually was.
It doesn’t quite work that way these days.
For years I’ve told myself that I’d rather die than drop out. If not die…just physically be unable to keep going. Like, pass out and get carried off the road. That’d be okay with me. Because frankly, isn’t anything else just giving up?
But let me tell you something: IN SOME CASES YOU PROBABLY SHOULD JUST GIVE UP.
I’ve done little since Boston, but after feeling fine during the actual vodka heist (save some stomach issues that were probably my own fault and I swear I’ll write about it eventually), I figured I’d still be set for a hilly 10 mile race on Sunday.
I’m not quite sure if it was the result of a bad week at work or something less obvious, but I had the feeling I needed to bag the race by Friday evening. Saturday I stopped three times during a run because I was getting dehydration cramps. I rehydrated and moved on.
Sunday morning I got in my car and drove to the race which started on the late side.
I felt fine while warming up if a bit…too nervous for my liking? I’d drank a fair amount but could feel the after effects of the dehydration cramps. But really, I’ve run with these before.
I got to the start and could tell something just…wasn’t firing within a mile or so. It was more than the usual struggle with finding a rhythm. There was something just…wrong. I hit the mile in 7:15 and felt like I was going under 7:00 pace. Not THAT bad, right?
Yeah. I was struggling to breathe. The next mile twisted up a hill. If I recall, the last time I ran this race I’d hit the first two miles in 7:00 and 7:20 (the course is up and down – my fastest mile was like a 6:20 and the slowest a 7:50 that year!) so I knew it’d be slower. And I was slowing down. But as the hill climbed, I recognized that this was something other than the effects of the terrain. I actually FELT like walking. This…not even 2 miles into a 10 mile race.
People streamed by and I just…couldn’t make myself care.
I glanced at my watch in time to see that I’d just run a 7:47 mile.
And that’s when it occurred to me: I NEEDED TO STOP. Not because I was seriously hurt. Not because I was going to die. Not because I was going to even collapse in a heap on the road. But because I couldn’t see myself running any further.
I gave it a minute. We turned up another hill. I hoped I’d feel better, but as the course turned down another hill…my legs weren’t cooperating. I was barely moving. It occurred to me that I could drop now and stagger back a little over 2 miles…or I could see what happened if I kept pushing forward.
The next thing I knew I was standing on the sidewalk.
I unpinned my number and just…calmly turned around and walked back.
And then it started:
A guy running screams “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!”
I laughed and said “Yep. I am. Not my day.”
And I kept fucking walking.
Did I feel stupid?
Did I regret making the drive when I had a sinking sense something was off?
But I did I regret my decision?
The unfortunate thing was this was a big race and a lot of people were streaming by. And I swear to vodka, no less than a dozen people felt the need to say “HEY YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!”
I don’t know if it was because I was dressed to run or if it was because I didn’t look like I was physically struggling. But fucking A, the 2.5 miles back to my car were something other than miserable. I jog shuffled at about 9-10 pace (and that was on a downhill) and laughed off the reminders that I’d just fucking dropped out.
I didn’t even roll my eyes at the race volunteers who didn’t have the good sense to see I’d dropped out and made the same comment. I didn’t really debate taking a beer a spectator offered me.
Yep, I fucking dropped out and dealt with it like a fucking adult. No whining. No smashing. Just the realization that the fact that I’m fat doesn’t make up for the fact that I should probably eat actual meals leading up to a race. And that I ought to take notice of when I’m getting dehydrated as opposed to waiting until I’m in physical pain. And that some days you might find yourself covered in salt 2 miles into a race and realize that stubbornly powering through doesn’t do you any favors.
I dropped out, I still feel kind of sick, and you know what?
THE WORLD DIDN’T FUCKING END. I may have lost some gas money, but I can’t complain about one less sub par performance at this point. No drama…though I did write nearly 1000 words on this non-experience.