I've been dealing with the whole DNS thing a lot this year due to injuries, but today I had my first DNF. I registered for the Magnificent Mile Women's Half Marathon a few weeks ago as I planned out my half marathon training. It would be 9 weeks before my target race of the Indianapolis Monument Half Marathon, and I thought it would be nice to break up long runs with a race, and also get a feel for where I'm at timewise. My plan was to treat it somewhere in between a training run and a race- pushing a bit but not all out where it would take a while to recover. My excitement about this race went down this week when they released the final course maps- while it would have a bit on the Mag Mile, the majority of the race would be on the lakefront path. The original maps showed a course going through the city, following a lot of the marathon course. I generally don't sign up for races along the path because paying $90 to run where I always run doesn't really interest me. It is also very crowded during races and remains open to all users, so you have bikers trying to get through crowds as well. People definitely took to Facebook to complain about the course, and while I know it was probably a permit issue beyond their control, I share a lot of people's frustrations. Regardless, I tried to still see this as a good training opportunity.
After the first two weeks of half marathon training went well (post coming soon), this week was a zero. I came back from vacation to a long run I cut a tad short (still 10 miles) and a nagging hamstring (thinking tendonitis). Couple that with a lack of sleep, a conference, work deadlines, and fighting off sickness (at least that's what my body feels like), and I got nothing in the way of workouts done this week. I was going to run yesterday but told myself to just stay rested up for today. The past few days I've been exhausted, despite being totally lazy. Hence why I think I'm fighting something. Nutrition yesterday was so-so. I definitely stayed off my legs but didn't get in bed til close to 10:30.
This morning I got up a few minutes before 5am. Weighed in at 131.2 lbs. I ate an Allen Lim rice cake and sipped Perform on the way down to the race. I was on the train by 5:40, and got excited with the arrival of more and more racers at every stop. It was nice to see mostly women. However, even on the train I was feeling sluggish and unmotivated.
The race is staged in Grant Park, and they get a big plus in my book for having race day packet pickup (though signs about which letter of the alphabet was where would've been helpful). It also seemed like porta-potty lines went much faster than usual. I made one potty break, dropped my stuff at gear check, took potty break #2, and then proceeded to the corrals. I was in A corral based on projected time, and they were crowded! Before the gun, Lauren Fleshman gave a few words about how recent it is that women were fighting to run distances. This is the sort of thing that would usually get me psyched up, but again, just felt blah.
I started running and could tell right away I just wasn't in it. My hamstring was nagging me, and I started worrying that I was heading down another road of nearly four months of no running. NOOO! I just told myself to wait for it to loosen up, and it did, though I never felt like I totally had my running legs. The first part of the course is the "iconic" part that runs along the Mag Mile. Meh, wasn't too exciting. I started thinking about ditching the half and going with the 5k. Then I talked myself out of it and kept going where we diverged. Once onto the Lakefront Trail, I started getting miserable. It was hot and the sun was directly on us with no shade. The path felt crowded, though I think that was more mental than it really was. The 1:50 pace group went by me and I slowed down. I didn't have a real time goal before, but I was still disappointed to see them pass me.
Around mile 3.5 I was really unhappy. And there wasn't a really good reason for it. My body didn't feel great, but nothing really hurt. I had to pee, but that isn't race ruining. I was hot, but I've run in hotter. I just wasn't in it. The though of going almost 10 more miles made me miserable. I pulled off into the grass and stopped. A few people told me to keep going. After maybe a minute I did, and ran about a quarter of a mile more. We were almost to Museum Campus and I decided I just didn't want to go on. I quit because I just didn't want to run.
A few hours later I'm processing if that is a decent reason or not. When I went to gear check to get my bag, there was a woman there who said she also just quit because she wasn't having any fun. Judging by appearance, I'd say she is a pretty serious runner. That helped me feel better about my choice. On one hand, this is suppose to be fun, and it isn't, why do it? I am pretty certain that I would not have enjoyed the remainder of the race, and pushing through would only be to show I could (and I'm the only one who cares). On the other hand, I know I need to get use to that mental and physical discomfort. Running hard (not the case here) hurts. I am going to feel far worse in the marathon at CdA or Madison next year, and I won't quit then. It might be hot, I might be in pain, so shouldn't I get use to dealing with that? However, if I kept going, I might have aggravated this hamstring a whole lot more, or needed more recovery which would've thrown off this week of training. My biggest fear is that one DNF will make it easier to quit when the going gets tough in the future, and I don't want this to be a habit.
Steps to Prevent the DNF Habit
1) I need to be excited about a race, which I wasn't this time around. Whether there is something unique about it, or its a big event on my calendar, I need to care about it.
2) I need to work to earn my races. I went into this as mostly a training exercise. I hadn't worked hard for it. I had nothing to lose or really prove.
3) I need to set specific goals. Again, had no goal or target, which made me lose mental focus.
4) I need accountability. I could walk away so easily because only I knew. I need to have people supporting me, whether in person or who know I've got this big race I'm psyched for. I won't want to let them down or myself.
5) I need to build my mental edge. While this is my first DNF, there have been MANY times I've mentally checked out of races, walking or slowing down. I need to get use to being uncomfortable and learn to enjoy pushing my limits. For starters, in training I need to push intervals, even when I "don't feel like it". If I let myself off easy in training, I will do the same in racing.
Nine weeks until the next half marathon. Time to put in the work!