Embracing my first DNF

Blackfoot 50K mud

Bugger.

DNF? Are you kidding me?

DNF stands for “Did Not FINISH.”

When I saw those preliminary results posted on Facebook, I was gutted.

I clearly recall running, cantering, trotting and walking the entire 50 kilometres. 50K. On the trail. Over the hills. Through the mud.

I just didn’t quite finish within a reasonable time, I guess. I was under the impression I’d made the cutoff time, but I appear to have been mistaken.

I know I completed 50K.

YOU (now) know I completed 50K.

I just need to work on my speed. Because yes, I was out there for a ridiculously long time on my feet.

But I FINISHED.

So, I’ll see that DNF and raise you some courage.

Some confidence.

Some sore legs.

And some mild interest to do it all again next year just so I can get a legit time posted next to my name, and not a big, fat “DNF.”

Race report: Blackfoot Ultra (Baby Ultra)

slow runnersIt’s an absolutely humbling thing to be running my very first ultra race, knowing I’m at the “baby” level… when that very number of 25K is huge for me.

Amazing runners of all age, shape, speed and ability scampered about the 25K loop in the Blackfoot-Cooking Lake Provincial Recreation Area, completing 100K, 50 mile, 50K and 25K races; not to mention the kids’ ultra. Crazy awesome!

Organization: I heard about the Blackfoot Ultra through Miz N. back in January, but before we could all get out acts together to plan something out, form a team etc. this race sold out.  Two of us got in to the 25K before it capped. Miz Jill and I would be running together!

The Blackfoot Ultra website is informative, and closer to the race, the Facebook page was a bit more lively with details and updates.  The runners who choose to be involved in this race seem to be a pretty tight-knit community. That was pretty clear when we went to pick up our race kits. At the pick up we received our numbers and our baby-pink Blackfoot Ultra-themed arm sleeves.

Out at the Islet Lake Staging Area at Blackfoot, the race folks were super friendly, all the announcements were fun and punchy, and there was no end to the snacks at the start/finish and throughout the course. Families and support teams had all their gear, too: a mashup of little screen tents, camp chairs, coolers, blankets, books, babies, dogs, etc.  You could tell some people had done this before.

Course: The 25K course is otherwise known as “Death by 100 Hills.”  The loop winds through trees, past lakes, along an equestrian path, over hill and dale. Lots of hills!  The trail itself was mostly sproingy and easy on the knees, and wide enough to go two runners deep with a third passing (none of this single-track nonsense). There were four aid stations along the course plus one at the start/finish line.  God bless the organizers for their generosity in keeping us all satiated: bacon & perogies, licorice, salty potato chips, Clif bars, bagels, loads of fruit and more.  At the end, bison dogs and Dilly Bars awaited.

My run: Off we went, with a crowd of 80 or so runners all doing the Baby Ultra.  I had my small Platypus hydration pack from back in the day and a three-litre bladder of water, a separate bladder with frozen watermelon Spark, a handful of lemon gels, a shot of vodka (for emergencies…), my 5 Peaks Buff, and some Clif bars.

Warm and windy, this is the first time I’d ever run with a hat. I wore my Sauconys, which have served me well so far, my workout pants and a silly “suit” technical tee that actually belongs to my husband as part of his Men-in-Black corporate challenge outfit for MacEwan University. I suppose I should really invest in some “real” running clothes! Haha. I had lots of “Well, thank you for dressing up for the run today” comments. Silly.

The first few kilometres were my usual crapshoot of panic.  People! Running! Heat! Eek!  But I settled down. Compared to my first visit to the rec area when everything was brown, grey and frozen, now it was fresh, green and sparkling.  The ultra runners passing us all said kind words like “Good job!” (SO NICE considering we were being passed by super athletes who were on loop 3 or 4 of the very course we were doing once!)

Other than the quarter-sized mozzies, the occasional animal track in the dried mud (cougar?) and the singing frogs (hello my baby…), there wasn’t much sign of wildlife. Yes, no half-knawed leg o’deer left on the trail like our last visit.

My running watch is set in miles, so thus goes my commentary of things I can vaguely recall:

  • ~mile 2.5 – we came to the first aid station and I gave Miz A. a giant sweaty hug for volunteering.
  • ~mile 3 – outhouse stop to end the potluck lunch fest from work the day before (yes, I had one of everything).
  • ~mile 3.5 – my hands totally swelled up so that it was difficult to even make a fist. I blame it on the warm weather.  They stayed like this until I stopped running.
  • ~mile 4 – my left knee: nothing bad, just present.
  • ~mile 6 – kind of settled down into a rhythm at this point.
  • ~mile 7 – finally passed a couple of pink shirts & a runner from Vancouver whom we’d been playing passing games with for far too long.
  • ~mile 9 – came out of Central Alley relatively unscathed to an aid station where I ate a copious amount of potato chips.
  • ~mile 11 – walked briskly for a bit to ease the legs
  • ~mile 15 – met up with some little tyke who was in the kids’ run – he was a sprinter!

We finished the race, unofficially and by my watch, at 3:59 hrs.

Woohoo!  Our parental crew cheered us in, took photos, gave us drinks and chatted for a bit as we watched more runners come in.  To be honest, I was in a bit of a zone, and probably wasn’t very talkative.

I wanted to get into it and eat the bison smokies and Dilly Bars, but I was kinda out of it.  The temperature dipped slightly after 4:30 pm and clouds began to gather.  We didn’t stay around much longer after that, and then headed home.

Kudos to the organizers, though, who were still giving awards, maintaining their upbeat announcements etc, as if they were fresh as a daisy and not having been there since, like, 5:00 am when the 100K runners started….

My husband had more chippies waiting for me when I got home, along with cheddar/caramel popcorn and some supper.  I ate almost that whole bag of Bacon & Sour Cream in the name of running. A bit cheeky, I know.

Highlights of the race:

  1. Finishing in a respectable time (ie. not on a stretcher or crying).
  2. Running with Miz Jill and having fun.
  3. The crusty layer of salt all over my face.  That was cool.
  4. This was my first half marathon and/or ultra.
  5. I logged my fasted trail 10K.

And there it is.

My next officially scheduled run is the 5K Color Me Rad on July 5th.  A little more colour, a little less running.